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  1. #1

    Is Fantasy Reading Stagnant Right Now?

    Wasn't sure how to articulate my fear in the topic. And hopefully someone can chime in and explain why I'm wrong!

    When I first started reading, which was only roughly 10years ago, I felt I had so many books(just speaking of fantasy genre) that I could never read all the ones I wanted to. After reading quite a bit of the new authors, and trying several classics, I've realized, for me, that the older styles do not hold up anymore. So if I cut out a majority of the "pre-80s", and focus on the newer series. I come up with a very short list. Besides venturing into graphic novels or scifi, and with my current policy of not starting a series until it's complete, I feel my list of quality books to read is VERY small anymore. Is it simply a matter of being spoiled? My expectations are too high? There's just not a plethora of Abercrombie, Erikson, Bakker quality authors out there with complete series. Sure you might be able to name like 10more that each have their own series. But once you have read those, there isn't another 10 that have taken their place. I feel we are in the midst of a lot of great quality series being created right now. But unless you are okay with reading and waiting 10years for the finish, you're options are quite limited.

  2. #2
    Shadow's Lure (June 2011)
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    Just my 2 cents: I don't share your problem. I still go back regularly and get a lot of pleasure from Howard, Lovecraft, Leiber, Moorcock, C. A. Smith, Heinlein, Gibson, and so many others. Plus, I find a new great author every few years.

    Perhaps you've become jaded. Maybe spend some time in other genres for a fresh perspective.

  3. #3
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    I sort of see your point because much of what we see in fantasy these days (and really have been seeing for years) are books which are part of series.

    That said, I am having a hard time keeping up with everything that's being published. Lots of authors and their books look very interesting to me but I know I won't have time to get to all of them, or even a significant portion of them.

    As for the Abercrombie comment, who knows what author might be the next big gun like him? When The Blade Itself first published who knew how big of name Abercrombie (well, except for Joe himself because he is such a confident dude) would be?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by chris777 View Post
    Besides venturing into graphic novels or scifi, and with my current policy of not starting a series until it's complete, I feel my list of quality books to read is VERY small anymore... I feel we are in the midst of a lot of great quality series being created right now. But unless you are okay with reading and waiting 10years for the finish, you're options are quite limited.
    I, too, wait for series to finish before diving in, and I feel the same.

    But I also wonder if some of it is a function of the world in which we live and the people we've grown up to be. Back in the 80's and 90's, I decided what to read based on the blurb on the jacket. "Elves? Cool. Dragons? Awesome. And Terry Brooks thought this was a great book? Alright, I'm in!"

    Now, of course, I carefully dissect the reviews on Amazon, performing some sort of complex subconscious calculation based on the ratio of 4-star reviews to 2-star reviews. Furthermore, tragically, as I've aged, I've discovered that Terry Brooks opinion means less and less to me. I also have less time than in those halcyon days, so I feel compelled to be picky.

    Unfortunately, as a seque into your second point, I am tired of how many interesting, well-received books are the first part of a series. I'd love to know what percentage of fantasy novels published today are part of a series. It seems like, well, all of them. I think that some of the series that grabbed headlines years ago must be close to finishing, but as I haven't taken notes and have heard precious little news like "Fantastic trilogy finally comes to a close," I can only assume that many of these series failed to live up to the brilliance of the opening chapter. Then again, maybe I just haven't been paying close enough attention.

  5. #5
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    Science Fiction Shows Have Become Fewer

    TV Shows and Fewer Plots About Fiction

    I noticed myself that science fiction shows are less common than in the 1990s. After the year 2000, sci-fi shows became harder to find on TV. Actually, these days, one would be lucky to find a show involving science fiction. You can find so many TV shows involving crime fighting and hardly any shows like the X-Files on TV, currently, on the average TV schedule. Back in 1997, one would be easily able to find a show like Sliders in a TV Guide. It could be just a cycle. As a result of fewer sci-fi plots out there, sci-fi books have become stagnant to some degree.
    Last edited by NaderH; April 7th, 2014 at 10:22 PM.

  6. #6
    I think that this feeling you describe has more to do with your current reading mood than with the state of the genre. There are more good books than I can keep up with and sure, series start, but old ones also finish, giving you a nice number of new books to read. As an advice, Locus magazine publishes each year a large list of recommended novels: fantasy, SF, first novels and YA. You could look up those lists and use them as a source of suggestions.

    Also, if you are feeling tired of the genre right now, read outside the genre for a while. Many worthwhile stories out there too, and you'll come back refreshed and eager to find some new fantasy stories.

    Take into account too that with some series it's OK to read them as soon as each book is published, since they share the same characters/setting but the stories are standalone.
    Last edited by farseer2; April 8th, 2014 at 02:09 AM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Sprunk View Post
    Just my 2 cents: I don't share your problem. I still go back regularly and get a lot of pleasure from Howard, Lovecraft, Leiber, Moorcock, C. A. Smith, Heinlein, Gibson, and so many others. Plus, I find a new great author every few years.

    Perhaps you've become jaded. Maybe spend some time in other genres for a fresh perspective.
    I'm with Jon on this. For instance, with all the attention to The King in Yellow (1895) because of the HBO series True Detective, I've started a reread and I think I'm enjoying it more than I did 10-15 years ago when I first read it.

    So I think the possibilities are that you are just tired of fantasy. Or that, as others point out, so much fantasy is now in series your prohibition on unfinished series is seriously strangling your options. Or maybe it's that for you "fantasy" is really epic/heroic/Tolkeinesque/Martin-like/whatever-we-call-it-this-week fantasy which is really a subset of the broader fantasy genre. I still have a pile of books to work through by Jeffrey Ford, Jeff Vandermeer, Caitlin Kiernan, Catherine Valente, Gemma Files, Graham Joyce and multiple others, all of them fantasy, just not the specific type of fantasy you're referring to.

    Jon might be right that it's time to broaden your perspective. When I was a kid I could read one book after the other in a genre, but I've found that I can't do that so much anymore; even if I'm reading some really strong examples of the genre, I need to mix it up to keep it fresh for myself.


    Randy M.

  8. #8
    I've tried a few books outside of the genre. Dexter for one. Couldn't get into it, even though I loved the TV show. I don't feel tired of the genre at all. I have concocted a fairly large to-read list through lots of research. I feel as if, besides a couple, they are either old - The Book of the New Sun (Gene Wolfe) or The Fafhrd & Gray Mouser stories (Fritz Leiber), or an unfinished series. I do not mean at all for this to turn into a "recommendation thread", but then what are some highly acclaimed series that have finished recently? I'm guessing I have either read them(and it's not that many) or they are obscure and hard to find. Maybe I just need to look harder...or not except a multitude of Joe Abercrombies running around.

  9. #9
    You mentioned Abercrombie, Erikson and Bakker. Have you read Robin Hobb and Guy Gavriel Kay?

    Daniel Abraham?

    Of course, there's George R. R. Martin, but his Song of Ice and Fire is not finished yet. Have you read Windhaven? He co-wrote that one with Lisa Tuttle. I guess that strictly speaking it's SF, but it has a fantasy feel and I loved it.

    Rothfuss hasn't finished his trilogy yet, but look out for it when he does.

    Paul Kearney? Jack Vance's Lyonesse Trilogy? Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea?

    Dave Duncan doesn't break any molds, but he is very entertaining.

    Richard Morgan's the Steel Remains? Card's Alvin Maker series? Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell? There's so much variety!

    I don't know, take a look at these suggestions (some bad ones mixed with the excellent ones, but consider giving some of them a try):
    http://bestfantasybooks.com/best-epic-fantasy.html
    http://www.rantingdragon.com/top-20-...-to-the-genre/
    http://www.pornokitsch.com/2013/06/5...1-to-1982.html
    http://www.pornokitsch.com/2013/06/5...1982-2013.html
    Last edited by farseer2; April 8th, 2014 at 09:24 AM.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by farseer2 View Post
    You mentioned Abercrombie, Erikson and Bakker. Have you read Robin Hobb and Guy Gavriel Kay?
    Yes. Read Tigana and didn't care for it. Read the first book of Farseer, it was okay, but at the time I didn't feel it was good enough to continue.

  11. #11
    Sorry, I edited my post with more suggestions, but you had already replied

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by chris777 View Post
    Yes. Read Tigana and didn't care for it. Read the first book of Farseer, it was okay, but at the time I didn't feel it was good enough to continue.
    Hmm. I loved those, but of course one man's meat is another man's poison. If you ever feel like giving Kay another chance, try The Lions of Al-Rassan. As you may see from my nick I love Farseer, but if you didn't like the first book maybe it's just not for you.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by farseer2 View Post
    You mentioned Abercrombie, Erikson and Bakker. Have you read Robin Hobb and Guy Gavriel Kay?

    Daniel Abraham?

    Of course, there's George R. R. Martin, but his Song of Ice and Fire is not finished yet. Have you read Windhaven? He co-wrote that one with Lisa Tuttle. I guess that strictly speaking it's SF, but it has a fantasy feel and I loved it.

    Rothfuss hasn't finished his trilogy yet, but look out for it when he does.

    Paul Kearney? Jack Vance's Lyonesse Trilogy? Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea?

    Dave Duncan doesn't break any molds, but he is very entertaining.

    Richard Morgan's the Steel Remains? Card's Alvin Maker series? Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell? There's so much variety!

    I don't know, take a look at these suggestions (some bad ones mixed with the excellent ones, but consider giving some of them a try):
    http://bestfantasybooks.com/best-epic-fantasy.html
    http://www.rantingdragon.com/top-20-...-to-the-genre/
    http://www.pornokitsch.com/2013/06/5...1-to-1982.html
    http://www.pornokitsch.com/2013/06/5...1982-2013.html
    Almost all of those are on my list.

    Abraham - The Long Price Quartet & The Dagger and the Coin - Gets some mixed reviews, it's on my list but a little further down.
    Rothfuss - Is great, but unfinished series. I have actualy read the first one and plan to read the second as soon as I hear he is close to be done with the 3rd.
    Kearney - Monarchies of God & The Macht - Again very mixed reviews, among this forum it's not highly regarded.
    Vance - He is on my list with The Dying Earth Trilogy, which seems to be the more popular. Again, mixed reviews and also OLD. 1950s
    LeGuin - I did actually give her a shot, as many think of her as a great writer. I did not care for EarthSea....but as I said, This is also OLD. And that, in my experience, hasn't held up well.
    Duncan - Also on my list. Might be worth a shot, but I wouldn't say I am excited about it.
    Clarke - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, enough people have talked about that series and for one reason or another it never made my to-read list. I am guessing too many poor reviews.

    Many of those are either old or highly debated. Maybe I've simply exhausted the fantasy genre for top echelon books? At least for my tastes...

    If you are interested to see what I have read and plan to read, I keep track of it here:

    https://googledrive.com/host/0B6E6Za...1N0OWpSVExfcjA

    *EDIT*
    Looking through your links the first one is a link I have used in the past. But it hasn't been updated in 2years. The second link is also over 2years old. And I've read about half and disagree greatly with their "rankings". But these are decent places to start. I appreciate the help. In my "extensive research" =)...These, and similar, are sites I used to find the books, then I take those books to different forums and get live opinions. And use all that to create my to-read lists.
    Last edited by chris777; April 8th, 2014 at 11:37 AM.

  14. #14
    The New ... MARK LAWRENCE Mark Lawrence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris777 View Post
    I've tried a few books outside of the genre. Dexter for one. Couldn't get into it, even though I loved the TV show. I don't feel tired of the genre at all. I have concocted a fairly large to-read list through lots of research. I feel as if, besides a couple, they are either old - The Book of the New Sun (Gene Wolfe) or The Fafhrd & Gray Mouser stories (Fritz Leiber), or an unfinished series. I do not mean at all for this to turn into a "recommendation thread", but then what are some highly acclaimed series that have finished recently? I'm guessing I have either read them(and it's not that many) or they are obscure and hard to find. Maybe I just need to look harder...or not except a multitude of Joe Abercrombies running around.
    *sucks air in over teeth* "Yup. There's your problem right there."

    Seems to me that if you want to find another Joe Abercrombie you're always going to be disappointed. People get book hangovers because they liked the previous book so much that they want/need the next thing they pick up to carry on in the same style/vein and can't warm to it when it doesn't.

    Sounds like you have an author hangover.

    You don't need another Abercombie, you just need to be open to the variety and skill on offer that may run along very different channels but be just as good.

    Much of the criticism I see leveled at any book boils down to it not being what the reader expected or wanted rather than it being bad. I've been reading fantasy since the 70s and I consider this right now to be the golden age. I've not read Abercrombie. I should try Erickson again. It was probably the wrong day for me and I only got 100 pages in. I've read Bakker's first book and I liked it but it doesn't make the other stuff I've enjoyed over the past few years pale by comparison. I don't think you can accuse a genre of stagnating because you personally can't find authors you like as much as the three you most enjoy (well regarded authors but by no means the highest selling or most praised in the field).

    Two lesser known fantasy authors I've read recently and really enjoyed are Daniel Polansky and John Hornor Jacobs. I could list my three favorite fantasy authors, but I wouldn't say fantasy is in any way stagnating just because I haven't changed that trio recently.

  15. #15
    Seeing your list it's very difficult for me to make a recommendation, because there seems to be little correlation between your taste and mine. There is not even a negative correlation. A book I love you may love or dislike, and a book I dislike you may love or dislike. You love the Riftwar saga and the Wheel of Time, but hate Tigana and dislike the Farseer trilogy... I don't know. I see many series between your higher priorities that I don't think are that good, but you may differ.

    The Lord of the Rings is not there. Did you like it?

    I don't think asking for opinions will be that useful to you. For any of those books or series you will find positive and negative opinions. It would be more helpful to categorize your taste, but I don't find any obvious way to do so.

    I think you might like Richard K Morgan, Miles Cameron, Katherine Kurtz...

    Anyway, all those "best" lists are only a tiny amount of what might be interesting. Laini Taylor has just finished a trilogy that has got good reviews, a bit YA-ish but original and interesting. (And if you do not mind YA there's of course Harry Potter and The Princess Bride). Then you got Elizabeth Moon, The Stand by Stephen King...

    Non-fantasy books like The Gates of Fire, by Pressfield, or The Pillars of the Earth might appeal.

    Probably you shouldn't worry so much about researching books and just read, discard what you don't like and seek more like what you like. I mean, research that tells you not to try Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is just not very useful. That book may not be for you, but it's such a tour de force of good writing... you should at least give it a chance and judge by yourself. You might find it useful to read first chapters (often available for free in Amazon or other stores).

    Anyway, good luck with your search. As I said, there are plenty of books and authors you may like. Don't limit yourself to the usual recommendations.

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