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Bring fantasy into the 21st century with a breath of new life: Originality in Fantasy

This topic has come up a lot recently, especially with the release of The Hobbit and the rekindled interest in the fantasy genre that has sprung up in recent years. Fantastic tales have been around for centuries, myths and legends abounded in every culture and humans have always been fascinated with the impossible. It seems however that since The Lord of the Rings was published fantasy has fallen into a kind of slump.

Don’t get me wrong, the Lord of the Rings is one of my most favourite books and maybe that’s why most fantasy works tend to follow its basic blue print. There is no doubt that Tolkien was and is the founding father of current fantasy as it stands today but I think it’s time for a change.

Sure, who doesn’t love a long tale about the weak farm boy who rises to god-like power and saves the world?Writing a book But it’s been done. I can honestly say as a fantasy writer myself; it’s hard to break out of that constraint. It’s almost like an invisible hand is forcing you to type out that same old story that’s been told a thousand times. Why is that?

Why do all dragons have to be big Western/European breeds? Many cultures have dragons… Why does the hero always succeed? (Although in that respect I think George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire does a spectacular job of breaking away from the norm).

I read a fantastic article recently about ‘How to write fantasy’ it was written with the upmost satire and yet in every word there was truth. The story that was described was a blueprint for almost every fantasy novel I’ve ever read. But what can we do about it?

Personally I’m going to more consciously take control of my writing. I will try to challenge and break away from the stereotypes of the fantasy genre and I think others should do the same. It’s hard, it’s definitely hard but ultimately I think to avoid stagnation the genre must evolve. After all, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

So let’s do away with the fair maidens and the orphan farm boys. Let’s get rid of the wizened magicians and magical objects. Let’s get rid of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and fill our fantasy worlds with characters that are human, that have flaws and goals and dreams, characters that do stupid things for the right reasons and the right things for the wrong reasons. As authors let’s make a change to the genre we love so much and bring fantasy into the 21st century with a breath of new life!

Picture courtesy of Cea at Flickr

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