The fantasy genre in modern literature is becoming more and more popular among readers. Speculative fiction has grown exponentially over the past few years. Fantasy is one of the most interesting genres as the worlds within these novels are so diverse, and transports people to so many different places.
With more people reading this genre of literature, it is only appropriate to see where it started. The genre gained significant popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, where there was the so-called “Tolkien-mania”. Jaime Williamson, however, argues in his book, The Evolution of Modern fantasy, that fantasy started in the 18th century with the Bronte sisters. Williamson sees fantasy as the creative extension of books such as Pride and Prejudice. Romances and contemporary novels became boring to the reader as they no longer wanted to read about real life, and would rather read something that takes them away from their everyday world and transports them to new and more interesting places. Classics such as Tolkien are just as popular these days, and high fantasy has become more notable with writers such as Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson. Anything before Tolkien was seen as ‘pregenre’ fantasy. This is because prior authors such as Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber ‘hovered’ between science fiction, horror and action adventure fiction. It wouldn’t quite be considered the modern fantasy we have today.
“Romances and contemporary novels became boring to the reader as they no longer wanted to read about real life…“
Authors such as Tolkien and E.R Eddison found ‘reputable’ publishers, but their work at the time was not distinguishable from D.H Lawrence or Ernest Hemingway’s works. This is because modern fantasy was still not seen as a fully developed genre. Fantasy at the time was considered as children stories or bedtime stories, for example, C.S Lewis’s Narnia series. After Tolkien’s great literary and paperback success, the modern fantasy genre was born. After that there was a complete boom of fantasy novels, which brings us to current days where the speculative fiction sections in bookstores are coveted.
Even though the genre has grown exponentially, it still does not get the coverage that paperback fiction gets. Many people think that fantasy is not for them because when they think of fantasy, they think of dragons, and although dragons do make an appearance in some fantasy books, there are also thrilling and adventurous fantasy such as the work of Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight series. Trying a genre new to you can be a great experience, and open a world of new literature. Next time you’re at your nearest bookstore or library, pick up a piece of modern fantasy or speculative fiction.
Image: Giovanna Janos