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A collaborative blog by Locus editors, contributors, and other invited guests. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine or Locus Online.

(Earlier posts end here in April 2010)




Alvaro Zinos-Amaro


Alan Beatts
Terry Bisson
Marie Brennan
Karen Burnham
Siobhan Carroll
John Clute
F. Brett Cox
Ellen Datlow
Paul Di Filippo
Michael Dirda
Gardner Dozois
Andy Duncan
Stefan Dziemianowicz
Brian Evenson
Jeffrey Ford
Karen Joy Fowler
Kathleen Ann Goonan
Theodora Goss
Elizabeth Hand
Cecelia Holland
Rich Horton
Guy Gavriel Kay
James Patrick Kelly
Mark R. Kelly
Ellen Klages
Russell Letson
Karen Lord
Brit Mandelo
Adrienne Martini
Tim Pratt
Cat Rambo
Paul Graham Raven
Graham Sleight
Maureen Kincaid Speller
Peter Straub
Rachel Swirsky
Paul Witcover
Gary K. Wolfe
E. Lily Yu

Roundtable: Fantasy Genres

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Karen Burnham

This Roundtable continues the discussion from two weeks ago on recommending books for fans of George R. R. Martin. The discussion moved away from specific titles and wandered into the way ways that we group fiction. What does it mean when fans of X may like Y? How come X number of people can point at a book and come up with X + N different labels for it? And what the heck is the difference between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, anyhow?

Read on for the view points of Stefan Dziemianowicz, Cat Rambo, Gardner Dozois, Cecelia Holland, Paul Witcover, and N. K. Jemisin.

As always, this discussion is broken up into multiple pages for ease of reading. If you’d like to read it all on a single page, select ‘View All’ from the drop down menu above. If you don’t see the drop down menu, please click here.

Stefan Dziemianowicz

And doesn’t the very notion of “genre” suggest a collective of themes, tropes (did I really just use this word?), set pieces, and signifiers that are repeated regularly across stories, albeit not always in the same order or configurations?

I’m mindful of the pulp magazine era, when scores of hardboiled detective fiction magazines published virtually the same contents by the same writers under slightly different titles. There wasn’t a lot of originality because publishers found that sameness sold.

Cat Rambo

I’d also say that if I were recommending fantasy for someone who liked GRRM, I’d ask them first what they liked about it. Someone who said “the political stuff” would merit a different answer than the person who waxed enthusiastic about the dragons.

Gardner Dozois

There seems to be a somewhat blurry line between “epic fantasy” and “swords and sorcery.”  Is there a difference?  The distinction between “epic fantasy” and “High Fantasy” may also be a bit blurry.  Is GRRM really even “High Fantasy?”

Cecelia Holland

My problem with this is, I don’t know if readers actually know why they like a certain book (reviews on Amazon confirming this), and while publishing believes if readers like A, and A is almost the same as B, they’ll like B too, we all know in our hearts of hearts (because this is how we read) what we want is something we never saw before, something that stuns us and amazes us, knocks us out of our chairs. For instance, Reindeer Moon, not epic, certainly some kind of fantasy, or The Worm Ouroboros. Readers are not an audience. They’re active searchers who use stories to promote their own quests.

Stefan Dziemianowicz

Not to get off-topic, but this reminds me that I recently talked with a fan who was incredulous that someone reviewed a Charlaine Harris novel for a major newspaper and never once mentioned the term “urban fantasy”–which prompted me to remind her that outside of the genre, if not within, these subgenres and sub-subgenres have little meaning to the vast majority of readers.

Click here to continue reading.

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