The “New” Fantasy?

The Agony Column at recently podcasted an interview with Lou Anders, editor at Pyr Books, about the “New Fantasy” — recent epic fantasy that’s grittier and darker than the 80s/early 90s epic fantasy of authors like Raymond E. Feist and Robert Jordan. He mentions British authors Joe Abercrombie and Mark Chadbourne, who I’ve heard about but haven’t read yet.

I’ve seen bloggers musing if this “New” Fantasy is a reaction to the darker emotional tone of the post-9/11 era, but I’ve read too many examples of grittier epic fantasy predating that period (and predating the label “New Fantasy”) for that theory to hold water. George R. R. Martin’s Ice and Fire novels, beginning in the mid-90s, featured a whole new level of grit and brutality. I think their commercial success, more than anything else, is what has spawned this wave of grittier epic fantasy. Steven Erikson’s Malazan saga, first published in Europe also in the mid-90s, also featured more grit than most everything else at that time. And going back to that 80s era of “cleaner” 80s epic fantasy, Glen Cook’s Black Company novels, which Erikson cites as a major influence on his Malazan books, were the unheralded pioneers of grit and brutality in this subgenre.

I do like the trend toward realism and vividness in epic fantasy, and I agree that it’s the same grit that classic-style swords & sorcery had, now creeping into the epic novels. And it does perfectly fit the darker emotional mood of the current era. But I don’t think this New Fantasy is quite that new.

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.