What's So Horrid About Fantasy?

October 13, 2008

A recent article in the Globe & Mail titled "Welcome to a novelist's nightmare: Gothic is in" contains the following quotes that just make me want to pull my hair out at the Canadian literary establishment's attitude towards fantasy:

This unavoidable trend has caused a great deal of angst among fiction writers whose work contains no vampires or monasteries. I'm sure I wasn't the only novelist to hear about Davidson's sudden riches with a painful tightening of the heart... (A lot of things will set off this train of thought; the great success of fantasy novels is only one of them.)

I'm a novelist. I write fantasy novels. And I can assure the writer of this article (I couldn't find a byline) that it's no easier to sell a fantasy than it is to sell any other kind of novel. To the contrary: there are only three agents listed in Canadian Writer's Market who claim to take on fantasy. Of those, two are closed to unsolicited submissions and one had a Beware on Preditors & Editors. I don't find it nightmarish that genre fantasy sells well. But I don't begrudge mainstream literary authors their success either. It's the implicit attitude here that fantasy or Gothic are somehow inferior that upsets me.

Different people enjoy different things. Fantasy and science fiction resonate with me, which is why I write in these genres. The person who wrote the G&M article would do well to spit out that bitter pill, and remember this sage advice: write what you love. Be that mainstream literary, Canadiana, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy or whatever turns your crank. Because that's what you'll sell. And stop begrudging other people their success. I've been there. I've whined. In the end, all it got me was further away from completing my own work. The more books other people sell, the more money goes into the pool for the rest of us who are still trying to sell.

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