A truly epic discussion on epic fantasy

The latest edition of Clarkesworld Magazine contains an article titled "Something Greater: An Epic Discussion of Epic Fantasy, part 1."

They have gathered 28 pros (26 authors, 1 editor, and one literary agent) to discuss one of the most popular sub-genres on the market. Taking part are: Steven Erikson, Terry Brooks, Kate Elliott, Peter Orullian, Gaie Sebold, Erin Hoffman, Lou Anders, James Barclay, Elizabeth Bear, Trudi Canavan, Rowena Cory Daniells, David Anthony Durham, Ian Cameron Esslemont, Lynn Flewelling, Ed Greenwood, John Jarrold, N. K. Jemisin, K. V. Johansen, J. V. Jones, Paul Kearney, Juliet McKenna, Robin McKinley, Robert V. S. Redick, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Michael A. Stackpole, Victoria Strauss, and Gav Thorpe.

In the first part of this enormous interview, they answer three questions: What is at the heart (or core) of Epic Fantasy? Why do you write Epic Fantasy? What is the relationship between characters and settings in Epic Fantasy?

Here's Patrick Rothfuss' answer to the first question:

It depends on who you ask, really. In my opinion, Epic Fantasy is one of the most vaguely-defined genres out there.

It's sort of like "pornography" or "art." Most everyone uses those terms very loosely, and they don't really have a definition for them. They operate under a policy of "I know what it is when I see it."

With Epic Fantasy, the real question is what part of the story is supposed to be epic? The action? The length of time depicted? The length of the actual books?

I've heard some people say that the difference is the detail involved in the description of the world. But that seems like a pretty weak defining characteristic to me. If that were the case, most science fiction would be epic. But people don't think of it that way.

I don't claim to know, myself. But I think the rule of thumb most people use is the length of the books. If a book is more than 500 pages long, most people call it Epic Fantasy

The second part will be found in the next edition of Clarkesworld Magazine.

You can read this very interesting Q&A here.

7 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

Art is easy to define it's just hard to find the right words. But it's got to do with objectifying something of life, existence, nature to just regard and reflect over it (as opposed to just explaining it, using for your goals etc).

Anonymous said...

Just want to get a few more things out of the way in continuation of the first comment: In order for a depiction to be not just some 1:1 representation like a banal photography, there has to be something universal behind it, some principle about character, for example, instead of just some random description, while retaining individuality (which is a principle about character as well). Same thing in any other depiction and according to its nature. And not using it for a purpose doesn't mean it can't have a specific meaning intended for an effect on society, but you have to show it, you have to be able to see it by itself, and though it is ideally objective, there's no doubt that it's selective and, well, ideal.
And ok, I didn't make this all up by myself.

Thax said...

The definition for Epic fantasy I use to classify stuff on my bookshelves (got a bit of an OCD streak when it comes to that) is that is has to be epic in scale. By which I mean high stakes are involved, fates of nations or even the world, multiple viewpoints from a large(ish) cast of characters. Big battles. All that stuff. Epic fantasy tells the story of the world. Wheel of Time, A song of Ice and Fire, Mistborn trilogy, the First Law trilogy, Malazan ...

By my definition, say, the Kingkiller Chronicles doesn't fall into the Epic fantasy category. I put it into heroic fantasy or sword and sorcery. Since it focuses on one character and his achievements and influence on the world, rather than the overarching story of the world itself. It's more akin to Conan than Lord of the Rings imo.

machinery said...

well, judging from the first answer shown here, i can see that there's not much to expect.

Anonymous said...

It's easy:

epic fantasy = WoT, aSoIaF, LotR

Sea-Bass said...

"The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real ... for a moment at least ... that long magic moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I'd sooner go to middle Earth."
— George R.R. Martin

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion, though I think there was a typo with one of the questions- I'm sure they meant to ask Orullian "Why do you rewrite Epic Fantasy?"

Ooh. Zing... but seriously, same for Brooks.

And I'm rather glad that Paolini didn't show up in there...