Daniel Abraham's Symposium on Epic Fantasy: The results

The first point that Abraham and his colleagues tackled was the definition of epic fantasy. Abraham has just posted what came out of those discussions. You can read the full piece here.

Here's an excerpt:

Even as I sit down to write this, a very small Nick Mamatas homonculus in the back of my head is flipping me off, calling me stupid and storming away in a huff. He’s got a point.

Definitions are tricky by nature, and offering one up gives the impression of having solved a puzzle. What is Epic Fantasy? Well, this is, and anything that doesn’t fit the definition isn’t. That kind of proscriptive rigor is doomed, but being doomed doesn’t take away from the essential dignity of the effort. I’ll just take a moment to point out that what I’m saying here isn’t intended to tell the reader what they should think but rather to clarify what I do. When I say Epic Fantasy, I mean this. If you mean something else, please do make that explicit. Thanks.

Epic fantasy is (1)fiction in (2)an ahistorical setting with (3)magic, and usually but not exclusively with (4)preindustrial technology. I should say that I don’t draw a distinction between Epic and Heroic. If you do, you’ll want to make that explicit. (The homonculus waves its arms in rage at my refusal to stand and fight. Hard life, bein’ a homonculus.)

Methinks this will make for some interesting discussions. . .:-)

3 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

So Daniel Abraham has a Symposium...

Thanks--we were just discussing
this very topic at NightShade Books.com on Richard Morgan's message board. Being new to the fantasy genre I've been totally confused on how to classify different fantasy novels--there are too many sub-genres! Wikipedia has left me totally confused as well. (Truthfully this is still mind-boggling.)

One nice person said on the message board that GRRM fantasy is The War of the Roses, so now I'll have to re-read it to see if I like it better, now that I know a tad more about fantasy.

Anonymous said...

What I still don't quite understand is exactly _why_ it needs to be defined? As far as I am concerned I read fantasy and science fiction literature. Broad spectrum ray-gun set to stun. ZAP!

What's the actual point of defining genres and sub-genres under that, admittedly large, catch-all umbrella ella ella ella ey ey? Apart from analytical study and the fun of it, is there a need or requirement for definition?

Its just like with music - I enjoy Nine Inch Nails & Doris Day - I really don't give a flying f*** if one is branded industrial and the other 50s show tunes (or whatever, I dunno if Doris even has a label). To me its just music I enjoy, and the same can be said when I move from Steven Erikson to Terry Pratchett to Shadowrun novels to Sara Douglass historical stuff to Peter Hamilton to Fritz Leiber to...

Meh, to each their own I suppose. I'll be following what the results are but more from puzzled curiosity than with need.

Anonymous said...

Well, I like a little definition around this, myself. Epic is what I've thought of as Tolkienesque, whereas Heroic refers to Conan the Barbarian. Or so I thought - thus why the label "heroic" applied to any fantasy novel made me discard the idea of reading it, in favour of something more "epic". But if there's this much confusion out there, then I guess I should be more openminded.