I like castles, sword fights, orcs, dragons and undead sorcerers as much as the next geek. I’ve read literally a ton of of fantasy novels, some heavier than others, since I was a wee lad. For every fantasy novel that I read to completion, there are probably three that I bookmark and shelve unfinished. It makes me wonder, despite having a few ideas for fantasy novels that I really like, if I will ever write anything in the fantasy genre.
I’m extremely picky about my fantasy reading. I stumbled upon “The Black Company”, by Glen Cook, at an early age, and I immediately took to the darker side of the genre. The sub-genre “grimdark” sums up my reading preferences pretty well, though this is also used to describe other genres of fiction that are particularly violent and dystopian. I’ve read other types of fantasy, but I always come back to the grimdark works for pure reading satisfaction. Some grimdark goes out of its way to stomp on heroics and romanticism. This is almost as bad as some of the more syrupy, black-and-white, happy-ending stuff I’ve read. It’s just as predictable. You only have to imagine the worst possible outcome for the characters, and you’ve figured out most of the story. I’ve read some novels that made me feel horribly depressed, yet some of them are still great reads. Even though they were heartbreaking, I felt compelled to finish them and see just how badly the protagonists wound up. Sometimes they died, and sometimes they just had more scars to carry into the sequel.
My favorite fantasies are character-driven and told from multiple points of view. Some are long-winded and others almost terse in their descriptions, but all of them somehow take what I’ve read many times before and make it into something novel and compelling.
I don’t know if I can do that.
I would hate to spend the effort building a fantasy world and populating it with interesting characters, only to find at some point that I had unintentionally ripped off another author’s ideas. To me, it seems like fantasy is the genre where this will be the most likely. I’ve read interviews with authors who have claimed that it’s inevitable for this to happen. They encourage the telling of these tales anyway, with the caveat that one needs to write in an original voice to make it work. I can’t help but think that anything I wrote would sound like an impersonation of my favorite writers. How many other things have I written that are derivative of authors I’ve never read? Probably at least a few.
I won’t let this stop me from writing. I enjoy it too much. I may take another stab at the fantasy genre at some point, too. There are certainly a lot of other authors writing in the genre, so I can’t imagine all of them are creating unique stories after all the fantasy novels that have come before. Maybe fans of fantasy will be ready to hear my voice one day. I hope they’ll be nice enough to forgive me for any unintentional similarities with my predecessors.