Friday, October 19, 2007

Overview of the current state of speculative fiction

Just me rambling tonight. Only my opinions here, based upon what I read and see in book stores, so no hard facts, just very general BS.

Fantasy fiction, especially novels, has been stuck on "Lord of The Rings" clones or gaming tie-in material for so long, it's almost hard to believe there is anything else available. While nothing is necessarily wrong with the above types of fantasy, most of them tend to be pretty bland.

There has been some movement in the last decade toward more literary, speculative-light fantasy. Most of these books are not usually labeled fantasy, but "speculative" or something similar. Gregory Maguire's novels come to mind.

Also, in just the last couple of years there has been a slight resurgence in the old Sword & Sorcery genre. This surge isn't huge yet, not quite making its way to major publishers, but it is building and growing. There seems to be an audience for this material, and hopefully it will continue to grow. There hasn't been a lot of S&S from the big publishers since the 1980s, but hopefully that will change.

Science Fiction
As far as I can tell, the only type of sci-fi novels selling nowadays are military related. I think this genre is lacking in creativity (for the most part). Not that there's anything wrong with military sci-fi, "Starship Troopers" being one of my favorite books, but they tend toward all action and little thought, not that that's all bad, but there need to be other options. Where are today's Heinleins? Bradburys? Heck, even Asimovs?

Horror has kind of fallen into two camps (maybe three, more later). First, you've got your sentimental, romantic horror with roots in gothic horror; Stephen King is the leader of the pack here, with follow-ups by guys like Dean Koontz. Second, you've got what used to be called Splatterpunk a couple of decades ago; this stuff is strongly dark, sometimes violent and gory, by folks like Joe R. Lansdale and Clive Barker. Nowadays, Splatterpunk (and its offshoots) have become more mainstream, though I might argue the genre isn't quite as strong or shocking as it once was.

I mentioned a third type of horror, and this is a sub-genre I see little of, but it's there. This is more of a literary horror, sometimes even mainstream. Max Brooks' "World War Z", about a zombie war, comes to mind here.

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