The OF Blog: 2012 is proving to be a bad year for fantasy*

Monday, November 05, 2012

2012 is proving to be a bad year for fantasy*

With eight weeks remaining in 2012, I am rapidly exhausting the stock of unread 2012 releases in my possession.  One thing that I have noticed that is that there are fewer fantasy* books released this year on my reading log or in my dwindling to be read list (I have no "piles; as it's either e-books or shelved books for the most part).  Not that many qualifying fantasies* have appealed to me.  Oh, I suppose there must have been some that were good, so let's see what the reading log reveals:

I suppose Ben Marcus' The Flame Alphabet was good or even very good, but having a story set in "the real world" where parents find their children's very voices to be toxic to them?  Pfft!  Not a "true fantasy," now is it?  I mean look, it was published by Knopf!

There was that translation of a Hungarian writer...Lászlo Krasznahorkai....Satantango.  That was a seriously spooky tale, but again, it was "real" in locale, so surely it can't be fantasy*, no matter how good it was, right?

What about Gonçalo M. Tavares?  Wasn't his Joseph Walser's Machine excellent?  Perhaps, but isn't it established that real fantasy* has to be composed first in English?

I know Steve Erickson's These Dreams of You  has to be considered.  What?  You think I misspelled his last name and therefore he can't be a writer of fantasy*?

Maybe Matt Bell's Cataclysm Baby?  Oh, his being published by a smaller press you haven't heard of disqualifies the work from being fantasy*?  Bummer.

Well, I know Brian Evenson released two excellent works, Immobility and the collection Windeye.  What, weird fiction doesn't count as fantasy*?  Dangit.

Surely Elizabeth Hand's Available Dark would be a good fantasy*.  You mean you don't accept any "real world" locations as being works of fantasy*?

Then I guess Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles isn't fantasy* because it's based on an actual poem.  This is getting depressing to list.

So let me see if I understand this correctly:  Nalo Hopkinson's Chaos is not fantasy* because it's YA?  How does that hold true?

Let me guess, there's some corollary somewhere that states that no Joyce Carol Oates' story, including her recent Mudwoman, can ever be fantasy*. 

So what was the rationale for Hari Kunzru's Gods Without Men being disqualified as fantasy* again?  Publishing house and lack of a secondary world?

OK, OK...I know, I know.  Michael Cisco's Celebrant is "too weird" for it to ever be considered a fantasy*.  I think I'm beginning to understand how you think on this issue.

I still wish you would reconsider and at least even Karen Thompson Walker's debut novel, The Age of Miracles a chance, even if you doubt it is fantasy*.

So you won't even give L. Annette Binder's excellent debut collection Rise even a cursory glance because it's a collection, which by some unwritten law means it cannot be fantasy*?

You just don't believe Junot Díaz will ever write fantasy*, do you, despite his numerous professions of love for SF/F?  A pity, since there's something to be said for This is How You Lose Her.

Great.  Now I just learned that Andrzej Sapkowski's just-released Spanish translation of The Warriors of God and the Brazilian writer Bronteps Baruq's collection O grito do sol sobre a cabeça don't count because they can't be read in English, the apparent one true language of fantasy*.

Add to that Karin Tidbeck's Jagannath:  Stories, for most of the stories being originally composed in Swedish (now in translation, itself a thing barely to be tolerated from the master readers of fantasy*) and for being "weird."

Even G. Willow Wilson's Alif the Unseen is disqualified for being set in the Middle East?

This is getting beyond ridiculous.  All I see left to list are a few Malazan books by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont, works that some might consider to be lesser than previous efforts by the two; a vapid Brandon Sanderson short novel, The Emperor's Soul; Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon (which is dodgy, since some claim it's "YA" or "sword and sorcery" instead of "true fantasy*"; Matthew Stover's Caine's Law; N.K. Jemisin's new duology; and maybe some random book featuring a map, blood, swords, or hooded assassins on the cover.

With that to choose from for fantasy*, no wonder it's a rather poor year yet once again.

* of course denoting a rather odd and contradictory set of definitions for fantasy/speculative fiction that seem to exclude almost anything not written by an Anglo-American writer and set in a secondary-created "world" setting.  Thus weird fiction, translated fiction, fiction published by "non-genre" imprints, a good amount of fiction written by women and/or which feature less of a focus on violence as being a "necessary" staple of writing, etc. are often excluded by those who try to define what "fantasy" entails. 

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