I was chatting with a friend the other day about crime fiction and the differences with it and fantasy fiction. Soon I began to wonder if fantasy is really a genre at all. (For today, let’s just leave out the whole ‘marketing categories’ and ‘genres aren’t a useful term to assign individual books’ debates.)
In crime fiction, there are mechanisms. The law is broken. There is a crime. Someone has to solve it and the wide variety in the genre comes from the different settings, political backdrop and the detective at the centre. Morality is questioned. The genre – on the whole – has some clear, definite frameworks in place; playing with that framework is where an author’s skill separates the cheaper fiction from true literary masterpieces, and manipulation of the narrative can have a truly powerful effect on the reader. The genre category informs the literature, to some extent.
Fantasy, however, is more a descriptive term – a vague aesthetic. It doesn’t tend to obey logic, and in essence should not obey convention – there is inherently an unlimited potential and yet readers tend to become obsessed by aesthetics and tropes to sculpt a kind of mechanism that isn’t explicitly there.
There’s a yearning to make genre happen out of thin air.
Perhaps there’s an emotional framework here? Maybe that’s why fandom is so strong. I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud.
Finally, there’s an interview with me in today’s Mail & Guardian (South African newspaper), in which I talk about creating fantasy cities as well as the latest two releases:
As for cities appealing to SFF fans and writers, it has to be because they’re the perfect way to represent another world. Cities are where people, commerce, social trends, the arts, government, all meet in one vast, sprawling, horrible and beautiful place…