What Fantasy Authors Can Learn from Marvel Studios

This week I’m excited to bring you a guest post from writer, English teacher and Marvel fan Josiah DeGraaf, who blends the fantasy and superhero genres in his writing. He takes a look at what fantasy authors might learn from the successes of genre-mixing in superhero fiction:

If you aren’t much of a superhero movie fan (or even if you are), the upcoming slate of movies Marvel alone is trying to push out may seem rather exhausting. 10 more films in the next three years with plans through 2027? It’s no wonder you have people like Spielberg predicting superhero films will go the way of the Western and burn out in the near future.

Yet, despite all the films churned out by Marvel and DC, moviegoers keep purchasing tickets without any signs of stopping. Superhero stories are a (relatively) narrow genre—and yet many viewers (such as myself) regularly see two to four superhero films a year, despite the criticisms Marvel’s received for weak villains and paint-by-number three-act stories.

How has Marvel been able to keep selling tickets without running into genre fatigue? There are multiple reasons, but there’s one I’d like to focus on: Marvel keeps the genre feeling fresh by mixing it with other genres. This is a skill that not only budding novelists can be taking advantage of—but a skill some of the best fantasy authors today are using to craft unique and brilliant stories. Continue reading

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17 Common Fantasy Sub-Genres

The fantasy genre is rich with a myriad of sub-genres, and each has its own conventions and trends. With the different terms floating around out there it can be easy to confuse or overlook key sub-genres. Finding a succinct list of the most notable ones – particularly a list with definitions and examples – is not always straightforward. So I thought I’d put my reading and researching to use and assemble one. Continue reading

What is Fantasy Fiction?

If you read a lot in the genre, recognising a book or film as “fantasy fiction” is probably something innate and automatic. However, if you’re not familiar with it, or if you’ve wondered where the lines are drawn, a definition might help to clarify things.

But how do you define something as slippery and changeable as a genre? Continue reading

Science Fiction and the Joy of Discovering Something New

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved reading fantasy novels. I can read and enjoy books outside of the genre, but it’s always been much harder for me to love a book – to become completely engrossed – if it’s not fantasy (that said, I recently read The Help, and it turned out to be one of the exceptions to the rule). Sure, I’ve dabbled in a few other genres, but fantasy is where my heart has always been.

Up until a couple of years ago, however, the spread of other genres I’d sampled had a glaring omission. Continue reading

Genre is Not a Dirty Word

I’ve encountered quite a few fantasy and science fiction authors – famous and popular ones at that – who, when asked about their decision to write in the genre, say something along the lines of “oh, well, I just write what I write and someone slots it into a genre later, I don’t think about what genre I want to write in”. There’s often this additional implication that ‘genre’ is a dirty word – that is the oppressive tool of publishers and bookshops. Books get hemmed in and categorised by this evil notion of genre, and their authors get pigeon-holed as ‘fantasy writers’ or ‘crime writers’.

Frankly, I never understand this. I love the word genre.  Continue reading

The Battle of the Bookshelves

Okay, it’s not really a battle. But when you look at the two bookshelves in my house – two identical IKEA monstrosities – there’s an obvious difference.

The one on the right is stuffed with autobiographies and memoirs and a myriad of non-fiction… books on economics and the Internet age and business and psychology and politics. Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom cosies up next to Jared Diamond’s Collapse, and a rather ominous book titled The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Continue reading