If, like me, you enjoy adventurous fantasy, you might have noticed there are those who believe some of the major players of the genre overused. I wonder if anyone has ever considered why those concepts are utilised so much in the first place? Elves, dragons, wizards, fairies, dwarves; you name it, they’ve been done before and they’ve been done a lot, but they haven’t disappeared and not should they ever – well at least that’s what I think.
What has largely replaced adventurous fantasy works of the calibre of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms is a low-key sub-genre of fantasy that focuses its attention on everyday affairs, barely dipping its feet into the waters of adventure, and I hereby dub it tame fantasy. Now before anyone considers ranting, the word ‘tame’ is not derogatory; it just means “not wild”. These books are often set largely in one or very few locations, and have a tendency not to venture too far beyond the city walls, typically revolving around the inner workings of a criminal underworld or perhaps some kind of magi-academy. For example, you just can’t place Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in the same category of fantasy as Canavan’s Black Magician Trilogy. The idea of tame fantasy is by no means a bad idea because, after a long hair-raising adventure you might feel the need to settle down to rest with something a bit more relaxing. As such, races other than humans are almost unheard of in these kinds of settings. I’ve sometimes wondered if anyone other than myself has considered humanity to be overused in any capacity? I did choose to include humans in the world of Aeldynn, but none of my stories will be intended to revolve entirely around them and/or their affairs. Perhaps involving humans allows people to better connect with other fantastical elements of fantasy? Whether or not they serve that kind of purpose, the truth is, they’re used far more often than even elves, dwarves and dragons.
If I am completely honest, I’ve personally seen too much tame fantasy in recent years. I’ve been working on the world of Aeldynn for about 16 years, and over that time fantasy has gradually become less and less adventurous. Do you know why the physical world in which humans dwell is often referred to as the “mundane” world? It means the world/Earth in contrast with otherworldly places such as heaven, but it also means common, or ordinary, and sometimes even unimaginative. You’ll probably find areas in which you don’t live more interesting than the area you actually do live in, because it’s something new and unfamiliar; What we see typically every day is often banal to our senses. It’s far more invigorating travelling to new places; being stuck in one place too much eventually becomes mundane.
Some authors have returned to the wild side of fantasy, such as John Gwynne; a respected author whose The Faithful and the Fallen saga has concepts derived from the history and mythologies of ancient and medieval European civilisations, including: Celtic, Roman and Scandinavian. I’m interested in bringing back the wild and adventurous side of fantasy that made Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms so good. I would like to hope I have achieved that in the creation or development of Aeldynn, but I can at least say honesty that I’ve worked hard at trying! The vast world of Aeldynn includes: dragons (greater and lesser), wyverns and leviathans; the winged Drahknyr (who may be likened to incarnated angels); a few different elven races; several varieties of fey; and various demonic species, including vampires (in Aeldynn they are demonic and not undead). There are numerous planes of existence, a complex magic system, and a prophecy – central to the plot of the Scions of Balance saga – that could come to pass in more ways than one, depending on choices made.
You might think I’m using too many clichéd or overused ideas, but remember I began this discussion aware that’s what some of you may be thinking. Trust me, I know how many times those kinds of ideas have been used, but in a century or two do you think there will be anything left that could be considered a truly original idea? Look on the shelves in the fantasy and science fiction sections of bookstores; I guarantee you are likely to find several or more titles from authors published in the last decade with a fixed focus on criminal underworlds or magi-academies, and I could point out a fair number of fantasy books with a hooded figure dominating the front cover. Are they not becoming the latest aspect of overused ideas in the fantasy genre? Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a reclusive hermit with wanderlust who doesn’t get the chance to travel very often (yet).
Who hasn’t had the desire to revisit books, games, or TV series/films they haven’t looked at in months if not years? Last year I re-read the Shadowleague trilogy by Maggie Furey because I hadn’t read it since my college days, and then I bought her first saga, The Artefacts of Power. I’ve bought other old fantasy books I’d never read before because they harboured the kind of adventure I was looking for, and in the near future I may read the Dragonlance Chronicles again, and other titles from the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms series for the same reasons. I’m of the firm mind that history repeats itself, and that it does so in many different ways. I believe wild or perhaps untamed fantasy should make a significant comeback, and I’m one of those determined souls keen on making that happen. Fantasy and Science Fiction aren’t all about earthly realisms. They’re about the infinite possibilities that exist beyond our narrow scope of the universe at large.
Revive the adventure!