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I May Be Through With Medieval Fantasy

Again, apologies to both my readers for a few-week lapse there. The stomach flu plagued (totally a verb) its way through our household, which then put me off my editing schedule for book three. Not to worry - it's now with the proof reader and ARCS should be available soon (if I ever get my cover done). I'll also return to a regular blogging schedule again, but since my mother-in-law is currently invading my writing space for a week, I thought I'd just knock this little rumination of mine.

Mainly, I think I'm done reading the traditional medieval Europe-inspired fantasy novel. For the near future at least.

My most recent reads were guild mate Alec Hutson's The Silver Sorceress, then Rob Hayes' upcoming Never Die, with RF Kuang's The Poppy War mixed in there. And all three of those have some strong Asian influences that I found wonderfully refreshing. A complete palette cleanser, which I realized last afternoon when I picked up a very famous fantasy novel that will remain nameless for now. And believe me, it was a well written book with a compelling story.

I think this is my most-used pic at this point. I freaking love it.

Or at least it should have. Yet I found my mind wandering throughout and I'm considering DNFing it. It just doesn't capture me as those other more recent books have.

And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact I've read this all before. For 30+ years, I've dealt with knights and wizards, castles and taverns. It's all so familiar and I find myself craving something new. Don't get me wrong, those settings and tropes are what roped me into the genre in the first place. But after numerous decades of traveling those same paths over and over again, they feel a little stale.

And the more I think of it, the more amazed I am that it's only within the last few years that fantasy authors have begun to explore different cultures and time periods to apply their fantasy conceits too. Being as it deals with worlds that can't possibly exist, you'd think that the fantasy genre would have the most diverse bunch of worlds. Instead it seems like 90% of the genre has been dedicated to exploring one basic location for 50+ years.

Though no fault of its own, I think LOTR is patient zero. Yes, fantasy as a genre existed before. But it was the first adult fantasy novel, which ushered what can be considered the modern age. It's the ancestor from which most modern fantasy genetically descends from, which means the castles and wizards, castles and taverns are built into the genre's DNA (along with elves, dwarves, orcs and trolls).

Again, this is by no means a bad thing, and certainly not some form of fantasy original sin. LOTR broke new ground and it makes sense others would emulate its success. In fact, many authors and audiences thought that LOTR's success was the genre conventions themselves, so it makes sense they would follow in those footsteps.

Robert Howard's map of Conan's world. Totally not inspired by Europe.

But at this stage in my reading, I'm ready to veer off said path and explore some new worlds that aren't quite so familiar. And again, thank goodness for self-publishing in that there's where most of the new subgenre exploration is taking place. So for the next... well, I don't want to put an exact date to it, but for a while now, I'm going to avoid medieval Europe.

Unless Winds of Winter comes out. Obviously.

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MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout.  He has written two books on fantasy worldbuilding, and teaches worldbuilding techniques, tricks, and tips at Forging Fantasy Realms once a week on YouTube. 

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