This article may end up going in my new Midrealm book (shameless plug HO!) as an author’s note, because it’s basically the reason I’m writing that book.
To me, and a select few of my friends (my readers, the people I’m writing the book for), it’s hard to find good fantasy these days. I have a very specific theory as to why that is.
A lot of fantasy these days is DEPRESSING.
I’m probably not the first to say this, but that’s what it boils down to for me. Game of Thrones was good because it was unique. It was dark, dark, dark, and it killed off its characters with wild (some would say over the top) abandon. I’d never seen anything like that before. I mean, Thorin and Boromir dying in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings was one thing. But killing off Ned Stark at the beginning of A Game of Thrones? Christ almighty! He was the main character!
(If you’re sitting there screaming “SPOILER ALERT” at your monitor right now, bite me. You don’t get spoiler alerts for books that are over ten years old or TV shows that are over a year old. If you’re screaming “SPOILER” alert for either of the Tolkien books, take it a step further and jump off a cliff. Into water, because I don’t endorse suicide.)
Well, GoT is still good, but it’s far from unique now. I feel like every fantasy book that’s recommended to me is just so goddamn dark and gritty that I feel like I need to take a shower afterward. Ever read the Malazan Book of the Fallen? Holy crap. Nothing good ever happens in that book. To anyone. It’s MORE depressing than Martin’s works.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m overly sensitive to this kind of thing. Hell, I saw World War Z at my wife’s request last night, and it ruined my evening. Not that it’s bad—it’s a fantastic movie. I’m just one of those weird people who don’t like to sit in a movie theater for two hours in utter, abject terror, wondering when the next terrifying thing is going to jump out at the camera.
Anyway, back to fantasy. Fantasy seems to have gotten into a trend of being dark, gritty, and ultimately depressing. I can’t remember the last time I read a feel-good fantasy book. At the very least, people don’t recommend them to me.
And so I decided to write one.
The book’s not all butterflies and rainbows. Things aren’t happy, otherwise there’d be no conflict. The bad guys are winning. And yes, people will die.
I won’t, however, kill off major characters the audience loves just because “I always like unexpected things.” It worked in GoT. The first time. The Red Wedding, by contrast, was an abysmal failure to me, because if Robb had a tenth of the brain cells he’d been displaying for the whole rest of the series, he never would have relied on some custom of “sharing food” to keep him and his army safe under the Freys’ roof.
And in the end, the reader will feel good. I’m not even saying the good guys will win, but there will be a victory. Barely. It will be costly. Midrealm will never be the same as it was.
But I’m not going to kill off everybody I’ve spent four or five (maybe six?) books making you love, either.
Maybe it’s just me who feels this way. Maybe I’m the only one who likes books that make me feel better about life, that make me hopeful and give me characters I can aspire toward. Maybe. But half a billion sold copies of Harry Potter indicate that I’m not, better than the fifteen million sold copies of Game of Thrones tell me I am.