This article happened this week. http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/oct/11/fantasy-novel-elves-orcs-tolkien
I get what Damien Walter was aiming for. With the World Fantasy Con happening in Brighton, it’s a hot topic inside the industry. There are plenty of authors, publishers, agents, superfans and readers too, all heading to England. But he caused a bit of a fuss across the digital world, and beyond.
He missed a few points. That happens, but the whole thing seemed a little naïve.
Firstly. Fantasy is more than a horde of orcs riding roughshod over perfectly tranquil lands. It’s larger than the combined volumes published and unpublished of G. R. R. Martin’s works. It’s also a tad more than a storyworld filled with unpronounceable elf names, and a history that takes four chapters to share with the reader.
Secondly. Grimdark. For those that aren’t bothered about labels, this is the one that’s been applied to anything more visceral than Tolkien or any of the Tolkien retreads featuring dwarfs and elves. (For those that just enjoy reading great stories, ignore that last sentence.) Don’t get me wrong. I grew up on these, a lot of these. But no, you don’t need to write every chapter in the style of The Red Wedding to appeal to these readers. It’s not a new area of writing either. Have a look at Fritz Lieber’s Lankhmar series. Heck, even Howard’s Conan novels are a departure from purely heroic themes.
You’ll notice that the two authors here are …male. Which of course leads us to…
Ladies, women, girlie authoresses, those of the female genre that are writing – the whole article lacked any reference to such. Should that be because grimdark is a men only thing? I could go on to list the shelf-sagging amount of fantasy authoresses out there, including the googolplex of subgenres they these lovely ladies are dominating but Cheryl Morgan approaches this excellently right here http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/?p=17842
I demand to see a Girldark, Grimpink Anthology as a direct result of that post. You people at WFC, sort it out.
Then there is Richard Morgan’s a Land Fit For Heroes series. These books stand out because they aren’t GLBT books in a fantasy setting, but are proper, gripping fantasy stories that have gay protagonists. And they’re gritty as hell. Rainbowdark? No, that sounds like a My Little Pony villain. (http://www.richardkmorgan.com/) I am sure there are other author(esses) that are writing across the entire diverse world, the people that live within it and the choices they make.
That’s the point of speculative fiction. To Speculate…
Writers write, some (regardless of gender, race, denomination) write areas better than others, some excel in blood guts and glory, some capture the romantic dream, the politic drama, or the endless epic that we will never see the end of. (MR MARTIN I MEAN YOU.)
Devil’s Advocate time: Damien Walter, did recently cover the whole Female Representation In Fantasy issues, and generally you can only do so much when you have a limited word count to play with.
On a sort of related, unrelated thing, some stuff you might want to keep an eye on, nocloaksallowed.com
And on Twitter : #SFFDiversityPile