Friday, 17 August 2007

‘The Changing of the Guard’ – Another Perspective?

One of Aidan’s first posts on ‘A Dribble of Ink’ was a very interesting article called ‘The Changing of the Guard’, a piece about the rising stars of the fantasy firmament. There were a few names that we would expect to see on any such list but also a few names that were so fresh as to be almost unheard of. Looking at Aidan’s list, everyone can agree that the future of fantasy literature is in safe hands.
Pat has questioned Aidan’s article in a post that draws heavily on his knowledge and experience of the fantasy genre, publishing in particular. Pat quite rightly questions whether a ‘Changing of the Guard’ can happen in an environment where the ‘Old Guard’ are well entrenched and shifting a healthy number of units with each new release. Love or hate Goodkind and Jordan, Pat points out that they will always be the number one draw (as well as others) and that the ‘Old Guard’ aren’t ready to go just yet.
While Pat is absolutely right, I wonder if a slightly different ‘changing of the guard’ is taking place anyway. It may not be happening in the bookstores (in terms of units sold) and we may not see any real change for a long while but I would argue that a ‘changing of the fantasy guard’ is taking place in both readers and writers at this very moment. There are a number of new talents coming up with original ideas, they were readers (once upon a time) who thought, “I want to see more of [insert whatever] in fantasy, I’m going to write it!” This in turn strikes a spark with the reader who thinks, “I like this, where can I get more?” While there is still a great deal of mileage left in more established authors, change is happening slowly and the evidence can be seen everywhere. People using on-line forums slate a particular member of the old guard and some may then go on to writing workshops where fresh ideas are discussed and tested. A lucky few may then have their work published and could end up inspiring more readers to have a go themselves (and so the cycle continues). The guard is changing but it is happening so slowly you don’t even realise it. I’m looking forward to seeing what the ‘fantasy landscape’ looks like in ten years time. While some areas will have been fully explored, there will be mountain ranges on the horizon that are awaiting exploration. I for one cannot wait.


Patrick said...

Oh, change is happening all right! There have never been that many talented rookies since I began reading fantasy!

But for the expression "changing of the guard" to become a reality, these new authors must dethrone the ones that have been on top for quite some time now.

That was what my little bit was about. We are not witnessing a changing of the guard the way Jordan and Goodkind relegated Eddings and Brooks to the backseat of the genre in the mid-90s.

And yet, there is a lot more talent nowadays within the fantasy genre, so it is a definite possibility that many of the new faces will at some point unleash a veritable "changing of the guard."

It just hasn't happened yet...

Graeme Flory said...

Hey Pat!
Thanks for stopping by. Now is definitely a great time to be a fantasy fan but you're right when you say that the new authors have a task on their hands if they are to supercede the older generation. I guess what I was trying to say was that a 'changing of the guard' isn't just about authors but also about changes in reader's attitudes towards the fantasy genre. Goodkind is still doing well for himself but less and less readers are after the 'Goodkind experience' these days...
Like I said, I'll be interested to see what the fantasy landscape looks like in ten years time ;o)

Aidan said...


It's nice to see another take on this subject. The most interesting aspect, to me, is how divisive this "Changing of the Guard" has been. When I first wrote those articles I had no idea that the title (which I will admit to using on a whim, not much thought involved at all!) would find its way onto so many different blogs and create such a diverse and honest discussion about the subject!

I'm curious what you, and other bloggers, think the chances are of another "dethroning" happening in the near future? Martin is just getting popular... but he's also frustrating a lot of his fans with the glacial pace at which he publishes novels. Could we perhaps see authors like Abercrombie, Lynch and Rothfuss (all of whom write at a considerable pace) effectively "outsell" big guns like Martin simply because they release three or four novels for each one that Martin releases?

Could this not be somewhat of a dethroning? There are so many different aspects to look at when it comes to this topic that I think we could be discussing it long after even the new writers of today have been replaced by our children!

A Dribble of Ink

Chris, The Book Swede said...

Another interesting post. Scott Lynch stands a good chance, I'd say. But not for a quite a length of time.

I personally would love it for Brian Ruckley to make it BIG. He hasn't had quite the MB attention, but he's getting quite a lot of press from bloggers. Orbit are trying very hard marketing him to the US, so September will be interesting to watch.

I do like the idea of a constantly changing guard. Although, as Pat said, that doesn't make sense. We need a new term, guys!