Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dragon*Con: Happy Genre Fiction--Is Speculative Fiction Going Too Dark?


Last weekend I attended Dragon*Con in Atlanta—certainly an overwhelming event, including plenty of everything to do with steampunk, sci fi, and all subgenres of fantasy.

Word is 60,000 were present at the con, and I’m still exhausted from dealing with the crowds and noise. But, I had fun and enjoyed many panels and sessions. I usually stayed in the relative sanity of the writers’ tracks, but once in a while ventured into the chaos of fan tracks. I wanted to share one interesting panel discussion.

Happy Genre Fiction—In the midst of so much dystopian, dark fantasy and sci-fi, there are few happy stories. Why?

Panel members: Jean Rabe; Eugie Foster; A. Martin (moderator)

I’ll highlight some of the most interesting statements from this rambling discussion:

Reflections of society:

The darker turn in fantasy/sci-fi is a sign of changes in our society. Technological optimism ended with the destructive force of the atomic bomb in 1945. Since then, darker themes took precedence, like with Moorcock’s works of the 1960s. Our culture has been bombarded by constant negative TV news, so dark fiction is appropriate, mirroring those trends. China’s economy is currently optimistic, and they have postitive Sci-fi.

Generations have become more accustomed to darker fantasies, as well as more societal problems, so what was viewed as ‘dark’ once, is no longer perceived to be that unhappy. We’ve embraced dark in fiction so completely, ‘happy’ is no longer trusted as real.

Industry ideas:

It’s a matter of what is selling in the market now.

If you want to write a happy work, give it a tragic ending to fit the current market.

Writing happy fantasy well can help you stand out in the crowd.

Happy fantasy must still have conflicts or it will be boring to read. The panel agreed happy fantasy must resolve most conflicts at the end, rather than only finishing with a ray of hope.

In order to create a happy fantasy, imagine a world you’d like to live in.

Evidence of happy fantasy:

Many Romance and Young Adult books today have happy endings. Even the darkest Sci-fi inherently gives the message there will be a future to look forward to, so there is a basic optimism.

What do you think--is speculative fiction going too dark?

Jean Rabe is the author of more than two dozen fantasy and adventure novels, 60 short stories, and she's edited 20 anthologies. She is the business manager of the SFWA Bulletin and spends her spare time studying Egyptian symbolism and making ugly pottery.

Eugie Foster, with over 100 publication credits to her name, won the 2009 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and has also been nominated for the Hugo, BSFA, and Bram Stoker awards.  Her short story collection, Returning My Sister's Face, is available from Norilana Books.


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Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. She is the author of the novel, TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE, the first in a trilogy. Part two, TORTUGA TREASURE is contracted for release in January, 2012. Look for her first of an epic fantasy romance series, SEEKING A SCRIBE: ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS ONE, to be available late autumn.

2 comments:

Ciara said...

I'm so jealous. I wanted to go to Dragon Con so bad. I've tried two years in a row and something always seems to happen. I'll be going next year. I'm glad you had a great time.

J Q Rose said...

Thanks for sharing this info. It's pretty sad we are in such a state of depression that our stories are dark too. You'd think we'd want to lighten up. But I see it this work as being an escape from troubles and worries..maybe that's why it is so popular. I enjoyed Tears and am happy to hear there will be more stories.

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