This thread is getting stale. Let's shake it about a bit.
Argency wrote:Depends what you count as fantasy, for me.
A good working definition of fantasy is a story that is impossible within our currently perceived reality (given a certain degree of consensus on what reality is). Look out for magic, supernatural beings, alternative universes and alternative timelines - these are common indicators of fantasy. As a comparison, science fiction is a story that's unthinkable now, but could (with a given amount of goodwill) become possible in near or far future. These two genres, together with horror, form the group "speculative fiction".
Márquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude roughly counts as fantasy, because it contains clearly impossible elements (the priest levitating when drinking cocoa, Remedios the Beauty ascending to heaven, etc.). And yet, most fans of Márquez would take moderate to mortal offense if you even suggested that magical realism is a sub-genre of fantasy. I would check what the TV Tropes term is, but that might imply linking there, so I'm guessing it's called "sci-fi ghetto". Speculative fiction tends to get associated with various social subcultures, so to a great many people you meet, the definition of fantasy would depend just as much on subjective associations and readership, as on the technical aspects of a story.
Lioness wrote:Robin Hobb
Oh, how could I forget! The first thing I thought after reading Assassin's Apprentice was "this is what Le Guin feels like, only with action and adrenaline". I third Hobb.
emceng wrote:I really see three vying for the top spot, and all have been mentioned here - LeGuin, Martin, and Erickson. The last two are both writing epic fantasy series. I would like to see them finish those, if only to see if they do well with a new project. LeGuin just knows how to write.
You have kicked in the doors, played snooker in the aisle, done your dishes in the fountain, practiced your swashbuckler antics in the chandelier, read gaudy poetry from the altar, and generally desecrated Thadlerian's holy temple of Literature in most thinkable ways with that final sentence there.
"Le Guin just knows how to write." Yes, indeed she does know how to write. But there's another thing she knows. She knows how to EDIT; the long-lost art of fantasy. She can pack tons of story into teeny tiny books, spending her words carefully to tell only the important parts, and have your brain/imagination fill in the rest. A Wizard of Earthsea is the best example. In my curriculum, this is what tells the truly talented writer apart from those who just string words together.
Another reason I'm glad One Hundred Years of Solitude was brought up. The book is a character epic equal in magnitude to the Wheel of Time, and yet it does it all within roughly 300 pages, and that's that. No sequels, no prequels. Enjoy your Nobel prize, man. (Although if magical realism had been regarded as fantasy by the mainstream, you would never have received it.)
Bamm wrote:I'd have to say that for me the best fantasy writer currently working is Steven Erikson. The Malazan Book of the Fallen series is epic in scope and has some very gritty and realistic battle scenes. There aren't many books that make me weep, but this series has done so on more than one occasion.Highly recommended.
Only person posting here who has an ounce of sense.
Ah ha, so that's the way we want this discussion going, is it? Very well.
Reading Steven Erikson's Malazan Books of the Fallen is like watching a pack of androids play a highly sophisticated role-playing game: At first you can but watch, dumbfounded by all that awesome shit going on all around the place. But after a while you can't help but notice there are no characters in the story.
Or you can say there are characters of sorts, but they don't develop. They just level up
. But there's no intrigue.
The story is easily summed up as Fiddler turns out to be not just your ordinary soldier grunt, and then Quick Ben is ten times as badass as you thought, and then Paran shows some hidden qualities, and then Kalam is twice as badass as Quick Ben seems to be, and so on.
Sir_Elderberry wrote:George R.R. Martin...or Terry Pratchett. Two kind of opposites, I suppose.
George R.R. Martin is a very understandable choice. His characterization is good, and his ability to create suspense is nearly unmatched. Reading A Storm of Swords is one of the most intense reading experiences I can recall. His plots are complex and nice, too.
And yet, even as I sit here, A Feast for Crows sits on my shelf, glaring up at me in disdain. Sans appendix, the book counts 700 pages, and I can hardly recall the tiniest bit of what it was all about. There was something about Jaime Lannister emoing around about whatever, and then there was an inexplicable and very much unwanted sex scene with Samwell Tarly. Martin needs to really deliver with A Dance with Dragons. Also, the book needs to actually come out
some time before the fall of the Himalayas. AFfC was five - 5 - years ago.
Also, Martin has this pan-fantasy tendency of letting most of his agreeable characters be male, and leaving the women for scrappies like Catelyn, Lysa, Cersei, Sansa and Ygritte. Annoying. I wonder why this is such a common trend. Erikson does it too.
PAstrychef wrote:Charles De Lint
I've only read one book by De Lint: The Little Country. I remember this book primarily for its spectacularly epic fail at adhering to the "show, don't tell" rule. The female lead is introduced with no end of pretty words, De Lint telling
us how pretty (her skin colour stuck in my mind as "healthy English peach" - is there something unhealthy about Englishmen of other colours, I ask?) and awesome Janey Little is, how she has a face to which "a smile came easily". And then the story starts up, and we're shown
a character who's hardly anything but truly pissed off through the whole book, who has violent tendencies, practices jealousy, makes vicious accusations against her ex-lover, and generally feels like a loud and immature little child. No wonder Robert Jordan was quoted on the dust jacket.
Also, there was a scene with a guy being shot, dead for certain as the chapter ended. There were a few chapters between, and then we met this guy once more. Turns out, De Lint had accidentally forgotten to tell the reader that this character always carried this personal artifact, a coin or a medal or something, in his shirt pocket. Said object had deflected the bullet. Said object was introduced after
having deflected the bullet.
Izawwlgood wrote:Gaimen? Define 'recent'? American God's is my favorite fantasy novel written in the last, what, 10 years?
American Gods was a nice touch. But what I primarily remember Neil Gaiman
for is the Sandman series of graphic novels. Like Erikson, Gaiman creates a vast and complex universe, with a promise of untold stories in every back alley and under every little stone. But when stripped of the decoration, their technical structure laid bare, his stories aren't all that impressive. I recall the 4th Sandman issue, Seasons of Mist. There was this woman, whom a demon of Hell had trapped within itself, challenging Morpheus to go inside it and rescue her. The reader is established with the fact that this is a very risky operation for Morpheus. And true enough, the demon has tricked him, and he is now captured within it. But then it turns out that since the demon is inside Morpehus' palace at the time, Morpheus is really in control of everything that happens around here, and now he has the demon captured in a glass jar. Easy peasy. Nothing was actually at stake.
The purpose of this little digression is to point out that for being a great writer, it's not enough to be good with words. You also have to be able to resist the temptation of taking shortcuts such as these within your plot structure. Gaiman generally takes a lot of those.
Belial wrote:China Mieville.
And China Miéville joins us as well. Excellent. Here's a name I'd really be inclined to agree with. Bas-Lag (why won't he write more Bas-Lag books?) has an atmosphere quite unlike anything else I've encountered. Again, like Erikson and Gaiman, there is nearly infinite potential for stories in the world-building. But there's character intrigue on many levels, and the plots are deep and complex, taking unexpected turns all around. And those endings! Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council - they all end in highly unexpected ways that make them a fresh breath into the genre, not just setting-wise, but also plot-wise.
Ultimately, my issue with Miéville is his rereadability. For a book to be truly enjoyable, it must be rereadable. Rereading a book is very different from reading it. I read it to see what happens. When I reread, I know what will happen, and I anticipate the memorable passages. Some passages are so good I can take the book off my shelf just to read those parts. Everybody knows of such passages from their favourite books. But I know none from Miéville. I've tried rereading both PSS and The Scar, and I've given up. They're good as a whole, but when I reread, I know that the only things I will find are the graphic and gruesome death renditions. Every other page, Miéville seems to kill off characters en masse, whether they have their living bones extracted by the weaver, or get their souls sucked out by moths, or get cut in half with a rivebow, or get crushed in a bathysphere, or blunder into the Cacotopic Stain - all in excessive detail. Rereading Miéville, I know that this is what awaits me within the story. This, and nothing nice and beautiful to counter it.
It's a tendency I've simply taken to calling "the goretrap". Writers generally seem to use it to intimidate the reader into greater respect for their writing. The sad thing is that Miéville doesn't actually have to do this. His writing, world-building and plotting is brilliant already.
MadParrot wrote:Nobody has mentioned Jasper Fforde? Especially the Thursday Next novels.
Jasper Fforde is good as well. I like to think of him as a Terry Pratchett who actually does good satire on Capitalism. The four first Thursday Next novels were an ocean of wild and crazy ideas, and these wild and crazy ideas interacting with the characters to create all sorts of hilarious situations. The sect that tries to catch meteorites with baseball gloves, Goliath, SpecOps, the chase of the slapstick minotaur, the mysspelling virus, and then there's Fforde writing a short parody on some truly horrible detective pulp. But book five, The First Among Sequels, was a letdown. Not least because Fforde seems intent on actually dismantling all of that wonderful universe of his, by correcting the time traveler mischief.
tl;dr: Robin Hobb is the best fantasy author working. Also, don't take shortcuts when you write fiction.
Edit: Never mind, Philip Pullman is the best. Not just entertainment, there are ideas as well. Don't let anyone tell you that His Dark Materials is a story about killing God. It's a story about the difference between child and adult.