I'm an orange in an apple's world

I saw this post about Dark Fantasy feed through on Facebook and in a way it made me grimace. I was surprised to find that I've read several of the first books listed there considering that this is so very much not my genre of choice. (Then again, I am a huge literature geek.) The article starts with "What folks call dark fantasy — that niche within fantasy of bloody tales full of morally grey people, supernatural forces and a distinct lack of happy endings — has become incredibly popular over the last few years."

I'm going to take this a different direction than the actual intent of that article. It was an interesting read, but it means something else to me. I hate how the current trend for fantasy is dark and depressing. (I'm holding tightly to my beloved Terry Pratchett books, let me tell you!)

It always makes me feel like an outsider, a weirdo, because I've never really liked dark fantasy. I've always thought Game of Thrones, though well-written, was overrated and not very enjoyable. I certainly dislike the fact that it has set the bar for fantasy where now everyone seems to want more of the same. My desire to avoid this particular subgenre makes it difficult to find fantasy books that I want to read because so much of what I'm hearing about and what people are recommending aren't my cup of tea. The world is depressing and dark enough; I read fantasy to escape and I want to enjoy the time I spend "living" in new worlds. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't have to be entirely sunshine and daisies and clear heroes and villains, but I need good things to happen to the characters to balance out the bad. I want happy endings. I want parts of it to make me smile. What I don't want is constant death and violence. Is that so much to ask?

This subgenre being so popular is also putting me between a rock and a hard place with my own writing should I reach the point where I would try to get my novels published. I don't usually write Young Adult, but I fear that because I write humor, upbeat stories, and things working out for the good guys in the end (youngish good guys: at the moment they're all between 17 and 30), that's the shelf I'm going to be placed on. I guess what I'm saying is that it makes me feel as though my writing isn't as important, adult, acceptable, or good as the authors who write downers. I can turn a phrase just as well as many of them, I can write intricate plots and well-rounded characters, and I can have series that span centuries, but because I'm not writing gore and constant darkness, does that mean that my effort isn't as adult? Isn't as important? Isn't as amazing as the gritty dark fantasy? As an aside, I'm not saying that there's a problem with YA. I love the genre and read it a lot, precisely because in general it isn't as dark as "adult" fantasy. It's just that YA isn't the genre I usually try to fit inside and "lighthearted" and "humorous" shouldn't be an automatic placement into that category.

I'm not trying to turn this post into a pity party, but this is something that has been taunting me in the back of my mind and causing self-doubt, so I wanted to get these fears and frustrations out of my head so they can go take up residence somewhere else. (Fly away, doubts! Shoo! You've bothered me long enough! I have work to do and novels to finish!)

I was talking to my husband about this and he gave a response that I want to share:
"It sounds like you're upset because you expect everyone to want you to be an apple when you're perfectly happy to be an orange. I like oranges. The best thing about an orange is when you get a really good one when you haven't had one in a while and you go 'Oh my gosh, I forgot how much I like these!' When you read a book, it's the exact same thing."

So maybe I shouldn't worry so much that no publisher will want to pick up my lighthearted fantasy adventures and that no one will want to read them if they do make it to the shelves. Not everyone is going to want to read dark, even if it is incredibly popular right now. Even if they do, they might want a break from all that gore and violence sometimes. Like my husband said afterwards, "When have you ever cared what anyone thought?" I need to hang on to that and have faith that there's room for this orange in a world of apples.

And since I'm currently writing about carnival performers and have been slowly picking up their tricks as a kind of research, you can picture me juggling oranges and apples. ;)


After I shared this post, one of my Twitter friends made an observation that I agree with completely. You can have mature content and serious themes. Just because something is optimistic and positive doesn't make it any less "epic" fantasy than something dark and depressing. I'm including that here because it pretty much sums up what I've been saying. :)

Edit the following day:
While my husband and I were out geocaching today, we discovered what looked like a toy orange in one of the caches. This seemed like fate giving me a well-timed thumbs up, so I took the orange home with me where it's now sitting on my desk next to a few of my writing character dolls. I figured that was an appropriate place for it. ;)



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