Lytherus had the good fortune of attending not one, but two epic fantasy panels at San Diego Comic Con this year. The first (aptly named “Putting the Epic in Epic Fantasy”) had an amazing lineup of authors: Django Wexler (The Shadow Throne), Sam Sykes (The City Stained Red), Joe Abercrombie (Half a King), Robin Hobb (Fool’s Assassin), Morgan Rhodes (The Fallen Kingdom Series), Rayond E. Feist (Magician’s End), and Patrick Rothfuss (The Slow Regard of Silent Things), with Brent Weeks (The Way of Shadows) as the MC.
Brent kicked it off with a hilarious intro to all of the authors, complete with photo slideshow, which had everyone in stitches in the first few minutes. Once he got into the meat of the panel though, some great questions were asked. First up: Does it make sense to have traditions in fantasy? Pat started everyone off, saying that he doesn’t really know where his position is with this, using Christianity going from one to many types as a parallel example, and saying that we can follow the trends, like from Harry Potter now over to George R.R. Martin. He also said that he’s inspired from stuff he doesn’t like as much as stuff he does. Sam added to this, saying how things we liked as kids we may be ashamed of as adults (he likened Dragon Lance to porn as an example and got a great laugh)
Next Brent moved on to individual questions, starting with asking Django to talk about military fantasy. He said GRRM was a direct inspiration, and liked how he took things back to their roots, referencing the Napoleonic wars, etc. Also, some things were a result of HP, the idea of wondering what it would be like if the mentor was untrustworthy (i.e. a sketchy Dumbledore, which also got some laughs).
Brent used this to transition to Robin, asking her how she’d describe her writing and how she thinks she fits into the GRRM era. She said simply that she’s trying to tell a story. She’s not trying to change your mind or inspire you, and there are really no boundaries. No one can tell the same story the same way, and on top of that, all artists are thieves. Ray added to this, saying that you can’t predict success with this. GRRM cheats. He cheats. All writers cheat (the example he uses is a scene in one of George’s books with soldiers that isn’t historically accurate, but works to drive the story forward). Writers cheat so they can focus on what’s most interesting, Ray continued. They hope what they write is interesting to others too.
Morgan was up next, and Brent wanted to know what made her want to write her YA fantasy book, as she’s sometimes seen as the YA GRRM. She’s new to fantasy, having written in the paranormal genre for a while, so she wanted to pull from fantasy she loved, like the movies Willow and Legend, and even Disney princesses. And then she started watching Game of Thrones and was like WTF?! It all went into her melting pot. She’s not trying to write for anyone specific, it’s just the story.
At this point Joe interjected that it’s amazing to him that no one has mentioned Tolkien yet. A few years ago it was Tolkien and only Tolkien. Pat added to this, talking about how things seem to swing in four-year intervals. It was Harry Potter for a while, and then it was the LOTR movies, and now Game of Thrones. He said it’s hard in the moment to say if it’s an overall shifting of genre, or if it’s just this moment in time. Django added that Harry Potter made people see YA and MG in a new way, and the post-HP world is very different.
Sam then wondered why GoT is different, the appeal is different. Usually the good guys win. GoT changed the rules. Everyone was like “You can’t DO that!”, and maybe that’s what makes it appealing. Robin added that it’s great because GoT brings in a new readership who haven’t read anything like it, or their work, before. Pat got a laugh with the reference that people still refer to fantasy as ghetto. First LOTR, then HP, now GoT. At some point you have to stop saying it’s ghetto.
At this point there were some audience questions, most of them directed towards one author or another vs. the whole group. But the energy was jovial and the audience seemed to really enjoy the panel. I also had a great time, and really loved the insight of how the genre is evolving. This panel had some of the great fantasy writers of our time, and it was wonderful to get a peek into their minds and their worlds. I’ll definitely be curious to see what big thing of the genre will be latched onto next, but for now we will have to wait and see!