Every decade there is a popular fantasy subgenre that sells better than your regular everyday fantasy. During the 90s it was assassin and epic fantasy, which the echoes of can still be felt to this day with authors like Brandon Sanderson refining the genre down to a fine art. During the 2000s there was a rise in popularity of the steam punk and urban fantasy/paranormal genres, the latter brought about dominantly by the rise of YA series like Harry Potter and Twilight, which sold better than anything previously. Now that we’re in the 2010s, two more genres have risen in popularity that will continue to pervade the best sellers for the rest of the decade. But what could possibly come next?
And hear me! As I coin… ‘Gaming Fantasy’ will be next!
Reaching its peak around the time that the Game of Thrones television series started becoming popular, gritty and dark fantasy fused to become what popular authors in the genre call Grimdark. The author that coined this genre, Joe Abercrombie, became a kind of hallmark for where this genre was heading. The many works that came after it from authors like Luke Skull or Anthony Ryan, and later even Mark Lawrence who has hand in the next subgenre as well, were similar or inspired by him given the time-title of ‘Post Abercrombie’ and/or ‘Abercombie Derivative’. Because A Song of Ice and Fire came before it one could argue that it was the prelude of the grimdark genre but anyone who has read both styles can easily tell that Martin’s series still has all of the hallmarks of being an epic fantasy series without the unique grimdark narrative we have come to love.
Ironically, the post apocalypse subgenre was already popular, but its true revival came about not through a newer work but from the revival of an older media franchise. When George Miller’s Madmax 4: Fury Road, explosively revived the genre, authors from the Sci-fi to fantasy to the young adult demographic were more than willing to hope on the band wagon. Forgetting that Terry Brooks had done it decades before it became popular, fantasy authors were desperately trying to tie old fantasy tropes to this world risen from the ashes idea. Although we can see it in such books as Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire Series and The Vagrant, one merely needed to points to the game Final Fantasy X to see how a post apocalypse fantasy setting can be done right. This is not through the resurrection of our own world after an apocalyptic event but an entire alternative fantasy world in which such magic and settings already existed AND THEN rises from the ashes.
So yes, although the epic and the heroes quest will continue to live on, it now the setting which has come to dominate the fantasy genre, giving through it’s wallpaper the illusion of unique worlds. However, as authors seemed to do, we don’t fully acknowledge what made these new trends what they are and instead push forward, standing in the shoes of artists that came before instead of standing on their shoulders. In order to keep up with these striving genre markets one must bring their own unique lens to these genres before the market is flooded once again, like it did with epic and heroic fantasy in the past. So now that VR/gaming/cyberpunk is making its come back once again (and now the VR technology is turning sci-fi reality) it’s time to reinvent the genre.
Considering the book I have coming out is a version of this genre that departs from the VR plot tool almost entirely, I’ll quote Homer Simpson: “At least I’m sitting in the right chair.” I’m going to put it on record right now so that EVERYONE KNOWS I SAID IT FIRST, OKAY? ‘Gaming Fantasy’ — Fucking Coined.