One of Aidan’s first posts on ‘A Dribble of Ink’ was a very interesting article called ‘The Changing of the Guard’, a piece about the rising stars of the fantasy firmament. There were a few names that we would expect to see on any such list but also a few names that were so fresh as to be almost unheard of. Looking at Aidan’s list, everyone can agree that the future of fantasy literature is in safe hands.
Pat has questioned Aidan’s article in a post that draws heavily on his knowledge and experience of the fantasy genre, publishing in particular. Pat quite rightly questions whether a ‘Changing of the Guard’ can happen in an environment where the ‘Old Guard’ are well entrenched and shifting a healthy number of units with each new release. Love or hate Goodkind and Jordan, Pat points out that they will always be the number one draw (as well as others) and that the ‘Old Guard’ aren’t ready to go just yet.
While Pat is absolutely right, I wonder if a slightly different ‘changing of the guard’ is taking place anyway. It may not be happening in the bookstores (in terms of units sold) and we may not see any real change for a long while but I would argue that a ‘changing of the fantasy guard’ is taking place in both readers and writers at this very moment. There are a number of new talents coming up with original ideas, they were readers (once upon a time) who thought, “I want to see more of [insert whatever] in fantasy, I’m going to write it!” This in turn strikes a spark with the reader who thinks, “I like this, where can I get more?” While there is still a great deal of mileage left in more established authors, change is happening slowly and the evidence can be seen everywhere. People using on-line forums slate a particular member of the old guard and some may then go on to writing workshops where fresh ideas are discussed and tested. A lucky few may then have their work published and could end up inspiring more readers to have a go themselves (and so the cycle continues). The guard is changing but it is happening so slowly you don’t even realise it. I’m looking forward to seeing what the ‘fantasy landscape’ looks like in ten years time. While some areas will have been fully explored, there will be mountain ranges on the horizon that are awaiting exploration. I for one cannot wait.