When I was a young man, not so long ago, all I wanted was validation. You see after my years of working in pop culture I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do. But I’d (mistakenly) avoided reading a lot of fantasy for a number of years in case it influenced my work.
So I come back to find that fantasy had evolved and what it had evolved into was very different from what I wanted to do. And that filled me with fear. You see some of the elements of fantasy I really, really loved were considered the epitome of uncool. I mean, who the fuck writes elves these days* (even if they are folklore based rather than a Tolkien rip-off)?
What I wanted people to tell me was that it was OK. What I wanted was people to tell me that my brand of fantasy was valid.
But here’s the problem. People have preconceived ideas when you talk about the type of fantasy I want to write. Heck, I’m not even sure what it is: some blend of urban and epic fantasy with a splash of swords and sorcery? But yeah, people thought that I just wanted to write Tolkien fanfic, and as a result would look at me with sorry eyes and tell me “those tropes just aren’t cool any more. We’ve all moved on”.
And of course, I got angry. I got really angry. Because that’s not what my brand of fantasy is about and they were dismissing it for something it wasn’t. Oh the rage! The rage! And the more they dismissed it, the more validation I wanted.
What I failed to realise was that
- A) I was never going to get the validation I seeked from those people. Rightly or wrongly, they have their own preconceived ideas about my type of fantasy.
- B) Of course my type of fantasy is valid. It’s quite commercial and even if it wasn’t that doesn’t make it any less valid as a branch of fantasy.
- C) If I slightly altered my brand of fantasy to make it more appealing for those people who dismissed it, I’d be watering down what’s so special about it.
So the trick is to not go looking for validation because I’m not going to find it and even if I do, it ain’t gonna change horseshit.
And that’s why (if you really think about it) all this fuss over the Booker and the SFF snub on World Book Night is all a lot about nothing. The literary might dismiss SFF as pulp but as far as I can see a lot of the last 150 years’ worth of classics came from what we would deem the pulps.
Plus we get zombies, pirates and hundred foot tentacle monsters.
*well aside from James Barclay