Bucking Trends

Those of you who’ve been reading me for a while know, I enjoy messing with stereotypes. I also enjoy bucking trends, when I can.

Over on my favorite writing forum some time ago, there was a discussion about whether or not the zombie fad was over. I argued that it is, but also argued that following fads is doomed to failure anyway.

Look at it this way… Hunger Games is the latest book fad, among sci-fi and fantasy genres, at least. And yet, Hunger Games itself is unlike most of what came before it. Post-apocalyptic sci-fi has been around for what seems like forever, but before Hunger Games it was always a niche market. What Suzanne Collins did successfully was start a fad, not follow one.

You can go back in history and find this happening over and over and over again. Harry Potter did it, for example. Eragon is a bit of a mixed bag, stories of people riding friendly dragons have been around since at least the late great Anne McCaffrey, but Christopher Paolini at the very least restarted a fad that had faded.

In fact, the patron saint of fantasy, JRR Tolkien, created something far more than a fad with Lord of the Rings, to some extent he still defines the epic and high fantasy genres to this day.

I’ve gone over all this before, I am pretty sure (and I’m too lazy to go and look right now). However, my deep antipathy towards fads has made me look at the kind of stories I want to tell. And they’re not following fads as far as I can tell.

Librarian — which I still want to get back to someday — offers something rarely seen in a fantasy novel: a disabled protagonist. Stephen Donaldson did it to some extent, but beyond that I’m not aware of any successful fantasy novels or series with a disabled main character. The trend was, and is, to have the protagonist be a heroic figure of some sort. Even humble Frodo Baggins has his share of heroism, going on with his task even when things looked bleak.

My current work in progress, which hasn’t really started yet, will feature a cleric as the main character. Clerics are often included as secondary characters, but rarely do they take center stage, while wizards as magic users are very common in fantasy literature.

I’ll be honest, part of it is sheer cussedness and not wanting to do what others have done, but I also think that this way I can tell stories that haven’t yet been told, and I think that’s a worthy goal for any writer.

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