Sunday, February 26, 2012

Joe Abercrombie- Fantasy Author's Take on Genre and Westerns

I’ve made a lot of grumpy comments over the last year about the failure of genre fiction, particularly the western genre.  As a fantasy reader I find the same true over in that neck of the bookshelf.  One writer that I have come to enjoy, Joe Abercrombie, seems to agree.  This is good news, as it looks like he is moving the timeline of his low fantasy (ie no dragons and little magic) First Law series up a couple centuries of technology to “combine fantasy with some western influences. Expect narrowed eyes, expansive skies, tough one-liners, and lots of dust...”

Can’t wait to read that one.  Below are Abercrombie’s thoughts on breaking genre fiction loose from its shackles.

Epic fantasy. It’s all the same, no?

There’s a grumpy wizard, a deadly barbarian, a jumped-up nobleman and some feisty girl, more than likely. They’re all engaged in a mysterious quest to bring that from there, and they’re all made out of cardboard. Probably there’s a dark lord of some kind involved. They talk like extras from a bad soap opera. They fight like extras from a bad cop show. Probably there’s a prophecy, and a farmboy with mysterious parentage, and if not a magic tower, then certainly a strange tall building of some kind. There’ll be battles, there’ll be intrigue, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a magic sword came up somewhere along the way.

I don’t need to read that again.

I want to read a fantasy with all the grit, and cruelty, and humour of real life. Where good and evil are a matter of where you stand, just like in the real world. I want dialogue that actually sounds like people talking, and action that actually feels like people fighting. I want magic and adventure, sure, but I want it to hurt. I want blood, sweat, and tears, and plenty of them. I want to read about characters as selfish, as flawed, as complicated, and as unpredictable as real people. I want a fantasy that can shock and surprise, amuse and horrify, delight and excite me, all at once.

I spent a long time looking, and I couldn’t find a set of books quite like that. So I thought I’d write some.

You like your fantasy with the edges left on?

Try The First Law.


  1. I'm with ya on this score,Chris. I want more than I'm reading right now. When you find it. let me know!

    Bring it, Joe!

  2. What kind of stuff do you read now, Ellen? Maybe I can recommend something.