Today’s guest is Jeffe Kennedy, whose new book LONEN’S WAR just released two days ago. She’s here to discuss the Saturn Awards, the RITAs, and our favorite topic — FANTASY!!
If a show has any kind of “woo woo” … it’s getting called Fantasy
Several things have happened lately to make me question how the fantasy genre is being labeled and represented in the larger world. Specifically, I triggered at the announcement that OUTLANDER won the 2016 Saturn Awards for Best Fantasy Television Series. (The link is here: http://www.saturnawards.org/, but as they have the winners on the current home page and not at a specific link, I grabbed a screenshot, too.)
Now let me be clear: I *love* OUTLANDER. I’m a huge fan of both the books and the television show. I think the show deserves all the awards.
Except… maybe not the Fantasy award.
Because it’s not Fantasy.
I mean, sure, there’s time travel. But the time travel events occur at widely spaced moments. One per season, at this rate. Otherwise there are no fantastical elements. (Okay – Sam Heughan is fantastic, but I’m talking about the *other* meaning, as in relating to fantasy. And not that kind of fantasy, people.) Aside from the time travel that forms the premise, the story is really historical.
For comparison, let’s look at the other nominees. (Link here: http://www.saturnawards.org/The-Saturn-Awards-Annual-Nominations.php)
Game of Thrones
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
The Shannara Chronicles
Of these, four – Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin), Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke), The Magicians (Lev Grossman) and The Shannara Chronicles (Terry Brooks) – are taken from novels or series firmly planted in the fantasy genre. They have solidly magical themes and alternate fantasy worlds.
I haven’t seen Haven, but it looks to be more paranormal. Kind of like Supernatural? Maybe someone who’s seen it can weigh in here.
I can’t even with The Muppets being included in the nominees.
BUT – that inclusion goes to a theme. If a show has any kind of “woo woo,” not solid reality elements, it’s getting called Fantasy by this group.
Let’s take a look at the Science Fiction category for contrast. (I’ll stick with the television series nominations, in an attempt to keep this apples to apples.) The nominees were:
I had to look up Colony, Expanse and Wayward Pines but, with the possible exception of the last, they all seem solidly Science Fiction. I dunno on Wayward Pines – maybe it’s really different from Haven in the fantasy nominees, but I’m not sure where the line is being drawn there.
ANYWAY, my point is that the Fantasy category tends to be a catch-all for “weird shit.” Which kind of bothers me. I’m seeing books out that are marketed as Fantasy Romance that read solidly to me as Historical Romance. It’s not enough to me for a story to take place in a non-tech world, especially one very recognizable as from our past. There needs to be more for it to be actual *fantasy*. Just as one time-travel even is not enough to make Outlander into a true fantasy, then a few magical elements in a historical don’t quite lever it into fantasy for me.
Another area that makes this problematic for me is RWA’s RITA awards. For the 2016 awards there were twelve categories. Some, like Contemporary Romance, are broken into subgroups of Long, Mid-length, and Short. Historical is broken into Long and Short. So, five of the twelve were for contemporary and historical romances.
How many for Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction Romance and Fantasy Romance? One. All under Paranormal.
Now, I understand some of the category breakdowns are fueled by number of entries. Maybe there aren’t enough entries in Paranormal to break down into more granular categories. But lumping all of these under the equivalent of the “weird shit” category seems unfair to the breadth of these genres.
Let’s look at the Paranormal finalists. (I added my take on their genres – feel free to argue!)
Midnight’s Kiss by Thea Harrison – PNR, splash of UF
Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarles – Time Travel
Possessed by a Wolf by Sharon Ashwood – PNR
The Shattered Court by M. J. Scott – Fantasy
Soulbound by Kristen Callihan – PNR/Steampunk
Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts – PNR
Viking Warrior Rising by Asa Maria Bradley – Historical with a dash of magic? (Haven’t read this one and hard to tell from the descriptions)
The book that won, Angela Quarles’ Must Love Chainmail is a pretty solid time-travel, much like Outlander. No shade on her or her book – big congrats to her on what I understand is a well-deserved award! – but is this like comparing Outlander to Game of Thrones to, well, The Muppets? To me these books aren’t all the same genre. Is it really fair to lump them all under one umbrella for our industry’s highest award?
Maybe I’m wrong here. Help me out, people!!
More about Jeffe
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.
Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014 and the third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books will follow in this world, beginning with The Pages of the Mind May 2016. A fifth series, the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, started with Going Under, and was followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract.
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.
Sorcerous Moons – Book 1
An Unquiet Heart
Alone in her tower, Princess Oria has spent too long studying her people’s barbarian enemies, the Destrye—and neglected the search for calm that will control her magic and release her to society. Her restlessness makes meditation hopeless and her fragility renders human companionship unbearable. Oria is near giving up. Then the Destrye attack, and her people’s lives depend on her handling of their prince…
A Fight Without Hope
When the cornered Destrye decided to strike back, Lonen never thought he’d live through the battle, let alone demand justice as a conqueror. And yet he must keep up his guard against the sorceress who speaks for the city. Oria’s people are devious, her claims of ignorance absurd. The frank honesty her eyes promise could be just one more layer of deception.
A Savage Bargain
Fighting for time and trust, Oria and Lonen have one final sacrifice to choose… before an even greater threat consumes them all.
Available now at Amazon, Kobo, B&N, Smashwords. For buy links, click here.
I think the fantasy label often serves as a catch-all, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. I agree that defining Outlander as “fantasy” isn’t entirely accurate. It’s kind of like calling Game of Thrones a romance because of Sam and Gilly. I always refer to Outlander as historical fiction with lots of romance and a bit of time travel.
Focusing on the Saturn Awards, I guess I’m wondering what other category it could have been nominated in. Best Television Presentation? Even if it had been, it would have been competing against even more apples-to-oranges shows though.
Similar to your point above — I’ll share a pet peeve of mine: When people use the term “science fiction” as a catch-all label for ALL books with ANY type of speculative element. Drives me absolutely nuts.
Terrific post, Jeffe. And great cover for LONEN’S WAR! Thanks for guest blogging today!!
EVERYONE– WEIGH IN! WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAS “FANTASY” BECOME A CATCH-ALL CATEGORY? IS THAT BAD? OR ARE YOU OKAY WITH IT?