The fantasy genre is one that has more than enough franchises, from Middle Earth to Discworld, Narnia to Westeros the fantasy genre is everywhere. But the question of ‘Who is the King of Fantasy?’ some of our writers suggest candidates for the title.
Sure, fantasy has been a prevailing genre for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. There have been multiple ‘Gods’ over the genres lifespan. But I just don’t think anyone captures the magic of the genre as perfectly as Terry Pratchett does. Creator of the ‘Discworld’, a chaotic magical plain that exists on top of 4 elephants who themselves live atop a giant, placid turtle named A’Tuin (don’t worry he’s peaceful), Pratchett carefully cultivated a fictional world and culture that is overflowing with rich lore, interesting and memorable characters, and beautiful, entertaining stories. The ‘Discworld’ itself encompasses over 40 novels, and hundreds of characters, each with their own story just begging to be told. Pratchett’s universe pulls you in with little persuasion, and is easily accessible in that it’s easy (to a point) to understand (no pages-long descriptions of tree branches like a certain ring-loving fantasy author), and even in the moments that it’s not, there’s always a humorous note from the author himself commenting that he himself has no idea what’s going on either. The Discworld feels equally so far away from our reality, with crazy landscapes, creatures, cultures and adventures, but also close, with its relatable characters, political allegories, and surprisingly sometimes mundane problems. Terry Pratchett has created a fantasy world that is unparalleled in its perfection, and for that reason he is in my mind the God of Fantasy.
If you ask anyone to name a fantasy author, you’ll probably get the majority of people answering with “J.R.R. Tolkien”. And for good reason; this oxford professor took fantasy literature from something childish and not highly regarded into a worldwide favourite literary space.
Lord of the Rings is perhaps his most famous novel, although there are plenty of other stories and tales set in Middle-Earth. In fact, LOTR is the final adventure; everything else happens before the War of the Ring and the final battle against Sauron. Many elements of Tolkien’s work have become codifiers for the fantasy genre, from the idea that a series should be released as a trilogy (although not his initial idea but that of publishers in a Post-WW2 paper shortage) to the Dark Lord tropes, and even the return of the prophesied King.
The influence of Norse and Celtic mythologies and their stories, and the multiple languages and writing systems he created have encapsulated and entertained audiences in all mediums – from literature to film adaptations, to the less well-known musical. It’s extensive lore, but the colourful world that Tolkien brings with it continuously draw in new readers, even 80 years after the publication of The Hobbit.
For many, Roald Dahl was the author of their childhood; bringing back nostalgia in the form of terrifying witches, and his museum filled with a ton of buttons. Dahl aided our young imaginations, telling us that we could one day beat up our bully teacher with magical powers and cake, that we might one day travel the world with insects in a giant peach, and leaving us opening every chocolate bar with a side of delusion: maybe this one will have my golden ticket. For a lot of us, Roald Dahl’s books were one of our first, or most impressionable reads when learning the art of turning words on paper into magical worlds in our head (special mention of my first book: The Enormous Crocodile). If we’re talking ultimate fantasy author, Roald Dahl certainly deserves a seat at the table for his magical, unforgettable, and completely ludicrous yet amazing worlds.
George R. R. Martin
Despite J.R.R. Tolkien who undoubtedly set a precedence for fantasy fiction with his stories of hobbiting around Middle Earth, it will be George R.R. Martin who offered up a different kind of fantasy; an epic vision spanning various eras that emphasised on political intrigue than magical powers. A Song of Ice and Fire tells the complex tale of various houses vying for power over the land of Westeros whilst the last of a great dynasty is building up an army far away to take back the crown. Unlike Tolkien, Martin not only focused on male chivalry and warfare, but also on creating strong female characters like Cersei and Daenerys who had significant roles and controlled their own destiny, something that fantasy fiction was lacking before the turn of the century. In addition, his usage of the limited third person was a smart choice as he weaves a deceptive narrative that begs for multiple reads. But Martin’s successes don’t stop there as he also edits the Superhero inspired Wild Cards anthology series that has provided a platform for upcoming fantasy authors like Carrie Vaughn since 1987. He is simply the modern god of fantasy. But let’s hope he finishes The Winds of Winter soon!