Jennifer Snow comments on the difference between science fiction and fantasy. I define science fiction as fantasy that uses scientific concepts. If a character waves a wand and instantly transports to another place, that’s fantasy. If a character waves a boson plasma disruptor and instantly transports to another place, that’s science fiction.
Just because fantasy is the broader concept does not mean it is better or more important. Up until the 1980’s science fiction dominated fantasy so much that the genre was just called science fiction.
The credit (or blame) for the change goes to Terry Brooks. He showed the field that there is money to be made imitating Tolkien. Since then, bookshelves have groaned beneath fat trilogies filled with concepts stolen from Tolkien. Fantasy readers don’t seem to care that writing about dwarves, elves and halflings is derivative.
I could be wrong because I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but I think the two great innovators in epic fantasy are J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. (Must be those double R’s.) Tolkien showed us epic fantasy in the quest story template -- and no one has written a better quest than Lord of the Rings. Martin is in the process of showing us epic fantasy in the family saga story template.
A Game of Thrones was one of the better books I’ve read in a long time. He kept me turning the pages -- a lot of pages. I got about 120 pp. into A Clash of Kings, then grew so bored I put it down. I’ve been told I should forge on because it gets better. I’ll try. I’m getting suspicious about this series, though. It’s so massive, with so many story lines going on that it breaks down the “crow epistemology” (the fact that the human mind’s focus is limited). Will the series have a climax worthy of all the complications and various story lines? Lord of the Rings had a brilliant climax. If Martin’s climax fizzles after thousands of pages, he might have to hire a bodyguard to protect him from angry fans. He can afford it.