The Latest Hot Writer

The other day I read an interview with yet another hot new [comparatively, at least] writer, in which the writer made a comment about being “frustrated with the way fantasy worlds have this stasis… a medieval stasis for ten thousand years.” Then the writer’s subsequent comment dealt with that writer’s latest work that included inventors and social change, which, while not groundbreaking, were new to the writer.

Needless to say, my first instinct was to seek out and strangle the younger [and well-selling] hot writer, given that for thirty years I’ve been writing best-selling fantasy with settings that have been anything but static, and which include technology well beyond the medieval, multiple government systems, and diverse cultures.

My second thought was to do a little research. Even a brief stint of researching suggested that, while there was a period lasting into the mid-1990s where there were some number of medieval-stasis-type cultures in fantasy, it seemed to me that fantasy writers, for the most part, tended to focus on periods in specific historical eras and riff off them, sometimes medieval, sometime Byzantine, sometimes Renaissance, sometimes Regency, as well as, in more recent years, riffs on non-European history and cultures, etc., and that very few of those writers created endless static societies(although there has been a notable and excellent recent SF novel about an apparently endless and static empire).

Very few writers (and I will claim to be one of them) create their worlds from whole(r) cloth. I use the qualifier “wholer” because what we know comes from our own background, education, and experience, and there’s likely no way to create a new world from totally “whole” cloth, so to speak, but I do know of other writers who do the same, and none of those worlds are “medieval” or “static.”

Yet this hot writer is either dismissive or unaware of a fair number of books already out there which have already accomplished what this writer has so recently completed. I have not met this writer, but my first impression is less than auspicious.

For those of you aspiring to be the next new hot writer, I suggest that a bit more humility and little more knowledge of the field would be most useful. But then, I’m just a curmudgeonly old writer who broke in using that obsolete word-setter called a typewriter and who has the equally old fashioned idea that it’s helpful to know the past of one’s field and what other writers have done and are doing.

9 thoughts on “The Latest Hot Writer”

  1. Wine Guy says:

    If the ‘hot’ writer isn’t outraged by something or if they don’t ensure that everyone knows that their writing is edgier, more complete, etc….. they why would anyone read them?

    It’s traditional for the newbies in any profession to simultaneously admire, be envious of, and dismissive of those who went before.

    1. Tim says:

      I have had a succession of plumbers like that. The first thing they say is ‘who did this last time?’ – the implication being that the previous plumber had less skill.

    2. R. Hamilton says:

      A younger person, in what I might call the sophomore stage of their career (where they’ve recently learned some things, but have not yet recognized that others have also learned those things before them) might conclude that many others in their field are limited, when that just reflects their limited exposure to the works of others, limited understanding, or arrogance.

      I think an honest test is if someone looks at their own early work and sees its shortcomings, long before they make generalizations about the shortcomings of others. If my memory hasn’t failed, our host has passed that test. 🙂

  2. rehcra says:

    A limited perspective is still a valuable point to write from. I was trying to remember an old saying that fits this situation but in googling it all i could find was this one from JK Rowling’s writings.
    “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

    Which is annoying me a lot more then it should cause now I have no shot of remembering the older saying. Which Makes me mad at Rowling for semi copying the old saying. Which makes me the old forgetful man.


  3. Elena says:

    I am seeing a lot of talk on Twitter of late discussing the common use of the medieval Europe template for fantasy novels – mostly commenting on the lack of representation of minorities in the name of “accuracy”.

    Could it be that these discussions, while potentially important, are drowning out the awareness of novels that are doing things differently?

    It doesn’t help that when I thought about the statement in your post, the novels that came to mind first were actually more or less the sort being complained about – admittedly all big-name best sellers too.

    On the other hand, I’ll admit that my reading time in recent years has dropped so I haven’t been exposed to as many of the new fantasy authors and novels out there as I might have been in years past.

    1. You make good points. For the very reasons you mention, for at least the last ten years I’ve made a point to read books largely by writers I haven’t read, both established and new writers. I find it personally rewarding and important because my reading time is limited. I’m often disappointed, but the books I might not have otherwise read that are good more than outweigh the disappointments.

  4. David Arnold White says:

    As an ancient reading and writing SF stories for over 70 years found few writers like Modesitt who can weave such thoughtful conversations about the many shades of power and conventions that shape a character’s motivations. Just finished Endgames and Charyn’s inner thoughts added much to the story. Too bad Charyn’s story is ended.
    Keep writing. Hope to see you in February at Life etc. Convention. Cheers Dave White.

  5. John Prigent says:

    The worst thing about mock-medieval settings is the same as what goes wrong with far-future settings: using the wrong language. I’ve encountered both and simply abandoned the books. One mock-medievalist had the term ‘I hight’ instead of ‘I am’ when introducing himself, and some far-future writers love to use made-up words that have me scratching my head wondering what they mean for their flights of fancy. Unlike you, Sir, they’ve never thought about reader comprehension.

    1. Tim says:

      I remember the ‘I hight’ book. I think I gave it three chapters.

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