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Fantasy: Elves and dragons — still fun or time for something new?

This post originally appeared at Borders’ Babel Clash blog.

Brandon Sanderson here, author of various epic fantasy novels. I’m happy to be here—thanks to Borders for giving me this chance.

The first topic for our discussion is one close to my heart. Long ago, when I was an undergraduate, I wrote an essay entitled “Kill the Elves” for the on-campus sf/f magazine. I’ve long been a proponent for fantasy going in other directions, growing beyond the traditional Tolkienesque archetypes that have become so common in the genre. I’m bored with elves, bored with dwarves, bored with quests for magical objects.

But is this just my cynicism speaking? Is this like trying to get sf to stop using space ships? Are elves, dwarves, and the other fantasy stand-by races such a vital part of the genre that, in pulling them out, we’d remove what makes fantasy fun in the first place?

What of the quest archetype? An irreplaceable piece of the genre, tied to the hero’s journey and coming of age? Or is it a crutch that has been rehashed so many times that using it changes a fantasy novel from original and fresh into reading like a video-game on paper? And if we cut out these parts, where does that leave us? Where is fantasy going, and what might it become in the next decade?

Speak out. I’ve got more than a few thoughts on this myself, and I’m curious to see where the discussion goes.

|   Castellano