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Lazette Gifford, Editor
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Holly Lisle's Vision

Fantasy Movies and the Star Wars Effect

By Forward Motion Community Members

2002, By Forward Motion

Star Wars had an exceptional impact on the SF community, for both good and bad.  Following the release and unexpected popularity of the movie, the entire genre began to feel the force.  Not only did the media tie-in (Sci-Fi) market expand (having been almost entirely Star Trek until now), but the film also had a ripple effect on the writing of traditional SF material.  If nothing else, space opera had a powerful resurgence, which also gave rise to counter material, like cyberpunk.   

This year we've seen two powerful fantasy movies released that drew exceptional attention again.  Will they have the same effects on the fantasy writing market that Star Wars had on SF?  It is unlikely that either will do much for the media tie-ins, since neither of these movies is likely to spin off that kind of writing material.  However, will Lord of The Rings spawn a new round of quest novels?  Will Harry Potter inspire a surge of children's fantasy, or even urban fantasy?  

Here are questions asked of the writers at Forward Motion: 

1.      Will the movies have as much general effect as Star Wars had with SF by making fantasy more accepted by the general population? 

2.      Will the movies trigger a resurgence in the fantasy publishing field?   

3.      Will the market favor one kind of fantasy over another?  

4.      Are the movies and their popularity going to change or influence the type of material YOU are going to write?  

5.      Had you read the books before you saw the movies?  Were you already influenced toward writing material inspired by that reading? 

6.      Did either of the movies make you WANT to go out and write something?

 

From Justin Stanchfield:

Will the movies have as much general effect as Star Wars had with SF by making fantasy more accepted by the general population?

I don't think any movie can ever generate the same impact Star Wars did. The original Star Wars became a hit despite the media, not because of it. I remember every critic except Rona Barret panning the film until the public groundswell had already carried it into becoming the greatest sleeper in film history. Today, every movie has so many tie-ins - Burger King, McDonald's, etc. - before it's even released that the public is essentially tired of it before it opens. And I think that spills into writing as well, unfortunately.

Will the movies trigger a resurgence in the fantasy publishing field?

Definitely, at least in the short term. The Harry Potter books were a huge shot in the arm for kids' fantasy, and I'd guess publishers will want to ride the movies' tails as each is released.

Will the market favor one kind of fantasy over another?

I'd hate to predict either way. It might actually make it harder now to sell a quest novel simply because so many will be hitting editor's desks at the same time.

Are the movies and their popularity going to change or influence the type of material you are going to write?

Chasing a trend is never a good idea, so I don't think so.

Had you read the books before you saw the movies? Were you already influenced toward writing material inspired by that reading?

I read LOTR and the Silmarilion years ago when I was in my early twenties and was enormously influenced by them, though I kind of fell out of hard fantasy afterwards. I read Harry Potter before I saw the movie, then immediately afterwards read it again, out loud to my wife and daughter. I'm going to reread LOTR, especially since I have a new copy coming.

Did either of the movies make you want to go out and write something?

Yep. I'm dying to try something with elves! Uh, writing about elves that is. <G>

From Jim Mills

I tend to agree with Justin on most points...

Will the movies have as much general effect as Star Wars had with SF by making fantasy more accepted by the general population?

I think so... or close, anyway.  I think you'll start seeing more sword and sorcery kids cartoons and maybe some TV shows for adults, too.  Whether they'll be successful or not remains to be seen.

Will the movies trigger a resurgence in the fantasy publishing field?

I think so.  I think there will be those who want to have the success Rowling had... or at least a portion of the market... both writers and publishers.

Will the market favor one kind of fantasy over another?

Epic or High Fantasy (LotR) has long been more popular, but Harry Potter is more Contemporary Fantasy.  I think we may see some interest rise in the latter, but I'm not sure how much.

Are the movies and their popularity going to change or influence the type of material you are going to write?

Probably not to a great extent.  My personal favorite is Contemporary Fantasy, though my current WIP is High Fantasy.  I'll probably stick with contemporary, but with an adult orientation rather that juvenile.

Had you read the books before you saw the movies? Were you already influenced toward writing material inspired by that reading?

I read LotR (7 times) and the Silmarilion years ago and was influenced by them.  I haven't read Harry Potter yet.  I think reading LotR has influenced my writing over the years, but not so much now as it once did.

Did either of the movies make you want to go out and write something?

In and of themselves, no.  I write because I love telling stories.  The movies haven't influenced that too much.

 

From BJ Steeves

1)   Will the movies have as much general effect as Star Wars had with SF by making fantasy more accepted by the general population? Will the movies trigger a resurgence in the fantasy publishing field?

These movies will have some effect in the fantasy genre being more accepted, but the effect that Star Wars had on the movie industry was in the special effects.

George Lucas had to invent all the techniques for doing these special effects, and this has had the greatest impact on movies today, and not all good either.

Many movies made recently have been all special effects and no story.  I think this, more than anything else, has held back the acceptance of fantasy stories.

2)   Will the market favor one kind of fantasy over another?

Yes, I believe that the Action/Adventure/Quest types will become the dominant type of fantasy movie.  It seems unless there is something really exciting to see on the screen, other fantasy types will be ignored.

Good examples of movies that fit this Action/Adventure/Quest type:  Tomb Raider, Lord of the Rings, Conan the Barbarian, etc...

3)   Are the movies and their popularity going to change or influence the type of material you are going to write?

Not really, I write the type of material that I myself like to read.  It is really what I write about best.

4)   Had you read the books before you saw the movies?  Were you already influenced toward writing material inspired by that reading?

When a movie is based on a book, I almost always have read the book long before seeing the movie.  And in almost all cases, I have been disappointed in the movie.

And yes, those readings are what got me interested in writing in the first place.

5)   Did either of the movies make you want to go out and write something?

If there is anything that these movies influenced in my writing, is to try to be a little different.  These fantasy types will now be overdone in massive volumes. 

From Robert A. Sloan:

From the perspective of someone who hasn't seen either of the two new movies:

My prediction is that they will spark renewed general interest in fantasy. They are both major blockbuster hits. "Something like Lord of the Rings" or "Sorta like Harry Potter" will come into word-of-mouth descriptions of books, sometimes with a very tenuous comparison and sometimes just as a genre tag.

I tend to agree there won't be media tie-ins per se - but without those, a lot of other fantasy books will wind up filling that potential market.

I'm also not as down on media tie-ins as some people because I indiscriminately pick those up when I'm looking for SF/F in used bookstore bins because most of what's there isn't SF/F. If a particular book looks good, I'll buy it. If I don't like the idea, or skim and don't like the prose, I don't. Quality seems to vary within media tie-ins as much as in anything else, so now I look at them for the unexpected gem that happens to be in that shared universe.

I think of those book-spawning movies and TV series as just that in a way - comparable to Thieves' World or Wild Cards, because functionally that's what the author's doing by writing in a universe he or she didn't create. Each author contributes something to the canon. They are a different literary form, a group production. Sometimes that generates brilliant individual pieces, and sometimes it generates regurgitated crud derived from someone else's derivative work. If I liked someone's media novel I'd definitely check out his original fiction.

 

From Shane P. Carr:

I think over the past year we have seen a renewed interest in fantasy, and I believe it was largely due to Harry Potter as well as the hype surrounding the Lord of the Rings. Thankfully both movies did their respective novels justice. Although LOTR didn't quite have the depth of the trilogy, it was still a strong rendition and one of the best fantasy movies ever made.

I think in lieu of the darker times we are now living in, more and more people are looking for escapism and renewed hope. In most fantasy, good always triumphs over evil and that is something people really need to see and be inspired by.

Harry Potter got young people to read again which was an incredible feat in itself during this age of TV and video games. It was through their dedication to the series that the movie was made and I thought it was a nice reward.

As for Lord of the Rings, the movie has made thousands of people run to bookstores everywhere and buy the trilogy. The trilogy was on Amazon and BN's bestseller lists for most of the later part of 2001 and is still selling in large quantities.

I have also seen numerous new fantasy authors on the scene over the past year, and quite a few have been really original takes on the fantasy genre.

I think many young people were introduced to the fantasy genre thanks to the quality movie versions of LOTR and Potter...and I really think this new interest will lead to more and more fantasy on the scene. Hopefully it will also give people the strength to live in our now darker world.
 

From Fred Phillips:

1. Will the movies have as much general effect as Star Wars had with SF by making fantasy more accepted by the general population? 

Yes, I think so. I've always felt Star Wars was more fantasy than science fiction anyway, but I think the general public thinks anything with spaceships is sf. What you have to remember about Star Wars, though, is that it also inspired some really horrible sci fi films. I think a lot of those movies hurt the genre and made it seem "cheesy" to a lot of non sci-fi fans.

2. Will the movies trigger a resurgence in the fantasy publishing field? 

Maybe. If you've watched the bestseller lists recently, you've already seen a renewed interest in The Lord of the Rings from people who have seen the movie. I think the real question is how many of those people will enjoy those books and look for more like them. If that happens, I think it will be a very good thing for the fantasy genre. But that leads me to the concerns of question 3. 

3. Will the market favor one kind of fantasy over another?

If LOTR's success causes a surge in the fantasy genre, it does worry me that some publishers might look over an original manuscript for a Tolkienesque story that might hit bigger with people who are looking for more LOTR-type books. Of course, there's a long history of Tolkien knock-offs in the fantasy genre -- some of them are among the more popular writers out there -- and it doesn't seem to have hurt the genre.

4. Are the movies and their popularity going to change or influence the type of material YOU are going to write?  

No. I've already been profoundly influenced by Tolkien, and to a lesser extent by Rowling. Tolkien's The Hobbit was the book that made me want to write fantasy, so he's probably had more influence on my work than anyone else. But, at the same time, I don't write Tolkienesque fiction. Influence and imitation are not the same thing.  In truth, I think there are very few successful fantasy writers who haven't already been influenced by Tolkien in one way or another. I can't see where a movie version of a book a writer already loved (or hated) would sway them one way or the other. The fantasy genre has a long history of works that are very derivative of Tolkien, and I think we've already started to see the same thing happening with Harry Potter. The success of the movies may spur someone who has never attempted to write fantasy before in that direction, but for someone who is already writing fantasy, I don't think it will have a big impact.

5. Had you read the books before you saw the movies?  Were you already influenced toward writing material inspired by that reading? 

I think I already answered this in question 4... oops. But, the answer is yes. I've read The Lord of the Rings at least a dozen times and all of the Harry Potter books once. Tolkien has been a great influence. Rowling, to a lesser extent, even though I think they're wonderful books.

6. Did either of the movies make you WANT to go out and write something? 

Oddly enough, not really. I've seen movies that had that effect, but these didn't. Maybe it's because I'd already been inspired by the books. They really made me want to write, really pushed me to put my butt in the chair and put some words on paper. I left both movies thinking they were outstanding and looking forward to the next installment, but it didn't really spur me to write.