The fantasy mega-novel

I just took a break from writing the final book in the Embodied trilogy to read an interesting article by Damien Walter in last Friday’s Guardian: Fantasy must shake off the tyranny of the mega-novel, and the response by Natasha Pulley that appeared in the same newspaper this Wednesday: Fantasy cannot build its imaginary worlds in short fiction. At issue is the length of fantasy novels and whether it’s the result of pressure from publishers or the necessary outcome of fantasy world-building.

A very literary doorstop.

A very literary doorstop.

It’s interesting stuff (even the comments are readable for a change!) and I find myself somewhere in the middle on this issue. Because the Embodied books are urban fantasy slash science fiction that are set in modern-day New York City, Paris and Wisconsin, I don’t have to spend pages and pages building a world of sorcerers and dragons. Each book is therefore between 60-70,000 words, which makes them a much quicker read than the Game of Thrones novels. BUT my novels do feature a dragon, as well as several other mythical creatures, so I need to constantly decide how much information I reveal about their world, the Dark Universe, and why they exist in ours.

What this means is that although I’m telling Kari Marriner’s story in this trilogy, I can continue writing other works (stories, novels, even graphic novels) set in other periods and/or places that explore and build the world of the Embodied in greater detail. And as an indie author, I’m definitely not being forced into writing books of a certain length by a publisher. Does fantasy necessarily require books that can also be used as doorstops? Probably not, but I truly admire authors like George R. R. Martin who are able to craft their world and characters in such extensive detail that 400 pages becomes the norm. I’d love to expand the universe (in fact, both universes) of the Embodied. Is that a fantasy? We’ll see…

Photo credit: TheeErin / Foter / CC BY-SA