Huh. Saw this interesting post over at Black Gate’s blog. I agree with some of it; that whole thing about a defined evil, for example, and the world-transforming scope. But I don’t agree with… well, the rest.
Basically I think Surridge’s definition is too wedded to superficialities and not enough to content. The danger of defining an art form by superficialities is that it leaves no room for experimentation or growth. The boundaries become set by What Has Gone Before, rather than something more intrinsic. That’s the kind of thinking that allows some readers to believe that only men can write epic fantasy, for example, or that it can only be set in a European medievalish setting. That’s also what encourages some publishers to focus on a “winning formula” rather than a good story: books X pages long times Y volumes containing D Dark Lords faced by Band of Adventurers Ba(x-1) = PROFIT!! (The “minus one” is for the inevitable secondary character who dies/gets tortured/gets kidnapped to motivate the hero.)
I mean, really: Earthsea gets excluded because the books are too short? And I’m guessing C. S. Friedman’s Coldfire trilogy won’t fit because its characters are descended from space colonists and know about Science, and because its stalwart hero teams up with its defined-but-shifting-evil Dark Lord in order to face a more existentially evil badguy.
I also think it’s hard to have a discussion about something like this without considering the definitions that already exist…
…Buuuuut, I’m kind of in Deadline Hell right now on a number of projects, and don’t have time to devote a solid blog post to this. So I’ll just point you at the BG blog to continue the discussion there. Enjoy!