Why Is Anne Rice Not Considered Fantasy?

Michael Colton

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I always see her referred to as 'gothic fiction.' I have never seen her mentioned as fantasy except in everyday conversations with people. And even then, it is rare. I am certainly not saying her work is not gothic fiction, but I am wondering why people think she is not listed as or considered fantasy? Is it because the fantastical is not the focus or main themes of her work, but rather the 'gothic' and romanticism? The fantasy aspects seem almost incidental.

I am wondering what people think that have more experience with fantasy than me (which is virtually everyone).
 

J-Sun

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I probably have no more experience with fantasy than you but, when she started publishing, as far as I know, she had no connection with fandom, she was writing what was then very atypical stuff, fantasy was not a huge-selling market, she straddled horror (and perhaps even romance and other things) as much as fantasy, etc. Basically either she didn't want to be marketed as fantasy or the publisher felt they could sell more books if she was marketed as "fiction" or both, so she was.
 

Michael Colton

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I probably have no more experience with fantasy than you but, when she started publishing, as far as I know, she had no connection with fandom, she was writing what was then very atypical stuff, fantasy was not a huge-selling market, she straddled horror (and perhaps even romance and other things) as much as fantasy, etc. Basically either she didn't want to be marketed as fantasy or the publisher felt they could sell more books if she was marketed as "fiction" or both, so she was.
That is true, she did not come out of a fandom sort of background. She has always referred to her influences as being along the lines of John Milton, Hemingway, Woolf, etc. She has also said she did virtually no research into vampires when she began writing. Her inspiration for her version of vampires was Countess Marya Zaleska. And as far as romance goes, she has written erotica and romance under pseudonyms.

It just seems odd to me that she is not retroactively referred to as fantasy. I do not read much fantasy, but I am a large fan of hers. But in the past when I mention her to some fantasy people (offline, not here) they generally deride her and change the subject. So I suppose I am trying to understand the differences - both as to why it seems like many fantasy people I have met (and perhaps this was just bad luck in who I met) do not seem to consider her fantasy, and also trying to understand better why I enjoy her so but have not found much other fantasy that connects with me.
 

J-Sun

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It just seems odd to me that she is not retroactively referred to as fantasy. I do not read much fantasy, but I am a large fan of hers. But in the past when I mention her to some fantasy people (offline, not here) they generally deride her and change the subject.
I was thinking there was no way I could say and it would take a fantasy fan to say, but a possible analogy occurs to me. It may just be something of the "outsider" thing. Sort of like Michael Crichton in SF - how dare this person come from out of nowhere and write things that sell millions of copies when they don't even handle the material correctly in genre terms when real genre author X is so much better but is ignored by the public at large - so I'll ignore them, too. Or the "UFO guys make us look bad" sort of response - maybe fantasy fans find her erotic vampires kind of embarrassing if the public were to take it as fantasy rather than good ol' Gandalf. I mean, there are both good and bad reasons to have such reactions but it probably does boil down to a sense of "illegitimacy". But, yeah, it may be just a small sample size and many fantasy fans do love her for all I know.

So I suppose I am trying to understand the differences - both as to why it seems like many fantasy people I have met (and perhaps this was just bad luck in who I met) do not seem to consider her fantasy, and also trying to understand better why I enjoy her so but have not found much other fantasy that connects with me.
I look forward to others replying to this thread as I'm curious about the second part myself. I am not a big fan and I really really hated The Witching Hour (think that was the title) and disliked the last vampire book or two I read before I gave up, along with some other title or two, but I enjoyed the first three vampire novels inordinately myself, and it puzzles me, too. I started with The Vampire Lestat before backing up to Interview and going on with Queen and there was something just vivid and fresh and neat about this 18th century (or whatever) vampire waking up and digging rock and roll. :) And it just went on from there, being fresh and weird and fun but dark and serious and so on. Very lush writing and a strong sense of place and a large scale of time in human terms. Neat. Not just Gothic but a sort of Decadence, too, but a very lively (undeadly?) decadence. Kind of some resonant chord in that I liked Poe, too.
 

Michael Colton

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I was thinking there was no way I could say and it would take a fantasy fan to say, but a possible analogy occurs to me. It may just be something of the "outsider" thing. Sort of like Michael Crichton in SF - how dare this person come from out of nowhere and write things that sell millions of copies when they don't even handle the material correctly in genre terms when real genre author X is so much better but is ignored by the public at large - so I'll ignore them, too. Or the "UFO guys make us look bad" sort of response - maybe fantasy fans find her erotic vampires kind of embarrassing if the public were to take it as fantasy rather than good ol' Gandalf. I mean, there are both good and bad reasons to have such reactions but it probably does boil down to a sense of "illegitimacy". But, yeah, it may be just a small sample size and many fantasy fans do love her for all I know.
Indeed, this all may be a sample size issue when it comes to actual readers. Though I have noticed it as well when it comes to critics. They seem to respond to her works with a sort of, well, I hate to use the term, but literary perspective. Referencing Romanticism, melodrama, etc. Whereas with some of the genre writers you often see something along the lines of "What a fun and surprisingly prescient romp that was!"

And at the risk of coming across as a fanboy here, I feel compelled to comment on the 'erotic vampire' phrase. In the entirety of Interview With A Vampire there is not a single sex scene. Yes, there is an extraordinary amount of eroticism and romanticism, but the 'vampires and sex' trope has largely occurred due to fan fiction and other authors that were inspired by Anne Rice. It is part of the reason that she fought so hard to stop fan fiction for so many years, though she has now changed her tune about that and states it does not bother her. But it is also why she wrote her erotica under a pseudonym, so as to separate it from the Chronicles. The erotic themes and melodrama of her style certainly abounds, but the actual 'sex' reputation is quite a misnomer. Her non-erotica work is not erotica nor do those themes dominate the work thematically.

I look forward to others replying to this thread as I'm curious about the second part myself. I am not a big fan and I really really hated The Witching Hour (think that was the title) and disliked the last vampire book or two I read before I gave up, along with some other title or two, but I enjoyed the first three vampire novels inordinately myself, and it puzzles me, too. I started with The Vampire Lestat before backing up to Interview and going on with Queen and there was something just vivid and fresh and neat about this 18th century (or whatever) vampire waking up and digging rock and roll. :) And it just went on from there, being fresh and weird and fun but dark and serious and so on. Very lush writing and a strong sense of place and a large scale of time in human terms. Neat. Not just Gothic but a sort of Decadence, too, but a very lively (undeadly?) decadence. Kind of some resonant chord in that I liked Poe, too.
If you liked her first three but lost interest in the later ones, you may be keen to check out her new book that is being published this fall. She is now continuing the Chronicles again and she has said that the new book is a 'true sequel' to Queen rather than simply in-universe or thematically linked like some of the other Chronicles novels.

And I enjoy her work (more broadly than you seem to, but I wholeheartedly understand your criticisms of the later work) for similar reasons. I enjoy her often-criticized writing style (lush, as you put it) and the strong emphasis she places on the combination of emotion and setting. Which is probably part of why she is often referred to as gothic, since the setting is very much a character in the Gothic tradition. And of course the Romanticist exploration of emotion is another staple - though gothic fiction tends to take it to new heights and depths that others do not.

But yes, I also am very curious to hear the responses by others more journeyed in fantasy.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
I like her stuff though it's many years since I've read lestat (although I have a tendency to reread The Mummy from time to time.) i'm not sure I consider Lestat fantasy, though, mainly because vampires tend to sit in horror rather than fantasy (Dracula, Salem's Lot etc. Not sure where the sparkly lot sit, though, but I think, from memory, it's the YA horror/gothic section.

So my answer is her work is not fantasy because vampires rarely sit in fantasy but horror and I think gothic fiction is closer to the feel of her work.
 

The Ace

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Probably because she's a sick b*tch, and responsible for the entire, 'Sparkly vampires,' genre.

The last time I read one of her books, it took me three baths to merely feel dirty.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Probably because she's a sick b*tch, and responsible for the entire, 'Sparkly vampires,' genre.

The last time I read one of her books, it took me three baths to merely feel dirty.
I don't think she's responsible for the sparklies at all - in fact I think her stuff is as far away from the likes of Meyer as it's possible to get. :confused:
 

Zoe Mackay

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I don't think she's responsible for the sparklies at all - in fact I think her stuff is as far away from the likes of Meyer as it's possible to get. :confused:
Oh, I don't know. Angsty broody vampires rather than "I vaunt to suck your blood" sorts. Not /that/ different. Horror and fantasy (particularly what's recently come to be called "Urban Fantasy") have long had a relationship - think of Lovecraft, for example. Both are descended from folk tales, fantasy via Dunsany et al. and horror through the gothic novel, Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu amongst many others. It's nit-picking over boundaries (fun, but futile), really, because something can be both horror and fantasy. I think for something to be solidly in the "horror" camp, it has to be trying to scare, and I'm not sure that IWAV and co are, really? So, I think I'd place it in a liminal space, on the boundary of horror and fantasy, and in conversation with both genres.
 

Michael Colton

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Probably because she's a sick b*tch, and responsible for the entire, 'Sparkly vampires,' genre.

The last time I read one of her books, it took me three baths to merely feel dirty.
I cannot tell if you are trolling with this comment or not. I will just leave it.

I like her stuff though it's many years since I've read lestat (although I have a tendency to reread The Mummy from time to time.) i'm not sure I consider Lestat fantasy, though, mainly because vampires tend to sit in horror rather than fantasy (Dracula, Salem's Lot etc. Not sure where the sparkly lot sit, though, but I think, from memory, it's the YA horror/gothic section.

So my answer is her work is not fantasy because vampires rarely sit in fantasy but horror and I think gothic fiction is closer to the feel of her work.
This makes sense to me. Since most of her work focuses only on one type of fantastical creature, I can see it not being fantasy in that way. In addition, much of her writing deals with the human emotions of the vampires - which also seems like a gothic or horror (in the sublime sense) theme than a fantasy one.

Oh, I don't know. Angsty broody vampires rather than "I vaunt to suck your blood" sorts. Not /that/ different. Horror and fantasy (particularly what's recently come to be called "Urban Fantasy") have long had a relationship - think of Lovecraft, for example. Both are descended from folk tales, fantasy via Dunsany et al. and horror through the gothic novel, Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu amongst many others. It's nit-picking over boundaries (fun, but futile), really, because something can be both horror and fantasy. I think for something to be solidly in the "horror" camp, it has to be trying to scare, and I'm not sure that IWAV and co are, really? So, I think I'd place it in a liminal space, on the boundary of horror and fantasy, and in conversation with both genres.
I admit that it can devolve into nitpicking over boundaries, though I suppose I was motivated to ask the question because I rarely see the boundaries even discussed when it comes to her work. People just seem to 'know' where she stands. To put it another way, I am trying to educate myself. :) I have this perpetual feeling that there is fantasy or near-fantasy out there that I would enjoy but I just have not found it yet.
 

Brian G Turner

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IMO she's classed as a horror writer because her main themes are about the supernatural, ghosts, vampires - the undead. Primarily horror themes. Simple as that. :)

Fantasy used to be a much smaller and more niche genre, dominated by the trappings of Tolkien and role-playing games - none of which appear in Anne Rice's writings AFAIK.
 

Michael Colton

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IMO she's classed as a horror writer because her main themes are about the supernatural, ghosts, vampires - the undead. Primarily horror themes. Simple as that. :)

Fantasy used to be a much smaller and more niche genre, dominated by the trappings of Tolkien and role-playing games - none of which appear in Anne Rice's writings AFAIK.
That makes sense. Maybe it is that straightforward. Since she has been publishing since the seventies, the fantasy genre was not as developed or broad as it is now. And why should people retroactively redefine what genre she is in? And you are correct, she never deals with any of the Tolkienesque things you mention.

Another thought that has come to me is that her work that has nothing fantastical or supernatural in it whatsoever still comes across to the reader in the same style as her other work. She explores similar themes, the settings are still important in that gothic sort of way - the supernatural almost seems incidental for much of her work. When you take it away, it is still very much the same style of exploration that comes across.
 

Randy M.

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Just to add $.02: I think the basic answers to your question have been suggested, and just want to emphasize the time in which Rice started publishing. In the late 1970s, early 1980s, the horror novel ala Stephen King and Peter Straub was making waves and her work, at least superficially, was part of that wave. King, Rice and Dean Koontz were so popular they weren't just genre anymore (even though they helped establish the commercial genre of horror), they were best-sellers. Even when the horror-boom burst, they continued on as bankable writers; Straub, too, though to a lesser degree.

There were other writers at that time and later who were working vampires from different angles -- Les Daniels, Suzie McKee Charnas, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Poppy Z. Brite all come to mind -- and I don't think any of their vampire works have been adopted by the fantasy crowd, either. Most of that generation of horror writer hasn't been drawn into fantasy, I don't think. Tanith Lee is something of an exception, but that may be because most of her work slides across the (rather permeable) borders of s.f., fantasy and horror and early on she established herself as a fantasy writer with non-vampire, more Sword & Sorcery type work. Also Kim Newman, whose Anno Dracula is something of a precursor to the fantasies set in Victorian times that have appeared in the last decade or so, and so an alternate history vampire novel.

For what it's worth, I think the majority of horror falls into either fantasy, s.f. or mystery. I think the degree to which the fantasy element is developed -- as opposed, maybe, to the determination to frighten -- may determine whether other fantasy readers agree or not.


Randy M.
 

Juliana

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I find I'm a little confused. I get that Anne Rice would be classified as Gothic (I loved the Lestat books when I read them, by the way). But if, as Brian says,


IMO she's classed as a horror writer because her main themes are about the supernatural, ghosts, vampires - the undead. Primarily horror themes. Simple as that. :)
then why is Urban Fantasy, which often has the above-mentioned beasties, under the Fantasy umbrella? Is it simply to do with tone?
 

Michael Colton

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Just to add $.02: I think the basic answers to your question have been suggested, and just want to emphasize the time in which Rice started publishing. In the late 1970s, early 1980s, the horror novel ala Stephen King and Peter Straub was making waves and her work, at least superficially, was part of that wave. King, Rice and Dean Koontz were so popular they weren't just genre anymore (even though they helped establish the commercial genre of horror), they were best-sellers. Even when the horror-boom burst, they continued on as bankable writers; Straub, too, though to a lesser degree.

There were other writers at that time and later who were working vampires from different angles -- Les Daniels, Suzie McKee Charnas, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Poppy Z. Brite all come to mind -- and I don't think any of their vampire works have been adopted by the fantasy crowd, either. Most of that generation of horror writer hasn't been drawn into fantasy, I don't think. Tanith Lee is something of an exception, but that may be because most of her work slides across the (rather permeable) borders of s.f., fantasy and horror and early on she established herself as a fantasy writer with non-vampire, more Sword & Sorcery type work. Also Kim Newman, whose Anno Dracula is something of a precursor to the fantasies set in Victorian times that have appeared in the last decade or so, and so an alternate history vampire novel.

For what it's worth, I think the majority of horror falls into either fantasy, s.f. or mystery. I think the degree to which the fantasy element is developed -- as opposed, maybe, to the determination to frighten -- may determine whether other fantasy readers agree or not.


Randy M.
I can see how reaching a certain level of fame or 'best seller' could remove much of the genre constraints or classifications. People such as King or Rice are household names that have reached general readership perhaps in a way that 'genre writers' have not. It makes one wonder whether that type of reception is even possible anymore when one considers the time in which they started to take off, as you have done.
 

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I cannot tell if you are trolling with this comment or not. I will just leave it.



This makes sense to me. Since most of her work focuses only on one type of fantastical creature, I can see it not being fantasy in that way. In addition, much of her writing deals with the human emotions of the vampires - which also seems like a gothic or horror (in the sublime sense) theme than a fantasy one.



I admit that it can devolve into nitpicking over boundaries, though I suppose I was motivated to ask the question because I rarely see the boundaries even discussed when it comes to her work. People just seem to 'know' where she stands. To put it another way, I am trying to educate myself. :) I have this perpetual feeling that there is fantasy or near-fantasy out there that I would enjoy but I just have not found it yet.
My bold. I wasn't - some authors just turn your stomach, and that's how I feel about Ms Rice. Normally, if I dislike a particular author, I'll ignore it and move on, but there are a few whose work pollutes the planet by their very existence.
 

Michael Colton

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I wasn't - some authors just turn your stomach, and that's how I feel about Ms Rice. Normally, if I dislike a particular author, I'll ignore it and move on, but there are a few whose work pollutes the planet by their very existence.
I must say I have never felt that way about a book or author. The notion itself seems odd to me. But to each their own.
 

Brian G Turner

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why is Urban Fantasy, which often has the above-mentioned beasties, under the Fantasy umbrella? Is it simply to do with tone?
IMO genres have undergone something of a redefinition over the past 15-20 years. Harry Potter and Twilight might have had something to do with that. :)

Once upon a time Urban Fantasy books might have been filed under "horror", but it's now such a small genre that most publishers will probably want to push on the wider appeal of their books. As Urban Fantasy books routinely sell better than Horror novels, marketing will probably push on a definition in the former.

I'm just thinking aloud, though
 
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