Why Is Anne Rice Not Considered Fantasy?

Bick

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What Brian said, basically. I think the main reason its not labelled as fantasy, or found on the fantasy shelves of bookshops is because of the issue that gets mentioned here a lot: fantasy has (falsely, since Tolkien) become a very limited subgenre in which the setting must be pseudo-medieval and allow for some kind of magic system. If your book doesn't meet these criteria, it must be some other genre. In reality, if there is imaginative fantastical stuff in it that couldn't normally happen, its in the overarching genre of fantasy. Stephen King is fantasy, Anne Rice is fantasy; horror is a subgenre of fantasy. Bookshop owners have simply found that if they stick all their vampire books together then people who like to read vampire books can find them easier. Is it in the subgenre called "horror" within the larger genre of "fantasy"? Prabably, its got vampires in it after all.
 

Michael Colton

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What Brian said, basically. I think the main reason its not labelled as fantasy, or found on the fantasy shelves of bookshops is because of the issue that gets mentioned here a lot: fantasy has (falsely, since Tolkien) become a very limited subgenre in which the setting must be pseudo-medieval and allow for some kind of magic system. If your book doesn't meet these criteria, it must be some other genre. In reality, if there is imaginative fantastical stuff in it that couldn't normally happen, its in the overarching genre of fantasy. Stephen King is fantasy, Anne Rice is fantasy; horror is a subgenre of fantasy. Bookshop owners have simply found that if they stick all their vampire books together then people who like to read vampire books can find them easier. Is it in the subgenre called "horror" within the larger genre of "fantasy"? Prabably, its got vampires in it after all.
If a genre gets that broad is it still a genre? Or is that delving into the useless and detrimental grey area of semantics? After learning more from fantasy fans since joining this site, I think this whole issue may be part of why I have had a difficult time being interested in fantasy in the past, even though I keep thinking it is a genre I would enjoy. Perhaps I have been mistakenly equating it with 'high fantasy,' Tolkienesque, sword and sorcery, or however you wish to refer to that type of fantasy. This whole issue of 'how it is organized in bookstores' has been the difficult part for me. There is no 'gothic fiction' section in a bookstore and, at least where I live, Anne Rice and that style of fantasy/gothic is not put in the horror section, either. It is difficult for me to figure out what it is and then to go about trying to find similar authors or subject matter that I think I would enjoy.
 

Randy M.

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What Brian said, basically. I think the main reason its not labelled as fantasy, or found on the fantasy shelves of bookshops is because of the issue that gets mentioned here a lot: fantasy has (falsely, since Tolkien) become a very limited subgenre in which the setting must be pseudo-medieval and allow for some kind of magic system. If your book doesn't meet these criteria, it must be some other genre. In reality, if there is imaginative fantastical stuff in it that couldn't normally happen, its in the overarching genre of fantasy. Stephen King is fantasy, Anne Rice is fantasy; horror is a subgenre of fantasy. Bookshop owners have simply found that if they stick all their vampire books together then people who like to read vampire books can find them easier. Is it in the subgenre called "horror" within the larger genre of "fantasy"? Prabably, its got vampires in it after all.
Multiple observations and little time to make them coherent, so here's a brain dump:

1) Supernatural horror tends to deal with one supernatural boojum at a time. Urban fantasy tends to work with a system of magic and/or multiple supernatural boojums and the ways in which they fold into the world: that is, The Werewolf of Paris is horror; "Lila the Werewolf" is urban fantasy. The boundaries are pretty porous, though.

2) Once upon a time fantasy was what is now called urban fantasy. In the 1940s Unknown was a magazine edited by John W. Campbell Jr. that pulled fantasy concepts into the then present day world: Fritz Lieber's "Smoke Ghost," Theodore Sturgeon's "It," Robert Bloch's "The Cloak," Anthony Boucher's "The Complete Werewolf" and "They Bite" were all precursors of what we're calling urban fantasy. But it was short form rather than novel; now novel is the dominant form. So, really, it's all fantasy, we're just subdividing for commercial purposes: Oh, you like pseudo-medieval? We'll call it epic or Tolkeinesque. You like vamps and werewolves owning detective agencies in the more or less present day? We'll call that urban. And so on.


Randy M.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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What Brian said, basically. I think the main reason its not labelled as fantasy, or found on the fantasy shelves of bookshops is because of the issue that gets mentioned here a lot: fantasy has (falsely, since Tolkien) become a very limited subgenre in which the setting must be pseudo-medieval and allow for some kind of magic system. If your book doesn't meet these criteria, it must be some other genre.
That's not true at all. There has always been plenty of fantasy of the non-Tolkien, non-Medieval variety published as fantasy under fantasy imprints from the large publishers. It's just that a few writers of the epic/quest type fantasy received a lot more attention, and to people who don't read fantasy (or much fantasy) they might seem to be all that was being published as fantasy. But those who regularly read fantasy know that there has been a wide variety on offer every month from genre publishers ever since the 1970s.

But at the time that Interview with a Vampire it would have been decided that the book would sell more copies as horror or as literary fiction than in the niche SFF market. Besides, I seem to remember that Anne Rice doesn't think of her work as fantasy and most of her vast army of fans (many of whom never read any other kind of fantasy) will accept what she says.

So I don't think that SFF fans have rejected her. I think that she has rejected the genre.
 

Michael Colton

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Besides, I seem to remember that Anne Rice doesn't think of her work as fantasy and most of her vast army of fans (many of whom never read any other kind of fantasy) will accept what she says.
What kind of fantasy would that be? Would you classify it as urban as others have mentioned? When I have Googled urban fantasy (which I admit is a very limited way of looking at a subgenre) it seems to be very much how people have described it in this thread. Detectives and similar professionals, mysteries, a variety of fantastical creatures, usually set in modern urban cities or some semi-dystopian form of them. Is there more to the genre that I have not found, or would you classify her in a different type of fantasy?
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Not all fantasy fits neatly into any one particular sub-genre. And not all books about vampires are classified as urban fantasy. So I wouldn't worry about trying to slot her books into a sub-genre. Then, too, there are books that cross genre lines, as most horror does. Cross-genre fiction is not a sub-genre in itself, but there is a fair amount of it. When there is enough of a certain type, as with urban fantasy, then people start talking about that type as a genre.

But we do have a Horror sub-forum here http://www.sffchronicles.com/forum/horror/ where you might find some Rice fans happy to discuss her work with you.
 

Michael Colton

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Not all fantasy fits neatly into any one particular sub-genre. And not all books about vampires are classified as urban fantasy. So I wouldn't worry about trying to slot her books into a sub-genre. Then, too, there are books that cross genre lines, as most horror does. Cross-genre fiction is not a sub-genre in itself, but there is a fair amount of it. When there is enough of a certain type, as with urban fantasy, then people start talking about that type as a genre.

But we do have a Horror sub-forum here http://www.sffchronicles.com/forum/horror/ where you might find some Rice fans happy to discuss her work with you.
Alright, thank you. I did not even know that sub-forum existed. I will make a post over there regarding my search for similar authors.
 

Bick

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But at the time that Interview with a Vampire it would have been decided that the book would sell more copies as horror or as literary fiction than in the niche SFF market. Besides, I seem to remember that Anne Rice doesn't think of her work as fantasy and most of her vast army of fans (many of whom never read any other kind of fantasy) will accept what she says.
Teresa, you seem to be saying that it is fantasy, but not widely accepted as such for various reasons. I completely agree. And surely the reason Anne Rice can distance herself from 'fantasy' in the modern sense (which I maintain has narrowed as a definition from a marketing perspective) is that her books don't have many of the typical fantasy tropes, instead they have gothic horror tropes. If a narrow genre is required to help find similar books, then I'd have thought 'gothic horror' would suffice.
 

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I read the Lestat books up to Memnoch The Devil and i also read Lasher. Of them all, my favourite was tales of the body thief. perhaps because it was the first of hers that i read. Enjoyable, but i still always considered her horror. Perhaps at the time there was less romanticism in the vampire legend.

i suppose if she were to rerelease these novels to a new audience post Twilight novels, it would be considered fantasy.
 

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horror is a subgenre of fantasy
I was waiting for somebody to say that. I'd stress "supernatural" horror, which I'm sure you meant. For a movie reference, Silence of the Lambs was, alas, simple fiction and not "fantasy", but stories about vamps and werewolves and so on are fantasy, so I was puzzled by reading a lot of "she's not fantasy, she's horror" which at least sounded like they're antithetical. (I know fantasy and horror are distinct marketing labels and even said she straddled them, but I meant in a "closest fit" sense, not in an antithetical sense.) I suspect many fantasy fans dislike horror (which was one of several reasons why Rice isn't fully embraced) but I see it as a subgenre, still. I think the early vampire books might have failed if they had been marketed as horror because they aren't scary enough, in a sense. It's often a very refined existential horror along with a bit of the usual vamp blood stuff. Conceptual horror more often than visceral horror.

So I don't think that SFF fans have rejected her. I think that she has rejected the genre.
Does she denigrate fantasy, itself, or just try to avoid the genre pigeonhole? For instance, while Atwood appears to be coming around, she long tried to avoid the SF genre by denigrating it, which annoys me. It's less annoying if they praise or ignore the genre and just don't want to be part of it.

Teresa, you seem to be saying that it is fantasy, but not widely accepted as such for various reasons. I completely agree. And surely the reason Anne Rice can distance herself from 'fantasy' in the modern sense (which I maintain has narrowed as a definition from a marketing perspective) is that her books don't have many of the typical fantasy tropes, instead they have gothic horror tropes. If a narrow genre is required to help find similar books, then I'd have thought 'gothic horror' would suffice.
I'd agree with this except I think part of why I like it is that it's not pure slasher "I'm trying to make you run screaming" horror horror. It's trying to be more creepy weird semi-repulsive semi-attractive dark stuff. I know (well, think I know) "horror" embraces a wide spectrum of intensity but (maybe much like heroic epic fantasy is considered all-fantasy by those not in the know) horror to me means way more horrific stuff than I'm usually interested in. When I go that direction at all, I just like the creepy goth "weird" fiction.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I think she just distances herself from the genre. But it doesn't matter if you hang out with SFF types or not, or if your inspirations are not fantasy authors, once you put supernatural folkloric beings like vampires into your story, you are writing fantasy. In my opinion, writers have the right to identify themselves however they please. But the work is what it is. So she's not a "fantasy writer" if she doesn't want to be, but the books she writes are fantasy.
 

J-Sun

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Yeah, I agree with you there. If she's just trying to avoid being pigeon-holed, that's her choice and all's well. But, yes, equally, you can't just call a cow a chicken and make it so.
 

BAYLOR

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Ive read Interview With A Vampire . Liked it, but have had no real desire to read anything else by her . Id place her horror genre rather then fantasy.
 

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I would view the [shunning of fantasy] more as a marketing decision.

The book was quite successful and the subsequent movie so I'd have to say that it was probably a reasonable decision.

But genre is mostly marketing from the publishers end of things and that means that most [reader logic] fails when trying to figure out how those decisions were made.
 

Randy M.

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Another $.02:

Fantasy is a really broad spectrum. It includes fairy tales or at least fiction that draws from fairy tales, and Tolkein-like epics, and urban fantasy and works by writers like some of that by Jonathan Carroll that cuts across mainstream, thriller, horror and even some s.f. For me, Tolkein is fantasy and so is Robert E. Howard's S&S and much of Lovecraft's horror and Clark Ashton Smith's weird work. I'd even add Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood, though they were writing before current conceptions of fantasy coalesced.

Really, to me, I see this as a Venn diagram with circles for s.f., horror, fantasy, mystery and even romance, Western and so-called mainstream overlapping. And horror being an emotion, it can cut across any of these without being the main seasoning in the brew, and any given work can fit in a number of those overlapping areas.

Randy M.
 

Bick

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Brilliant! You could have gotten good new thread-mileage out of that, Michael, its fantastic.
Personally, I don't like the breadth of the science fantasy area, nor the fact that magical realism is partially within science fantasy, which I regard as a bit of a cop-out genre. And how is horror partly outside the whole thing? If there is no SF or fantasy element,. isn't it a thriller?

Here's some homework for you - please put a red spot exactly where Ann Rice books lie (to keep it in the context of the thread) and re-post.
 

Michael Colton

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Brilliant! You could have gotten good new thread-mileage out of that, Michael, its fantastic.
Personally, I don't like the breadth of the science fantasy area, nor the fact that magical realism is partially within science fantasy, which I regard as a bit of a cop-out genre. And how is horror partly outside the whole thing? If there is no SF or fantasy element,. isn't it a thriller?

Here's some homework for you - please put a red spot exactly where Ann Rice books lie (to keep it in the context of the thread) and re-post.
I think slasher-style novels would fall under horror without being a thriller. Psychotic killers, that sort of thing. It is certainly distinguishable from 'legal thrillers' and other books that fudge the line between thriller and suspense. I also do not think science fantasy is a copout genre - something like Star Wars is absolutely science fantasy in my personal opinion and should not be described as science fiction.

And for Anne Rice I think it would have to be the part where horror overlaps with the purple dumping ground on the center-right side since the purple bits include supernatural - though some of her non-vampire novels could probably fit into the magical realism + purple section. And still beyond that, some of her novels would not even be on this diagram such as Cry To Heaven.

I was too lazy to put a red dot on it and upload it. :p
 
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