The Fell Gard Codices

At Amberleaf Fair at Black Gate

November 22nd, 2012

Just a note today to mention that I’ve got a new(ish) post at Black Gate on Phyllis Ann Karr’s At Amberleaf Fair. It’s a nice short novel from 1986.

One of the reasons I wanted to write about it was to mention a theory I have that there are a lot of treasures to be found in the mass of 80s fantasies, most of which are now forgotten. That is, that in that first wave of post-Sword of Shannara fantasy novels, the mass of fiction that established fantasy as an ongoing commercial genre, there were things published that did some interesting things.

On the one hand, I suspect some work got published then as ‘fantasy’ that might now get shoved into the ‘literary fiction’ genre; that maybe things hadn’t quite separated out (if not stratified) in the way they are now. On the other, I suspect that even simple commercial fiction hewed less strictly to formula than nowadays. That’s not to over-romanticise the times, I don’t think. I don’t want to suggest that people were sneaking deep, challenging themes and approaches into by-the-numbers adventure fiction. And certainly some of those numbers had already been mathematically worked out, even then.

But I do think that things were still being put in place. The shape of the genre was perhaps less fixed. Certainly I suspect there was less of a value put on abstract writing rules — or, perhaps, the emphasis was on different ones. Either way, I find I have an ongoing fascination with books of the era, which seem to surprise me more often than contemporary fantasy. Could it just be that the amount of discussion around today’s books is that much greater than in the past? Sure. But whatever the reason, I end up finding stories from the 80s that do things I don’t expect. At Amberleaf Fair is an example.

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