There is an interesting article in the Atlantic today by E.D. Kain, the blogger of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen about the current popularity of Fantasy stories in fiction, movies, and TV. Kain thinks were in a Fantasy bubble that will inevitably burst.
As much as I’m enjoying the bubble, I won’t care too much if it bursts. Fantasy has simply gotten better over the past decade, and most of the best titles will never be adapted into an HBO series or a movie anyways. The really good stuff these days also tends to be really edgy. R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing series is so dark I’m not sure it would make an R-rating if it were translated to the silver screen. Many other contemporary fantasies are similarly adult, with lots of sex and lots of violence. Steven Erikson’s Malazan books are also dark, but more problematic from a filmmaking standpoint, as the popular series spans several distinct time periods, countless perspectives, and a sprawling epic storyline. The various storylines are not obviously connected with one another even after several books. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series suffers from the same kind of shortcomings. What works in epic fantasy doesn’t necessarily translate onto the big screen.
I don’t agree with Kain’s analysis. Fantasy is far more popular now than a decade or two ago, but just because that broadening of interest had created a diversity of styles, doesn’t mean that people will be less interested in reading or seeing Fantasy stories. Interestingly, all of the things he says are problematic about The Prince of Nothing, The Wheel of Time, and the Malazan series are also true of The Song of Ice and Fire, and some of the very things that are helping to make it successful in print and as HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation.
Comic books and their adaptations (and imitations – see Heros, Alphas, etc.) also seem to be a bubble, but no one thinks it is likely to burst any time soon. At least not until it stops making money. I doubt that will happen soon. People like those mythological stories. I think that is the same reason that Fantasy appeals to people.