American pop culture has evolved in many strange and unique ways over the years. From hula hoops to pet rocks, Jane Fonda to Tae-bo, fads come into favor as quickly as they burn out. One thing that stays popular year after year are fantasy novels.
From vampires to magic and everything in between, fantasy writing is one of the few genres that can appeal to virtually every person. All you need is a subject you enjoy and the ability to suspend your disbelief and you are on your way to enjoying all the worlds of fantasy.
If you can dream it up, you could create a fantasy novel about it. Grab any New York Times bestseller list from any week over the past ten years, and you will find at least one fantasy novel listed. With all the rigors and stresses of day to day life, being able to take some time away and immerse yourself into a fun and exciting world brings joy and comfort to millions every day.
So what is it about fantasy novels that allows them to maintain their popularity year after year? While there are as many answers as fantasy fans, the universal trait common among all fantasy novels is great storytelling. As a writer, if you are going to create an entirely new world, one that can have a few or many physical laws that do not apply in the real world, you have to be able to be able to convey those laws in words alone. All of the greatest, epic fantasy works do a great job of conveying unusual concepts while not losing track of the flow of the story. Robert Jordan was one of the masters of this. Being able to describe a group of characters who have the ability to control the basic elements (air, fire, earth, water, and spirit) and still being able to move the story along without losing many readers, creates a world that is far enough of a departure from reality to allow the reader to be whisked away and leave their cares alone. Anne Rice created her supernatural world of vampires which introduced an entire generation to the underside of society and the dark corners of the human soul. David Eddings successfully combined fictional theology with his "the will and the word" to create a world that was both pure fantasy while still grounded in reality. Anne McCaffery brought us a new insight into humanity on the backs of dragons.
Given enough time, every person can get bogged down with their routine in such a way that it seems mundane. Fantasy novels give them an escape. A chance to dream like a child again. A chance to imagine themselves as a cast member in the theatre of the mind that a great fantasy novel creates. For this reason, as long as there are books to be written, fantasy is a genre that will be at the forefront of the publishing world, because America was built on fantastical dreams.