When did Spec Fic become mainstream?
When people ask me what I write, I say; ‘Fantasy, like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.’
But I remember when you didn’t admit to reading fantasy, science fiction and horror (spec fic), let alone writing it because people would think you were weird. Family would smile and try to change the subject. Friends would… Well, if you wanted to have friends you didn’t talk about your secret addiction.
Back before the internet it was hard to find like-minded people unless you stumbled across fandom.
I was eighteen when I discovered fandom and it was like coming home. I’d grown up surrounded by perfectly nice people who didn’t sit and wonder if life existed in space, and if so, what aliens were like.
When I found fandom, I found people who loved Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E Howard, people who’d read Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars and were happy to loan me books. But we were still in the minority. If a reporter did a piece on Spec Fic, it would be a parody piece and they’d dig up a picture of some weird guy wearing a propeller-cap. So we were always wary of reporters coming along to conventions.
In those days there were a few spec fic programs on TV like Bewitched and My Favourite Martian, but these shows were safely embedded in mainstream America. There were also shows like The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who and Star Trek but here in Australia the TV stations seemed to treat anything that was spec fic with disdain and you never knew if your favourite show was going to come on at its regular time.
Then it all changed…
The first Star Wars film came out. This movie got everyone talking. Even the guys at work were not afraid to admit they’d seen it. I remember walking down the street after the premier of Star Wars in Melbourne and one of my fellow geeks saying, ‘Now SF will become mainstream!’ The subtext was that we would no longer be the weird kids nobody wanted to play with.
But it took much longer than that. Skip forward to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. Epic fantasy was block buster material. If you look at the top 100 grossing movies to date, you’ll find only about fifteen had no spec fic elements.
There are many TV shows with spec fic elements now days but it took Game of Thrones to make epic fantasy mainstream for television viewers. There were those of us who read the books years ago and knew what was going to happen at the wedding. And then there are those who secretly filmed their flatmates and friends’ reaction to the wedding scene, then put it up on you tube. I think it is wonderful that people would become so invested in the characters. My favourite is Tyrion.
As a character Tyrion proves that you can be the exception to the rule. Everyone body loves an underdog. He’s the Loki type character.
So thanks to Game of Thrones I can come out of the closet and admit I write fantasy, and people will know what I’m talking about. Of course, there are the dedicated readers who love the fantasy genre. One woman who bought my King Rolen’s Kin trilogy told me she had read the three books in 24 hours, without stopping. She must have inhaled them!
She’s been waiting for King Breaker but it takes a writer longer than twenty four hours to write a book. We command a cast of thousands, stage great battles and win kingdoms all in our heads, then we have to write it down. Byren never wanted the throne, yet he finds himself battling his conniving cousin to win back the crown.
Here’s hoping King Breaker keeps readers turning the pages!
Thanks to Michael Molcher for his help in organising this piece.