No one can hear “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” without remembering Judy Garland. “Stormy Weather” summons thoughts of Lena Horne. And “My Way” brings to mind Frank Sinatra. Professional singers tend to steer away from Signature songs. Who wants to pair off against a masterful performance? The same phenomenon occurs in motion pictures with roles like Yul Brynner’s King of Siam, Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara or Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine. Who but an amateur would dare challenge a classic?
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis helped establish the medieval fantasy genre created by George MacDonald and gave it a high standard for quality. In a sense, they scrawled their signatures across an entire genre. Authors who follow must inevitably write in their shadows and pit themselves in the reader’s mind against their masterpieces. Cheap imitators have arisen in their wake, thus souring some readers on the genre as a whole. Tales of children sucked into another world, of dwarves, wizards and dragons have abounded in plenty.
Even so, original works of quality still find a loyal readership waiting for something worthwhile to emerge. Fans of medieval fantasy know this as a given. The Christian publishing world as a whole doesn’t know this. Writers of medieval fantasy don’t often meet with a favorable reception when seeking publication. The Christian fantasy genre sits on the edge of acceptability while publishers ignore the fact that fans flock to movies based on “The Lord of the Rings” and “Chronicles of Narnia.”
I’m glad medieval fantasy holds a high standard that pushes me beyond my limits as a writer. Harbourlight, the publisher of my Tales of Faeraven epic fantasy series, challenges me to produce enduring works of literature. That’s my hope and my goal.