I read a very interesting post on Rachel Manija Brown's blog recently where she talks about portal fantasies. These are the kinds of fantasies where the protagonist steps through a portal into another world -- you know, like the Narnia books, where the Pevensie children step into Narnia.
Apparently YA agents/editors really dislike this type of fantasy. And in fact now that I think about it, I can think of very few YA portal fantasies I've read recently. (There are older ones, like Pamela Dean'sSecret Country trilogy, that I like very much; even Pullman's Subtle Knife I quite like.) The only one I can think of that I've read recently, actually, is Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which isn't quite a portal fantasy in the sense that she doesn't step through the portal until the end of the book (although we get to know more about the world before that). (I've also read Lev Grossman's The Magicians and The Magician King, but those are hardly YA, being if anything a satire of the portal fantasy.)
The argument seems to be that portal fantasies aren't connected enough to our world, that there is no reason for readers to care what happens to a fantasy world. Which sort of boggles me? Because I cared very much what happened to Narnia or the Secret Country -- because the characters did; and I've read dystopias where I didn't care about whether our very own world self-destructed or not, because the characters weren't constructed sufficiently well to make me see why they cared.
Another argument (in the comments to the livejournal crosspost) boils down to "portal fantasies are really easy to do badly and hard to do well." Which I guess I can see -- I can definitely see how people would rather read a mediocre dystopia than a mediocre portal fantasy, if they had to choose, because setting it in our world gives it some resonance where you can fill out some of the details in your head more easily than in a fantasy world. (Me, I'd probably prefer the mediocre fantasy, because shoddy SF worldbuilding annoys me far more than shoddy fantasy worldbuilding, but that's a subject for another rant!)
What are your favorite portal fantasies? Do you agree or disagree with the logic of why there aren't more YA portal fantasies being published these days? Do you prefer dystopias to portal fantasies or vice versa, and why?
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