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SLCC FanX: Are we suffering from post-Potter depression?

What does the future of sci-fi and fantasy hold now that franchises like "Harry Potter" are being put out to pasture?
What does the future of sci-fi and fantasy hold now that franchises like "Harry Potter" are being put out to pasture?Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

Naturally, at a convention such as FanX, science fiction and fantasy fans always want to discuss books and movies already made, but also what's to come as well. And with so many popular franchises coming to a close, such as The Hunger Games films and the Hush, Hush book series, it leaves many fans of such properties to ask where things are headed in the future.

This was the discussion at the panel entitled “The Future of Science Fiction and Fantasy in a Post-Twilight, Post-Potter World”. The two franchises mentioned here have ended, both in book and film, and have left fans bereft, not only because their beloved characters like Harry and Edward are no longer around, but the over-saturation of far lesser franchises akin to them have become a blight on the market.

“There's an ebb and flow with the market,” explained suspense author J.R. Johanssen on the panel. “After Twilight, there was an uptake on vampire books. After Hunger Games, there was an uptake on dystopian future books. It always depends on what's big.”

Literary agent Michelle Witte says that this ebb and flow of certain genres has made things difficult for aspiring authors, looking to sell their first novels. “Right now,” she explained to the early afternoon crowd at the Salt Palace, “many publishers aren't taking dystopian novels, mainly because of the over-saturation that's begun in the marketplace. As we saw with Twilight, audiences quickly tired of vampire novels, and that's exactly what's happening here.”

So, where does that leave us currently? Is there any genre that is going to replace any of the current trends with new authors, especially in the age of self-publication? Hugo Award nominated Brad R. Torgersen, who was moderating the panel, had some very distinct opinions on the matter.

“To be honest, the marketplace doesn't know what the hell it wants,” Torgersen frankly commented.

Adding to Torgersen's commentary, paranormal author Bree Dispain put things a bit into perspective for the crowd. “No one could have anticipated that a boy wizard would have resonated with children and adults. Who would have thought that sparkly vampires would have blown up the way it did? It's harder to guess the trends.”

If trends can't be guessed, and, as Witte mentioned, “The marketplace only knows what it doesn't want,”, what are audiences truly looking for?

“Look at the three biggest properties currently,” Torgersen said to this question. “Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. What do all three of these have in common? They're all based on relationships. It's not just the characters themselves, but the relationships they have with their friends and loved ones that compels the story, and what makes the audience care about the characters.”

“This isn't even just the case in sci-fi and fantasy,” Witte agreed. “Look at movies like The Goonies. Stand By Me. The Sandlot. While each had their own action and supporting characters, it was all about the main characters, and their friendship they had built, the adventures they got into. This is often far more compelling than the plot itself, and what drives the audience to care about them.”

Could it really be that simple? Are audiences more enamored with characters than they are the stories and genres of the books and movies they celebrate?

“Just look at Harry Potter,” Despain told us. “Harry had his flaws, but had his strengths, which made him relatable to a wide audience. And his relationships with Ron and Hermione were incredibly strong, which drew readers in.”

In the end, all four panelists agreed on one thing: while trends in cinema and literature are ever-changing, audiences will always respond to strong characters.