The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has arrived, the time of year where literature nerds can come together and freak out over their passion for all things crafted with language. Authors, publishers, professors, journalists, performers and chefs alike come together to celebrate the written word in a two-day festival that draws out even the most reclusive of book fans. As soon as the list came out, multitudes virtually sprinted to the website to plan out their assault.
Firstly, who is going to be there? If you read anything, there will almost certainly be something to catch your eye. Poetry? There’s an entire stage dedicated to its reading. Crime fiction? Panels upon panels are dedicated to the stuff. Science fiction? Orson Scott Card is just one example of the many authors on hand. Celebrities? Accomplished professionals everywhere, stuck in rooms or on stages where they cannot escape the terror of audience questions.
One of the most interesting things about this festival, though, is the lack of authors who write fantasy novels for adults. The young adult fantasy genre is well represented, but what about the adults? There are some authors, of course (Raymond Feist and Robin Hobb among others), but they are underrepresented given the importance of fantasy in popular culture today. There are, at maximum, two fantasy panels during one of the largest book-focused events in one of the biggest cities in the United States, while there is an entire stage devoted to cooking. Cooking is great, and cookbooks are very important, but why is that deemed more important than an entire genre of literature?
There’s an audience for fantasy, as is evidenced by hit show Game of Thrones based off of the series A Song of Ice and Fire. The series has sold over sixteen million copies worldwide, and has been translated into over twenty languages. A Dance with Dragons, the most recent book in the series, debuted at the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list and sold 298,000 copies on its day of release alone. This series’ success is just one example of a flourishing genre of fantasy literature. Why, then, does this festival largely restrict fiction to young adults?
That, however, is a small complaint. Events like the Festival of Books are wonderful; after all, how often do we all really come together to celebrate reading? Book awards don’t have the same kind of hype as film and television awards do, after all. Reading can often seen as a chore, or something that you always had to do in school and some everything that is holy that they have escaped the soul-sucking drudgery of (insert your least favourite book here). This celebration is worth the inconvenience of ridiculous quantities of tents covering our campus. Festivals like this remind us, no matter how much we read, that there is a giant world of both beautiful and terrifying alternate realities in which to throw ourselves.