Last week i went into a bookstore looking for a successful fantasy novel to read while i am on hold writing my own story. Now there's something really odd about the categories fantasy is divided into in general. "Fantasy for adults" contained books with magic and somewhat adult storylines which i really can't comment on because i didn't know any of the books in that section.
Then there was a category called "women's fantasy", yes, you read correctly, i suppose containing suntanned pirates with open white shirts - Fabio - , a wee bit of magic or magicians and bored court ladies who can't wait for something interesting - like an affair with Fabio - to happen while someone is throwing fireballs. There was a somewhat superior number of harlequin romances mixed into that category. The only famous name i recollect reading in that section is Marion Zimmer Bradley's.
Interestingly enough the only section which contained most of the titles familiar to me was the "fantasy for children and adolescents" corner. There they were, my heroes! Pullman's Dark Materials next to the magnificent adventures of The hobbit (with Harry Potter, Eragon, Narnia and the rest sitting close by).
I wonder who decides which category a novels fall into. It seems strange to me that obviously the dividing line for children's and adult's fantasy is if the book contains sex and violence. What about other, much more explosive topics like Pullman's view on authority or the highly effective moments of drama which partly are so cruelly constructed you want to cry and tear your hair out at the same time. I don't know if this kind of drama is less damaging than a bare chested pirate.
I remember crying horribly when Atreju's horse Artax drowned in the swamp in "Die unendliche Geschichte" by Michael Ende, another very famous and brilliant children's book. I was 5 or 6 and the nice horse-y just sunk into the mud and couldn't move any further. This is heartbreaking if anything else. And even now after several years have passed since then i only need to think about that moment to tear up again.
So what about the seperation between children's and adult's books? No one is arguing with that, but the decision about what is age appropriate or not should be re-considered if you ask me. As our whole view on child-psychology, i suppose.
But enough for now, please read my blog, it's good for you :)