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Guided Tour: Epic Fantasy

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With over 72 million monthly visitors across over 320,000 wikis (and counting!), Wikia is a hotbed of passionate expertise on an incredibly diverse range of topics. With such a plethora of information to sift through, breaking into a new franchise or genre can seem a tad overwhelming. To help break the ice, we're going to be asking experts from various communities to tell us what it is about their area of expertise they find so captivating -- and the steps they recommend beginners take to set themselves on the path to geekery.

We're calling the series "Guided Tour," and today we're taking a look at Epic Fantasy.

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The history of Epic Fantasy is more or less the same as the general history of Fantasy. Modern fantasy (our primary focus here) differs from classic mythology or otherwise fantastical literature in three key ways. First, modern fantasy works usually suggests an alternate reality, or at least a secret, fantasy dimension kitty-corner to the real world, complete with its own geography, history, and set of laws. Second, the supernatural elements specific to these worlds are fictitious by design, meant to serve as symbols, metaphors, or plot devices, and not much more. Lastly, authors of modern fantasy write in a novel arrangement, instead of employing more traditional storytelling mechanisms found in folklore or fairy tales.

Hints of modern fantasy began to emerge in the 18th century, but the genre didn't come into its own until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is when epic fantasy began to popularize, especially with J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings series.

A fitting final entry in our series on the various types of fantasy genres, epic fantasy is perhaps the most recognizable of the lot. Epic fantasy, sometimes referred to as high fantasy (though there is, as many are quick to point out, a difference between the two), is a genre defined by its massive sense of scale. The stakes are always high, the world always huge, and the tone usually dire. This is the realm of dragons, wizards, mages — all mainstays in Epic fantasy.

Like most fantasy genres, epic fantasy is defined by the employment and subversion of its tropes. These tropes tend to relate to the aforementioned sense of immediacy. The stories themselves often deal with themes of good versus evil and characters coming of age. Oftentimes, authors incorporate an intricate internal mythology to flesh the world out and give it a real sense of weight, sometimes going as far to contrive entire languages. These days, epic fantasy might be bigger than ever, with Game of Thrones proving to be one of the biggest television shows of all time and the first Hobbit film grossing over a billion dollars in revenue.

Let’s go to our expert panel for some advice and recommendations!

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1. Tell me a bit about yourself and your involvement with the Game of Thrones wiki.
As an outgoing person who enjoys fantasy and sci-fi related movies and shows, I find that the Fantasy genre is the best type of escape from the real world. I am a creative person by nature, therefore I can relate to fantasy series and movies because they are based on imagination and creativity. Art lovers can appreciate the fantasy genre and Game of Thrones has everything you could possibly want. My love for the series is what initially brought me to the wiki. While reading and studying articles about Game of Thrones, I was then compelled to edit as well. Being that a creative person as I have said, I have been able to design and create interesting and fun articles, including the main page on the wiki. As a user you get to combine your favorite aspects of editing; fantasy films/series and creating while using your imagination.

2. How did you get into Fantasy? Into Game of Thrones?
As I have said above, the Fantasy genre has always been an escape for me. I love the artistic nature, beauty, stories, etc. There are no rules when it comes to Fantasy. If you can imagine it, it can be created. Game of Thrones instantly intrigued me because it is the complete package. It is not only filled with fantasy stories, creatures and mythology, but it is also beautifully filmed unlike any other series on television. It truly goes above and beyond anything ever created before.

3. What media would serve as a good starting point for someone trying to get into epic fantasy?
It truly depends on the person and their taste in films and television. It also depends on a person's age whether or not they would enjoy the Fantasy genre. I would suggest a pre-teen watch movies like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and television series like Charmed. Teenagers who enjoy Fantasy would perhaps like movies such as Twilight, Xmen and series like The Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Grimm. Adults 18 and over may be interested in a more adult themed fantasy series, such as Game of Thrones. There are also many classic cult hits, such as Labyrinth, The Neverending Story and television series such as Bewitched and The Twilight Zone.

4. Anything you wouldn’t recommend?
I definitely wouldn't recommend Game of Thrones or True Blood to anyone under the age of 17 or anyone who isn't mature enough to understand the level of violence, sex and nudity that comes with series such as these. Television and movie ratings should be taken seriously when deciding to view any particular show. A person may also ask a friend, co-worker, research Wiki, etc, to find out that the show is about; this will give a better understanding of what it entails.

5. Any additional advice you’d give to someone new to Fantasy?
Don't over analyze Fantasy or sci-fi, simply sit back, relax and enjoy it.

6. What resources on your wiki might be useful to an aspiring Fantasy fan?
The Game of Thrones Wiki articles are in-depth and knowledgeable on Fantasy things anywhere from giants, dragons, etc. The Wiki offers biographies, images, videos, trivia and resources on various information within the series. The Wiki has a feel of being more interactive with the fans, allowing them to be part of the world of Westeros. A person can read and learn more about creatures, places and things that only exist in the Fantasy world.

I was also part of a Game of Thrones podcast a few months back. If you'd like to listen to my segment, perhaps it could give you even more insight to my feelings on Fantasy and Game of Thrones. My segment starts at the 23:08 mark.

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1. Tell me a bit about yourself and your involvement with the Game of Thrones wiki.
Well, I'm happily married and a father of two wonderful kids. We all live in Utah. I'm one of the bureaucrats at The Wheel of Time wiki. As such, I do a lot of the maintenance around the site. When I started at the wiki, all I did was update an analysis of the series. As time went on, I became more involved in editing and creating articles and eventually got into some of the background stuff. Templates and categories and the like. For the last couple of years, I've helped maintain the site and have seen it through the last three book releases.

2. How did you get into Fantasy? Into Game of Thrones?
I didn't really read a whole lot of fantasy when I was a kid. While I did read the Narnia books, I never really got into anything else at the time. I actually started with sci-fi, and grew up watching Star Trek. It wasn't until late in 2003 when I got more into fantasy literature. I actually started out with [ Harry Potter]. Someone saw me reading one of the books a few years later and recommended that I read The Wheel of Time series. I have to say that at first, it really didn't pull me in, but about half way through the book, I knew I was hooked. I've been a fan ever since. Since becoming a fan of WoT, I've also read a lot of Brandon Sanderson's books, as well as The Lord of the Rings.

3. What media would serve as a good starting point for someone trying to get into epic fantasy?
Epic fantasy usually involves a series of books, a long time span, and a large back-story. The Lord of the Rings is the quintessential example. People who have only watched the movies won't know that decades passed between Bilbo's and Frodo's departure of the Shire. One of the great things about epic fantasy is the world building and the details that the author uses to weave the story. I would recommend starting small. Find a trilogy whose covers spark your interest. Brandon Sanderson has a great series out called the Mistborn series. At first, it started with a trilogy; The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. These three books show the lives of the characters over a couple of years. Mr. Sanderson has since expanded the series with The Alloy of Law, which takes place about three hundred years after the trilogy. Mistborn has a great magic system, and I think it's a wonderful story and a good way to get into epic fantasy.

4. Anything you wouldn’t recommend?
There really isn't a particular series or author I wouldn't recommend. There are a lot of series out there that appeal to different people. Find something that looks interesting and give it a go. And if you end up not liking the first book, donate it to a local library.

5. Any additional advice you’d give to someone new to Fantasy?
Be prepared for the long haul. The Wheel of Time series is fourteen books long, plus a prequel. It started in 1990 and was finished in 2013. There are people out there that have grown up with this series. I've only been reading the series for the last five years and I will have to admit, it has changed my mindset on how I read fiction. Recently I re-read a stand-alone novel that I really enjoyed when I first read it and I found myself wanting more. I found myself wanting to know what happens next, to know how thing play out in the long run. In short (insert scoff here), get ready to dive in head first and take in all the details.

6. What resources on your wiki might be useful to an aspiring Fantasy fan?
As a wiki, we are trying to chronicle the series and bring together all of the references of everything in the series into their own articles. If you're just beginning the series, stay away! There is nothing worse that a spoiler, especially when you're just starting out. Even the disambiguation notice on the article about the first book might be considered a spoiler. However, fans of the series are always welcome at the wiki. We have a lot of articles that still need writing and we also have an active blog where there are posts about characters' fates and thoughts on the series.

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1. Tell me a bit about yourself and your involvement with Wikia and the Shadow of Mordor Wikia.
My name is Mark, and I'm a part of Wikia's Community Development Team working remotely from The Netherlands. I started at Wikia over three years ago working on various Gaming wikias, and these days I mostly work on Wikia's official community projects, the most recent of which being the Shadow of Mordor Wikia. Aside from my work at Wikia, I'm currently studying Dutch Law at the Radboud University Nijmegen. In my free time I'm an avid badminton player and gamer, with role-playing and stealth based games being my favorite pastime.

My involvement with the Shadow of Mordor Wikia started a little over three months ago preparing the wikia for its launch. I was responsible for turning the Design Team's design into a functional main page, and prepping the wikia's content before it went live.

2. How did you get into Fantasy? Into LotR?
My interest in fantasy started many years ago after reading the first book in the Artemis Fowl series. After finishing that, I started reading various other series until I stumbled upon The Lord of the Rings, which I still consider to be the pinnacle of (epic) fantasy. The main downside of reading this series though is that any fantasy book you read afterwards will never live up to The Lord of the Rings.

3. What media would serve as a good starting point for someone trying to get into epic fantasy?
Naturally The Lord of the Rings book and films series are great to start off with. The Lord of the Rings really draws you into the world of Middle-Earth, and it's written so well that even those who don't like fantasy will still enjoy the series. If you haven't watched it yet (shame on you!) Game of Thrones is also an amazing series set in a fantasy world. In terms of games, I'd highly recommend Final Fantasy VI. It's nearly a decade old, but it's one of the best RPG's I have ever played to date.

4. Anything you wouldn’t recommend?
The Golden Compass movie. I loved the books and as such I had high expectations for the movie, but unfortunately enough it turned out to be a rushed, overhyped disappointment.

5. Any additional advice you’d give to someone new to Epic Fantasy?
Take your time reading or watching. You'll finish an Epic Fantasy book before you know it (as you won't be able to put the book away), and you'll never get the great experience of reading the novel for the first time again. Also, read the books before you watch the movie. There's nothing more fun than pointing out inconsistencies between the book and the movie.

6. What resources on your Wikia might be useful to an aspiring Epic Fantasy fan?
There's still a lot of work to be done, but the wikia's growing rapidly. I advise having a read through the history section of the Mordor article as it provides you with a great overview of the timeline of The Lord of the Rings (courtesy of The One Wiki to Rule Them All).

7. What can fans expect from the Shadow of Mordor Wikia?
If it'll in the game, it'll be on the wikia. We aspire to make the wikia the best resource for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor available, and we intend to document everything that'll be in the game. If there's an enemy you can't beat, read up on various strategies on the wikia. If there's an item you can't find, just look it up on the wikia!

The newly launched community is official, and we'll be among the first to get new trailers, images and gameplay footage, so following our news blog is a great way to stay on top of the game's news. You can also expect various Q&A's, developer chats and interviews with Monolith (the developer of the game), so stay tuned!

Be sure to read Eric Moro's blog on the wikia for more information on the game and the official community!

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Want to read more about Epic Fantasy? All of our experts provided a number of links to help you discover magical new worlds. As always, they recommend you reach out to them via their message wall, wiki chat, or talk page if you have any questions. Here's the syllabus!

Got any questions about epic fantasy or a favorite franchise to recommend? Leave a comment below!

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