It is a fundemantal paradox of the genre. They write about characters riddled with angst and thrown into impossible situations.Yet in their own lives they write "safe" novels that follow the formula that Tolkien and Campbell have outlined.
The overcoming of all odds to save a whole world is the fundamental appeal of Epic fantasy yet the writers don't take any chance whatsoever in their work. The genre continues to crank out cookie cutter novels in series that extend through multiple volumes. Yet in these series the plot line seldom develops and the characters barely grow at all.
Let me give you the formula:
Open up with something exciting to get the reader hooked
Keep the action moving - insert a series of small obstacles that need to be overcome
foreshadow something really big that will happen (won't happen in this novel though -if it ever happens at all)
Come up with two big things that will happen and when they are resolved they cancel each other out so the plot hasn't advanced at all
Make a big lead up to the next novel (promise the moon)
Repeat steps 1-5 in the next novel
Isn't this a bit of an irony? It's kind of like watching a bunch of Bruce Lee movies then writing a book on self-defense. It is all technically sound but in your own life can you actually do it?
In Epic Fantasy the basic tenet is courage. Courage in the face of insurmountable odds even probable death. Courage to continue on when the path is dark. It's what we admire about the genre. It's why we read the genre. The little guy (often little is literal as in a hobbit as in lord of the rings or a even a rabbit as in Watership Down) overcomes everything to do what is right. He fights internal conflict, battles evil creatures and learns something about himself along the way.
Tolkien was terribly criticized for his work when it was first published. But he believed in the world he was creating and he persevered. Stephen King had the courage to move freely across different genres even within the same book. Robert Howard had the courage to write what he wanted to write even though he never gained the financial reward that he deserved. Frank Herbert had the courage to tackle big questions in life. And do you think Harry Potter would have climbed to such heights if J.K. Rowling didn't truly believe?
So where are the muscle bound struggling writers of the epic fantasy world with the courage to push for what is right?.. Is the next writer to advance the genre out there somewhere? Maybe it's you?
If you have written an Epic Fantasy novel that you think is courageous and none of the publishers will touch because it's too risky then send the manuscript to me. If I agree that it is something special -something worthy of a hero, I will get it published even if I have to pay for it myself. No thanks necessary and no financial reward considered. Just think of yourself as Bilbo and me as your Samwise Gamgee.