Jeremy Rodden on Classifying Toonopolis
When I first finished Toonopolis: Gemini, I traveled to some author-author networking sites (like Authonomy.com) and decided to post my manuscript for people to critique. I got stuck at the portion where the form asks for genre.
Granted, I knew that Toonopolis was fantasy – comedic middle grade/young adult fantasy set in a cartoon universe, to be precise. Maybe not Tolkeinesque fantasy, but it was most certainly fantasy. After all, some of my major inspirations for the work were Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, and The NeverEnding Story. If I was inspired by fantasy, surely my work was fantasy.
At this time, I began to delve further into the subcategories of fantasy. The first big delineation was between high and low fantasy. I discovered that when most people think of fantasy, they think of Tolkein, of George RR Martin, of Robin Hobb. These writers are high fantasy authors - and more specifically, a subgenre of high fantasy known as epic fantasy. Epic Fantasy has become synonymous with “fantasy” in popular culture. The grand, sweeping sword & sorcery stories that inspired Dungeons & Dragons and Roleplaying Games and countless others (and that were subsequently inspired BY D&D et. al).
While I love to read epic fantasy, I never felt I could write it. Good epic fantasy is detail oriented, grounded in some semblance of reality that feels both familiar and foreign at the same time, and (most of all) is LONG. That was certainly not my style of writing.
So in my search to classify Toonopolis, I had to look at other subgenres of fantasy. In looking at the general difference between high and low fantasy, I definitely found that Toonopolis was high fantasy. The difference between the two being that high fantasy takes place in a world completely “other” than our own and low fantasy inserts fantastic elements into our world. The most common subgenre of low fantasy is urban fantasy (such as Twilight, Percy Jackson, or Artemis Fowl).
I then tried to figure out any sub-category of high fantasy to put my work into. It wasn’t epic, to be sure (although there are some sections of city of Toonopolis that would be considered epic, such as Camenot and Adventure Realm). That’s when I realized there wasn’t one. I considered trying to coin the term Middle Fantasy, but it never really stuck. At one point, I tried marketing it as “high fantasy with low comedy” but many people misunderstood the second half and thought “low comedy” meant not-very-much comedy instead of low-brow humor.
At the end of the day, I discovered that I was happy my work couldn’t be easily classified. Meeting other authors such as Jonathan Gould and David Brown, who also write unique forms of fantasy, only solidified this pride. At the end of the day, fantasy is a huge generalization. Whether the stories take you through a wardrobe into Narnia, into a vampire-infested northwestern town, or into a cartoon universe - fantasy is fantasy, and I love it.
I spent the first ten years of my professional life in retail sales, working my way up to store management positions in two different Fortune 500 retailers. Along the way, I managed to earn a BA in Religion and English Writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA and an MA in Secondary Education from Holy Family University, also in Philadelphia.
After completing my Masters, I began teaching high school English. When my second son was born in May, 2010, however, my wife and I decided that it would be more prudent for me to be a stay-at-home dad, taking care of the new baby along with my first son, who was born in June, 2005. I have since had the challenge and pleasure of being a homemaker.
It was at this time that I finally grasped the stories that had been in my head since I was a teenager and wrangled them to paper. Toonopolis began as a silly interactive fiction game played with some real life and virtual friends. The game only lasted a few years but the world I had created and my characters never escaped my thoughts.
As a writer, I consider C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll to be my strongest influences. They were able to create magical worlds that readers of all ages enjoy, which is exactly what I want to achieve with Toonopolis. It is a lofty goal, indeed, but the only goals that will invariably be unachievable are the ones that are not set.
Welcome to my world. I hope you have as much fun as I do.
To Learn More about Toonopolis and Find Jeremy Online:
Thank you so much Jeremy!
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