Speculative fiction is an umbrella genre encompassing all fiction with certain elements that do not exist in the real world. It includes fantasy and science fiction. In recent years, the popularity of fantasy and science fiction books has risen due to its popularity in Hollywood, and vice-versa. The new proliferation of this kind of fiction has allowed expansion within the genre, as writers and other creators expand on certain elements of fantasy and science fiction, as well as brand new takes on the genres. Tolkien set a standard for high fantasy that people have been trying to emulate for decades, but because of the broadening of the genre, more people can bring their unique perspectives to their own stories. This diversifying also makes it more accessible to every kind of reader. At the rise of fantasy and science fiction, really the only people writing it were white males who wrote white male characters. Now, it has expanded to the point that many more people can identify with it. The popularity has caused a sort of renaissance, changing the face of the genre to include many, many sub-genres (urban fantasy, near-future science fiction, grimdark fantasy, steampunk, etc).

A large part of fantasy is the world building. Tolkien is mentioned a lot when researching fantasy, and that’s because he set such a high standard for fantasy writers, particularly concerning world-building. Most anyone would be hard-pressed to find any author’s world that is as culturally pervasive as Middle Earth. Hobbits and Orcs, both inventions of Tolkien, are now fantasy staples, and orcs appear in many, many other forms of media, including video games and movies. Tolkien was educated in mythology, and incorporated it into his stories, naming some of his characters after Norse myths. He went so far as to invent his own languages, written and spoken, with their own grammatical rules, and he wrote The Silmarillion after his seminal Lord of the Rings, which acts somewhat like a bible, telling the origins of middle earth and everything in it. So world-builders have a lot to live up to, and must show their audiences the rules of the world they are writing first so that the audience may understand the characters later.

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