FANTASY LOVERS: Experts share their joy for Vietnamese fantasy works at a talk-show held by the Kim Đồng Publishing House. Photo vannghequandoi.com.vn
The world of fantasy literature has seen amazing works such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and Twilight, but experts say very few Vietnamese writers are interested in the genre, which is relatively new to them.
Seeing the vast potential for sales that promise many opportunities for fantasy writing talent to develop, some young writers have moved into the field and had initial success, but more efforts are needed to attract more readers.
“This market has been built before thanks to many world-famous fantasy books imported, translated and published in Việt Nam. It is from this background that readers started to pay attention to Vietnamese fantasy works,” the Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper quoted Khúc Thị Hoa Phượng, director of Women’s Publishing House, as saying.
“However, the number of writers interested in this genre of literature in the country is unable to meet demand. The number of authors of the nineties generation, including those for fantasy, is still too small, and their works sporadic,” she said.
“It is our desire that fantasy writing will not only be expanded, but also attract writers with in-depth works. It means that the writers not only invest in a methodical one or two books, or a series of stories, but stick their whole life to writing them. By doing that, this new types of books will develop in a professional direction.”
COVER VERSIONS: Two of the good fantasy books by young writers have attracted readers. Photo baocantho.com.vn
Fantasy is a literary genre that opens up endless fiction with stories about the supernatural, magic or things only in the imagination. For the past 10 years, a limited number of young Vietnamese authors have boldly experimented with the style.
Among such writers are Nguyễn Nhật Ánh with the series Chuyện xứ Lang Biang (The Story of Lang Biang) and Phan Hồn Nhiên with Những Đôi Mắt Lạnh (Cold Eyes) and Chuỗi hạt Azoth (Azoth Beads).
Some fantasy books have won prizes for young writers, such as UREM – Người đang mơ (UREM -The Dreamer) and Yagon – Những Kẻ Vô Cảm (Yagon – the Emotionless) by Phạm Bá Diệp, and Người Ngủ Thuê (The Sleeper) by Nhật Phi.
Recently, Nguyễn Đình Tú, a writer specialising in detective novels, has also tried his hand at the fantasy genre with the novel Bãi Săn (Hunting Ground).
FICTION: Outstanding Vietnamese fantasy books of the early 20th century have impressed readers. Photo vannghequandoi.com.vn
Publishers claim young readers have a taste for fantasy, so they have launched several writing contests to stir up interest and encourage authors to try the genre. But lift-off has been limited.
According to Phạm Bá Diệp, part of the reason is that there are not many veteran writers interested in fantasy, while the younger ones do not have much experience, and their writing skills are not strong enough.
Moreover, some publishers do not dare to risk investing in fantasy works, preferring love stories, which are seen as a safe bet, Diệp said.
Some publishers claim that not even professional writers in the country can meet the standards of a fantasy series that needs to be written in a long-form imaginative way with a logical, tight and clearly built universe.
Vietnamese fantasy literature
Vietnamese literature in the early 20th century saw many outstanding achievements in which fantasy writing flourished with authors and works such as Thế Lữ with Vàng và Máu (Gold and Blood); TchyA with Thần Hổ (God of Tiger) and Lan Khai with Truyện Đường Rừng (The Tale of Forest), which are among the best and earliest written fantasy books in modern Vietnamese literature.
BOOK WORMS: Readers today are looking for fantasy works, but not many writers are interested in this genre of literature in Việt Nam. Illustration photo mic.gov.vn
The period was a significant era for the country’s modern literature, and fantasy at that time attracted great attention from readers and critics. In newspapers, fantasy stories were in instalments and much-welcomed by the public.
Speaking on a talk show held recently by the Kim Đồng Publishing House to highlight the beauty of Vietnamese fantasy literature, Nguyễn Thị Năm Hoàng, a literary expert, said fantasy was a reflection of reality.
“Literature always has its own explanation, making people more mature. Each fantasy writer of each period of time offers a unique experience. Lan Khai offers a story within a story. TchyA is a source of highly philosophical material, while Thế Lữ brings out the poetic beauty of the mountains and taking journeys. Each brings their own atmosphere, customs and traditions,” Hoàng said.
“Through the works we see magic and mysterious scenes, but they are also very real. Each work is a vivid and rich picture of nature.”
Meanwhile, writer Di Li said these works could most accurately be described as horror fantasy literature. According to Li, contemporary literature has lost its atmosphere because we no longer have “forests” to store the legends.
“People have destroyed the very places where legends are kept. In fantasy works by Thế Lữ, Lan Khai and TchyA, the writing style is a bit old but still attractive and lures readers. Fantasy literature has always been popular because it opens the imagination for readers to travel through the pages of a book,” he said.
“Readers are still looking forward to welcoming Vietnamese fantasy series that are more elaborately invested and attractive. However, the journey for fantasy books to find a stand and to conquer readers is still arduous and challenging.” VNS