Saturday, September 16, 2017

Are all LitRPG Books Science Fiction?

Explaining LitRPG isn't always an easy task. While you can definitely trot out the usual definitions and hope that those suffice, you'll eventually be pressed to compare it to something else. It's common for new readers to ask if LitRPG is sci-fi, as that genre seems like a good fit for comparison. Unfortunately, there's not an easy way to answer that question.

Strict Interpretations

Figuring out how whether all LitRPG stories should be classified as science fiction starts, as you might expect, by figuring out a few definitions. Rather than engaging in the arguments about how LitRPG is defined, we can simply agree that any LitRPG work has to involve a game world - it's one of the things that really makes the genre stand out, so it's the must-have element when defining the concept.

So, does being inside a game automatically make a story science fiction? If you go with the tradition of sci-fi being defined as literature based on future technological or social developments, there's a strong case to be made for the idea that LitRPG is probably sci-fi by its nature. After all, the idea of going into a game in any way is definitely a scientific development, albeit one that can be accomplished by a number of means.

Many people will point out that LitRPG almost always involves video games, which are by default a science fiction device. While video games are modern, they way games are portrayed in LitRPG definitely lends a itself to a more advanced portrayal. It's fairly safe to assume that LitRPG is a subgenre of science fiction in most cases.


The big roadblock that makes the question hard to answer is that there are some examples of LitRPG that definitely don't work as science fiction at all. If you look back to the 1980s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, for example, you'll see something that follows all the LitRPG tropes but has absolutely no science fiction elements. Likewise, you can look at Jumanji as another example of LitRPG that fits more easily into a fantasy or magical-realism sort of setting.

If the game in which the protagonist has his or her adventure isn't a video game, there's a good argument to be made that the story isn't science fiction. So long as the methods and execution rely on something more like magic, you get the same stories that really should be shelved in a totally different section.

Outliers don't necessarily change the nature of the big works in the genre, though. There's plenty of LitRPG that could be considered straight sci-fi, of course - Ready Player One and Sword Art Online don't have much that would exclude them from being typical sci-fi works.

The fantasy-inspired examples make it harder to call LitRPG pure sci-fi. While these stories definitely help to broaden the scope of what can be considered LitRPG, they don't do fans any favors when they're trying to give a simple explanation to new readers.

Combining Genres

Of course, it's pretty tough to pigeon-hole LitRPG by strictly calling it science fiction when there are outliers to consider. Like most types of sci-fi, LitRPG tends to be a little more of a genre mix. For example, it's entirely possible for a character to transported into a game by mystical means, moving LitRPG from a hard sci-fi concept to more of a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid. At the very least, you're looking at something that's not really hard sci-fi - it's closer to cyberpunk in many cases, which has its own rules and tropes with which an author can play.

The fact that you can add in elements from other genres makes LitRPG a very versatile type of literature. While you'll probably find these books shelved or organized with sci-fi, that doesn't mean the rules are going to be followed particularly strictly by writers. There are plenty of circumstances in which these books are sci-fi by default rather than by inclination, which can further help to blur the genre lines. We talk about this and more over at the LitRPG Forum.

Is LitRPG science fiction? If there's a quick answer here, it has to be 'maybe'. It's certainly true that most of the LitRPG on the market uses many science-fiction tropes and that LitRPG definitely tends to fit into that space, but it doesn't have to do so. Instead of trying make LitRPG fit into another genre, it's perhaps easier to classify LitRPG as its own subgenre - one that can borrow from sci-fi, but does not have to do.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Why Are LitRPG Audiobooks Popular?

It's fairly easy to see why people love LitRPG novels and stories. They've got a great hook, a fantastic set of boundaries, and enough diversity that almost any reader can find something they love. What might be surprising to some, though, is that LitRPG audio books are also incredibly popular.

While the last few years have seen a new boom in audio book purchases, there are a few other reasons why LitRPG books are so popular among listeners. They're great for those who have no time to read, who don't have screen access, for those on the road, and for those who want to have their imaginations sparked.

No Time to Read

One of the major reasons that these audio books are so popular is that many people just don't have time to sit down with a book anymore. Life moves very quickly and it's hard to find time to sit down and read a good book.

When you have an audio book, though, you can listen to it while you are on the go. You get all the fun of experiencing one of your favorite novels, but without the requirement of finding a quiet space and putting your life on hold.

No Screen Required

While there are plenty of LitRPG books that you can buy in a traditional printed format, many readers choose instead to read the books on computer monitors and e-Readers. Unfortunately, though, you won't always have access to these devices. Instead of having to plan your reading time around when you can get screen time, you can instead choose to listen to the book.

This gives you more chances to get through the book and a better chance to experience the story outside of its usual confines. Audio books are great for those who don't always have access to a screen.

Inspiring the Imagination

Audio books are also special because of the way they can inspire. There are certain ideas that just fire the imagination when they are heard out loud. While reading process can be just as inspiring for many, there are some people who get more out of audio.

When you take the time to listen to a good audio book, you might be surprised by the directions that your mind will take you. It's not necessarily better for everyone, but it's an important aspect of why so many people choose to listen to these books instead of reading them in a traditional format.

Great for Road Trips

If you've ever been on a long road trip, you know that entertainment can be hard to come by. One of the primary reasons the audio book format became so popular is because the books can be listened to on a drive. Whether you are going across the country or just trying to make it through your morning commute, a good LitRPG audio book can make your life better. These audio books can help you keep your sanity even when you are trying to deal with heavy traffic or empty roads.

It shouldn't be surprising that so many people enjoy LitRPG books. They take away all the downsides that might surround reading and replace them with convenience. While reading traditionally might never be overtaken, there's still a good case to be made for the popularity of these audio books. If you don't have the time to read the books that you've always wanted to read, you might want to consider listening to them instead. You'll thank yourself when you finally have time to experience the stories in a way that makes sense to you.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Superhero LitRPG Books
Superheroes and LitRPG are a great fit. If you think about it, superheroes really embody all of the tropes that make LitRPG work. 
LitRPG books also commonly feature MMOs - a space where superheroes have continually made a mark over many decades since their origin.
If games like City of Heroes or Champions Online can capture a superhero experience, it makes sense that a good series of books can do the same thing.

There are many great LitRPG superhero books out there. Figuring out which ones are right for you, though, can take a little bit of digging. 
Fortunately, there are some great books out there that are a good fit for almost all readers.

Super Sales on Super Heroes

Super Sales on Super Heroes takes a novel approach to the world of superheroes and LitRPG. Instead of placing the main character in a game, it places him in a city that has been taken over by superheroes. 
While he isn't necessarily new to his super powers, he is continually learning how to make them more useful. The exploration of his powers and the his conflicts with the villains help to make a well-defined world.

Super Sales is a great LitRPG book that combines action and humor. It still checks all the boxes for LitRPG, but it definitely works well as a standard superhero tale.

Sigil Online: Paragons

Sigil Online is a great read that hews very closely to the basic rules of LitRPG. It features a player who spends his time in a game universe, one where he has to level up and gain experience to make a difference. 
In this case, the main character makes his living playing a game called Sigil Online. He has his high level character destroyed and he is forced to start over from the beginning.

This is a great book for those who are new to LitRPG. It follows all of the basic tropes and spins them with a superhero twist. Definitely a great place to start for most fans.

Find More Superhero LitRPG

Those two books are just starting points. There are other other titles that can help readers explore their love for superheroes and LitRPG. It can be difficult to make your way through all of them, though, so having a solid guide can help.

If you aren't sure where to turn, it's a good idea to hit LitRPG Reads or the LitRPG forum for a few new ideas. The recommendations there are top notch and written by people who really love the genre. While not everything on those sites is about superheroes, you'll get a fair number of suggestions that should meet your criteria and learn more about the authors who write the books you love.

It's not too difficult to find a good superhero LitRPG book. Start with the suggestions here and look for recommendations from those you trust. With a little digging, you should be able to find books that work both as great superhero novels and great examples of the LitRPG genre. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Precursors to LitRPG Books

As you might expect, the LitRPG genre didn't burst onto the scene fully formed. It is a genre that owes quite a bit to a number of sources, not the least of which are tabletop role playing games and video games. With that said, there were a few books that came out before the LitRPG genre existed that filled a very similar role.

While these books aren't generally thought of as part of the LitRPG canon, it's easy to see how they helped to spur the development of the genre. They follow some of the same general rules, but they're still their own particular branch of fiction. Without them, though, it's hard to see how LitRPG could have evolved into its current form.

Guardians of the Flame by Joel Rosenberg

Beginning in 1983, Joel Rosenberg's Guardian of the Flame series began following a road that most LitRPG readers already know and love. His stories involved a group of college students who participated in a role playing game, and who eventually found themselves magically transported to that world. While there, they fought to survive in a hostile environment and had to decide whether they wanted to stay in that world or if they want to return home.

If any of that sounds familiar, it should - you're looking at what would become one of the stock plots for LitRPG. While the genre does, by some accounts, date back to the 1980s, these books are rarely lumped in with the rest of the genre. Instead, they are considered to be more of a straight fantasy series. The 1980s had a number of novels and other forms of media that involved characters crossing between worlds. Guardians of the Flame tended to be lumped in with that genre.

In retrospect, the only thing that keeps Guardians of the Flame out of LitRPG is a lack of focus on progression. Beyond that, it's absolutely the kind of bedrock foundation on which the rest of the genre was built. It's a good look at how you don't have to base the world in an MMORPG to get the same kind of effect for the reader.

Fighting Fantasy Books from Lone Wolf

If Guardians of the Flame was the precursor for the types of worlds and stories in which LitRPG would flourish, the Fighting Fantasy books were a good look at how character growth and stat progression would impact the genre. 
These books were less novels and more single-player tabletop RPGs, working as a strange mix of RPG and choose-your-own adventure book. They were certainly popular enough to keep a strong following for several years, but they definitely never made it into the mainstream.

The original series of Fighting Fantasy books has fifty-nine different adventures, so there was never any shortage of plots available for characters. As readers made choices and progressed, they'd be guided to different page numbers. 
It was possible to lose the story and kill a character, but most choices would lead to some kind of progression. It absolutely captured the kind of movement that LitRPG would become known for, but it did it more in the context of the game itself. It was a strange middle ground between RPGs and what would come next, but one worth exploring nonetheless.

The fact that the story is presented as a game really keeps Fighting Fantasy from being LitRPG. It did help pave the way for some of the more game-like books, though.

These two book series were only two of the precursors to LitRPG. You can find many of the same concepts in other books and other forms of media. It just goes to show that LitRPG really was waiting to be born - it just took the right confluence of events for all of the elements to come together. 
As you read through a lot of older fantasy and sci-fi, you can definitely see where these ideas came from. As the genre becomes more established and more well-known, it's likely that several older books will retroactively be added to the canon of the genre. 
Given how vague the definitions of LitRPG can be, it's likely that many older books can be considered to be forerunners to what readers love today.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Do You Love LitRPG Books?

If you love LitRPG books as much as me, you need to check out my new LitRPG Reads website. I've put a lot of time and effort making sure I highlight all the great new authors joining the genre. Anyone who loves video games (especially RPG) and reading, you're going to want to visit LitRPG Reads and bookmark it.

While I've concentrated on listing all the new LitRPG novels coming out lately, I've also done a few personal blog posts about why I'm personally getting into LitRPG. It's definitely not the money - as you can see by me pricing Goblin at $2.99 and leaving it in KU. I'm a full-time author, but I know heavy readers can find it hard to pay $5.99 or more for a short book.

In the other good news department, book two of the Tower of Gates LitRPG series is nearing completion. Here's a quick look at the cover for Human if you haven't seen it yet. I had a ton of fun writing this one, and I'm hoping readers find it even better than Goblin, the first book in the Tower of Gates series. I'll have more announcements in the future, but check this out.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Why Do You Love LitRPG?

Paul Bellow has a blog post about why he loves LitRPG and decided to start writing books in the genre. What are the reasons YOU love LitRPG books so much? Whether it's the game mechanics, the characters, or the fond memories of your own time spent gaming, I'd love to know.

As I said on my main blog, one of the reasons I'm so excited about writing LitRPG books is that when I was growing up I read the Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg. While it would be termed Soft LitRPG today, it was all about gaming. In a book! Loved it so much.

Now, as a full-time writer, I'm going to be able to write in a genre I'm passionate about. To me, gaming has always been an inclusive environment. So far, LitRPG has turned out to be the same way - a group of individuals coming together to share something they love and are passionate about.

So, lemme know... Why do you YOU love LitRPG books so much? I'm excited to hear your answers! 

Heard About the LitRPG Podcast?

If you haven't heard about or checked out the LitRPG Podcast by Ramon Mejia, I recommend you check it out as soon as possible. Once a week, he does a YouTube video with LitRPG News, Reviews, and more. His sense of humor makes the show more enjoyable, of course, but it's all the great guests like Blaise Corvin, Travis Bagwell, Dakota Krout and others that make the show super-wonderful. (Plus One you might say? Small smile.)

Anyway, as I said, go check out the podcast for lovers of LitRPG by a man who is passionate about our burgeoning genre that blends science-fiction with fantasy! I highly suggest you listen to at least a few episodes before you make a decision about whether it's for you or not. The upcoming LitRPG Books section of the show is really helpful to know what's coming out in the genre in the near future. Overall, it's worth your time.

You can find Ramon on Twitter at @LitRPGPodcast