I feel like a lot of recent portal fantasy has been about the kids’ trauma, either in the fantasy world or, after they come back, in the real world.
But I only have a few data points, and I may be overgeneralizing, so I’m curious to hear what y’all think. Does this seem to you like a trend in recent portal fantasy? Do you have recommendations for other examples and/or counterexamples?
(It’s fine to recommend your own work.)
Here are the portal fantasy works I’m thinking of, in chronological order by publication date:
- Jo Walton: “Relentlessly Mundane” (2000)
- Adults who went through a portal as kids. This was published much earlier than my other examples, so probably doesn’t count as part of a trend, but I figured I might as well include it anyway.
- Seanan McGuire: Wayward Children series (2016-)
- Set partly in a “boarding school for children who have journeyed to magical lands and been […] returned to the ‘real’ world.” Some of the fantasy worlds are traumatic in themselves, and most of the kids are (also) traumatized by having had to leave behind their fantasy worlds.
- Sarah Rees Brennan: In Other Lands (2017)
- This one is a counterexample: it’s not about the trauma either of being in the fantasy world or of returning. (If I remember right, it also allows much easier and more frequent transition between the worlds than most portal fantasies.)
- Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans: Die (2018-2021)
- A traumatic fantasy world, traumatic ongoing stuff in the real world, and a traumatic return to the fantasy world as adults. Though this is specifically in the subgenre of roleplaying gamers being transported to game worlds.
- Iona Datt Sharma, “All Worlds Left Behind” (2021)
- This one isn’t about the kids’ trauma; more about diaspora and loss of connection with sourceland. So it’s a counterexample, but I feel like it nonetheless has some connection/relation to the theme of a disconnect between two worlds.
- Iori Kusano, “can i offer you a nice egg in this trying time” (2022)
- An adult who was once a portal kid, now having a hard time in the real world. (This story led me indirectly to learn of the Japanese isekai subgenre of portal fantasy and sf.)
Anyway, thoughts welcome.