“26 authors—13 women and 13 men—as well as an editor and a literary agent”, including the likes of David Anthony Durham, Steven Erikson, Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson, attempt to answer the questions posed by Clarkesworld Magazine: What is at the heart of Epic Fantasy? and Why do you write Epic fantasy? From Durham’s answer to the second question, this bit, which also explains why his work, despite its massive, massive flaws, is still so attractive
I love the unlimited creative possibilities of fantasy. I’d written three historical novels before starting the Acacia series. The third, Pride of Carthage, was about Hannibal’s war with Rome. It was a massive conflict with amazing events and twists of fortune and inspired leadership. It was epic. Leaving that novel, I wanted another epic. The world building I’d done for the ancient world got me craving writing in an imagined world where I had more freedom to mash things together that were never mashed together in actual human history. How could I write a novel that mixed opium addiction with the Atlantic slave trade in a pre-industrial world that includes Nordic, African, European and Asian inspired cultures in the same empire, and introduce a foreign invasion that endangers them all, despite their differences? If I was writing straight history that wouldn’t be possible. A lot of historical writers would probably never want to do something like that. I did, though. Fantasy was the obvious choice of genre that would allow me to recast all those things in one big package.