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choppy
August 15th, 2006, 09:59 AM
You'll have to excuse the following rant. I keep telling myself it has nothing to do with my recent short story rejections - nothing at all.

While perusing the submission guidelines of half a dozen different markets for fantasy short stories, I'm starting to notice a trend. They all seem to be tired of "classical medieval western European settings involving knights or barbarians." While at the same time they're looking for "sword and sorcery" or "heroic fanstasy."

Maybe I just can't get my head out of the box. But is the medieval setting a staple of the fantasy genre? I don't mean to say that you CAN'T write fantasy set elsewhere - far from it. But come on - isn't the reason people are attracted to the fantasy setting in the first place because they want to read stories about knights weilding swords? It's been my experience that if you move too far out of the box - your audience will yawn, shrug, and ask 'so where are the swords?'

Sorry for the rant. Any thoughts? What do you do to move out of Downtown Boxville?

Hereford Eye
August 15th, 2006, 11:59 AM
Why not change the locale? Take it to Asia or India or Australia or to a world that never existed. Japan, China, Korea, all have rich sword and knighthood bases. Check Radthorne's tales for a good example. I'm certain you know of Sean Russell's work.
Hell, take it to Africa. No one's done that yet.

johnkarr
August 15th, 2006, 12:03 PM
Hey Chop,

Doesn't have to be knights per se, but when I read fantasy there had better be some kind of blade action involved, threat to life, and preferably a bit of dark magic in some form.

Fantasy in modern realms can be ok if done right, but I want to get out of the modern world, not plunked back into it.

Good luck with the story(ies). Rejections are continuous but there are glimmers along the way.

Mock
August 15th, 2006, 06:41 PM
hey choppy i got a question: what's your favorite time period in history?

KatG
August 15th, 2006, 07:41 PM
You'll have to excuse the following rant. I keep telling myself it has nothing to do with my recent short story rejections - nothing at all.

While perusing the submission guidelines of half a dozen different markets for fantasy short stories, I'm starting to notice a trend. They all seem to be tired of "classical medieval western European settings involving knights or barbarians." While at the same time they're looking for "sword and sorcery" or "heroic fanstasy."

Maybe I just can't get my head out of the box. But is the medieval setting a staple of the fantasy genre? I don't mean to say that you CAN'T write fantasy set elsewhere - far from it. But come on - isn't the reason people are attracted to the fantasy setting in the first place because they want to read stories about knights weilding swords? It's been my experience that if you move too far out of the box - your audience will yawn, shrug, and ask 'so where are the swords?'

Sorry for the rant. Any thoughts? What do you do to move out of Downtown Boxville?

Interesting on the magazines, and no. People are attracted to fantasy because people like fantasy, the setting is not the point. Contemporary fantasy, for instance, does not use a medieval setting or swords, and a lot of fans like that. :) But the medieval setting is a staple for historical fantasy or secondary world fantasy certainly, because it is the setting given over to fairy tales. But there are a lot of authors in those sub-categories who don't use it, or don't use it regularly.

So what the magazine seems to be saying is we don't want any medieval European settings, which is sort of, well, short-sighted, I guess I would say. But they're not putting a ban on swords. Swords were well in use up to about World War I. And they don't seem to be banning ancient cultures, like say the Babylonians, or ancient Greeks, which gives you plenty of barbarian leverage. Just put everybody in tunics and call them Maximus.

But what's interesting about it is that they are asking for S&S and heroic fantasy, whatever that is. Sword & sorcery declined as a commonly used term because people used it as a vulgar insult, instead of just a name for adventure fantasy in a pre-industrial setting. :) If you were labelled S&S after awhile, it meant your stuff was trashy, inferior, and never mind respected authors like Fritz Lieber who used to do the stuff. And heroic fantasy, I would guess, is similar to S&S -- derring do adventure -- Robin Hood. So one would expect the fantasy magazines to say they didn't want any S&S at all rather than ask for it. That they do means that adventure fantasy is definitely making a come-back, which is nice. And makes a ban on medieval settings even more odd.

Mock
August 16th, 2006, 08:55 AM
So what the magazine seems to be saying is we don't want any medieval European settings, which is sort of, well, short-sighted, I guess I would say. But they're not putting a ban on swords. Swords were well in use up to about World War I. And they don't seem to be banning ancient cultures, like say the Babylonians, or ancient Greeks, which gives you plenty of barbarian leverage. Just put everybody in tunics and call them Maximus.

That's exactly what I'm thinking. Take your favorite historical time period (if you have one ;) ) and twist it into fantasy. If you want make similar political situations—take 1800 and you have one nation (France) battling and defeating all the others.

choppy
August 16th, 2006, 07:44 PM
Thanks for all the replies!

Ultimately I think this is just a matter of expanding my horizons a little bit. I have no problem in drawing on other locals for settings. But I can't help but wonder if some publishers are just looking for the same story with different labels. In which case, is it really different?

The story in question is about the seige of a castle. The central dilemma facing the commander of the invading army is that his children are hostages inside. He must take the castle, but if he does, his children will die. Now, let's say I change the setting and local. At Kat's suggestions, the characters now all wear tunics and the commanding officer is re-named Maximus (easy enough to do with Find & Replace)). It's still the same story, isn't it? I could follow Mage's suggestion, make the commander Richard Sharpe and have Her Majesty's 22nd Rifles laying seige to a small town in Spain in 1806. Or the commander could be Colin Farrell with his SWAT team poised outside of a high tech bank. Or Jack Sparrow trying to retake the Black Pearl.

You get the picture, right? What makes this story a story at all is the human element of internal conflict. So given that, how does the locale really make a difference at all?

Sidmyster
August 16th, 2006, 08:11 PM
i think the main thing is characters.....have human characters who are interesting and 'feel' like they belong in the world you are writing.

JBI
August 16th, 2006, 09:11 PM
Try writing in pre industrial Asian countries like Laos and Vietnam. The anthropological stuff, the jungle warfare, and the plot could be very interesting.

KatG
August 16th, 2006, 10:31 PM
Ultimately I think this is just a matter of expanding my horizons a little bit. I have no problem in drawing on other locals for settings. But I can't help but wonder if some publishers are just looking for the same story with different labels. In which case, is it really different?

Nope, which is why it's sort of silly.


The story in question is about the seige of a castle. The central dilemma facing the commander of the invading army is that his children are hostages inside. He must take the castle, but if he does, his children will die. Now, let's say I change the setting and local. At Kat's suggestions, the characters now all wear tunics and the commanding officer is re-named Maximus (easy enough to do with Find & Replace)). It's still the same story, isn't it? I could follow Mage's suggestion, make the commander Richard Sharpe and have Her Majesty's 22nd Rifles laying seige to a small town in Spain in 1806. Or the commander could be Colin Farrell with his SWAT team poised outside of a high tech bank. Or Jack Sparrow trying to retake the Black Pearl.

You get the picture, right? What makes this story a story at all is the human element of internal conflict. So given that, how does the locale really make a difference at all?

Well, it does and it doesn't. The impetus of the story would be the same in each case -- man facing execution of his kids in war/conflict. But the locale, the cultural aspects and, assuming you're not doing secondary world, the historical aspects, do effect the characters, how they act, what happens to them, and the dynamics of the situation -- which can greatly effect theme as well.

For instance, I watched the film "Inside Man" which has bank robbers taking hostages in a bank and police outside waiting. That the robbers can shoot the hostages with a gun and maybe kill them all effects how the police operate. That they can easily kill the police with those guns even though there are only four of them effects how the police operate. That your opponents are holding the children in a stone castle fortress is different from holding them in a wooden ship on the open sea. It's going to produce different strategies -- but more, different thoughts, different emotional tensions. If a story takes place in an Asian culture, the characters are going to be different from characters in a Western culture, and so on.

But that's not really the issue for the magazines. They're worried that their readers won't want stories in a medieval, European setting, because it is considered too traditional, or too fairy taleish or some such thing by those particular fans. Or the editor just really doesn't like stories in that setting. You can certainly write a story for them, but you may not want to abandon your castle story. It sounds interesting.