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KatG
April 2nd, 2007, 01:21 PM
I figured I do a new, short thread on Rusty's type of story, since the original topic was medieval settings, which he doesn't have.

Most fantasy fiction, category and non-category -- let's say 80 percent -- is also suspense fiction. While horror is a type of suspense all its own, the rest usually fall into the categories of mystery, thriller, adventure and war. Secondary world epic writers favor war, though not exclusively. Contemporary writers, again not exclusively, tend to be most interested in mystery and thriller stories. Supernatural fantasy is a new term, used to indicate contemporary stories that use supernatural elements. (Although, you could argue it's simply a new label for contemporary fantasy, so that it will sound new and different and sparkly, and attract people's attention.)

Supernatural fantasy writers are particularly interested in mystery and thriller stories. So most of the common elements you might find, have to do with suspense fiction. As I was trying to come up with a list, I realized that I too kept drifting into plot stuff. Which I think just shows how intertwined all the aspects of fiction writing are. But I have tried to stick closely to setting in this list, which is not meant to be an indictment of anything. It's just for fun.

1. The setting will make use of the contemporary time period, usually Earth or an alternate version of Earth.

2. The setting will be urban, and make use of isolated, spooky spaces such as dark alleyways, warehouses, basements, parking garages, subway and sewar tunnels, buildings under construction or renovation, empty churches, or possibly abandoned mental hospitals.

3. Guns will be present and will be fired. There will also be some more exotic weapons, such as crossbows, Maori war clubs, that sort of thing.
4. A significant chunk of the story, if not the majority of it, will take place at night.

5. Investigative personnel -- journalists, P.I.'s, cops, spies, military -- will be involved in the story.

6. There will be a shady and/or eccentric information source who operates out of a space that is cluttered and contains strange objects.

7. There will be at least one dangerous magical creature, which can be anything from a swarm of insects to a wolf pack to something large and reptilian.

8. At least one scene will take place in the offices of law enforcement.

9. Doors and windows will be busted in.

10. The odds are high of the appearance of one of the following: vampires, werepeople, witches/sorcerors including voodoo, zombies, demons, ghosts, fairies, and animals of more than normal significance. Or possibly all of them.

11. Prominent landmarks will be pointed out and described. They may serve as locations for some scenes, especially if they are someplace high.

12. Ancient runes or writing will show up.

13. There's a fifty/fifty chance of a science lab setting at some point.


So Rusty, how'd you do? :)

Hereford Eye
April 2nd, 2007, 03:36 PM
The setting will make use of the contemporary time period, usually Earth or an alternate version of Earth.
Once you specify contemporary, what other planet could you be talking about? You either get Earth normal or Earth alternative; can't see any other choices for contemporary.
I know that I sin more than most when it comes to editing but to discover a typo in a KatG post is historic; I wish to claim the prize for its discovery:

subway and sewar tunnels,

SPOILER:
Shouldn't you have used this format for describing Holbrook's current WIP? :D

AgentRustyBones
April 2nd, 2007, 06:13 PM
First of all...nice list Kat! I certainly appreciate it!

Here are my answers:

1. The setting will make use of the contemporary time period, usually Earth or an alternate version of Earth.

Yes, definitely. In the blog, I try to keep events as close to real time as possible, set in this world, at this time.

2. The setting will be urban, and make use of isolated, spooky spaces such as dark alleyways, warehouses, basements, parking garages, subway and sewar tunnels, buildings under construction or renovation, empty churches, or possibly abandoned mental hospitals.


Yes, many of my settings are urban, and when they are, the places are usually in the spooky places...a Hialeah, Florida warehouse district...but I haven't stuck solely to urban, I like spooky wilderness settings, and have recently had a scene set in a suburban McMansion development as well (a really spooky place!)...

3. Guns will be present and will be fired. There will also be some more exotic weapons, such as crossbows, Maori war clubs, that sort of thing.

Guns are definitely present (although Rusty refuses to use them himself against any foe--he was killed by a crook using his own Service weapon before he was brought back in zombie form). His trademark weapons are a pair of collapsible metal batons that spring from sheaths hidden on his forearms. He also now carries a version of Excalibur for the really big baddies.

4. A significant chunk of the story, if not the majority of it, will take place at night.

Absolutely. He's too ugly to go out much in broad daylight, he attracts too many questions with his Frankenstein like mug. Significant portions of the story take place in Shamanistic otherworlds, including the Shadowland--a place that connects 'reality' with the various other dimensions/worlds/planes.

5. Investigative personnel -- journalists, P.I.'s, cops, spies, military -- will be involved in the story.


Yes. Rusty is an FBI Special Agent.

6. There will be a shady and/or eccentric information source who operates out of a space that is cluttered and contains strange objects.

Not really. Rusty has many allies, some of which may be slightly shady, but none who fit this convention.

7. There will be at least one dangerous magical creature, which can be anything from a swarm of insects to a wolf pack to something large and reptilian.


All sorts of dangerous magickal creatures, from Grendel and his mother (Ma Grendel-as designated by one commentor), to doppelgangers, a dragon, trolls and will-o-wisp type creatures.

8. At least one scene will take place in the offices of law enforcement.


Yes, although these scenes are fairly infrequent...Rusty's pretty independent as an agent. He lets other agents handle the paperwork and reports.

9. Doors and windows will be busted in.

Hmmm...I suppose it has happened, but not very often.

10. The odds are high of the appearance of one of the following: vampires, werepeople, witches/sorcerors including voodoo, zombies, demons, ghosts, fairies, and animals of more than normal significance. Or possibly all of them.

Let's see--Vampires: yes (1), Werepeople: yes (1), Witches/sorcerors: Oh yes, lots of those, including a Vodoun priest/shaman as an enemy, many witches as allies. Zombies: yes-See Rusty himself, but also as foes. Demons: yes, Ghosts: yes, Fairy/Elf/Lady of the Lake: yes. Animals of more than normal significance: yes.

Let's throw in Angel-like beings as enemies, a Phoenix ally, a floating, fuzzy orb, and witch familiar animal companions.

11. Prominent landmarks will be pointed out and described. They may serve as locations for some scenes, especially if they are someplace high.

Landmarks have been used, some of the quite prominent, but mostly these places have been low.

12. Ancient runes or writing will show up.


Recently, yes.

13. There's a fifty/fifty chance of a science lab setting at some point.


Oh yes. The NecroLab was where Rusty was reborn /built/ activated. He hated it and helped to terminate it.

Bear in mind that I answering these questions in relation to the entire Rusty Bones canon, of which there is now enough raw material to comprise between three and five complete novels once it is refined and rewritten in novel format--one novel is nearly complete and will be submitted within a couple of months.

My goal is to have a series of Agent Rusty Bones novels while maintaining the blog for ongoing stories and interaction with fans.

That was really good Kat. Maybe a series of threads could be put together that list the conventions for some of these other genres, sci-fi, horror, etc. I have really enjoyed responding to this one and the responses our other friends have provided in the other thread.

Doug
aka Agent Rusty Bones

James Carmack
April 2nd, 2007, 10:08 PM
Yeah, reading the list whilst thinking of Rusty's story, one word came to mind: zuboshi ("bullseye"). ^_^ Not that there's anything wrong with that. For the most part, we all have the same skeleton. It's all the other stuff that makes us unique.

Let me give it a shot using the flagship title of my Earth Arc (rather than using the whole daggone canon like I did for Rusty's list).

1. Yep. More or less our Earth. There are a few changes for the sake of the plot, but I try to keep it mostly the same.

2. Not really, no. The story actually takes place in a little podunk town. There's not much menacing to the setting at all. The fourth story is a bit different, though. Things are more run-down and fit more with the whole creepy vibe.

3. Until the fourth story, not much in the way of weapons at all, but the truly fantastical elements don't really show up except for the second and fourth stories.

4. Daggone fourth story, yes, but not the others.

5. Fourth story. ^o^

6. Eccentric? Yes. Shady? No.

7. Second and fourth, yes.

8. Got me there. It happens when the cops find a dozen kids gathered around a dead teacher.

9. Here and there, but not too often. Dang things get in the way, after all. ^_^

10. No vamps, weres or zombies, but a couple witches, some ghosts and a few animals that are more than they seem.

11. No real focus on landmarks. No playing around high places either. Daggone acrophobic story. ^o^

12. No, but our heroes don't exactly get mixed up with any artifacts or anything like that. #6 gets to play with all that cool stuff, but never shares with the audience. Kechi.

13. Tails. Or heads. Whichever side the science lab didn't call.

World Builder
April 2nd, 2007, 11:05 PM
I haven't worked on my Contemporary Fantasy in a while, but might as well play along with what I got.

1) Yes, assuming Ohio counts, it's Earth.

2) Like James, mine is small-town for the most part. Local settings include rusting steel plants, abandoned coal mines, ruined ghost towns overgrown with spiny hawthorns. The main character does take excursions out of town to larger cities, amusement parks, and the sunken derlicts at the bottom of Lake Erie.

3) No guns as of yet, or any physical weapons for that matter. In the local folklore the story is based on (incoporated into the backstory), there is a rather infamous gun-related murder.

4) Come to think of it, not much happens at night. All my character seems to have healthy sleeping habits.

5) No investigative professions in the Present, though the main character (a high school student) is trying to find evidence that the antagonists used magic to kill his mentor, the high school science teacher, who moonlights as a witch doctor. One of the prominent backstory characters was a Judge.

6) The eccentric informant, in this case, is a clutter himself, a vast seething conglomeration of leeches and lampreys, roughly organized into the form of an anthropomorphic puma, as evil as he is wise, and operating out of those sunken shipwrecks I mentioned earlier.

7) There are a few monsters scattered about, mostly as set dressings rather than obstacles to be overcome. In the story itself, barring some major change in a future draft, the protagonist doesn't go toe-to-toe with any significant beast.

8) Hmm... law enforcement office... not as of yet, though its quite possible.

9) Quite sure this will happen eventually for a variety of reasons.

10) Vampires, in a way; Werepeople, no; witches and wizards (or Witch Doctors), prominent; zombies, no; ghosts, yes; demons, a variation of Asmodeus appears -- oddly enough he slipped in as the protagonist's reverse-psychology conscious; fairies, by some accounts (depending on how one's mind tries to visualize the magical energies of the world. The protagonist pictures it as glowing dragonflies, his mentor saw it as rose petals count on the wind); animals of more than normal significance, yes. In addition, there's a native american moster who was converted to Catholicism by French trades and has proclaimed himself Pope Tonkin, God's representative to the supernatural creatures of the New World.

11) Prominent landmarks are used on occasion, such as Cedar Point, and later in the story I'll get around to using some Pittsburgh landmarks.

12) No ancient runes or writing that I can think of offhand.

13) Does a high school science class count?

WB

James Carmack
April 2nd, 2007, 11:38 PM
6) The eccentric informant, in this case, is a clutter himself, a vast seething conglomeration of leeches and lampreys, roughly organized into the form of an anthropomorphic puma, as evil as he is wise, and operating out of those sunken shipwrecks I mentioned earlier.

If I was a publisher, you would've sold me with that and that alone. If you've got any talented artists in your inner circle or happen to be a fair artist yourself, be sure to attach an illustration with any manuscript submission. ^_^

Tony Williams
April 3rd, 2007, 09:27 AM
Hmm. I think that hardly any of Kat's list applies to my favourite contemporary fantasy, Sheri Tepper's The Marianne Trilogy. But then, that is quite unlike anything else I've ever read.

From what I can recall (I read these a long time ago) it also doesn't seem to apply very much to other contemporary fantasies which I've enjoyed, such as R A MacAvoy's Tea With Black Dragon and its sequel, Twisting the Rope, or Greg Bear's The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage.

Which suggests that maybe I like my fantasies to be strange and unpredictable...

KatG
April 3rd, 2007, 01:44 PM
While we were throwing around the word "conventions," it isn't really accurate here. It is a word that I dislike being used for discussing sff for that reason, along with "tropes," which is used incorrectly in the same way as convention. The list is not a list of conventions, but of common elements that may get used in supernatural suspense fantasies. A convention is a demand, a rule, that you have to have in order to be acceptable. Writers don't have to use any of these items in their list, but they frequently do, because they serve the story they are trying to write, in this case, suspense.


Once you specify contemporary, what other planet could you be talking about? You either get Earth normal or Earth alternative; can't see any other choices for contemporary.

You can do a contemporary secondary world story. Or you can do a partial one, like Rusty, though I don't know if his shadowland realm is contemporary or not. See, this is why I found it funny when people were freaked out about Mievielle's city and trains. Writers have already been doing this sort of thing. But in the 1980's, the contemporary writers did mostly focus on Earth and those doing a secondary world tended to go pre-industrial, so I guess it's easy for people to now get confused. But you can write a contemporary secondary world, or a futuristic fantasy or futuristic secondary world, and some people have. The Witch World novels, for instance, and King's Gunslinger series, especially the first one. Those were written way back.

Right now, there has been a rash of contemporary secondary world fantasy novels, focused on cityscapes. These were initially called New Weird, but since that seems to have been mostly junked as a term, the publishers are now calling them by the name "urban" fantasy, which used to be the alternative name for contemporary -- which was a silly idea as quite a bit of the contemporary fantasy was not set in cities but in podunk towns like Carmack's or in the country. So now it seems to be going to better use for these contemporary, urban secondary world stories.

Now Sue's new work is historical and in the past, it would have been considered contemporary fantasy, because there were only two big time period groups -- epic (pre-industrial,) and contemporary (post-industrial,) and her work's in the World Wars era. But, now the pie is being sliced different ways, so she's safest calling it a historical fantasy, so that people know what she's talking about. :)

And I do typos all the time.


I think that hardly any of Kat's list applies to my favourite contemporary fantasy, Sheri Tepper's The Marianne Trilogy. But then, that is quite unlike anything else I've ever read.

From what I can recall (I read these a long time ago) it also doesn't seem to apply very much to other contemporary fantasies which I've enjoyed, such as R A MacAvoy's Tea With Black Dragon and its sequel, Twisting the Rope, or Greg Bear's The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage.

Which suggests that maybe I like my fantasies to be strange and unpredictable...

There's a sequel to Tea with the Black Dragon??? I have to get ahold of that one. Your fantasy choices aren't strange or unpredictable, they are just contemporary fantasies. Again, this is a list of common elements that may appear in supernatural suspense fantasy, not all of contemporary fantasy. So a lot of contemporary fantasies aren't going to have much of this stuff -- Charles de Lint, Jonathan Carroll, Pamela Dean, John Crowley, James Blaylock maybe. You're not going to find it in Harry Potter.

Whereas others, who are doing other sorts of stories, like Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Kelly Armstrong, etc., they're going to have more of this sort of material. Rusty, writing about an FBI agent, is playing in that ballpark. Others may not be. And yes, I could have added wilderness locations, if I'd been thinking about it. :)

Holbrook
April 3rd, 2007, 02:12 PM
If I was a publisher, you would've sold me with that and that alone. If you've got any talented artists in your inner circle or happen to be a fair artist yourself, be sure to attach an illustration with any manuscript submission. ^_^

I got a vision of a cross between the villian in "Nightmare before Christmas" and the crew of the flying dutchman's ship in POTC. Something to be aware of perhaps.

Also I have heard a number of agents and publishers say they are not interested in seeing any artwork/maps with a submission, in fact some state that is a reason for a straight rejection. Only send them what they ask for is my motto.



Now Sue's new work is historical and in the past, so she's safest calling it a historical fantasy, so that people know what she's talking about. :)


I am calling it something else at the moment. ROTFL. I am struggling to finish a chapter as usual.

AgentRustyBones
April 3rd, 2007, 06:15 PM
Yeah, I agree with KatG, in that my use of the word 'conventions' was probably not the best. Common elements might be a better way of describing these lists.

I started Rusty's story with a blog, with only the faintest hope of turning it into a book or series of books. I hadn't read much in the sub-genre of supernatural fantasy, or contemporary fantasy in general.

I had vague idea that I wanted the overall story to be similar in some aspects to the pulp fiction detective stories, but made up the story and rules as I went along.

This has required more than a little backtracking as I find and fix little inconsistencies (such as correcting the name of a character that I hadn't realized I'd given before, so I renamed him mid-way through the story!) and closing off little dead-end strands of storyline as I go.

Like I said way back in the other thread, I've read great stories (and am hoefully writing one) that uses many of the common elements of genre, and I've read great stories that had very few of these elements. The opposite can also be said.

Any, I certainly appreciate the list you did for this one, KatG!

Doug
aka Agent Rusty Bones