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Bethelamon
August 10th, 2007, 08:33 AM
To what extent are your fantasy stories actually 'fantasy'?

I don't want my own work to be too 'fantasy', as in I don't want it to conform to all the old cliches that critics of the genre would love to use as ammunition.

I would not want it to just be pidgeon-holed into the fantasy genre, just for fans of that specific genre....
Not that Im ashamed of fantasy, or anything!
It's just I don't want it to be disregarded by the casual reader as 'one of those swords and sorcery things' if you know what I mean.
Obviously it IS fantasy, as it is set in an imaginary world, but there is a limit to it. There is not so much fantasy that the 'casual reader' can't connect with it, as there are dragons and wizards and evil kings flying around zapping eachother...
Instead, ideally I would want the 'casual reader' to be able to read it and forget that it set in an imaginary world, as they connect with the ever-so-ordinary characters and what they are doing.

So yeah, how much fantasy IS in my story?
There is no magic, thats the first thing. No wizards. No sorcerers. No magical items. No enchanted stone with which you can rule the world, or anything like that.
However, there USED to be magic. Not in the sense that people ran around with wands... but rather, there are mythologies of this world, much like the mythologies and religions of our world... the thing is, they are REAL.
The religions are based on the legends of the Saints. And like our world, there is a good deal of aethiesm (is that spelled right?). There are churches who preach the religion of the Saints. There are people who follow these churches devoutedly, and believe in the Saints, much like people today believe in the miracles of Jesus. There are people who worship (ie go to church on a sunday) and are involved in a religion, but if you ask them whether the Saints really exsisted (ie did Jesus really exsist?) they will say "Im not sure, but I do know that religion helps me". And there are a great deal of aethiests who believe religion is a big hoax, and the Saints are just old wives tales.
The truth? The Saints DID exsist, and what the religions preach is real. The closest it gets to 'magic' is the Saints and what they did, but they didn't really hold great power. They were celestial beings, but they lived much as normal men. Their role was really just to lead mankind. Eventually they left, and thus any rumour of 'magic' dissapeared.

So, there is 'magic' in my world in the same way that Jesus was 'magic' in our world. Several thousands of years ago.
Besides that, it is as mundane as our own world.

However the key theme of my story is religion, and the truth behind it.
The main character begins as a devout aethiest, until he learns the truth.

There are no great deeds as well. The main character doesn't save the world. No one does. The main character doesn't become a king, he doesn't even become famous.
The events that take place DO have great effects on the continent the story is set in, but its more political and theological than world-saving, and it goes on unseen.

There is no good v evil. No-one is without sin, so there is no glorious leader of mankind... and there is no evil bastard who likes to eat babies and enslave millions. The closest it gets to EVIL is a certain political/theological leader, but he is more of a religious extremist than just someone who takes great pleasure in causing misery to the population of the world, as a hobby when he's not ruling his kingdom from his dark castle.
So there is no good race and no evil race, they are all the same. There is war, but that's down to the political leaders rather than the people of one country hating the people of another country!

So the only way that it is 'fantasy' is that I've created a new world for it. But its not a magical world populated by orcs and dragons. Its much like a late medieval / early renaissance Europe. The protagonist doesn't go off hunting demons and slaying evil scum, instead he gets involved in gang warfare and political conflict, trying to survive in a world which really isn't very nice. But not because its populated by dwarves and goblins, but because its populated by human beings.

I suppose the events of the story are kinda big, or it would be pointless creating a new world of it. What would be the point in writing a story about the romance between two estranged lovers, set in one city, and then creating an entire new world for it? No point.
For there to be a new world, I feel you do need to have a story which concerns most of it, rather than just one town.
But as I said, the story isn't about saving this world and becoming an international hero.

So to what extent is your writing 'fantasy'?

I guess what Im saying, is I want my 'fantasy' to appeal to those outside the genre, by being realistic and much like our own world. I don't want to conform to cliches.

bassinstinct
August 10th, 2007, 12:43 PM
That's an interesting question. I've tangled with the issue myself. In fact, when I was busy writing up the press releases for my novel, Solstice (http://www.verytragicalmirth.com/solstice.htm), I kept struggling with how exactly I was going to classify it. At first, I was saying it was a fusion of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But then I got to thinking what was "fantasy" about it. After all, it's set in a very contemporary/near future U.S., so even the whole notion of a unique "fantasy world" was blown right out of the water.

But the novel does have a very fantasy-based premise: that people called Scribes have the power to make anything they write come true. There's never an explanation given (at least, not a scientific one) as to why this power exists, only that Scribes have used it for generations, for good and ill.

I think that's why I ended up classifying the novel as speculative fiction, since it was a sort of sci-fi/fantasy fusion. And yet, for some reason, I can't bring myself to even say the novel has a fantasy element to it. Maybe I'm afraid of being pigeon-holed too, or maybe I'm battling my own misconceptions of what fantasy is.

James Somers
August 10th, 2007, 03:23 PM
That's an interesting question. I've tangled with the issue myself. In fact, when I was busy writing up the press releases for my novel, Solstice (http://www.verytragicalmirth.com/solstice.htm), I kept struggling with how exactly I was going to classify it. At first, I was saying it was a fusion of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But then I got to thinking what was "fantasy" about it. After all, it's set in a very contemporary/near future U.S., so even the whole notion of a unique "fantasy world" was blown right out of the water.

But the novel does have a very fantasy-based premise: that people called Scribes have the power to make anything they write come true. There's never an explanation given (at least, not a scientific one) as to why this power exists, only that Scribes have used it for generations, for good and ill.

I think that's why I ended up classifying the novel as speculative fiction, since it was a sort of sci-fi/fantasy fusion. And yet, for some reason, I can't bring myself to even say the novel has a fantasy element to it. Maybe I'm afraid of being pigeon-holed too, or maybe I'm battling my own misconceptions of what fantasy is.

You guys might want to remember that one of the things a publisher will look for in the "marketability" of a manuscript is where it fits in the genre categories--they want it to be easily defined so they can figure out how they would market it.

Off the wall--isn't necessarily a good thing in that situation. At least grounded enough in one genre so that it could be classified, is a good thing in that respect.

James

Banger
August 10th, 2007, 03:57 PM
I don't really think of my stories in terms of how fantastical or not they are as I'm writing them. Really, it isn't relevant to me. I get an idea, I develop it, and it becomes what it becomes. The only time I worry about such labels is when I'm trying to find a publisher for it after I have finished it, and at that point it's more a matter of finding someone who might be interested in the story rather than trying to tailor the story to a particular target audience.

ironchef texmex
August 11th, 2007, 10:07 AM
This isn't a knock on Bethelamon, but with all the handwringing about fantasy cliche's I feel like someone should point something out.

You know, it possible to make your fantasy writing too mundane.....

Okay, so you don't want a halfling orphan who is really the prince of the realm in hiding. Fine. But if you go the other way to the extreme, and make your "hero" a banker who spends his days writing numbers on vellum, pining away over the woman he's too shy to ever court, and having an emotional breakdown because he spilled ink on his tunic.... well, that's not really fantasy any more.

I don't write much in the fantasy genre, but I like to read it and what I enjoy is being transported to a world very unlike this one. I like evil overlords and mysterious wizards, strange creatures, magic items and worlds on the brink of destruction.

I think I'm one of those who likes his fantasy geared more toward the fantastic, and I make no apologies for that.

Takoren
August 11th, 2007, 01:21 PM
That doesn't sound like that's what Bethelamon is writing about at all. I think what he's describing could end up being very interesting.

However, I also want magic in my fantasy, and when I write, I include magic. I don't like to overuse it, and I don't like it when others overuse it.

What ironchef texmex said is very true. It is possible to underuse certain elements. After all, what is fantasy if it isn't fantastical? Otherwise it's just allegory. What Bethelamon described does sound very interesting, but if I were a publisher I wouldn't classify it as fantasy.

ironchef texmex
August 11th, 2007, 03:31 PM
That doesn't sound like that's what Bethelamon is writing about at all. I think what he's describing could end up being very interesting.

No, I don't think his idea sounds like that either, thus the disclaimer at the beginning of the post. He could create a world haunted by magic (or something like that) and still make it every bit as fantastic as middle earth.

My point is that although I love books that break the mold, some fantasy writers might want to think twice before they decide that extracting every ounce of monsters and magic is somehow an inherent good. If fantasy writing has a strength over other genres, I would think it's that it allows writers to toy with things that could never possibly be -- like systems of magic and vibrant human civilizations even though humankind is nowhere near the top of the planet's food chain. Unlike scifi, where writers -- for the most part -- are constrained by real world potentialities.

Bethelamon
August 11th, 2007, 06:30 PM
You know, it possible to make your fantasy writing too mundane.....

Okay, so you don't want a halfling orphan who is really the prince of the realm in hiding. Fine. But if you go the other way to the extreme, and make your "hero" a banker who spends his days writing numbers on vellum, pining away over the woman he's too shy to ever court, and having an emotional breakdown because he spilled ink on his tunic.... well, that's not really fantasy any more.

Of course it is. As I said in my first post, what would be the point in creating a new world just as the setting for a teen romance?
You obviously need SOMETHING fantastical.
And my story thing does certainly have fantastical elements. But not nearly as much as compared to other fantasy stories.
I guess a good simplified way of putting it is it is set in a 'mundane' world, but the TRUTH is this world has a history of 'magic', and the narrative is about finding out this truth.
The 'magic' takes the form of the mythologies that religions are based on, rather than wizards and dragons.
Thats a real overgeneralisation, but sums it up rather well.


What Bethelamon described does sound very interesting, but if I were a publisher I wouldn't classify it as fantasy.

Really? Thats very interesting, and I would be very interested in hearing whether other people consider my idea actual 'fantasy'. It is not full of 'magic'. But it is set in a made-up world... does that make it fantay?
Either way I don't mind. I write the story, and let everyone else decide what genre it goes under.


He could create a world haunted by magic (or something like that) and still make it every bit as fantastic as middle earth.

That's an interesting way of seeing it... haunted by magic....

Mock
August 11th, 2007, 10:34 PM
Um, my fantasy is basically pre-modern (i.e. ancient/medieval) society with magic mixed in. But I like to use magic sparingly, so when it hits, it hits hard.

Takoren
August 12th, 2007, 08:12 PM
I guess I would have to read the book before I decided what category it belonged in. Obviously magic is not the only qualifier to make a novel fit into the fantasy category.

By itself, you described an allegorical tale, which isn't really fantasy. Then again, hearing a description isn't the same thing as reading it.

I also use magic very sparingly. It bothers me a bit when it seems magic is being worked on every other page.

That's part of what I like about LOTR.

Another thing that clearly says a novel is fantasy is to include sentient, non-human characters. They don't have to be magical creatures. I have two made-up species that are two of the major good-guys and neither of them are magical at all.