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  1. #16
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
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    If you're writing a YA-ish dark fantasy and are interested in monsters I'd highly recommend you read Joseph Delaney's "Spook" series (they were sold as "The Wardstone Chronicles" in the States I think).

  2. #17
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fung Koo View Post
    As a general guide to fantastical creatures, what I personally look for is that the characters thinks of themselves as normal and everyone else as weird -- too many fantasy creatures still seem to point out the differences they have relative to humans, when it seems to me it would probably be the other way around. This bugs me especially for creatures that have always been the way they are. Humans that end up as weres or lycanthropes or whathaveyou will have a the split personality/inner turmoil thing going on, no doubt, and compare their fantasy-creature-self to normal humans and their human-self. But for anything that simply is the way it is, then its own experience of the world is normal for it. I think you can come up with any kind of plausible backstory for any type of creature if you start from an unapologetic standpoint that adopts the creatures' reality, their perspective.

    I don't know that a lot of backreading is strictly necessary if you are inventing your own backstories and want to make your creature different from the norm -- just do what seems right. But, if it serves your purpose to use the more common understanding of these creature, then for a good crash course in their most common attributes and typically imagined societies I'd just pick up a copy of the D&D Monster Manual.
    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    But then they might be too "cute." (No, I love D&D manuals. Excellent myth material, accuracy not necessary.)

    It's not that the reading will help him invent. I find that spreading the net helps authors revise their views about what is out there and what authors can do with their own stuff. And that tends to help them invent on their own and solve issues.
    Great ideas, both of you. I do want my creatures to be separate, different, and individual to my tale. But, I also want them to be recognizable to readers as what they are, and to be so beyond just their physical appearance. So I think reading more about others' takes on them will do just what KatG says and it will broaden my understanding of society's concept and understanding of the creatures I plan to use while also showing me what else may be possible.

    However, I agree most with your statement Fung Koo. In so many of the fantasy stories that I read, whether they have a other species in them such as elves, vampires, were's, dwarves, etc. or just different races of humans, ie western and eastern europeans, asians, africans, etc. the perspective is always from that of the normal human---aka. the author's target audience. Making my creatures think they are normal and all others are weird feels like sheer brilliance. Really, why would you see yourself through another's lens? Men don't think of themselves through the eyes of a woman (not when it comes to social, political, moral issues). Why would a faerie say "I am weird because I don't do this, think about this, or I have this and not that". It wouldn't. It would not even cross its mind unless it was having a deep, philosophical discussion with a member of a different species and it was consciously putting itself in the other's mindset. Utter brilliance. Ideas are already popping into my head.

    Quote Originally Posted by PeteMC View Post
    If you're writing a YA-ish dark fantasy and are interested in monsters I'd highly recommend you read Joseph Delaney's "Spook" series (they were sold as "The Wardstone Chronicles" in the States I think).
    Awesome! Thanks, Pete! I looked this up on my phone today at work. The first book seems a little simpler than what I like to read, by which I mean young (it is YA you said). But it doesn't seem too young or simple! It's on the list. Thanks!

  3. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Because you're writing a dark fantasy, not a horror novel. Because you're doing stories that focus on creatures and on multiple dimensions that are built around those creatures. Because you are looking for something more Mythago Wood like than the straight noir suspense of a lot of contemporary fantasy. Each of the books offers different aspects that might be helpful to you regarding those elements. Some are YA and some are written for the adult market. That doesn't mean the horror ones won't be useful. These are just some other books that might be useful. Folklorist fantasy writers, monster hunter stories and multiverse stories are probably going to be of the most use to you.
    I would strongly, strongly, strongly advise reading Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman.

    Bradbury: "Homecoming", "Uncle Einar" and any of "the Family" stories. They were collected in From the Dust Returned; I don't know how much he tinkered with them from their original forms, though I've heard he did do revisions. Also, besides Something This Way Comes, The Halloween Tree. At least some stories from The October Country would be good, too, like "Homecoming" and "The Man Upstairs."

    Neil Gaiman: Coraline; The Graveyard Book



    Randy M.

  4. #19
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedMage View Post
    In so many of the fantasy stories that I read, whether they have a other species in them such as elves, vampires, were's, dwarves, etc. or just different races of humans, ie western and eastern europeans, asians, africans, etc. the perspective is always from that of the normal human---aka. the author's target audience. Making my creatures think they are normal and all others are weird feels like sheer brilliance. Really, why would you see yourself through another's lens?
    Did we do those ones for the reading list? Try Mary Gentle's Grunts, Stan Nicholls' Orcs, and Ari Marmell's Goblin Corps, which I just finished. While these are all satiric, they would probably be useful to you. Also Markus Heitz's Dwarves series. There are innumerable contemporary fantasy novels in which the protagonist is a vampire, fairie or half-fairie, werewolf, etc. Lots of YA does this too. Ben Horton's Monster Republic might be good.

  5. #20
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    KatG--I have no idea if the reading list you gave me had any books like the ones I am thinking of. I have heard of many of the authors, thanks largely to sffworld, and some of the titles you gave. But I've not read any of them yet. I was speaking more in general terms. And it does make sense that monstrous, non-human characters would see themselves through the lens of a human because, well, their creator, the author, is a human. Not an excuse for it, just an explanation.

    What did you think of Marmell's Goblin Corps, by the way? I've seen it on the shelves at the bookstores. I've also seen Orcs and the Dwarves series. And I keep looking for Mary Gentle's name because I at least want to take a look at her ASH: A Secret History, but in none of the numerous different book retailers I've gone to in my city can I even find her name! Yes, that's why Amazon is great. But sometimes I want to look at a page in the middle of the book, one I choose, and not what Amazon has scanned and is willing to show me.

    Anyways, back on topic. I did pick up the first in Delaney's series from the library today. I recently moved so that helped force me to get a new library card (yay!). Haven't started it yet as I'm still working on finishing up my re-read of Holdstock's Mythago Wood before Halloween. Still have about 70 pages or so to go. Hope to have it done by tomorrow night, then I can start the Delaney on Monday. I'm looking forward to it!

  6. #21
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randy M. View Post
    I would strongly, strongly, strongly advise reading Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman.

    Bradbury: "Homecoming", "Uncle Einar" and any of "the Family" stories. They were collected in From the Dust Returned; I don't know how much he tinkered with them from their original forms, though I've heard he did do revisions. Also, besides Something This Way Comes, The Halloween Tree. At least some stories from The October Country would be good, too, like "Homecoming" and "The Man Upstairs."

    Neil Gaiman: Coraline; The Graveyard Book



    Randy M.
    Oh, and thanks for the list Randy! I tried reading the Halloween Tree once a few years ago and I had a hard time getting into it as it felt very juvenile, almost an older children's book, to me. Though, I admittedly did not give it as much of a chance to grab me as I should have. I will put it on my list and do my best to get back to it.

    Of course, I'll also put the others on the list too.

  7. #22
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedMage View Post
    What did you think of Marmell's Goblin Corps, by the way? I've seen it on the shelves at the bookstores. I've also seen Orcs and the Dwarves series. And I keep looking for Mary Gentle's name because I at least want to take a look at her ASH: A Secret History, but in none of the numerous different book retailers I've gone to in my city can I even find her name! Yes, that's why Amazon is great. But sometimes I want to look at a page in the middle of the book, one I choose, and not what Amazon has scanned and is willing to show me.
    Overall, I liked it and probably will go for the next one in the series eventually. The book has a definite ending, which was a surprising ending in some ways, but there are lots of open threads to it. The book itself is episodic -- essentially several connected novellas where the group of goblins are sent on the equivalent of different commando missions. If you're looking for a book about war, Goblin Corps is actually not it, as most of the war stuff happens off-stage. It's more a series of adventures. I think he could have trimmed some stuff, made it shorter, especially the first one where they are on sort of a deadly training mission, but the dialogue is great fun and there is a lot of sly humor. It's a less sentimental book than Nicholls' Orcs, which was also good, but goes equally over the top on the satire. The characters are very well set up -- he's invested a lot in them. But they aren't nice characters for the most part -- it's dark satire. My husband was interested in it because he likes the satiric stuff and military stuff and I told him it was sort of the t.v. series Deadwood crossed with Douglas Addams, and I think that pretty much is the atmosphere of the work. Nicholls goes much more after satirizing D&D directly, but he has the thematic understory of the orc mercenaries trying to find their homeland. The orcs essentially aren't as nasty as people think they are in that one. I haven't read the Dwarves series but they sound interesting. It's nice to have a German author's take on what is mainly a Germanic/Scandanavian legend.

    I have not read Grunts yet either. I have read the first part of Mary Gentle's Ash, since it was split up in some editions, and I didn't like it as much as other Gentle works I've read. Parts of it were really interesting and how she works the alternate history is fascinating, but the characters didn't quite grab me and I thought it dragged a bit for me. (She's good at characters in general though and really good at staging scenes.) She's a bit of a legend, is Gentle. I've been meaning to read her Ilario series. And she has a new novel coming out -- Black Opera -- which sounds exceedingly ambitious.

  8. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by RedMage View Post
    Oh, and thanks for the list Randy! I tried reading the Halloween Tree once a few years ago and I had a hard time getting into it as it felt very juvenile, almost an older children's book, to me. Though, I admittedly did not give it as much of a chance to grab me as I should have. I will put it on my list and do my best to get back to it.

    Of course, I'll also put the others on the list too.
    The Halloween Tree is a children's book, and I had some problems with it, too, but Bradbury deals with Halloween and those things associated with it in ways I think it would be good to be aware of.

    The first two Gaiman books I mentioned are also YA, but I do think a bit smoother than Bradbury's. Still, the Bradbury short stories of the Elliot family are terrific.


    Randy M.

  9. #24
    Registered User mylinar's Avatar
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    Zelazny's take on this

    I'm surprised nobody mentioned Roger Zelazny's 'A Night in the Lonesome October' (or maybe I missed a reference). It was his last book sad to say (he is one of my favorite authors).

    It is a satire, but it has all the elements of the horror genre and is told from the unusual perspective of Jack the Ripper's dog. I don't think it would be much help to RedMage's research but it is a very fast funny read.

  10. #25
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    Randy--it's nice to know I'm not the only one who had trouble with The Halloween Tree. Still, like I said, I didn't give it as much of a chance I should have. It's still on my list and I do intend to revisit it at some point.

    Mylinar--interesting. I will look that one up. Thanks!

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