Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dinosaurs in Fantasy

Today, Tuesday, July 28, is the release date here in the U.S. for a new book by author Victor Milán called The Dinosaur Lords. Ever since the cover was revealed in the Fall of 2014, with brilliant artwork by Richard Anderson and a short blurb from George R.R. Martin across the top, The Dinosaur Lords has been a long anticipated book. Knights riding dinosaurs into battle is an idea and image that has sparked excitement among a lot of fans of fantasy fiction.

My first thought was like everyone else, thinking how cool the idea was, but also thinking that it would have to be done well in order for it to work. If you get real technical, the word dinosaur is not even 200 years old; so how can an author make that work in a piece of fantasy fiction set in a world based on 14TH century Europe? After reading an excerpt consisting of the prologue and the first two chapters, I’ve found that Mr. Milán definitely makes it work. Even though he uses the actual scientific names of the dinosaurs (such as the familiar Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, just to name a few), he makes it work with a text within his secondary world called The Book of True Names. By using the actual names of the dinosaurs it helps the reader have a clear visual of the creatures that grace the pages.

The Dinosaur Lords is the first of a trilogy, with the second installment currently named The Dinosaur Knights, yet to be released. This could be the start of something new in the fantasy genre. Though Victor Milán would not be the first to include dinosaurs in a work of fantasy fiction, he is the first to actually have dinosaurs without making them something different, and actually calling them by their names. The only other piece of epic fantasy fiction that I can think of that used dinosaurs is Ricardo Pinto’s The Stone Dance of the Chameleon series, but they were not called dinosaurs in the books. In those books the beast known as a Huimur was a lot like a Triceratops, and there was another creature, called an Aquar, that was akin to another type of dinosaur, but I don’t know which to compare it to. You can see pictures and excerpts from the books at the author’s website here and here.

Dragons have always been the reptilian creatures that have dominated fantasy fiction, and they will always be. But adding dinosaurs within the genre is just another good thing—if done well. We are yet to see how Mr. Milán’s trilogy will be received and how it will inspire future works within the genre. Fantasy fiction still has the potential to expand and grow, as long as writers are willing to think outside the box.  

The Dragon Ingredient
The Secondary World
Inspirations of Fantasy
Epic Worldbuilding

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What Makes Fantasy Epic? - VIDEO

At the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, Washington this past weekend, there was a panel of fantasy authors discussing the multiple aspects of Epic Fantasy. The panel featured authors Peter Orullian, Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter V. Brett, and Steven Erikson; and it made for an interesting discussion among these authors. See the video below. Enjoy!

Friday, February 20, 2015

George R.R. Martin and Publisher Tom Doherty - VIDEO

Here is a very interesting video of a long interview with George R.R. Martin and Tom Doherty from October 23rd of last year at the Brown University Library in Providence, Rhode Island. It is rare to see two giants in fantasy fiction (one a publisher and the other an author) sitting together and discussing the genre. The bulk of the conversation is centered around Martin (of course) and his A Song of Ice and Fire series, but having Tom Doherty (founder of Tor Books) discussing the fantasy genre and the industry is really great. 

Now, this video is over 90 minutes long (you can pretty much skip the first 5 minutes), so you want to make some time and grab a snack before you watch. 

A Discussion Panel of Fantasy Authors - VIDEO 
How A Game of Thrones Changed Fantasy...or Did It? - VIDEO 
Fantasy Authors Discuss the Genre & Writing - VIDEO

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Are Fantasy Readers Looking For Heroes?

It seems like we can look back on most fantastical tales and read about the hero’s journey in some form or another. Mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell explored this well in his monomyth, which, after the study of much of the world’s myths and stories, concluded that all of these tales, from the Epic of Gilgamesh to The Odyssey to the Arthurian Legend to modern works of literature, pretty much all tell the same kind of story—the hero’s journey. We see the same type of story in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Sword of Shannara trilogy, The Eye of the World, Harry Potter, the Mistborn trilogy, and, though not yet complete, we can see signs of it in The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss.

What draws a reader to fantasy fiction? Is it adventure, magic, or heroism? Fantasy fiction, which draws much inspiration from mythology, mostly carries the same principles of a character—a character who comes from common, humble beginnings and braves a quest (often reluctantly) that changes them and their world. For the most part, the typical reader of fantasy is looking for a story to escape in—to venture into a new world where they expect to be swept away until the end. The only way for the reader to experience this adventure is through the character(s) of the story—a person who they can walk beside, or become, and take on the world and challenges that befall.

Are fantasy readers trying to escape the mundane by entering an adventure, almost becoming that hero through the duration of the story—seeking to be that hero? Is there an inner desire for purpose, a reason in which we feed on the accomplishments and successes of the fictional hero—wanting to be heroes ourselves? I would like to think that is what we desire, because the mundane life is monotonous and strenuous. We must escape, and experience some kind of success—be it through a fictional hero or by being inspired by the hero.

Stories where the characters are rich and believable give us just a pinch—a smidgen—of reality, where we can put ourselves in that character’s position and experience the moment. When reading about young Kvothe’s life in the The Kingkiller Chronicle we can live those moments where he is down out of his luck, or where he is doing amazing things—which may be too amazing, but, hey, it’s fantasy. Same can be said of Kip Guile in Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer series. The flawed heroes of today’s modern fantasy help us believe (or just enjoy) that people like us can overcome or do great feats. Even the “perfect” heroes of fiction, past and present, can make one feel good.

The epics of old and the mythologies throughout history seemed to have always painted (at least one part of) mankind as conqueror of monsters and gods. Mankind is weak and frail, yet the creators of myth, legend and fantasy have always strived to show mankind as victors over great forces; over challenges that, in the natural, would destroy any man—even heroes. There’s something in us that strives to be victorious; to be something more than what we are. Today’s fantasy is a continuation of those myths and epics that inspired culture and literature—yet we’re having more fun with it than just taking it seriously. But, every now and then, a writer will take the fun a little deeper, inspiring and touching a mass of readers.

In closing, the fantasy reader is basically looking for a story to enjoy. But a strong character that can come to life in the reader’s mind becomes someone in which the reader hopes will excel to hero status. So, yes, I would say that fantasy readers are looking for heroes.