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.  


Friday, February 6, 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Difference Between High Fantasy & Epic Fantasy

For quite a while now, there has been constant discussion regarding the difference between High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy. Most have concluded that the two are interchangeable, and that there’s not much difference between the two. High Fantasy is not a term that a lot of fantasy authors use these days to describe what they write. Most subgenre terms used today are Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Grim-Dark, YA Fantasy, or just plain Fantasy. High Fantasy has kind of fallen out of term, and has likely evolved into the term Epic Fantasy, which is why the two terms are considered to be interchangeable.

I’m not completely sold on the two terms being the same. I agree that High Fantasy is a work of fiction set in a secondary world filled with a riot of fantasy races—like elves, dwarves, dragons, gnomes, and so on. The setting is mostly based on the medieval period, populated with a character or more bound on a task or adventure. Examples are: The Hobbit, Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms novels.

Epic Fantasy takes the High Fantasy elements and ramps up the magnitude of the story. The stakes are greater; the land/world is in peril; the conflict shakes all who dwell in the world of the story. J.R.R. Tolkien took his High Fantasy world of Middle-earth (introduced in The Hobbit) and composed it masterfully into a long epic: The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings is Epic Fantasy, and really the first of its kind in modern fiction, setting the mold for High/Epic Fantasy up to today. Just as Leo Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace, took historical fiction to an epic scale, Epic Fantasy is that transformation of High Fantasy into epic proportions; usually a long story, stretched out over multiple volumes and building a host of characters within an ongoing conflict.

Epic Fantasy does not have to keep the exact identity of what High Fantasy is. It still dwells in a secondary world; however, one is not bound to only use the medieval setting, nor use the many different fantasy races often found in High Fantasy. Works like the Wheel of Time series and the first Shannara trilogy are epic fantasies that followed in the same vein as the Lord of the Rings. But Epic Fantasy does not have to stay in that fashion.

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy is Epic Fantasy and has the medieval setting, but does not have “sorcery” or “magic” so to speak, but abilities (powers). And there are no fantastical creatures, at least not like we’re used to seeing, as all the different kinds of beings in the story are of humans. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is epic, and, though it has dragons in it, and even giants, you will not find very many High Fantasy components within the story, as they are toned down around a host of characters in a dark medieval setting, but still very much fantasy in many ways.

Thanks to the likes of the new Flintlock Fantasy, works like Brent Weeks Lightbringer series, Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy, and Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series, Epic Fantasy does not have to dwell in a secondary world based only on a medieval setting. 

So, to sum it up, High Fantasy can be Epic Fantasy, but it is not always. And Epic Fantasy does not necessarily have to have all the elements that make up High Fantasy. But, these two terms are closely related—not interchangeable—but near-identical siblings.

The Secondary World
Inspirations of Fantasy
Epic Worldbuilding
Epic Characters 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Three Different Approaches to Fantasy - VIDEO

Below is a video of a discussion panel at Spain’s Celsius 232 convention, featuring fantasy authors Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie and Patrick Rothfuss, on the Three Different Approaches to Fantasy. Watching the video can be kind of tough for those of us who do not speak Spanish, as every time the authors give their comments in English the whole thing has to be translated in Spanish by the translator. With that said, the comments that the authors give are gold, so I feel the need to share on this blog.

To make things easier, I have broken down the time frames where the authors speak before and after the translator gives his translation in Spanish. So see the breakdown below, and you can use that as a guide to skip to where the authors are speaking (in English).

Topic: Reality in Fantasy
  • 2:54 to 4:35 – Joe Abercrombie
  • 6:52 to 8:39 – Patrick Rothfuss
  • 10:26 to 12:05 – Brandon Sanderson

Topic: Recipe for a Hero
  • 14:50 to 17:19 – Patrick Rothfuss
  • 19:12 to 21:00 – Joe Abercrombie
  • 23:03 to 27:38 – Brandon Sanderson & Patrick Rothfuss
  • 32:03 to 33:55 – Joe Abercrombie

Topic: Successfully engrossing and moving the reader with story (How do you do it?)
  • 37:50 to 40:23 – Joe Abercrombie
  • 43:07 to 45:49 – Brandon Sanderson
  • 49:28 to 50:05 – Patrick Rothfuss  

The last 20 minutes are Q & A, in which you can navigate through as you wish.  

A Discussion Panel of Fantasy Authors - VIDEO 
How A Game of Thrones Changed Fantasy...or Did It? - VIDEO  
Brandon Sanderson & Brian McClellan on Google+ Hangouts - VIDEO 
Discussion Panel on Epic Fantasy - VIDEO
Fantasy Authors Discuss the Genre & Writing - VIDEO
Discussion Panel on Magic Systems - VIDEO 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

History in Fantasy – Part 3


In my last two posts about History in Fantasy (Part 1 | Part 2), I gave an overall summary of historical influences in fantasy fiction and mentioned some works of historical fantasy. In this post, I will point out a small list of works inspired by history, but were translated into a secondary world.


In August of this year, I talked about the secondary world in fantasy fiction and how it is rooted in the medieval period—thanks to the father of modern epic fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien. As a medieval scholar, Tolkien created an immense world from the inspiration of history, mythology and literature, yet giving us a unique world never seen before his time. Though Tolkien’s work has a handful of solid characters, the world of Middle-earth, and its distinctive histories therein, is what enriched his story. In today’s modern fantasy, authors who were influenced by Tolkien were also inspired by their love for history, and so they continued the genre with such inspiration.

Katherine Kurtz’s understanding of medieval Europe aided the creation of her world in the Deryni novels. Kurtz’s Eleven Kingdoms is an alternate medieval Europe, harboring the same structure and societies of the era, yet she realigns it with her own dynasties, religion, and histories, while adding in magic to give her world its fantastic element. First published in the 1970’s, the beginning of the Deryni series is said to have been the work of fantasy fiction which popularized the use of an alternate Europe in the genre. Since there are so many similarities to the structure of medieval Europe in the Deryni series, it is not a work of fantasy that has fleshed out an in-depth, epic fantasy world, but it is surely one of the originating works of fantasy which took the genre down a different path in the use of the secondary world—with the help of history.

Like Katherine Kurtz, Guy Gavriel Kay uses the method of taking a historical period and alternating it within a fantastical world, yet still heavily inspired by real historical events and societies. His novel Tigana pulls inspiration from medieval Italy, in a world with two moons, containing some sorcery and a story of freedom fighters against tyranny. His novel, The Last Light of the Sun, was clearly based on the Viking invasion on the Anglo-Saxons in the 9TH century. As usual, Kay set the story in an alternate world and changed names of people, nations, and groups, putting in fantasy elements (like faeries).

Kurtz and Kay are mostly referred to as authors of historical fantasy, rather than epic/high fantasy, due to the way they take actual history and simply change the names of things and drop in some kind of fantasy element. However, I would say that their efforts to try to take the reader out of the real world and place them in a setting that is more than alternate history with fantasy elements is to be commended.

R. Scott Bakker’s epic fantasy series, The Prince of Nothing, is inspired by the Crusades, where the two main religions in Bakker’s world (the Inrithi and the Fanim) are in a Holy War, which is the setting of the series. Budding fantasy authors, Brian McClellan and Django Wexler, are both writing their own worlds of fantasy fiction set in a period akin to the Napoleonic era. McClellan’s Powder Mage series and Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series are a part of the few epic fantasy novels that take place outside the medieval times and in the Age of Enlightenment.

I think what we can say here is that history has had a profound impact on the setting of fantasy fiction. Mythology may have brought about the fantastic elements that populate the fantasy stories, but history has been the building block for setting the stage for the fantastic populace. For decades now, fantasy writers have been taking pieces of history, whether with subtlety or without, and building their worlds and their plots with it. History has been the inspiration for many different genres of fiction, but fantasy fiction has more fun with it, and tries to reinvent it with what-ifs and elements of things out of this world. 

History in Fantasy - Part 1 
History in Fantasy - Part 2 
The Secondary World
Inspirations of Fantasy
Epic Worldbuilding
Flintlock Fantasy