Thursday, October 1, 2015

From Book to Screen (Revisted)

A couple of years ago I posted about fantasy books that were adapted to the screen (see here), and I feel it’s time to say just a little bit more about it. There has been a lot of success with movie adaptations for fantasy novels lately—more than ever before. In the 70’s and 80’s, fantasy was rampant on the screen (both television and movies), but none of them would be as epic and successful as Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (first released in 2001—a month after the first Harry Potter movie). 2001 was like the kick-off year for what would be an avalanche of fantasy movie adaptations (in addition to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter sequels) with the release of The Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon, Stardust, The Golden Compass, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Seventh Son, and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. However, the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Hobbit movies would outshine them all.

The small screen (television) has been rolling out fantasy adaptations as well, such as: Legend of the Seeker, based on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series; Merlin, which was loosely based on the King Arthur legend; and the all-popular Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Coming up in January of next year is the release of The Shannara Chronicles, based on Terry Brooks Shannara series. Of course there were and are more fantasy TV shows, but I’m speaking specifically about fantasy literary fiction that was adapted to the screen.

To add on to the big and small screen fantasy fiction adaptations, today’s (October 1ST) announcement of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle series being acquired by Lionsgate for movie, television and video game (read about it here) shows that the fire is still burning hot for fantasy books converting to screen. Of course the Game of Thrones TV show breaking a record at the Emmy Awards (see here) comes to show that fantasy has what it takes to compete in the very competitive market of onscreen entertainment.

So, like the flux of comic book movie and TV mania, fantasy is creating its own waves on the screen, and we need only to sit back and enjoy (hopefully).

From Book to Screen

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Thin Line Between Science Fiction and Fantasy (continued)

Science Fiction and Fantasy are two genres that have been grouped together for as long as I can remember (even longer than that, actually) and it’s not really too hard to see why. As a child growing up in the 80’s, seeing a mash-up of spaceships, robots, swords and magic was common in the realm of cartoons and movies; such as, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Krull, Heavy Metal and Flash Gordon. But there were books mixing these two genres together way before the 80’s.

A ground-breaking novel of its time, Dune by Frank Herbert, published in 1965, is a story set in the distant future with interstellar space travel, politics, religion, technology and ecology. Often called the greatest science fiction novel of all time, Dune holds an authority in the science fiction genre like no other. Dune is like science fiction’s Lord of the Rings; in the words of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke: “Dune seems to me unique among novels in the depth of characterization and the extraordinary detail of the world it creates. I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord of the Rings.” The journey and mystic feel of the novel gives the story an appeal that fantasy readers can gravitate to—with psychic powers in place of magic, swords as weapons, prophecies and the semi-feudal political structure of the empire. Douglas Cohen explains on how Dune is science fiction for fans of fantasy—that post is here.

Another popular science fiction series is the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey—the first book, Dragonflight, published in 1968. One would think with the word “dragon” in the titles, and the covers of these books showcasing this fantastical creature, that the Pern novels were straight fantasy. But, again, we’re dealing with a story that takes place in the distant future, were mankind inhabits a planet called Pern, but society is reduced to a more post Middle Ages-type of setting with low technology. The dragons are basically “animals” genetically modified so that the humans can communicate with them through telepathy and use them to fight off virus-like organisms called Thread. Again, it is psychic abilities that give the characters their “magic-like” abilities.

One who has often been accredited as one of the founders of “science fantasy” is Christopher Stasheff, who had his first book in the Warlock of Gramarye series published in 1969. The first book, called The Warlock in Spite of Himself, tells the story of undercover agent, Rodney Gallowglass, who discovers a planet called Gramarye inhabited with people who dwell within a medieval-type civilization. Riding around on Fess, his robotic companion—who takes the guise of a robot horse—Rodney Gallowglass’s use of technology makes him a wizard in the eyes of the inhabitants. There are other parts of the series where “real” magic comes into the act. These books are not trying to be science fiction, nor are they trying to be fantasy. The author uses the components of both genres to kind of illustrate his political views within an adventurous story.

Even earlier than the works mentioned above, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars (or Barsoom) series, starting with the publication of A Princess of Mars in 1917, told the story of John Carter from planet earth finding himself on Mars and having great strength and special abilities, making him renown as a hero on Mars—a work containing a lot of fantasy-like overtones. Later authors, like Jack Vance, Arthur C. Clarke and John Norman, were inspired by Burroughs’ Barsoom series. John Norman’s Gor series, first published in 1966 with Tarnsman of Gor, goes along the same vein as Burroughs’  Barsoom series—a man from Earth going on a journey within an alien planet. Books like these tend to fall under the subgenre phrased as “Sword and Planet”, a phrase said to have been invented by Donald A. Wollheim (founder of DAW books) in the 60’s. Sword and Planet pertains to science fantasy stories which take place on other planets, where the protagonist is usually someone from Earth and the combat is usually hand-to-hand, with swords as the typical weapon.

Hard Science Fiction is based entirely on more plausible science within the story, but in the “softer” Science Fiction you will find stories where physic powers and telepathy are the “magic” within the stories, found in many books like the Saga of the Pliocene Exile by Julian May and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, in addition to Dune and the Pern novels.

Now, I can’t go away without mentioning Star Wars. I won’t say much about it because I have already discussed Star Wars a couple of years ago on this blog (you can read about it here), but I think what makes Star Wars such a huge success is because it’s a perfect mix of science fiction and fantasy with great adventures and unforgettable characters.

So, when you really look at the long history of science fiction, you really can see the reason why these two genres tend to co-exist together. They share a section together in the bookstores, and they share the successful explosion of speculative fiction in the 20TH century. But let’s not forget that Fantasy has been around much longer than Science Fiction, and the two of them married together really makes a great match.  

Thin Line Between Science Fiction and Fantasy
Science Fiction vs Fantasy - VIDEO

Friday, September 11, 2015

Thin Line Between Science Fiction and Fantasy

First of all, to my followers, my apologies for not posting as much this year. I have been really focused on finishing my book, and I am glad to say that I’m on track to finish by the end of this year. With that said, I am working on new articles, and one happens to be about the Thin Line Between Science Fiction and Fantasy. However, before I post my view on this topic, I would like to share a link to a blog post that author Judith Tarr wrote earlier this year, which is a great perspective on this subject.

Click on the link here

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