Posts Categorized: Feature Article

forest_by_noahbradley-d52duwy

Given my interests in Native American literature and genre fiction, it is inevitable that I’ve also become interested in the ways in which the indigenous peoples of North America are represented in science fiction and fantasy. For the purposes of this particular article I’m thinking primarily of their representation in Anglo-American sf and fantasy, and I’ll be focusing on, so far as I’m aware, representations by non-Native writers. (Nor is this intended to be a comprehensive survey of appearances by Native Americans in sf though that may be a project for the future.)

Cover Art for Red Country by Joe Abercrombie (UK)

I want to begin with Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country (2012), where we meet Crying Rock, described as ‘an old Ghost woman with a broken sideways nose, grey hair all bound up with what looked like the tatters of an old Imperial flag, and a face so deep-lined you could’ve used it for a plate rack’ (p. 55). A couple of pages later, one character says of another, ‘His Ghosts massacred a whole fellowship o’ prospectors out on the dusty not two weeks ago. Thirty men, maybe. Took their ears and their noses and I shouldn’t wonder got their cocks besides’ (p. 57). A few pages later, ‘[t]he old Ghost woman had the reins, creased face as empty as it had been at the inn, a singed old chagga pipe gripped between her teeth, not smoking it, just chewing it’ (p. 64). Only on the following page is Crying Rock finally introduced by name, having said a few words ‘[s]o slow and solemn it might have been the eulogy at a funeral’ (p. 65). And much later still, we see Crying Rock as tracker: ‘’Til that moment Shy had been wondering whether she’d frozen to death hours before with her pipe still clamped in her mouth. She’d scarcely blinked all morning, staring through the brush they’d arranged the previous night as cover’ (p. 301). Read More »

world-of-warcraft-goblins
Of Better Worlds
and Worlds Gone Wrong

I was asked for this post to write about hope in fantasy. And that means I need to talk about grimdark.

I was asked for this post to write about hope in fantasy. And that means I need to talk about grimdark. (Definition from TV Tropes here, for those who need it.) And I need to say, before I start, that I am a practitioner of grimdark; the Doctrine of Labyrinths quartet (Melusine (2005), The Virtu (2006), The Mirador (2007), Corambis (2009)) can be nothing but. So I’m not speaking as someone who abhors grimdark, but as someone who loves it.

One of the things behind grimdark, I think–and it’s not just grimdark, either, but most of Anglophone literature since somewhere around World War I–is a conviction that being pessimistic, tragic, depressing, dark means that a text is more “realistic,” more “serious,” and therefore inherently “better” than it would be if it allowed optimism and hope. I’ll get into the issue of “realism” later, but I want to point out here that tragedy is not inherently “better” as a literary form than comedy and writing a tragedy does not demonstrate greater skill/talent/genius than writing a comedy. (Kind of the reverse, in fact. Comedy is hard.) Read More »

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gameboy-ffl2

I still remember the first time that I saw a Japanese Roleplaying Game (JRPG). Like many people of my generation, it was a Final Fantasy game, though not one so obvious as Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VI (or Final Fantasy 3, if you’re familiar with the  North American naming scheme), or Final Fantasy VII. No, it was Final Fantasy Legend II in all of its monochromatic glory on the Nintendo Game Boy.

I was at a friend’s house, and his cousin was also visiting. I’d never met the cousin, but he had a Game Boy (like me), so I liked him almost instantly. But, where I was eradicating (or, more accurately, being eradicated by) the Footclan in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or dodging winged-Moai statues in Super Mario Land, he had this slow, boardgame-like game, with numbers, equipment, a map, and so many other elements that I was unfamiliar with. In particular, I remember a fight with a tiger. The one pictured here, in fact. As I think back on it, I can only assume that it’s a low level enemy, fought in one of the early game environments. At the time, however, it was something different. Something frightening.

If you do your homework, however, you’ll quickly discover that my first experience with Final Fantasy was, in fact, not with Final Fantasy at all, but with Akitoshi Kawazu’s infamous SaGa series. See, when Square the developer of the Final Fantasy series, wanted to bring over Kawazu’s zany Makai Toushi SaGa, the first in the SaGa series, to North American shores, they decided that it made more sense to release the title under a respected and successful brand, Final Fantasy, rather than attempting to sell something new. It was the right decision. Final Fantasy Legend II became Square’s first million-selling product. Read More »

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"Unconventional Publishing"

If it wasn’t for unconventional publishing, that would have been the end of the road for Hollow World.

Publishing today is a complicated business full of many options and proponents on different sides vocalizing their path is “the right one” with full-throated conviction. For the record, I see the advantages (and disadvantages) of each. I also don’t think there is a “universal right choice,” just a choice that is going to best fit on an author by author basis.

Currently I’m a ‘hybrid author‘ because I have works available both through self-publishing and traditional routes. What’s more, my traditional routes include both big-five and small presses and there is a world of difference between them.

I think Hollow World, my latest novel, was probably produced in one of the most unconventional ways possible. First it was submitted to my publisher, Orbit. My editor loved the book, but the marketing department didn’t. They need to focus on what sells (and I don’t begrudge this mindset) and currently they think that means military science-fiction and space operas. A classic-style, social science fiction novel such as those written by Asimov or Wells just didn’t fit the bill.

If it wasn’t for unconventional publishing, that would have been the end of the road for Hollow World, and I know far too many authors who have shelved books because they couldn’t get them picked up (or were offered too little). But from past experience, I knew a closed door just means I should look around for an open window. Read More »

tale-of-genji

A young man of surpassing beauty who rises to a political and romantic career of power and renown mixed with disappointment, betrayal, and demonic possession.  Also, he glows.

A minor noblewoman has a tragic love affair with an emperor.  She dies, leaving behind her child — a young man of surpassing beauty who rises to a political and romantic career of power and renown mixed with disappointment, betrayal, and demonic possession.  Also, he glows.

Welcome to the Tale of Genji, the Japanese story of romance, ghosts, poetry, and politics that has a good claim of being the world’s first novel. To clarify: Genji is a work of prose, not epic poetry, and written in the vernacular rather than the local courtly language (which, in early 11th century Heian Japan, would have been Chinese).  It’s also, as far as we can tell, original, without folkloric or legendary precursor.  The author, Lady Murusaki Shikibu, wove her hero and his, um, exploits out of whole cloth.  And, while many other works deal with mythological high society—gods and demons and so forth—Murusaki seems to have cared a great deal about representing (idealistically but still) her social reality.  Genji Monogatari is a work of beauty and passion and (to modern sensibilities) occasional utter weirdness, in which twenty chapters of plot turn on the accidental glimpse of one character by another through a paper screen, astrological prohibitions on travel are used to justify spending the night at a prospective lover’s house, titles take the place of names, violence is anathema, and a twenty-mile exile is worse than death. Read More »