So You Want to Have a War?
Starting with Tolkien, it’s become practically obligatory that the epic fantasy saga, somewhere around the middle of book three, feature an Epic Confrontation Between Good and Evil with a Cast of Thousands.
I am, I have to admit, a war buff. I read military histories for fun, the kind with fold-out maps covered in little colored arrows and notations like “Kollowrath (40,000)”. As I am also a fantasy novelist, the nature of war in fantasy fiction has always been fascinating to me.
And there is a lot of war in fantasy. Starting with Tolkien, it’s become practically obligatory that the epic fantasy saga, somewhere around the middle of book three, feature an Epic Confrontation Between Good and Evil with a Cast of Thousands. Various allies, painfully recruited over the course of the hero’s journey, turn up to lend a hand at the Final Battle. Various villains are dispatched, hapless orcs or equivalent humanoids are mowed down by the score, and just when things seem bleakest Evil is defeated forever. A beloved secondary character or two bites the dust, and someone gets to make a Heroic Sacrifice. Afterward, we may be treated to a scene where the hero roams a battlefield strewn with corpses, or visits the injured to bring home the horrors of combat. You know, war, right?
Back before I wrote fantasy myself, my wargamer friends and I used to snicker a bit at this. Most of the fantasy authors wouldn’t know a halberd from a half-pike, and their descriptions of battles were usually heavy on bold strokes and dramatic confrontations and light on tactics and the important of proper reconnaissance. I wouldn’t want to be a poor foot-slogger in either army, given the rate at which they tend to be chewed up by either the hero and his friends or some villain demonstrating the full extent of his power. Continue reading
“Urban Fantasy” is a hot term these days. You hear it used to describe everything from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. It encompasses the work of authors from Patricia Briggs to Kim Harrison, from Ilona Andrews to Kevin Hearne. With such a diverse range of talent, the definition quickly loses meaning. There isn’t a whole lot that’s urban about the sleepy, small town of Bon Temps.
But that’s okay. Because urban fantasy has never been about urban settings. It’s about *contemporary* settings. It does a very simple thing: it takes the modern world, the one we live in every day, and ask the question, “What would this be like if magic were real?”
If the genre’s popularity is any indicator, that question has traction. Fantasy has, for much of its lifespan, been dominated by ancient and medieval settings. Many of the most enduring works in the genre, from Tolkien to Brooks to Feist, are set in pre-gunpowder, pre-industrial revolution worlds. But readers don’t ride to work on horses, hunt deer for dinner, or carry a sword to fend off the occasional Orc raid. Contemporary fantasy’s popularity suggests that many readers like to dream about the impossible right in their own backyard.
And here’s where you can run into trouble writing contemporary stories. The same thing that makes a contemporary setting resonate so strongly with the reader may also piss them off: Ownership. Continue reading
I’m pleased to announce that Stephen Susco, writer of THE GRUDGE, and writer/producer of upcoming films HIGH SCHOOL (June 1st) and THE POSSESSION (Aug 30), has optioned the film and tv rights in Prince of Thorns and the Broken Empire trilogy published by Ace/Berkley in the US and Voyager in the UK.
Great news for Lawrence and fans of The Broken Empire series. I’m always skeptical about announcements like these, because an option being taken on a book series is only the very first, small step in a film or television series being produced, but it’s neat nonetheless. Lawrence’s novel is known for both its nihilistic and brutal world and the dark humour of the protagonist, Jorg, and it will be interesting to see how this transitions to screen, without making audiences squeamish.
If interested, you can read my review of Prince of Thorns from earlier this year.
First, I want to thank Aidan for inviting me to blog over here on A Dribble of Ink. It’s terribly flattering when someone trusts you enough to ask for your help in maintaining a blog they’ve worked so hard on over the years. It’s like being asked to house-sit, only there isn’t any booze to steal or plants to ignore. Which is a bit of a let-down, now that I think about it.
So, Lesson Number One: Guest blogging — not as fun as wrecking someone else’s house while throwing a huge party, but better than sitting around your own place watching TV.
That being said, Aidan was good enough (at my request) to come up with a list of possible topics for me to write about. Things like how my life has changed now that I am published author; or whether I might want to write about one of my literary influences; or what it was like to take a familiar character trope (the thief) and try to put a fresh spin on it.
These are great suggestions. In fact, they’re so good I may steal them for use on my own blog at some point (assuming, you know, I start one). I’m particularly intrigued by the whole “new spin on the thief” thing, because I haven’t consciously thought about it that much.
But if I’m going to steal them for later use, that doesn’t exactly help me right now, now does it? Which leads us to…