Posts Tagged: Guest Post

Fantasy is Hardly an Escape from Reality by Anthony Huso

With each passing year, I find it harder to wrap my head around the fast-fading memory of a time when media was not, with its informational and emotional impact on our world, a graven image on the mountain top, mouth agape, roaring.

Before anyone gets the wrong impression, I agree with you. The internet is a wonderful thing. My twelve year old can gaze into the palm of her hand and “see” that eight miles to the west there is a frozen custard shop, that it’s open, and that her friends have arrived there. She has more access to insight and divination in the palm of her hand than King Solomon ever had. “Hey, dad. It’s going to snow on Friday.” Power on this scale would have made her my court magician in a different era.

But we all know there is a darker side to this coin.

Consulting with demons for insight often gets you tricked. Just the other day, my co-worker mistook a gag news article for the real deal and told the whole studio that the Pope had decided not to resign after all. That’s right, the pontiff was taking his hat back. And no matter what you believe about Julian Assange, it’s irrefutable fact that in the aftermath of the greatest military leak in history he was attacked and to a large part neutered by events (real or fabricated) that were scooped and fed to us world-wide. If I’m not mistaken, he’s still living in an embassy, barely out of reach from hands that would like to strangle him for good. Read More »

Magic is often used to keep the status quo, until it becomes accessible to the common man and suddenly turns the world upside down.

You don’t see a lot of gunpowder in fantasy.

It’s there, especially in historical fantasy. But it’s not as common as one might think. Most fantasy seems to take place in a pre-gunpowder period despite gunpowder having been around in our own world since the middle ages. I think this has a lot to do with what we read when we were kids. Many of us grew up on medieval fantasy. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis dominated my childhood. When I was old enough to go looking for books at the library, I read David Eddings, Tracy Hickman, and Robert E. Howard. None of the stuff I read had any gunpowder in it and when I first started writing all my settings were medieval.

So beyond mere habit, why don’t we see much gunpowder in fantasy? I think that magic, in a lot of ways, fills in for gunpowder. It’s something mysterious. Perhaps it can be used by the common man, but the common man doesn’t know the secrets behind it. Only a few people can master those. It can be volatile and dangerous, used for both good and evil. Magic is often used to keep the status quo, until it becomes accessible to the common man and suddenly turns the world upside down. Read More »

A Journey From the West by Max Gladstone

Fantasy should be the broadest genre in existence. Fantasy writers get to create and transform to our hearts’ content. Not even the laws of thermodynamics bind us. Our imaginations are our only limits.

The problem is, the imagination’s limits are often harder than physical law. Writers are formed by experience, and interpret that experience into story using instincts developed reading, and hearing, stories, from early childhood. So, when a lot of Western folks turn to writing fantasy, Arthurian and Greek and Norse myths are the seeds they use to people and structure their imaginative worlds.

Which is fine! Each generation needs to remake the myths received from the previous generation. But sometimes writers and readers feel the limits of their traditions, and wonder, what else is out there, other than kings and earls?

In this three-part series I’m going to be writing about stories I think all fantasy writers and fans should know, other than the standard Celtic, Greek, and Norse sources. If you know these stories already, then good! I hope there’ll be something cool for you here anyway. If these stories are new to you, maybe these few posts will expose you to some amazing worlds. Read More »

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole“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. Read More »

I recently read The Red Knight by Miles Cameron and it provoked a mixed reaction in me. Without getting too long-winded, I absolutely loved some bits – for example, I thought some of the action scenes in particular were far better than even the biggest names in the genre offer up – but had significant issues with other parts. Of those, one that really struck me was the use of Christianity as the significant religion and while I stand by my opinions on it, at the same time I felt a certain inherent absurdity in my own argument.

Put simply, in a world with monsters and magic (whether or not it was sortof England) I found it looked rather ridiculous to use Christianity as a religious background. Now I might be an atheist, but even I have to admit Christianity is at the very least, no less illogical and baseless than a religion Cameron might have made up, yet I found its place in the book far less plausible.

Now logic doesn’t play a large part in religion. Whether you’re talking Norse myths where (as memory serves) a god’s born of basically nothingness and the first thing he sees is a cow, or Japanese where a god creates the land by stirring the sea with a spear (presumably creating all raw materials needed for spears let alone reasons to need a spear such as hunting anything but spontaneously-created cows), doing the 5-year-old thing of asking where the cow came from doesn’t serve much good. Read More »