Friday, May 27, 2011

Why fantasy?

In my stories, some characters are gods, others are monsters. Some use swords, others slings and staves, and a few cast magic spells as fast as they can sing. They travel between worlds, righting wrongs simply because they are wrongs. But I really don’t think of myself as a fantasy novelist.

In my latest novel the hero is a former operative in the Space service, currently hunting werewolves. But I don’t really count myself a futuristic paranormal or scifi writer either.

It’s easy to pigeonhole a book based on such elements. “Oh, it’s got magic, must be fantasy.” Yet how many threads have we all read where people debate where the distinction lies between SF and fantasy, and whether Star Trek is one, or Star Wars the other, and what the hell do we do about Space Opera? Swords and spaceships are just trappings, however. Clarke’s Law can be stood on its head easily enough, and Heinlein has cast more than a few spells in his day, calling it the highest of tech. Some of the best fantasy novels feature the introduction of technologies, and not a few scifi novels open doors to magical realms. The secret is not in the trappings but what they represent: Order v. Chaos. A device that breaks the rules is fantasy, a spell crafted according to a procedure is scifi. Men who transcend the powers of nature are fantasy heroes, gods who fail when men fail belong to a scifi universe.

I don’t write fantasy or SF, though, because my books don’t really care about the trappings. I write characters and their purposes. In the very first review of my work that I ever received, it was compared to a famous work of mythology, of which I had never heard to that point. Shortly after reading up on the Chinese Monkey God, I came across a movie featuring him as a character. Small world. Maybe. More recently I combined several mythologies on purpose to explain vampires, and my current novel is centered around Jasec, teller of tales and keeper of lore. My stories are about people making lemonade, as we all do, but with fantasy lemons.

Which, to my mind, makes them fables, and there’s no publishing category for that.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think most science fiction and fantasy is a blend of several elements. (Firefly is science fiction - western.) Just have to decide which element dominates I guess.

Helen Ginger said...

You just about have to categorize your work, though, in order for readers to find you in the maze of books. Searchers usually start by trying to narrow down the selection to the general genre they like to read, then they narrow down into sub-genres, then to .... and so on until they get to the thousands of books in the area they prefer.

That's if they don't know you as an author they want to read. In that case, they can just google your name.