29 January, 2012

Guest Post: Dean Rich

When Dean Rich offered to write a guest post, I was happy to say yes. I didn't have much of a prompt, though...

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Ian wanted me to write about fantasy. I thought cool, I write fantasy, I’ve read fantasy, I can add something to Ian’s blog about fantasy. Then I looked around his blog and read what he has written. Now I feel inadequate to write on this topic. So I think I’ll talk about some of the author’s and books I like and Ian can put them in their category he is so painstakingly describing.

I noticed Ian has a heading for Tolkien with nothing under it just yet so I am assuming it is a topic he is planning on addressing. So I may be jumping the gun here, but I have to start with J.R.R. Tolkien. He introduced me to the world of Fantasy with The Hobbit. Middle Earth was a character, and dwarves and elves fighting, and hobbits, with furry feet. Dragons, and gold, spiders and swords the journey was just so amazing. Then the journey back into Middle Earth and his rich history with the Lord of the Rings. It was just fabulous. These stories were so rich with description, characters, events, and locations. It sparked my creative juices and led to my inspiration to write. (I know I am not the only one to fall under that spell.)

Terry Brooks comes to mind with his Shannara series. He too built a world with a map and conflict. I enjoyed his later Shannara books more than his earlier ones. He too built a world and you have a map to follow along. On a side note the Sword of Shannara introduced me to the art work of the Brothers Heldibrant. But I digress…

David Eddings books take the same course as Brooks and Tolkien. The world and maps are as much a characters as the populations that inhabit. He interjects a lot of humor and the female characters have as much going with them as their male counterparts. Here again are quest stories where the characters go from place to place with a handy map at the front of the book to keep track of their journeys.

So Ian, would you agree with me and place these under quests? What do you have to add?

I have another author when I first read her I put her stories under fantasy. But as the series progressed it turned out the whole thing was really science fiction. I’m talking about Anne McCaffey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series. Dragonflight starts off with a raid on a hold. Then we learn about Wyers, and dragons. Telepathic dragons that can fly from place to place in a blink of an eye. Time travel and what a rich world with culture, belivable locations complete with weather, temperature, and time zones. Characterization is over the top. Then later in the series, Dragon’s Dawn we learn this fantasy world was a colonization from earth, and the dragons are genetically engineered and, and, and, it turns into science fiction. But I still hold the beginning was great fantasy.

Fred Saberhagen has several series of books. The Book of Swords. The gods made 12 swords and they fell to earth. Each black sword has a distinct power, and causes all sorts of conflicts and problems for whoever wields the sword. The Book of Swords include: the First Book of Swords, the Second Book of Swords, and the Third book of Swords. Then he wrote another series of 8 books under the main title of book of Lost Swords. Woundhealer’s Story, Sightblinder’s Story, Sonecutter’s Story, Farslayer’s Story, Coinspinner’s Story, mindsword’s Story, Wayfinder’s Story and Shieldbreaker’s Story the Last Book of Swords

One of my favorite authors is R. A. Salvatore. Although he borrowed his world from the Dungeons and Dragons game world his characters do their own things within that realm, His stories fit under quest stories as well, but there is some character driven elements as well as action adventure. His fight sequences are some of the best I’ve ever read. Most of his tales are in the Forgotten Realms books. Other similar books are the Dragon Lance books. So I don’t know if Ian would classify these stories as quest, or action adventure or where they fit. Ian, where would you place R. A. Salvatore? He also has a series of Demon Wars with stones as the magical power source. Which is a whole different sub genre of fantasy.

Katherine Kurtz has a series of books she has built as sort of an alternate reality/Fantasy world with a race that uses magic, the Deryni. These are more character driven stories and have a lot of tragic elements. She has two timelines she writes about, One with the Cambrean Council and is centered around the fall of the Deryni Kings and the backlash the humans have against the Deryni. The other series of books told several hundred years later about King Kelson. I enjoyed the King Kelson stories, though the tragedies from the Cambrian time period give the King Kelson stories more depth.

Kurtz also has a modern fantasy Adept Series. She uses magic in a modern setting with powers used to solve crimes.

So there is my list of fantasy authors and stories that I have enjoyed over the years. I am looking through Ian’s blog for other authors and stories to read, as I love a good read and inspiration for my own stories.

Thanks for letting me come over Ian.

Dean can be found as DC Rich at Agentquery Connect
@deancrich on Twitter
And of course you can read his time management/motivation blog entries and author interviews and other things of interest to writers at The Write Time.

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Glad to have you, Dean. One of the things I love about the fantasy genre is that there's so much to it. It seems I'm always finding a new thread and discovering a dozen new authors.

We're on the same page in thinking about the authors you listed as quest fantasy. To keep the Epic Fantasy category from getting too big, I decided to split off some of the authors into a separate "Tolkien-esque Fantasy" category, which I'll indeed get to eventually.

Tolkien has inspired the imaginations of countless writers. Some of them built worlds right next door to Middle Earth, others built them a little further away in the same neighborhood. In this metaphor, I guess the city is fantasy as a whole, with highways to other cities (genres) and towns between them being interstitial genres. But I'm getting off topic.

(What is non-fiction, another country? Blog posts must be a colony of Essayland. Then different planets would have to be music, games, and other mediums. Next is solar systems... no, must get... urge to over-extend metaphor... under control...)

I've read a lot of Shannara, Salvatore, and Dragonlance, but strangely Eddings is a huge gap in my fantasy reading. I assume this must have been a quirk of the library I used when I was growing up. And I've never even heard of Fred Saberhagan. I'll add him to the list and maybe by the time I get to that subgenre I can include him in the post.

Classifying Anne McCaffery is an interesting question. I know when I read her as a kid I thought of it as fantasy. In some ways, the division is more about trappings than technical aspects. Everyone calls Star Wars science fiction (maybe they say science fantasy) even though it is a long way from Asimov or Bradbury. But I think all the speculative genres can stick together and be unconcerned about forcing exact definitions on any book. Classifications should be a helpful way to look at books, not hard barriers.

Or to put it another way, the divisions between subgenres should be sidewalks, not walls between gated communities. Man, I need to get this under control. If only there was a blog about managing your time...

15 January, 2012

Sorcery and Scholarships Launched


My novel is out. You can find it at Smashwords or Amazon:

E-reader distribution is pending, but last time it only took 10 days to get into Smashword's premium catalog, so the book will probably be there before anyone actually wants to buy it.

01 January, 2012

Fantasy Overview: General Fantasy

Part three of my fantasy overview.

These authors differ more than the previous categories, but they weren't thrown together because they lacked another niche. What these books do is the very essence of the fantasy genre: imaginative stories in new worlds. If you're looking for something that feels different from fantasy you might have read before, these are writers to try.

Peter V Brett
His debut series features a world terrorized by the threat of demons every night. Somewhat smaller in geographic focus, but with the usual worldbuilding and high stakes that one might expect from high fantasy. Magic is relatively limited to a system of wards created to combat the demons.

Amanda Downum

She generally writes higher magic worlds with a dark edge: necromancy is the norm instead of a dark art. Strong characters and political plots. Anyone interested in non-traditional views of gender should take a look at her work. 

James Enge
Enge writes classic sword and sorcery, which truthfully should have its own category. But this subgenre has become less common in recent years, so I'm including him here. Though reminiscent of the Conan short stories, his work is distinct in that the main character does use magic and travels with his apprentice.

Neil Gaiman
Other than his graphic novel epic (Sandman), Gaiman generally writes standalone stories. The tone and focus vary widely, but the nature of his stories is one that proves popular with many. Almost of all of his stories take place in a world like our own with elements of the supernatural taken from myth and fable.

NK Jemisin
Unusual fantasy with a touch of politics and romance. As of this post she has only published a few books, but they're notable for approaching tropes of gods and empires from a fresh angle.

Mercedes Lackey
Many of her books cover traditional subjects (wars, succession, magic) from untraditional viewpoints (such as the healers in a military camp). If you want the feel of a broad world, many of those books also take place in the same world, though they are generally self-contained or trilogies.

Patricia McKillip
Author of numerous trilogies and standalone novels. Fans of lyrical prose should definitely consider her work, but they're often less ambitious than you might expect from the genre (which some find refreshing among so many Grand Quests).

Terry Pratchett
An excellent humor novelist in general and a brilliant fantasy satirist. But he doesn't need me to sing his praises considering how successful his Discworld series is, spanning over 40 standalone books. Though they will especially entertain fans of fantasy, his books are solid plots in their own right. Between all of them there's more worldbuilding than a lot of fantasy I could name (but won't).

Brandon Sanderson
The tone of his novels varies, but Sanderson has some obvious trademarks: elaborate plots with multiple twists and thoroughly explained magic systems. At the moment he has two standalone novels and a trilogy with quick pacing. He has written the first book in a multivolume series, which keeps his usual trademarks but has slower pacing.

Brent Weeks
Tends to write trilogies with physical varieties of magic. The world-building is more political than geographic and the characters don't always fall into the usual tropes. His completed trilogy is ninja-themed, if that interests you.

Gene Wolfe
Perhaps not as new as most authors on this list, but more people need to read him in general. His Book of the New Sun is a series of carefully crafted volumes that explain themselves only just enough for everything to be reasoned through. The fantastic elements are less clear with a scifi edge, and the story follows a single individual's journey over several years.

The other lists were ordered by theme, but in this case I just went alphabetically.