Six Legs Bad – Two Legs Worse

“From childhood’s hour I have not been / As others were; I have not seen / As others saw; I could not bring / My passions from a common spring…”      wrote Edgar Allan Poe (1), although very few fantasists haven’t felt like that on occasion. It’s a genre that traditionally appeals to the […]

Return to Earthsea

When I was a young lad the fantasy writing landscape was different to today’s. Certainly, my fickle memory suggests there were fewer authors about, or certainly that were widely-enough published in this country to leap to the general attention. Terry Pratchett was a new development, for example, and aside from the obvious Mr T (1) […]

Paving over the Shire

The roots of fantasy are rural. This is true whether one considers the original medieval romances, or the nineteenth century ‘lost race’ type fantasies of Haggard, pulp fiction like Howard or the fantasy resurgence following Tolkien. The landscapes are wild, populated by villages, castles and evil towers. The plots tend to be travelogues (1) with […]

Behind the Book

Novels are stories, and the earliest stories come to us as myths. The joy of myths, of course, is that they are readily reinventable. I don’t mean in the sense that there are only (x) stories in the world, and they’re being constantly repeated. This rather depressing proposition is usually achieved by simplifying stories to […]

Make History Fantasy (1)

A curious niche genrelet usually located within fantasy/science fiction’s bounds is that of alternative history. This is the quintessential “what if” genre – only with the lens turned not on the future, as with hard SF, but on the past.   The genre is a relatively recent one, and perhaps this is to do with […]

Tolkien’s Footsteps

Well, I’ve made quite enough sidelong references to the Grand Old Man of fantasy fiction that I thought I should meet him head on at some point (1) : JRR Tolkien, professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, friend of CS Lewis (2) and “father of modern fantasy” as he has been called.   There are few enough readers […]

You take the High Road and I’ll take the Low Road

…And I’ll be in Narnia before ye.   You often hear the terms “High Fantasy” and “Low Fantasy” bandied around as the two major divisions within the fantasy genre. As discussed, dividing the corpus of literature can be a snobbish business, even in (1) a genre that is itself persecuted.   The most generally accepted […]

Based on a True Story

I’ve already gone on about the tyranny of the Mainstream State, that exiles all those that fail to conform to its rigorous aesthetic to the gulag of genre fiction. However, like all good despotic regimes, “mainstream fiction” is based on hypocrisy and lies. (1)   There are two ways of looking at this:   First, […]

Writing Outside the Box

There is a key division in fantasy (1) writing to do with the scale and scope of the world that the author is intent on creating. This is not just about the size of the map, but more to do with what happens just beyond the map’s edge, off the page. What happens? Well, in […]

Attack of the Space-knight Dragon-mutant

The fantasy genre is one of the most divided genres in the aforementioned police state of genre fiction (1). I’m not talking about science fiction here, or perhaps I am. It’s harder to draw that boundary than you think. After all, there is the distinct old-school “hard” science fiction, where the point of the story […]