Why Orphans Are So Important in Stories

Oliver TwistFrom Charles Dickens to countless modern works, including some of my own stories, orphans are among the most common characters in fiction. I find this especially true in fantasy – so much so that The Orphan might have its own place among the pantheon of other iconic fantasy figures such as The Soldier, The Peasant, The King. But at what point do these figures become bland labels that define the character more than his or her actual traits?

Fantasy, a genre that so often pulls characters from the grab bag of tropes on display in either The Lord of the Rings or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, has received countless literary complaints over its apparent lack of variety. When a book’s first act describes a backwoods young farmer – unwise to the ways of the world (and obviously having some convenient prior experience with weapons via hunting) – I automatically assume that said farmer will be sitting on a throne before the end. Continue reading

Pre-Realism and Red Mars

Red MarsPretty soon, we’re going to need a genre that labels books that might once have been science fiction, but are now closer to realistic fiction. I’m calling it “pre-realism”.

As I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars for the first time, I’m fascinated by the sheer plausibility of the ideas. And as humanity works on putting people on Mars, the first colonizing/terraforming project might not be too many generations in the future. It might not be too many years in the future. Continue reading