Death of the “Genre Story” in Fantasy

Magic Swords“We don’t want your genre stories.”

I see this message more and more in the submission guidelines of writing journals and magazines, especially in those dedicated to fantasy and science fiction.

Speculative fiction is what we’re calling it nowadays. The Sword and Sorcery glory days are at an end. Writers and journals alike don’t want to be pigeon-holed in hopes they’ll reach a broader audience. And fantasy is fighting to be taken more seriously, which means intensified abrogation of the regular tropes. There’s still a place out there for the old classics, but that’s because they’re, well, classics. Continue reading

The Thousand Names

The Thousand NamesWell, I only read one of the books I said I was going to this summer, apparently because I can’t tie myself down like that. But it was quite a book. Although mildly escapist, Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names is a page-turner. That’s what summer’s about anyway, right? Beach reads.

Easy to get into and easy to stick with, The Thousand Names holds a captive audience by means of some of the most riveting battle scenes I’ve ever read. Wexler is gifted in this aspect. Battle is something I’ve always struggled to write because of the sheer amount going on and the significance of all of the details.

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A Second Walk Through the Wheel Of Time

The Eye of the WorldThis is my second time reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel Of Time series. The first time it held me entranced through most of high school, but I only read the first nine before I got side tracked. (Not to mention, Jordan passed away around then, just before I had caught up to him). Not familiar with Brandon Sanderson’s capable and strangely similar style and talents then, I decided to delve further into fantasy with different authors.

Years and countless writing lessons later the Wheel of Time has turned, and I’ve come back to this classic series to discover it’s just as entertaining as it was before. Yes, I’ve read stronger authors including mega-series-world-creator Steven Erikson, but a broader perspective has given me the chance to view Jordan’s storytelling with a different sort of fascination.  Continue reading

Earthsea: An Overview

earthseaHaving finished the third installment and halfway point of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series, I feel I should look back through the books and record my thoughts. There are few fantasy books that have the same moral and philosophical horsepower, so the temptation to reflect is just too great.

The Farthest Shore (#3) is not as atmospheric and charming as A Wizard Of Earthsea, but neither is it as dark as the second book, The Tombs of Atuan. It lies somewhere in the middle. More adventurous, perhaps, than its successors, but the adventure is not the purpose of the book. Le Guin is often vague on details, and there’s hardly the suspense you’d normally associate with a fantasy like this. Rather, the focus is on the discussions of the characters and the sum total of their experiences that lead to a feeling more of spiritual/mental journeying than of physical, though I don’t think an allegorical hypothesis of the book would hold water. Continue reading

Abercrombie’s Heroes

Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they’ve brought a lot of sharpened metal with them.

To say that fantasy author, Joe Abercrombie, has attracted a lot of attention for writing the bloodiest, most visceral of stories would be an embarrassing understatement. They don’t call him the god of grit for nothing, and after reading some of his earlier work, I was both excited and a little guarded to return. It’s similar to how I feel about watching a Terantino film. I have to armor myself up to be horrified by the display of violence. Continue reading

Railsea: A Review

railsea2Railsea is China Mieville’s most recent novel. YA audienced and Locus award receiving, Railsea is a force of both new, experimental writing and a mining of past classics. And it’s wonderful fun.

We’re dropped in a semi-dystopian world where the rail system covers the entire earth in endless loops and mazes. Crews ride steam engines and make a living hunting giant tunneling beasts like moles (moldywarpes) and rabbits (blood rabbits) that all give King Kong a run for his blonde-haired beauty. The earth between the rails is a-writhe with similar beasts and insects; the up-sky above is a haze of similar bird-type creatures.

And our awkward, ungainly, maybe-a-bit-hefty hero is a young boy by the name of Sham Yes ap Soorap (because apparently we can’t have characters with less unique names than the author has). Continue reading