I don’t want to make this an overly complicated or deep post. Mostly this is just set-up for this week’s discussion on “Hybrid Genres.” Below is an interesting and thought-provoking “map” of genre fiction and all of its attendant subgenres. You may be aware of more subgroups or disagree with the categorization but it does make you consider exactly what is it you are writing/reading.
Opening last month (July), this exhibit on Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction, 1780-1910 at the American History Museum
(12th and Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC) explores the intersecting influences of science, innovation, industry, and the Victorian creative imagination through books from the Smithsonian Libraries and selected historical objects.
The industrial revolution and its attendant advances in science and art paved the way for a period of dramatic change in America and Europe. The public was enthralled by the rapid invention and scientific discoveries that characterized the age. Science became spectacle, and such literary luminaries as Jules Verne, Mary Shelley, and Edgar Allan Poe responded, crafting fiction that explored the farthest reaches of the new scientific landscape and the startling possibilities this new knowledge uncovered.
For those of you who cannot partake of this in person here in Washington, DC, they have a fascinating online exhibit broken into 7 separate areas:
- Terra Incognita – Adventure and Exploration: To the Far Reaches of the World
- The Age of Aeronaut – The Dawn of Flight
- Infinite Worlds – Exploring the Universe and Seeking Extraterrestrial Life
- The Body Electric – Inspiring Frankenstein
- Rise of the Machines – Technology Comes to Life
- Sea Change – Underwater Worlds: Fathoming the Deep
- Underworld – Fossils and Geology: What Lies Beneath?
Also, their blog has a great collection of posts relevant to “Fantastic Worlds,” history, science, technology, fiction, and adventure.
When someone says “epic fantasy” there is a general idea of what it will entail: woods and forests, elves and dwarves, adventurers and magicians and fighting and quests. All in a medieval-style setting. Possibly with dragons. 🙂 Tolkien is much to blame for this. But he isn’t alone. Book after book after book falls into these same cliche’d storylines. Often, it is the plot that we blame. We say it is poor storytelling. But beyond plot, another way that we promote fantasy tropes and cliches is in our very worldbuilding. Medieval setting? Elf land, dwarven mountains, major port city, a desert land occupied by nomads…all are things we have seen over and over. So perhaps, the best place to start when addressing cliches isn’t in the story, but the world itself.
Editors Scott H. Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies), Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld), Jonathan Landen (Daily Science Fiction), Bill Campbell (Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism), Norm Sherman (Drabblecast, EscapePod) and writer Erica Satifka (Clarkesworld, Ideomancer) discuss the state of short genre fiction at the #BSFS on Saturday, March 22nd, 8PM. Moderated by Sarah Pinsker.
Great information and a fun night. The next roundtable discussion will be on Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy in August. For more info on BSFS, visit www.bsfs.org and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BaltimoreSciFi and follow us on Twitter @BaltimoreSciFi. I am supremely grateful to Paul Sulsky for video. This is a great resource!
November was a crazy month for me in terms of work life, home life, and writing life. My writing group encouraged me to release a novel by Christmas. Although, I worked incredibly hard in November, it doesn’t look like my release date will be in December. Since I missed the November book review, I’ll do two for December!
I have to admit my guilty reading pleasure is high fantasy. When I was first asked to do book reviews for Unleaded, I thought, “Oh no! Every month can’t be a fantasy book!” But this month, it is. “Elminster in Myth Drannor” by Ed Greenwood is the second book in the Elminster series. In the fantastic world of the Forgotten Realms, Elminster is an archmage and a great sage often imparting wisdom to adventurers.
In “…Myth Drannor” Elminster travels to Cormanthor, one of the great Elven cities and spends his time learning from an ancient Elven elder. His mere presence causes enmity among the elves and he is caught up in a political war and finds himself fighting for his life and having to survive assassination attempts in order to just continue his day to day existence.
Greenwood basically lays the foundation for the history, background, and geopolitical lines for one of the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons, the role-playing game. To say he has a vast burden on his shoulders in writing these stories as well as taking part in world-building on a real life world wide scale. Greenwood’s plots are intricate and far reaching, however, there are points in “…Myth Drannor” where it seems Greenwood resorts to using deus ex machina. Unfortunately, it is a bit jarring when it happens, interrupting an otherwise enjoyable story.
The only way this story works is through seeing the political conflict through multiple viewpoints. This leaves the reader somewhat disconnected from the protagonist and less sympathetic toward him. I suppose it’s arguable that there are several protagonists in the story as so many viewpoints are present, and so much action takes place without Elminster.
The last few chapters seem extremely hurried and laid out with a brevity that seems to cheat the story of a tightly wrapped up ending. I can easily see a second book could have been developed to pull out the details and enrich the story. It’s as if the reader can hear the phone call of Greenwood’s editor telling him he’s past deadline and needs to wrap up his last chapters ASAP.
Despite these issues, Greenwood relates an enjoyable tale and further expands on a character beloved in the role-playing world. I give “Elminster in Myth Drannor” by Ed Greenwood two flags.
I am normally reluctant to delve into yet another fantasy book which redefines the basic tenets of the fantasy genre. And when said book begins to encroach into another genre I become even more leery of investing my time. Finally, what that book is the beginning of a trilogy or longer series, that is usually the nail in the coffin for me (which I must confess is why I’ve never ready “The Wheel of Time” series).
“Dhampir” by Barb and J.C. Hendee however is exactly one of these books. I picked up the book sometime in the past year at either a yard sale or a second hand book store. The cover intrigued me. A female fighter as the protagonist with a half-elf companion. I read the synopsis on the back of the paperback and I was hooked – “Magiere and her half-elf partner, Leesil, have the cleverest con in the land.”
I bought the book but did not pick it up until quite some time later. I was looking for something to read that was different from my recent reads as well as my recent book reviews. It has a couple of months since I reviewed a book with vampires in it, so I began to read “Dhampir.”
Let me say the Hendees have written quite the entertaining story. I did thoroughly enjoy it. I want to break the book down into the parts I described above which normally send me running from a new book. “Dhampir” is first and foremost a fantasy story. There are Elves, half-Elves, warlords, peasants, swords, and magic. The Elves are skilled in the ways of assassination of humans, there are no mages trying to push the boundaries of magic, and the heroine actually attempts a sword fight in a dress!
The genre which the Hendees bring into this fantasy world is horror. Some may argue that vampires are a basic part of the fantasy stable of monsters for the protagonist to fight. However, these vampires while monsters, have a rich back story and are likable as the heroes of their own history.
Finally, even though “Dhampir” is the first of “The Noble Dead” series, I felt the story was complete on its own. That’s not to say I do not feel compelled to pick up the other books in the series. The Hendees have created unique and engaging heroes in Magiere and Leesil. I do look forward to their further adventures as vampire hunters.
For those fans of strong female characters, definitely pick up this book. The writing was flowing and kept me turning pages. The plot was well put together. My only negative comment may be on the flashbacks of the vampires which reveals their history. It seemed a bit jarring at first, but the writing style quickly brought the reader into the story overcoming any issues.
I give “Dhampir” by Barb and J.C. Hendee four flags!