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  1. Teladan

    Teladan Active Member

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    Prejudice and Yearning...

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Teladan, Aug 11, 2019.

    I'll say it plainly: I have strong prejudice against fantasy writing if it's not from the 'literary' authors of old, e.g. Dunsany and Tolkien. I'm also not a fan of most genre fiction. I'm a little depressed these days as what I want to write most is in the realm of the fantastic, but I have no interest in joining the YA crowd and I don't like anything that modern fantasy writers are producing. My question is this: can one write literary fantasy in this day and age? I want to write a human story with elements of the fantastic and the surreal, not orcs and elves fighting each other or wizards using magic. The problem is I think a lot of people wouldn't take even this 'minimalist fantasy' seriously simply because it'd be a sort of fantasy. The closest analogue I can think of would be magical realism or Gaiman's Coraline, although I don't consider the latter to be of much repute in literary circles. Can it even be done, writing serious fiction in this way? I feel it won't ever be taken seriously. Depressing.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
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  2. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Sure why not. I love fantasy but I'm not into orcs, wizards, fairies or magic myself. I actually like old middle grade vintage fantasy like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, George Selden's Cricket in Time's square, Watership Down, the Toothpaste Genie stuff like that. Some of my fantasy stories have been - a girl trapped in a garden with worms that make vases, a robot with an abusive owner, twins separated when one is transformed into a hulking beast, two people that live grubs and keep transforming, a four year old girl living in a theme park castle is given a miniature man to play with.

    Don't worry about trying to categorize your story at this stage. Just write it and see how it goes. Remember you have the advantage of standing out. Where as others have to sell themselves as an extra special orc story.
     
  3. Teladan

    Teladan Active Member

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    I suppose you're right. Honestly, it's mainly my fault for being so judgemental about certain types of books and their categories. However, my lament is over such categorisation in the first place. I don't really want to be--if I ever publish anything--a 'genre fiction' writer. In many ways I envy old writers since they didn't have such strict categories and images to adhere to. I think it's sad we live in a world where you don't really have fantasy writing on the level of Dostoevsky or Joyce... I guess I should just write what I want to write and get on with it.

    Edit: Your story ideas sound a lot like what I'm considering these days.
     
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  4. suddenly BANSHEES

    suddenly BANSHEES Senior Member

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    Fantasy is such a vast genre, and has been for decades, so I'd be surprised if there weren't fantasy novels with those themes somewhere out there already. It's easy to write off an entire genre, especially when you have a hard time finding the kind of story that scratches your particular literary itch. I'd say to just go for it, and write the story you want to read. Odds are, there are others out there who've been looking for that same type of story too.

    As for being taken "seriously" as a fantasy story, that's kind of out of your hands. There will always be people who just won't give your story the time of day just because of its genre, or its target audience, or, heck, even the design on its cover. The same way you don't want to read books with elves and orcs and magic, a potential reader could decide that they don't want to touch your story because of some element that has nothing to do with the core theme of the book.
     
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  5. Teladan

    Teladan Active Member

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    Indeed. I recognise that I've basically telegraphed my own hypocrisy here. Okay, I'll get to work. Thanks.
     
  6. Teladan

    Teladan Active Member

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    Just to clarify the sort of fantasy I'm talking about, Leaf By Niggle is a prime example. Very much in the sphere of human affairs, but with elements of otherworldliness, an ethereal quality. Le Horla by Maupassant is another good one. The King of Elfland's Daughter, though concerning many tropes of traditional fantasy, such as knights and magic, has some wonderfully poignant moments relating to the passage of time. Basically human stories, but with fantastic parts. I can't quite get this idea of a family who live in the cracks of buildings in Edinburgh, Scotland, and who have to fend for themselves against the larger forces of the world out of my head. It'd be a hymn to the understated and the small. I'm not saying this to gauge interest, by the way. I just wanted to give some concrete examples.
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Fantasy is a genre where ANYTHING can happen, right? But sometimes it seems as hidebound as any other genre. I was in the WH Smith bookstore recently, and perused the genre. Yep. It was mostly all the wizardy/orcy/GRRMartin-y/RPG-like kind of offerings, with a few classics thrown in for good measure. I have a feeling that the bookstore's shelves reveal what people who visit the Fantasy section actually expect to find.
     
  8. Aaron Smith

    Aaron Smith Contributor Contributor

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    Fantasy (and sci-fi) isn't necessarily fictional pursuits. They can be archetypical tales that confer central aspects of the human condition and humanity as a whole!

    Want to discuss issues with race? Create a new one and you won't have to fear being labelled as racist. Want to explore genocide of a nation? Create a new one as to not marganilize the lives of real people.

    And so on.
     
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  9. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    It would by be. I’m doing the same kind of thing. If no one reads that’s their loss ... or maybe not, because I may very well end up writing terrible drivel! :D

    I get where you’re coming from though. The predominant audience generally seems to be the YA crowd. Look at figures like Alan Moore who single-handedly revolutionised the Graphic Novel - the limit is what you make it.
     
  10. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The third pronunciation of "potato" Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Or write literary fiction with fantastic elements. Burroughs had talking typewriters, Kafka man-sized cockroaches (haven't read it), Kazuo Ishiguro went all dream-like at least once, nobody really thinks The Time Traveler's Wife is SF...
     
  11. Teladan

    Teladan Active Member

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    Indeed, this is what I meant; I just framed it in a different way.
     
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  12. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Member

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    this always puzzles me.

    If you don't like fantasy, why do you want to write it?
     
  13. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    I can guess the answer here maybe?

    I would think that a great number of us in our youth enjoyed greatly flights of fantasy and the idea of discovering new worlds. Once we’ve grown up and experienced more of the world we come back to the ‘fantasy’ genre and find the vast majority of it to be aimed at YA audiences ... reclaiming such rich and intoxicating imaginative work for more worldly minds is perhaps what the OP is referring to?

    Also, I don’t particularly like novels and as I believe I mentioned above (?) many famous authors started writing because they couldn’t find a book they enjoyed reading. If you cannot find one the next best thing is it write one yourself :)
     
  14. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Member

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    I don't buy that. I never read YA and there's a ton of fantasy out there.
     
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  15. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    What fantasy novels are they? I’m always willing to give something a go - the closest I’ve come to what grabs my attention is Alan Moore (not strictly ‘fantasy’ though as it lacks world building - important for me).
     
  16. Mish

    Mish Active Member

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    Ofcourse one can! I'm a huge fan of Tolkien, of R.R. Martin, not so much. I don't even know what YA crowd is. My main genre is science fiction, but I decided for my next story genre to be fantasy. I might even write it for the next flash fiction contest here. I don't care what anyone will say or think either. I'm mostly writing to enjoy it myself first and foremost, stuff what other people say. (unless it's pleasant, constructive feedback like the one from lovely people on this forum)
     
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  17. Teladan

    Teladan Active Member

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    I enjoy fiction with elements of the fantastic. I'm just not a fan of what is classed as traditional fantasy, e.g. orcs and elves, magic systems and the like. That is, aside from the master Tolkien. You know, the modern type of fantasy. I used to when I was much younger. Works like The King of Elfland's Daughter, Metamorphosis, Turn of the Screw, Tree and Leaf, Le Horla, Castle of Otranto, are good examples of what I mean. Any story which is mostly 'literary' and 'human-focused' but which also contains ethereal or absurd qualities.
     
  18. Teladan

    Teladan Active Member

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    Couldn't agree more. I put my reading in to three camps: realism, the 'perfect blend', and mythology. I mostly read fiction which focuses on psychological issues and are portrayed as very human in theme and focus, e.g. The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato or No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai. But I also have an interest in mythology and folklore. The perfect blend, then, is something which capitalises on the sense of inhuman wonder, but also deals with very human conflicts. I just don't find that any modern fantasy fulfils my need for 'the fantastic', so I usually just go to the old works. Much of my own writing is usually quite realistic, but I have this deep-seated need to do something more fantastical! So we come back to whether or not such writing can be taken seriously. I suppose it can. I'm just not a fan of the categorisations we have now, and the focus on image. Would Metamorphosis be a literary classic today?

    Edit: If I'm being honest, I'm quite opposed to genres and the idea of distinctive categories. The old classics were just stories and so they didn't come with as much baggage. If you say, "I'm writing a fantasy story" today, most people assume you're trying to write Game of Thrones or something. Feel free to argue against this.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
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  19. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Senior Member

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    I like fantasy, but not the "hard" fantasy. I like magical realism and fantasy that focuses on the human experience and heavily steeped in myth. I admit, I have never read anything by tolkien, because I dont find that type of fantasy interesting.
    I dont really remember reading much fantasy as a child. Guardians of Ga'Hoole and Chanters of Tremaris were the only fantasy books that I remember reading that I actually enjoyed and still brings up pleasant nostalgic memories when I see them in my library. And I didnt read much YA books growing up, fantasy or otherwise.

    House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende and Beloved by Toni Morrison (RIP) were the two first magical realism books I've read in high school and I enjoyed them. They were "real" with just the right amount of strange and fantastical.
    I enjoy Juliet Marillier's Sevenwater books because it pulls heavily from Irish folklore. For example, the first book you'll find an Irish lord at war with his neighboring lord and a woman who curses his family by turning his male heirs into swans. The daughter must weave sweaters out of thistles and thorns to save them all while never making a sound or pain or explaining what she is doing. Even when she is raped. Even when she is taken to Briton and tried for witch craft and imprisoned.
    The second book, one of the daughters is kidnapped but tells Irish myths to her captors every night to stay in their good favor (kind of like Scheherazade in On Thousand and One Nights). The books get more and more steeped in fantasy with each book and, I admit, I lost interest after i think the 5th one where the MC goes into the fairy realm. that little departure from reality was too much for me.

    Sharon Shinn's fantasy is more biblically inclined. It's in a completely different world. I cant remember if the have electricity or not or itf its all gas. their clothing (as described in the books) is not modern at all. Each region is ruled by an Angel (like a literal, feathered winged angel) with a host of other angels who commune with "God" (the identity of "God" is directly mentioned in one of the books as one of the angels figures out the truth of what they [the angels] are and what God is and struggles with is it right to tell people or should she suffer in silence with this knowledge and keep everyone blissfully ignorant). The only thing "fantastic" about these books are the Angels.

    These are the types of fantasy that I like to gravitate toward. There are a few less literary fantasy books that i have read; I call them "potato chips" because they are enjoyable, but not really intellectually healthy.
     
  20. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Teladan -

    Hope we can offer each other some critique in the future then. We seem to be roughly in the same area of interest.
     
  21. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    If you write genre and have some success, I would think you would want to be known in that genre. Even if what you're writing is a little different, it's still fantasy. Sorry you don't like the word "genre" or think it's taken seriously enough for you and your writing, but I think that's more of a personal issue than a real issue with the system. Is it worth giving up fantasy writing to avoid any sort of genre label? I mean that's basically what it seems like your only option is.

    @J.T. Woody beat me to it, but I was thinking Toni Morrison. So there is crossover and blending, but if you're really anti genre, I imagine it could even be hard to write in that genre. You would have to worry about failure and also the success of possibly being thought of as a genre writer. I would much rather aim for genre than Toni Morrison status. And I doubt she went into writing thinking genre was a bad word and her writing would not be taken seriously if she mixed in fantasy.

    I sort of want to say get over yourself because that seems to be the real problem. I mean no disrespect, but calling something literary isn't going to make it sell better or make people think you're smarter or better or whatever you think these labels do. All they do is categorize books. I don't need to come across a fantasy book when that's not what I'm looking for. And I don't care how literary the author or others might think it is if it's still fantasy. I do think Toni Morrison was unbelievable and truly talented. Beloved could fit onto more than one shelf, I think, but that doesn't mean it has to or makes a difference how seriously her work has been taken. A good story is a good story.
     
  22. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Senior Member

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    I work in a library. All we do is categorize.

    Most major books stores do this too.

    For example, I'm black. whatever I write will almost automatically go in "African American" or "Urban." Doesnt matter if the black author writes fantasy or romance or whatever genre; if the cover has a black person on it OR if the author includes a picture of themselves, it gets categorized as such. And, while I'm trying to stop my library from doing this, it still happens. Things are put in the category they will sellout in
     
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  23. v_k

    v_k Member

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    Inaccurate categorization for children's books was the root cause of many wonderful and many bad things happened in my life. The effects can vary. My reason to not blame anyone for everything, is that everyone, authors, publishers, librarians and parents tried to excel at their job. And they did all their mistakes honestly.
     
  24. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Top of the buzzing to you. :) Supporter Contributor

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    Fantasy: Fiction written in the Medieval times and farther back
    that is not based in fact or truth. Simple as it comes, and does
    not require any of the fantastical elements such as dragons and
    orcs, and nonsense. It is just a fanciful yarn set in a time period,
    and that is pretty much the core of what makes it part of the genre.
    Made up people, places, and plot/theme.
    I mean if you kept everything from say a Soap, and just set it in
    ancient times and kept the elements period specific, it would be
    a fantasy drama. No magic or extra species like elves and the like.
    Pretty much take a modern concept and time shift it to fit the story.
    Instead of Cops it would be Knights, instead of cars and guns, it would
    be horses, carts, swords, crossbows. Nothing extraordinary, just molded
    to fit the time it is set in.
     
  25. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Member

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    Fantasy can be set in later historical or technological settings than just Medieval, though

    I write fantasy, and the settings are absolutely not medieval.
     
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