Why is everyone so quick to make fantasy either urban steampunk or medieval? There's so much more.

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by FireWater, Jul 8, 2017.

  1. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I love lots of books. But I think my favourite—I believe it's a 'perfect' book for many reasons—is one I read many years ago. Actually I had it read out loud to me. Then when I got older, I read it myself. I continue to read it every so often, and appreciate it more and more. When I first encountered it, of course it was the superficial story itself that I loved. But as I got older, I realised the skill it took to write it so simply, with such a confident voice, to defy so many conventions about what books for young people needed to be like. The book conjured up a time and place to perfection, without being either sentimental or pessimistic. It was a simple story, with only a few characters, but they were expertly crafted.

    It's a story I still enjoy reading, and it still moves me. It's actually a very adult book. It's about how life doesn't always give you what you want, that it's often unfair and cruel. But you make the hard decisions, live with the consequences and keep going, because that's what you do. And you take pleasure in small things, when you can.

    The story? Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson.

    I still occasionally re-read stories I loved as a child, and many of them still 'work' for me. But none as well as this one does. There isn't a single word out of place, or a single aspect that rings false. I wish I could write like that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    That is beautiful, and it sounds like a toned down version of "A World Half Full" to me :)
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not familiar with that one. Who wrote it?
     
  4. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    That's a matching factor, not another work that uses it ;)

    It's when the point of a work is that making the best of a horrible world is a victory in its own right and that the story doesn't need to be about the heroes fixing everything.

    I'm still looking for a trope that more precisely describes what you're talking about, but do you think you'll be looking for works with that one in the meantime? The page has a pretty long list :) Including: Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Stephen King's The Stand, Terry Brook's The Word and the Void, Alastair Reynolds' Terminal World, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  5. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I wasn't specifically seeking that story's outcome. I was only about 6 years old when I first encountered it (my first grade teacher read it out loud to us.) It was only later on, when I read it as an adult, that I began to really appreciate the craft and the theme.

    What will attract me to reading a story in the first place (unless I've read reviews that make me interested) is usually the time period or setting. I was always attracted to stories set in the 19th century, and specifically in rural parts of the country. I still gravitate towards that kind of setting, and it's the general setting I used for my own novel. Why? I have no idea.

    However, what the stories laid in those realistic historical settings can do is surprise me. The themes vary. I have never been very interested in the genre stories from that time period ...the stock Western, for example. My dad had a collection of Zane Grey, which I read, but didn't really like. Something about them didn't seem right. (Of course now I know they were pure myth, but I didn't know that at the time.) Then I remember reading a couple of books by Will James ...and that clicked for me. His stories were 'real.' Some were semi-autobiographical. I couldn't get enough of that kind of writing. My bookshelves are still loaded with stories written about that time and place. Willa Cather. Mari Sandoz. AB Guthrie. James Welch. Hamlin Garland. Charles M Russell. And of course the childhood 'other' favourites by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    I loved books set elsewhere during the 19th century as well—not just in the old west. In fact, that's probably my favourite period to read about, even today. I read even more non-fiction pertaining to that era, including lots more from First Nations writers, and love the personal histories and primary source works that I've gathered over the years. I love history as much as I love fiction, and I love when they come together well. Either written by contemporary hands, or written by modern authors who know their stuff and who portray life during the time with all its colours.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  6. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I see ;)

    The site doesn't have a good list of literature explicitly categorized as taking place Down On The Farm :( but there's always sites like GoodReads to fill in the blanks :) @BayView Does GoodReads have a category for stories taking place in the rural 1800s?
     
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  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think that my favorite is fairly heavily nostalgia-based: The Doll's House by Rumer Godden. It's totally a children's book, but hiding inside are tragic heroism, loyalty, betrayal, an examination of expected versus actual roles in the family, the aching need for security and home and a place in the world, the helplessness of the helpless, the strength of the helpless, the strength of true evil, status versus love, the value of different kinds of intelligence, abuse and recovery from abuse but the forever fragility, returning to life after bereavement...

    (So maybe it's not nostalgia based. Maybe the core is as strong as I feel it to be.)

    All with dolls. The bits where the little girls are learning stuff from adults could just be cut, as far as I'm concerned. And I really don't care if Emily "gets" Charlotte's message in the end. Emily's on her own, as far as I'm concerned.

    Mr. Plantaganet losing his post office still makes me want to cry. Birdie's final action still makes me want to cry--and the fact that I put it that way means that I'm treating this as a story worth protecting from spoilers.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Down on the Farm? Ha ha ha! :rofl: Erm...not quite....
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Based on your recommendation, I've just ordered it on Kindle. It's a story I never read, but always meant to.
     
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  10. Anna100

    Anna100 Active Member

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    I don't really read a lot of fantasy, but this sounds interesting.

    I jumped into the conversation without reading all the posts, but (to me) fantasy means you have the freedom to make up just about anything, right?
    People are probably writing about the same things or having the same setting etc. because it's safe.
     
  11. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Let's see if this one goes better :)

    Wow.

    So I'm definitely finding a lot of blind spots that I wasn't aware of when I started plugging the site, but TVTropes does have categories for "Tragic Hero," "I Just Want To Have Friends," "Dark and Troubled Past," "Uptown Girl" (formerly called "Inter Class Romance"), and dozens of different types of loyalty, betrayal, and "intelligent" characters.

    I can count on one hand the number of times knowing an ending ahead of time made me enjoy the experience more rather than less.
     
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  12. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Goodreads has about 1.5 billion.

    ... Wow.
     
  13. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    That may be counting multiple versions of the same book as separate? Like, one title may be counted for hardcover, paperback, e-book, audiobook, etc.

    Still... it's pretty huge. I think because of the Amazon connection, most books show up on Goodreads as soon as they're up on Amazon.
     
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  14. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Actually, the test in this case is writing meaningful literature and the method of not studying is not learning and using science/history/ our real world, in other words, using fantasy. So it's a problem with the method.
     
  15. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    SciFi/Fantasy or otherwise ;)

    I'm confused. Is "SciFi/Fantasy that qualifies as meaningful literature" inferior to "non-SFF that does not qualify as meaningful literature" :confused:

    EDIT: What about these?

    http://www.npr.org/2011/08/09/139248590/top-100-science-fiction-fantasy-books

    More than 60,000 ballots were cast in our annual summer reader's survey — click here to see the full list of 100 books, complete with links and descriptions. Below is a printable list of the top 100 winners. And for even more great reads, check out the complete list of 237 finalists.

    1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
    3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
    4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
    5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
    6. 1984, by George Orwell
    7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
    8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
    9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

    11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
    12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
    13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
    14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
    15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
    16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
    17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
    18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
    19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
    20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

    21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
    22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
    23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
    24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
    25. The Stand, by Stephen King
    26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
    27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
    28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
    29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
    30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

    31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
    32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
    33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
    34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
    35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
    36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
    37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
    38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
    39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
    40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

    41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
    42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
    43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
    44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
    45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
    46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
    48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
    49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
    50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

    51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
    52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
    53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
    54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
    55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
    56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
    57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
    58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
    59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
    60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

    61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
    62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
    63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
    64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
    65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
    66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
    67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
    68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
    69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
    70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

    71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
    72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
    73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
    74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
    75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
    76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
    77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
    78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
    79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
    80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

    81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
    82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
    83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
    84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
    85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
    86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
    87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
    88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
    89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
    90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

    91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
    92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
    93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
    94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
    95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
    96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
    97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
    98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
    99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
    100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  16. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Don't be sneaky and try to lump together fantasy with sci fi ;)
     
  17. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Why not? Would breaking the science and history of the real world for Science Fiction not dampen a story's quality the way that breaking the science and history of the real world for Fantasy would?
     
  18. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Science fiction and fantasy are two very different animals. One speculates, the other reduces.
     
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  19. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    How so?
     
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  20. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Let's look at two classic sci fi/fantasy examples-- space travel and the unicorn.

    When we talk about space travel--and there are a million threads in WF about it--the same questions always come up. How could we achieve FTL speeds, how many generations of people would it take to get to another galaxy, how far would would we have to go to find another planet like Earth, etc, etc. This is speculation.

    Now look at the unicorn. It's just a white horse with the horn of a miniature narwhal slapped into its forehead. There's no consideration to neck strength, or whether it would prevent the unicorn from grazing effectively, or if the horn would get stuck-- no consideration for biology or evolution. It's just mixing and matching two pictures-- physics and biology is ignored. That's reduction.


    We could fix that. Maybe the horse is genetically spliced with a gnarwhal. Maybe a sick billionaire gets the horn of a narwhal surgically implanted into the head of a horse for an art show, and then the horse dies. Now it's science fiction.

    Similarly, maybe we just put some regular joes into a cool looking metal vehicle, strap on some sound effects, give the pilot a vest, and let them travel to any planet they want within minutes, no physical considerations required. Now it's fantasy.
     
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  21. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    And where does Soft SciFi like Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Marvel Comics fit into this? Is there no such thing as Soft SciFi because Fantasy and Hard SciFi are the only categories?

    What about fantasy where certain aspects couldn't possibly exist under the laws of nature in real life, but where a lot of attention is given to establishing the laws that they do follow instead?
     
  22. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    A number of stories have elements of more bone genre.

    About the second question--if you're making up your own rules it's just reduction.
     
  23. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Even if you make it massive and intricate?
     
  24. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    It sounds to me like you want to write science fiction.
     
  25. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee Custom Title. Contributor

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    I think what @numbersenpai is trying to say is:

    Sci-fi = If this were to happen
    Fantasy = I wish this were to happen

    Not coming up with the 'if' is seen as lazy writing.
     

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