Until now my version of the fantastic has been science fiction – speculative fiction really -extrapolation of current tech and science trends. I have focused my attentions on the role of the mind and its place in the universe and, in particular what machine AI will mean for biological minds. Other strands of writing have speculated on ecological disaster and unwanted alien attention. Social implications of future democracy as it will develop under continued webification of society has also pulled on me, as has the response of traditional religions to all the above.
Now, though, I find myself embroiled in writing a fantasy novel – working title The Wearde and The Real – and rapidly coming to terms with the level of ground-up detail I need to be creating (talking of which, I came up with the creation myth for The Wearde early in the morning this Saturday – The Wearde being where my fantasy is set). Charlie, my main protagonist, has just entered The Wearde for the first time in my writing – though I have written a novella length chunk later in the story that sets up some of the back-story myth.
Whilst writing I am immersing myself in the fantasy genre. Or, perhaps, I should say re-immersing myself. Like millions of others, I have read Lord of the Rings many times. I hugely enjoyed Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy – reading it at the same time as my kids and, again, re-reading several times. Much more recently Neil Gaiman has (finally) come onto my radar. And, currently, I am part way through The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss which, in the Goodread’s chart is the top-ranked fantasy novel of the 21st century – and a debut novel at that!!
In revisiting the complexity of these fantastic worlds with critical, author’s eye, I have come to appreciate the level of design underlying the narrative.
So, whilst all this enjoyable novel reading is going on (I love being a writer with full permission to read as part of the job!) I’m also studying the tools of the fantasy writer’s trade. I’m reading Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendleson; The Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer; Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction by Hunt and Lenz and short but useful Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans. All very different, but insightful works on how what fantasy is and how it’s done – by others anyway!