Tag Archives: Fantasy

The World of The Easy River to Success

I thought it would be interesting to give some more background on my recently published short story The Easy River to Success. The story was published recently by Planet Magazine and is available there for free viewing. Please go over and take a look. I would be interested to know what you think of the story.

The world of the story is one that I have been working on for a while and is also the setting of two other short stories and a couple of novel ideas as well. My initial vision for the world was taken from a part of Gulliver’s Travels where Gulliver encounters people who live on islands that float in the air. I thought it would be amazing to have a fantasy world where one of the key cities was a flying island that orbited the world at a fairly low altitude of say a couple of thousand feet and that could be reached by flying carpets or unicorns. That’s the basis of one of the novel ideas.

This world-building developed further when I started thinking about religious and mythical background. I decided that I wanted the characters from my fiction to be able to interact with their gods in a meaningful way, and perhaps even to find that their idols were often just as fallible as they were – and in fact had once been human themselves too. The idea is similar to that used by Roger Zelazny in Lord of Light.

So I started on the process of creating my world and as a result came up with some interesting characters to populate and some story ideas outside the main novels came to the surface. One of these is The Easy River to Success.

This short story is set in a kingdom called Fei Usure, which is in conflict with the neighboroughing theocracy of Belgania. In a more recent iteration of my world these country names have  now been changed as I got more into developing the actual languages of the world into a more coherent pattern. The name of the world changed as well, from Neriador (too Tolkien I thought), to Ladmas (there’s a pun in there by the way).

Here’s the old version of the world, without all the cities and countries filled in. The new version has different names, but is the same size and shape.

I’ll write next time about the characters in the story and some of the politics they are involved in.

UPDATE

You can get an individual ebook copy of the story at SmashwordsFeedbooks, or if you would like to pay me for it viaAmazon’s Kindle Store.

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Devices and Desires – Errata to my Last Post

With reference to my last post about Devices and Desires, the characters have become a lot clearer and different for me now – the realisation for me happened after about 300 pages. I won’t say how exactly but the main characters slowly seem to accrue more differentiation in their manner, style and motivation.

Perhaps the difference should have been more noticeable earlier though? Otherwise I am really enjoying this book. It is fantasy in that it is a non-historical world, but there are no magical elements. The use of the engineering theme makes the narrative and style quite unique, but still accessible – you just go with the stuff you don’t understand. Also I don’t think the ending will be obvious – I can’t really think what will happen at the moment, and I have about 100 pages to go.

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Season of the Witch – interesting film coming out March 19, 2010

This looks quite interesting, and the plot is definitely up my street:

“14th century crusaders take a woman accused of witchcraft to an abbey where the monks will examine her and determine if her sorcery is the cause of the Black Plague which has decimated Europe.”

Video Trailer for Season of the Witch

And here:

But difficult to tell from the trailer! Apparently not based on a book, but the title sounds very familiar. There is a novel with the same name, but it’s got a different setting, and also a George Romero film from 1973, but again set in modern times. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took the same plot and put it back into medieval times to give it a more fantasy feel.

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Top Fantasy Authors of the Decade based on UK Sales

The Bookseller released some statistics today on the top 100 selling authors in the UK market from 2000 to 2009. I have extracted the fantasy authors from their data to put together the following list:

1          Rowling, J K                    27,556,478 units, revenue of  £215,876,812.77

6          Pratchett, Terry            8,670,317 units, revenue of  £63,979,648.47

21        Pullman, Philip              5,337,773  units, revenue of  £34,670,831.34

23        Tolkien, J R R                4,960,414  units, revenue of  £47,169,467.51

25        Meyer, Stephenie         4,646,667  units, revenue of  £26,971,717.71

66        Koontz, Dean                  2,500,606  units, revenue of  £14,742,572.68

It’s interesting that fantasy isn’t as dominant a genre as one might be lead to believe with only 6 in the top 100 – and that’s only if we consider Meyer and Koontz as fantasy. SF isn’t placed at all, which is a shame.

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Fight, Fight, Fight – Writing Combat Scenes in Fantasy Literature

David Gemmel
Image via Wikipedia

How do you write a good combat scene? I set myself an exercise over the weekend of analysing what works for me as a reader in some of my favourite fantasy books.

Tolkien’s Avoidance

The weird thing that I found was that in some cases where I thought there would be quite a bit of material to look at – such as The Lord of the Rings for instance, there was little actual description of a full individual against individual combat. Even where Boromir dies, which is a big scene at the end of the Fellowship of the Ring move, the combat is described through a report by Legolas, Boromir dies bravely. Tolkien is more interested in the mass movement of armies and epic scope of battles rather than the nitty gritty of hand-to-hand combat.

Abercrombie’s Confusion

What I found was that in the best examples I came across, such as in Joe Abercrombie and David Gemmell, the way combat was described was very dependent on character and the character’s emotions. So for instance when King Jezal charges foolishly at a horde of Gurkish warriors the combat is very confusing as Jezal himself doesn’t really know what he is doing. He is hit from behind, he’s not sure what’s going on around him etc. Whereas in a scene involving Logen Ninefingers the combat is more precisely described as Logen is in more control of the situation – except when he gets berserk of course.

Gemmell’s Power

Gemmell though was the best example I found, especially when he deals with a straight-forward combat between a hero and his enemies. The action is fast and furious, none of the slow-motion nonsense you get sometimes when writers try to describe every detail of a fight, but lots of powerful, descriptive verbs, such as shattered, hammered, splintered, smashed etc. Every phrase and sentence describes a new attack or new movement. Everything happens rapidly and is conveyed with a sense of breathless energy.

In other scene’s Gemmell is not afraid to tell us what his character’s are thinking, and in some cases what multiple characters are thinking as well. So here again the character and their emotions plays a big part. A bigger, more important part than the precise description of the martial arts.

The energy and visceral power of Gemmell and Abercrombie is definitely something to aspire to I think.

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Writing on Genre

A bit of a rant about Genre

As a participant in some online critiquing networks I come across a fair amount of unpublished stories written by authors, like myself, who want to get publish. These networks tend to be genre orientated – so for fantasy and science fiction for instance.

I hope I’m not slagging off other people’s work by saying this, but it is surprising how much work is written as fantasy or science fiction, but could be easily transposed to another genre or non-genre with little difficulty. So for instance the basic ingredients of the story and character can stand-alone of fantastical elements or a science fiction theme.

Science Fiction that’s Science Fiction!

Perhaps the best way of describing what I mean is by briefly mentioning a story that is integrated with it’s genre. The example is Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. In this book the premise is that old people can be rejuvenated and made young again, but only if they enlist into the military and go to fight aliens. You couldn’t have this story without the science fiction element of being able to turn back the ageing clock, therefore it’s definitely on message as far as its genre is concerned.

Any Story Any Genre

What you often find with stories that aren’t really integrated with their genre is that the narrative is basically a detective story, or a rites of passage, or a tale of life on the frontier. Rather than the conflict being with the Injuns, it’s with the aliens, or with the Evil Lord’s minions.

Magic as Heavy Artillery

Is this really what fantasy and science fiction should be about? What defines the fantasy genre? It’s surely not about magic as just a better form of firepower, is it?

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Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction retrospective

I saw this over at Enter the Octopus and felt to get the word out – looks like an excellent – a number of short interviews with the likes of Peter Beagle, Karen Joy Fowler, Michael Swanwick, Mary Rickert, Jeffrey Ford, John Kessel, Delia Sherman, Ellen Klages, Gene Wolfe, Charles de Lint, and Fantasy and Science Fiction publisher Gordon Van Gelder himself.


The interviews are to mark the release of The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fictions anthology from Tachyon Publications.

Here’s a direct link to the interviews.
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Joined Critters

I have just signed up to Critters, the on-line workshop/critique group for serious writers of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror! Hopefully they won’t mind my blend of history/fantasy too much. 


I think it’s a great idea. It offers a means to get some detailed critique of your work within a password protected environment. The key is that you only get your work critiqued if you critique others – you have to do an average of one a week to get your own stuff looked at. I’m planning to look through a story tonight on the train so that I can start building up my critter cred. 

On Roger Draper, still haven’t come up with a new story name, although I haven’t given it much thought, so that’s probably why. But I do now have only one character to flesh out and then it’s back to the plot synopsis again. I feel there are a few inconsistencies that need to be ironed out at the next stage as the individual character plot-lines have gone their separate ways rather. Also I need to balance the different emotions floating around and the possible conflicts as well. I have the impression that I want the story to feel right, rather than just make a decision on each character and let it wonder. I want to make sure that the ensemble of characters works well together. Perhaps I’ll include a bit more detail in a future post. 

Terry Pratchett on the One Show

Great to see Terry Pratchett looking so well on the BBC One Show last night. It was a very moving piece about the problems early-onset Alzheimer sufferers have to get drugs on the NHS – it’s becoming more and more of a problem as the population ages. Terry seemed mentally very eloquent – apparently it is affecting him more physically than mentally, which is a good thing for his writing. I wish him all the best.

I haven’t really read him since the first five or six books – during my idle youth, but I will definitely have to go through the rest of his works. Its a shame he has been sidelined as a supposedly cult writer, when in actual fact he is probably more ‘mainstream’ than that dreadful Rowling. His books tend to be satires on our modern society using Fantasy as a lens.

Link to the One Show on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/page/item/b00bf008.shtml?src=ip_mlt

And the One Show website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/theoneshow/