Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Conflux Part 2: Fantasy literature

THE second panel I appeared on at Conflux was a tricky one, to say the least. With a rather nebulous title - fantasy as literature, moderator Jenny Blackford, myself and Sabrina de Souza attempted to tackle something that had little to grasp hold of!
Beyond suggesting that fantasy is, in fact, the bedrock of Anglo-Saxon literature, using as my supporting evidence the epic poem Beowulf and the tradition of bards and skalds, we were fighting to come up with anything controversial. Sadly that (my effort) did not stir the passions of the audience, given they were almost all fantasy fans and quite happy to agree!
Jenny, a judge on the World Fantasy Awards, had kept us going with some discussion but we were running out of steam.
Luckily for us, panellist and fellow Voyager author KJ (Katie) Taylor (The Dark Griffin) arrived. Her entrance was a little late due to Daylight Savings but was perfectly timed. Her energy and outspoken enthusiasm rescued a panel that was threatening to struggle.
We also all agreed with KJ, when she said fantasy is unfairly maligned and that fantasy was a genre of almost unlimited possibilities (although it has plenty of bad fantasy efforts).
But we were also saved with the best question from the audience I heard all weekend (admittedly there were many panels I missed).
Christian Tambling, self-published author of Dragon Moon, asked if there were any boundaries you could not cross in fantasy.
This had us all thinking hard.
My take came back to my favourite saying - get the characters right and people will be more inclined to follow them on the journey you are writing, no matter how extraordinary it grows to be.
The only barrier I like to avoid is the limit of normal human ability. If you have heroes slaughtering hundreds of soldiers, or able to far surpass normal physical efforts, then you may well have a problem.
Readers will check their disbelief at the door when they crack the cover of a fantasy book, allowing you to indulge the fantasy of magic, mythical creatures and the like - but having people do the impossible without even an attempt at a logical explanation is what gives the genre a bad name.
What do you think?

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