I was born on the same continent that gave us the legends, myths, and fairy tales that underlie stories like Lord of the Rings, King Arthur’s knights of the round table, Wheel of Time, and Narnia.
The definition of classical fantasy rests in large part on people taking long journeys on tree-lined dirt roads with European seasons hanging in the tree tops and the clouds, and stopping for bathroom breaks in generic Ye Olde Inns with ale on tap and the generic stew bubbling in a cauldron over the fire. (It is surprising that Europe never ran out of rabbits, the amount of stews that were on the boil all the time.) And we won’t talk about the Magic Potatoes which make their way into European stews while their real life counterparts still existed only in Hy Breasil or whatever they called that land far beyond the western ocean…
The thing accepted and feted as classic fantasy is rich, but it has been very well mined. And so it is not surprising that so many readers are looking new worlds of fantasy, for places and things and stories which *they haven’t seen before*, anything that isn’t obviously rooted in the cheerfully misrepresented and romanticized European High Middle Ages.
I’ve written my share of classical high fantasy – ‘Changer of Days’, for example. But my ‘Wings of Fire’ is set in New Zealand and includes both Medieval European tropes and some surprises (A selkie, a rusalka, and a taniwha walk into a bar…).
When I first began writing historical fantasy, I was inspired by times and places rooted in our own familiar world, but leavened with a dash of the unreal. A world that might have been. I’ve written about places which might be identifiable as something from our own history and geography but gave them different names. If I used things that were supposed to have happened in the ‘true’ history of our world I sometimes fudged the precise timing so that I could create a more consistent story rooted in my own world.
‘The Secrets of Jin-shei’ (eight women bound by a vow of forever) was set in a mythical land that I called Syai which was inspired by Imperial China but was NOT the China of our world’s history. ‘Embers of Heaven’ is set in the same world 400 years later and is a mythical retelling of our own China’s Cultural Revolution.
‘Empress‘ (passionate intrigue in an alternate Byzantium) was inspired by our own Byzantium, a bit further back in time and in a different part of the same alternate world, and is based on one of the greatest love stories in all of our history.
Similarly, my four Worldweavers books take place in the U.S. and are infused with Native American myths. And ‘The Were Chronicles’ trilogy invokes modern life in The New World by Weres far distant from their ancient European roots.
(All my books can be found in the top pull down menu My Books HERE)
It takes more work and research to create such fantasy worlds, but it’s worth it. The resulting stories can shine with a brighter glow. It is ALL our world, after all, and it is high time some cultural shut-ins learned that there is more out there than just stew in inns crewed by the likes of jolly red-cheeked Butterbur of Bree.
It is high time that we looked at “other” and saw something worthy of curiosity and honor and respect rather than just the differences that frighten and repel and lead to dehumanization and slaughter. It is high time we all learned… how to be human together. It is time the OTHER stories get told. Make room by the fire, there – those of you who have had plenty of chances to speak – and learn how to listen, instead.
I have more such books coming that will become integrated into a lush alternative world with its own past, its own current events, its own future. I am literally rewriting the (fantastical) history of our world, novel by novel, building it brick by brick, character by character, word by word.
But first I have to finish the WIP, which uses standard SF tropes like starships but with a devastating twist on a couple of thousand years of ‘real’ history.
Quote of the Day
“There are things that are more important than the news and what’s happening today. There are these archetypes which are part of the human imagination since humans were presumably imaginative. And I think that’s what [people] find touching, these eternal ideas. It’s one of the things that makes fantasy something that tends to stand the test of time because we’re reading, 50 years later, The Lord of the Rings.” ~ Clive Barker
“The structure of the novel is essentially Jubal Harshaw relentlessly stating the obvious: Sex is fun, and handsome aliens should not be publicly stoned for having sex. Yes, we agree.”
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