The Multi-Verse

by Joshua Johnson

Recently, I started work on a second series set on the world of Zaria. It follows a new set of characters and a new plot.

One of the aspects of fantasy worldbuilding that I’ve never really had a chance to explore (for one reason or another) is the concept of multiple storylines built out of from a common base.

Many of my favorite authors have done this in one degree or another, and I’ve always been interested in doing it. So I’ve started.

I’ve found it very interesting to begin planning multiple novels or series using common worldbuilding, without having them directly related. This approach has many benefits but many drawbacks.

I’ve found it convenient that I can use a lot of the same basic world information (length of the year, seasons, geography) when I’m plotting out the new series. I also have a lot of basic information about the nations of Zaria that I’ve been able to expand.

On the other hand, trying to manage multiple storylines has proven to be a challenge. While the new story doesn’t happen directly parallel with my existing story, there’s enough information that I’ve had to adjust the planning several times. I think that the biggest challenge has been managing multiple timelines and deciding where along the technology timeline each story is going to be and why.

So what authors have you read that have used a common worldbuilding base to write multiple stories that do or don’t intertwine? What do you think makes these kinds of worlds better or worse than linear or consecutive storylines within a series?

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Book Release: THE LAST ACOLYTE, by Steven Montano

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A NEW SAGA BEGINS!

Mercenary. Soldier. Lover.

All in a day’s work.

John Rike will never see his home again, but he’s ok with that. Back on Earth he was nobody, just an anonymous grad student with no personality, no ambition, and nothing that made him stand out.

But after nearly fifteen years in the dangerous and war-torn Auran Galaxy, Rike has become an infamous soldier-of-fortune. An Acolyte of the vicious Bloodthorn Monastery, Rike’s adventures have taken him from the dregs of crime-ridden fringe planets to the deck of the fabled starship Vigilant.

Now Rike has come to the oppressed planet of Sares 6, the latest in a string of worlds subjugated by the vile Taur, where he must track down and kill the man who trained him.

Aided by a mysterious mercenary and faced with the horrors of the Taur’s despicable occupation, Rike soon finds himself in a desperate race against time…because if he fails in his mission, what little he holds sacred will be forever lost.

Grab your copy today for just $3.99!

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (Canada)

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

 

About the Author

Steven Montano is a mild-mannered accountant and indie author who recently decided to summon a Cthulian horror into the heart of rural Michigan.  He hasn’t had much luck yet, but he plans to keep trying, so you may want to steer clear of the south of Detroit area for a while…

Rumpel

Fairy Tales and Fantasy Revisited

Earlier this week, Jane Rosenberg LaForge wrote a provocative guest post on what she sees as key differences between fantasy and fairy tales. My first reaction to her argument was a bit of umbrage: my monsters are humans who behave monstrously too! Nevertheless, her essay prompted me to ponder the boundaries between fantasy and fairy tales and whether the “human monster” really does represent a key difference.

RapunzTowerIn the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales, Donald Haase states that the difference between fantasy and fairy tale is belief—fairy tale–tellers do not ask readers to believe the story actually happened, while fantasy authors want readers to suspend disbelief and, at least for the duration of the story, accept the tale as real. Fairy tale authors explicitly inform readers that the narrative events are impossible. In addition, most fairy tales were crafted to impart ethical and moral lessons and the tellers of these tales, whether they deliver the story orally or in print, usually strive to preserve the original form with only minimal modifications to fit the storyteller’s or editor’s time and society. Conversely, fantasies are original creations of the author. They might contain allegory or demonstrate ideals, but they aren’t meant to be remade or retold without attribution, nor do they always advocate a particular moral position.

Haase never says that fairy tales always have human antagonists, as Jane suggests, but I think she’s (mostly) right on this. A quick perusal of the table of contents of my copy of The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar, reveals title after title where the villain is a person. Even where they are animals or monsters—the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood” or the giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk”—these creatures represent human attributes (lust and greed, respectively), and certainly the majority of antagonists in the most famous of fairy tales (“Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “Hansel and Gretel”) are humans who behave very, very badly.

Of course, fantasy is rife with human villains too. For every Smaug, there’s a Cersei. The wicked shadow who pursues Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea turns out to be (spoiler!) Ged himself. The presence of human antagonists in these works doesn’t make them fairy tales, but it does speak to the influence fairy tales have over the work of fantasy authors. Fairy tales are among the first stories we’re told as children, and their narrative elements naturally seep into our work as adult authors.

the_snow_queen_s_second_kiss_by_silence_in_november-d6yivcgThe first two books in The Woern Chronicles tell a story about a girl with long hair she treasures, who is imprisoned in a tower by a powerful person who keeps her enthralled. The man who helps the young woman break free of her captor’s influence is blinded, and later the young woman wanders lost in a wilderness, far from the father of the child growing within her. Those elements of “Rapunzel”—and a healthy dose of “Rumpelstiltskin” (a farmer’s daughter promises to give up her child in exchange for a throne)—crept into Blade of Amber and A Wizard’s Lot without conscious intention. After all, I created Victoria the Blade to break from traditional fantasy and fairy tale gender stereotypes. She may be held captive by Lornk in the beginning of the series, but she’s no damsel in distress who passively waits for rescue. On the contrary, Vic is the hero (not the heroine), and she does most of the rescuing in the novels. In the next pair of Woern Chronicles novels, I deliberately use the storyline of “The Snow Queen” (a vengeful woman infects the heart of a boy with indifference, and a girl’s love and loyalty may be the only thing that can save him), but whether the retelling will be more recognizable than “Rapunzel” in Blade and Wizard remains to be seen.

I suppose I’m more interested in the similarities than the differences between fairy tales and fantasy. First, fairy tales contain good stories. I love straightforward retellings such as The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and Fairest and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, and An Untamed State, the literary retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin” Jane described, is now on my to-read list. Second, they offer a template for storytelling and characterization that has strongly informed my work. Most of all, they provide a frame with which to view literature and the world.

eec1db10808be84e2901e46760195bdbA.M. Justice writes fiction from distant times and places and chronicles journeys in the here and now. For more information on her work, visit her website, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or like her Facebook page.

The Magic in Fairy Tales Is Powered by Humanity

Today we’re honored to have a guest post from Jane Rosenberg LaForge, author of An Unsuitable Princess (which A.M. Justice reviewed in July). Jane presents a thought-provoking analysis of some differences between fantasy and fairy tales.


The Magic in Fairy Tales Is Powered by Humanity

by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

USPrincessAfter finishing a draft of what would become my “fairy tale” memoir, I sent copies to friends I trust to give me the requisite feedback. One reaction intrigued me so much more than the others that I’d like to reconsider it now. “It needs a dragon,’’ my friend said. He reasoned the male protagonist who seeks the secret princess in the fairy tale half of the story must do battle with a monster for a number of reasons.

First, this young man must prove himself worthy of her love. The dragon also is needed to reinforce the plot point that the princess is in real peril. If the dragon is a symbol of evil (at least through its avarice), then the implied meanings of a triumph over it are also important. At the very least, victory over the beast could be read as a sign of personal growth or character development.

But I said no to the dragon, and I believe my answer says something about the heritage fairy tales have delivered onto what now encompasses the genre of fantasy. The differences between original fairy tales and today’s fantasies may be distinctions without much significance, according to some. Yet in today’s writing climate, it’s a discussion worth having. Both fantasy and fairy tale are enjoying revivals, so much so that their purposes and traditions appear intertwined. But the point of departure is instructive to those working in either genre and also provides insight into the durability of fairy tales, and by extension, fantasy literature.

I said no to the dragon because I wanted the monsters in my story to be human. And I wanted my humans to be monstrous. This is not to say that the fantasy genre is without evildoers, both petty and capricious. But it is through the fairy tale that we first learned how to survive the gauntlet known as humanity. Yes, fairy tales are animated by the kind of magic and mysterious plot devices that fantasy also uses. But the human element—whether it is frailty, fault, or a rare fortitude—is what animates the labyrinth both victims and perpetrators initially navigated in oral and written forms.

At the heart of my story (An Unsuitable Princess, Jaded Ibis Press 2014) are two girls: one a princess denied her birthright yet imbued with the ability to heal the sick and injured; the other the spoiled 20th century teenager I was. The fairy tale is inspired by events in my life including my relationship with a leukemia patient, who provides the model for the princess’s champion. The princess revives her champion from a mysterious illness, but I, of course, lacked that facility. I was also loud and self-centered, and my avatar, the princess, is mute and selfless.

My invented fairy tale has its obvious roots in “Cinderella,’’ “Snow White,’’ and “Sleeping Beauty,’’ and these three stories, even in their Disneyfied iterations, are good examples of my theory. Cinderella is assisted by her fairy godmother, but she also displays the humility and benevolence that are so lacking in her stepsisters. Aurora may have been cursed at birth, but that curse arises from a social faux pas on the part of Aurora’s parents and the personality offended by it. The king and queen’s answer to the curse is also quite human, one embedded in the hubris people retreat into when a real solution seems unavailable. Finally, aside from the jealousy and envy enfolding her mother, Snow White’s attraction to the poison apple is as familiar as Eve’s encounter with the original fruit. The desires, needs, and failings of the good and the very, very bad drive home the moral lessons.

Fantasy writers are certainly informed by the archetypes established in fairy tales, but they also have a much wider canvas to work with. Hence, the dragon my friend suggested, or a wizard who guides a boy to manhood and to sovereignty over the realms—the domain of man, and the domain of nature. This wizard may have inspired a pantheon of elves and conjurers, who guide beings before the Age of Man—and presumably the end of apparent magic—in their quests and adventures. A lion, with its strength and heritage as king of the jungle, becomes the living symbol of a Christian ethos. These are all possibilities within fantasy, but not necessarily within fairy tales. Surely there is a human element in these seminal tales, but it is more passenger than helmsman.

UntamedStateYet because of its insistence on the primacy of human wants and appetites, the fairy tale has proved as malleable as the fantasy genre. For the past year I have been entranced by Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State (Grove Press/Black Cat 2014) because of what it does to “Rumpelstiltskin’’ and how it lays bare the fissures between parent and child sometimes ignored or glossed over in more popular re-tellings. Gay chronicles a Haitian-American woman’s trip to Hell and back when she is kidnapped in Haiti. In most cases, we are told, these kidnappings end quickly and happily, the ransom paid and the victim restored to family. But in this case, the father refuses: “Always (the father) was paying money, small ransoms here and there, the price of doing business in Haiti. But this was too much.”

Given the seaside compound her parents own, the kidnappers expect miracles of their prisoner, as if she could spin straw into gold. When she cannot deliver, she is punished in ways beyond anything either Perrault or the Grimms could have risked putting into print. At one point, The Commander, who runs the band of thugs holding the woman, inquires after her son, just as Rumpelstiltskin made the miller’s daughter pledge her firstborn child in exchange for his spinning. Years after the kidnapping, the story finally ends when the woman tells us The Commander’s true name. In our last glimpse of him, he is running “like a coward…. He ran because his life was in danger. Animals know when their lives are in danger.”

The book touches on other topics, such as the socio-politico-economic conflict inherent in the interracial relationship between the woman and her often-simpering husband. Much of it is unfamiliar territory for me, but An Untamed State resonates because of both its familiar plot and unfamiliar rendering of it. A less imaginative re-working of the source material would have a princess locked in a tower, or a child separated from its soul, or even a pair of thwarted lovers in a foreboding metropolis where vengeful powers have awakened after having been dormant for too long. It is what Gay is able to do with these foundations–the prosaic but intractable flaws that either ennoble or devour us—that make An Untamed State the achievement it is.

The purpose of all this is not to point out the superiority of fairy tales to fantasy works, nor is it an attempt to place myself on equal footing with Gay and the many other authors working in this revved-up genre (I wish). It is merely to remind writers that we should remember this most vital part of our inspiration, so that the “New Weird” or “interstitial” or “slipstream” or whatever our work may be called some day. I recently heard a joke about television writing: the lead character should be based on one of the seven deadly sins, and the castaways on “Gilligan’s Island” are based on all seven of them. If you are ever stuck for plot, segue, possibility, or thought, think of the first tales we told ourselves, and how lucky we are, to have such depth in the stories of our origins.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJane Rosenberg LaForge is the author of An Unsuitable Princess: A True Fantasy/A Fantastical Memoir (Jaded Ibis Press 2014), which combines the author’s story of growing up in 1960’s and 70’s Hollywood with an original fairy tale. She has also published three chapbooks of poetry: After Voices (Burning River 2009); Half-Life (Big Table Publishing Co. 2010); and The Navigation of Loss(Red Ochre Press 2012), which won the Red Ochre Press chapbook prize. Her full-length poetry collection is With Apologies to Mick Jagger, Other Gods, and All Women (The Aldrich Press 2012) and her critical essays, fiction, and poetry has appeared in numerous online and print publications. She lives in New York City with her husband, daughter, and her daughter’s cat. You can learn more about Jane and her work at her website: Jane-Rosenberg-Laforge.com.

On Resilience

Did you ever think of deleting your work?

I do.

Often.

There’s a way through this swamp of sadness (that’s A Neverending Story reference, by the way), and it starts with resilience. Resilience, as defined, is an ability to bounce back from difficulties, often emotional. Resilience is something that has to be rebuilt into a person because, believe it or not, as kids we were really good at it.

As adults, we suck.

Take for example the problem of learned helplessness. I went through a whole slew of posts on motivation and how learned helplessness can kill a person’s desire to move forward with a project. But if that helplessness is not dealt with in an effective manner, there is little doubt that resilience will suffer.

Think of a rubber band for a moment.

It is elastic.

It is resilient.

Now, stick that rubber band in the sun for a few days and bake it.

Resilient?

The longer the rubber band is in the sun, the more brittle it becomes. When you try to pull on it after a few weeks, it will probably break.

That sun is like the negative reviews or poor sales you might see as an author. It bakes your brain and turns your resilience into a brittle round thing of rubber. When a person pulls on it after a while, it’ll break.

Ray Bradbury once said that writing is like jumping off a cliff and building your wings on the way down. He later admitted that as a youngster growing up and writing, he was awful. So what made him continue to write?

Resilience, or something he called “a love of writing.”

Building back the resilience you had as a kid takes time and effort. You can’t do it by snapping your fingers (or buying a new rubber band). You have to take it one step at a time.

This post has some tips.

Here’s the gist of it all, though: You have to enjoy the trip down the cliff as you build your wings.

A sage once told me to walk toward the horizon and not to stop until I got there.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I get the point.

Keep walking. Enjoy the journey. You’ll get there.

Stephen Crane (who I think I may have been in a past life) said this regarding resilience and the need to keep walking:

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never —”

“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.

Morla, the Ancient One

Morla, the Ancient One

Interview with Author Martin Bolton

by Autumn M. Birt

For my first post in 2015 for the Guild, I decided to let someone else do most of the talking! I know, it is a bit of a cop out, but I’ve known Martin through Twitter and noticed he had a book being released this week and well… I thought you should meet him too! So I’m happy to introduce Martin Bolton, author of The Best Weapon and more!


 

Introduce yourself and tell us a little about your writing and books.

 

I was born in Cornwall in 1979 and, after eleven years in London, now live in Bristol. I’ve always enjoyed writing but didn’t do anything seriously until I met David Pilling (co-writer of The Best Weapon) in 2007. I wrote one short story and then we immediately started working on The Best Weapon together. We’ve since written a sequel called The Path of Sorrow and we’re now working on a third epic fantasy, as yet untitled.

I love fantasy/speculative fiction, but I also write short stories in various genres for The 900 Club, a group of four writers who each post a short story on the 900 Club blog on a monthly basis.

You have a re-release that came out yesterday entitled the Best Weapon. I LOVE the Nietzsche quote you use on your website for it: “The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy” (I could so use that for my new series Friends of my Enemy! lol). Tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?

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My own personal inspiration for The Best Weapon was how people learn to cope with conflicting emotions and personalities, vices and virtues, and how they grow and mature dealing with them.  I think everyone is multifaceted: a dark side, a funny side, a compassionate side, an angry side etc. I wanted to explore how we manage the negative ones and try to nurture the positive ones.

Fantasy is a good way to do this because you can embellish the negative and make it manifest itself in ways it doesn’t in reality (unless you believe it does), such as demonic parentage or supernatural powers. Equally, the positive can manifest as celestial beings or nature itself. Ultimately, we all have to “battle our demons”. For me, The Best Weapon is about that, and a lot more besides.

The Nietzsche quote seemed to fit so naturally with the story, and it is punchy, so it was an easy decision to use it. I love it when a story, especially an epic fantasy, uses a quote from a real-life historic figure, hopefully it helps with the suspension of disbelief.

 

It sounds like you are working on a sequel to it. How is that going and could you tell us a little about it?

 

The sequel was initially released by Musa Publishing as a serial called Sorrow. It was actually written as a single novel, and we have restored it to its original state ready for release later this year with the title The Path of Sorrow. It is the story of a child whose entire tribe is violently wiped out, leaving only him alive. The child is named Sorrow after a prophecy. He is reputed to possess great power, as his nomadic tribe were descended from the very first people, and those who wish to seize control in The World Apparent will stop at nothing to acquire him.

You co-wrote the Best Weapon with David Pilling. I can’t imagine working on a story with someone. It sounds great and a challenge. How did you make it work?

 

I get asked this a lot, and the answer is we worked together with surprising ease. Initially, we weren’t sure how it was going to work, and this influenced our thought process when we came up with the story for The Best Weapon. We decided to write a story with two main characters who don’t actually meet until very near the end of the book. I suppose this was our way of putting off having to deal with it!

Looking back, we needn’t have worried, because we each created so many different characters and cultures to go along with our main protagonists that the book is not just a story about two people. It is a story of many different beings, some human, some gods, some demons, and some from other dimensions altogether, each striving to survive in their own way.

David and I have very similar tastes in literature, music, humour and beer, we also have similar influences when it comes to writing. We found that our styles fit together pretty seamlessly, as more than one reviewer has pointed out. We’ve since written another fantasy novel and are half way through a third, with a fourth planned, and we don’t even think about how it works any more, it just does.

Why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre? Are there any others you’d like to write in?

 

Fantasy has always inspired me, ever since I watched Arnold Schwarzenegger play Conan the Barbarian when I was a snotty little oik. Something about being able to play out any story you like, without the constraints of reality, in a world of your own creation is irresistible. There is no better genre to write.

I do, however, write a lot of short stories. For the past two years, all of my short stories have been written for The 900 Club: a group of four writers who each post a nine hundred word short story on a blog every month. I do like to try out other genres, and a short story is a nice way to dabble without having to commit a lot of time to something. I tend to play about with genres though, so not a lot of my stuff fits well into one, it often ends up getting a bit surreal, and sometimes downright nonsensical and ridiculous.

At some point, I will write something longer in another genre, but it will be a twisted, harrowing, unholy mockery of it and I will probably be arrested soon after. And rightly so, I should never have been shaved down and taught the rudiments of reading and writing.

See? I can’t help it. I’m ill.

Who are some of authors who’ve inspired you?

 

At the moment I am influenced by Bernard Cornwell,  Robert E Howard, Rafael Sabatini, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Joe Abercrombie and Charles Bukowski. I think I have taken inspiration from every author I’ve read whether it is style and technique, or just how NOT to do something (the authors I’ve mentioned don’t fall into the latter category).

My inspirations change as I discover new literature. The aforementioned authors, however, remain in mind constantly when I write as I have been inspired so strongly by specific elements of their work. Cornwell for his characters. Howard for his vision and originality. Sabatini for his story telling and sense of adventure. Lovecraft and Poe for their imagination and ability to build atmosphere and describe a scene. Abercrombie for his slick, gritty style and dark sense of humour. Bukowski for… I just don’t know where to begin with Bukowski and, more importantly, I don’t know where it would end.

What are your favorite and least favorite things about writing?

 

My favourite thing is the freedom to express myself. Like all creative things, for me, it is therapy, it is anger management.

I often read things like “writing/reading takes you into new worlds” or “discover new worlds” etc. Well, I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I don’t really relate to that. I am already in another world, and it is chaos. It is violent and noisy and painful and it stinks. I’m not talking about reality (that’s a bit clichéd), I mean what goes on in my head is like that. I’m not discovering new worlds or escaping into them. I’m escaping FROM them, mastering them by trapping the bastards on a page. That’s my favourite thing.

My least favourite thing is that writing makes my arse, my back and my eyes hurt. And sometimes my brain.

Do you get writer’s block? How do you deal with it and find new inspiration?

 

I do half the time, but not serious writer’s block that lasts days or weeks. My main problem is my tiny attention span. I’ll write two hundred words and then spend an hour thinking about cake. I find wine or beer helps me concentrate, it gets me more emotionally charged and single minded, so I can plough on, heedless of anything else going on around me. The right music helps as well – something atmospheric that goes on for ages and ages is ideal.

I also find that if I sit down and find my mind blank, simply reading the last few thousands words I wrote will warm the brain up a bit and get me going. I haven’t found writer’s block a huge problem though, the main problem is finding the time to write since I still have a day job.

What is your favorite non-writing related thing to do? There is more to author’s than novels (supposedly!).

 

I do a bit of artwork, for the same reasons outlined under question 7. You can see that on my blog or at boltanart.blogspot.com. I like ink or pencil best, my favourite thing to do is dot drawings because it requires hours of painstaking concentration and I find it a bit like meditation.

I also play football, which hurts. I might have to stop at some point as my knees have been ground to a fine paste and my ankles are held in place mainly by prayer.

Anything else you’d like to share?

 

You haven’t seen me. Right?

 

You can find Martin on his WebsiteBlogTwitterFacebookThe 900 Club

 

Thanks so much for the interview, Martin. And best of luck with your re-release of the Best Weapon!

Spies everywhere

I hate it when someone steals my idea.

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I thought it happened again when I first saw a coming attraction trailer for the new movie Seventh Son, with Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes and Julianne Moore. It looked very similar to my first book, The Bones of the Earth, which I published in 2011.

I should be used to this. Back in 1980, when I was young and probably just as foolish as I am today, I decided to try running as a sport. I would run in the evenings in my neighbourhood, and realized that it was really quite boring. I thought how nice it would be to be able to listen to music while I ran.

I considered my Sony hand-held tape recorder, the one that was supposed to be used to record university lectures. I never actually used it for that, but did play music cassette tapes. The sound quality was … tolerable, and it was better than having no music at all.

Now, this tape recorder-player was designed to be held in one hand, but it was still pretty bulky for running. Heavy, too. I looked it over and realized that the speaker accounted for much of its bulk. “If it just had an earphone instead, it would be a lot more portable,” I remember thinking. “No—headphones! Stereo headphones! That would be awesome.”

Six months later, Sony released the Walkman.

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My first fantasy novel, The Bones of the Earth, in many ways follows the classic high fantasy quest genre. It’s set at a time before guns and gunpowder, when horses were the main means of travel, when civilization was still a tenuous bet and when magical beasts roamed the earth. It has a number of element that fantasy readers will find familiar: a wise old man, a young boy with a unique destiny, a damsel in distress and lots of monsters, witches, vampires and dragons.

In writing it, I determined to break as many of the tropes and conventions of the fantasy genre as I could. For starters, it’s not set in a made-up world, but in a real time and place, and some of the events in the story actually took place in history. But that’s a subject for another post. Suffice it to say, it’s not a conventional quest story, and the characters are not like those you’ll find in other quest stories.
But the main character, Javor, is the seventh son of a seventh son. In fact, I had recently decided to title the third volume of the planned trilogy (I have the outline already) Seventh Son.

Then Universal Studios brought out Seventh Son.

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And it features a wise old man and a boy with a unique destiny, who has to fight monsters, dragons and witches.

Damn.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I don’t know whether I ever will, but a little research showed that the movie is based on Joseph Delaney’s 2004 novel, The Spook’s Apprentice. There are other similarities, such as the main villain being a centuries-old, powerful woman. But there are also a lot of differences, enough to allay my misgivings.

I guess that the author of The Spook’s Apprentice and I were both tapping into the same energy and some of the same ancient mythologies. And let’s face it, the trope of the ancient master passing on his knowledge to a talented apprentice crosses many genre boundaries.

If All Were Equal

fisherby Chantal Boudreau
When someone mentions female characters in fantasy, some stereotypes come to mind. There is the damsel in distress, the plucky princess, the matronly queen or the bawdy tavern wench, just for a few examples. These seem to show up everywhere, unfortunate tropes who sometimes serve as sidekicks and who often give the male hero extra purpose to their cause, but don’t have much purpose in their own right.
Then there’s the flip-side – the “strong female” character: the man-hating amazon, the stoic and noble female warrior who is an exception to the norm, the experienced sorceress or priestess who often proves self-sacrificing. While they may have a prominent role in the story, they tend to be loners and atypical of the women in that particular fantasy culture. Most of the women in the story other than that one outstanding character fall into the traditional medieval female roles: the maids, the gentlewomen, the housewife mother with multiple offspring, perhaps an assistant to some professional or the healer/midwife.
What I enjoy more, but rarely see, is a fantasy society that is counter-culture, where men and women share roles with unbiased equality – where it’s the norm rather than the exception. Considering this is not something we’ve managed to achieve even in our own modern society, it would be nice to find more of that in the fabricated worlds of fiction. There, such a societal scope is an option for its creator rather than what we’re forced to live with in the real world. Why not break with tradition?
How does a writer apply this concept effectively? Lately, I’ve been watching the television show “The 100″ that does a fantastic job of this. While it is post-apocalyptic/dystopian science fiction with YA elements rather than fantasy, it is a great example of gender-bias free storytelling. Just as a list of the female characters who aren’t what you would normally find in the average speculative fiction tale, you have the leaders of three of the factions who are female (the leader of the rebellious 100, the leader of the techno-savvy “Sky-People” and the leader of the tribal “Grounders”.) The head of security for the Grounders is a fierce and unyielding warrior woman who is now mentoring one of the 100 women in warrior-training as well. The head of engineering for the Sky People is a woman and their female leader is also a medical doctor. Even the more demure female characters (residing with the Mountain Men) have their moments of bravery.

The leaders make tough decisions too, and sometimes fail, but pick themselves up and move on, coming up with new strategies. At one point, one of these women chooses to kill a man who was once her romantic interest rather than see him tortured before execution as part of a punishment from their allies (he did murder innocents because of a misunderstanding and a mental break – and he was in the wrong.) She doesn’t fall apart after the fact, even though it was a painful and tragic decision for her. You just don’t see that in the average tale that presents women as predominantly soft and emotional. A typical female character would never be able to spare a loved one from torture by killing him, specifically because of their romantic relationship (“I can’t kill him – I love him.”)

Better yet, in “The 100″ nobody questions these characters’ competency because they are female. Real people who have experienced life as both man and woman say that for the most part what they’ve found in our society is men are assumed competent until they are proven otherwise whereas women have to prove they are competent before being accepted as such. This unfair set of gender-biased assumptions often carries over into fiction. I’d like to see that change (as I’d like to see it change in the real world.)

I’ve made an effort to use men and women equally in responsible positions in my fantasy stories. The head of a major mercenary guild is a woman, Magic University is headed up by both men and women at various times, the head of the Renegade resistance in Feltrey is a woman, the Jadorans and Templars of Oron are equally men and women, assassins and soldiers as well as wizards. One of my heroes is a middle-aged female retired schoolteacher. A character’s competency has no basis in gender, age or social status. Everyone has their strengths and potential and are recognized for what they bring to the table.

In my fantasy fiction, I choose to not have a woman’s competency challenged just because of her gender. I hope to see this become commonplace in the fantasy I read, maybe inspiring more change in our own society in future.

Welcome Back to the Blog

by Bruce Blake

The time has finally come…the return of the Guild of Dreams.

After a lengthy hiatus (if you choose to read that as ‘Bruce got lazy for an extended period of time’, I would probably be hard pressed to argue the point), the motley blog crew have returned to entertain and enlighten. Returning to the Guild are myself, Autumn Birt, Chantal Boudreau, Scott Bury, Joshua Johnson, AM Justice, Steven MontanoGuild-wglow 300, and Benjamin X. Wretlind.

So here’s the set up: we’re paring things down a little, with regular posts scheduled for Mondays and Fridays. That’s not to say you won’t see the occasional post on other days…special guests, book announcements, cover reveals, and the like may pop up at any time, so be sure to sign up for email updates over there on the top right if you haven’t done so already.

And what can you expect from the posts you’ll find on the Guild? The easiest way to figure that is to have a look back through previous posts. If you’re too lazy or preoccupied to find the time to do that, then let me fill you in: you’ll find pointers on writing, editing, formatting, publishing, and the like; you’ll find out where ideas come from, how characters are developed, and how to promote your own work. If prior patterns hold, you will likely also get to see some cool pics Steven uses to draw inspiration, stories of Autumn’s travel adventures, Chantal’s artwork, and Scott’s perspective on what the hell is wrong with the publishing industry and how to fix. Throw in Amanda’s writing chops (and Game of Thrones analysis), Benjamin’s creativity, and Joshua’s love of the writing process and tools, and I know there will be something here for everyone.

So sit back, pull up a chair, and the let the Guild of Dreams take you to worlds you never knew existed.