Thursday, September 23, 2010


Fantasy. Here's the deal: I can't write you yet.

Let's define fantasy for the express purposes of this post as either Epic Fantasy or Medieval Fantasy. I know, I know, there's other Fantasy, but what do people think about when they first hear 'Fantasy'. Yeah, probably Knights and Dragons. Or Hobbits. Good stuff, but...

My mind recoils from it, while my 'spirit' enjoys it immensely. But, sitting down and saying "I have an idea for a Medieval Fantasy short story", my mind attacks it with a pile of questions, imminently reasonable, about economy and sociology which would never come up when I sit down and write Science Fiction, or even Historical Fiction. Writing in any setting before about 1700 C.E. is troublesome.

Furthermore: Magic!

Let's face it, my mind is pretty much my best feature. And yet, apparently, I can't wrap my head around magic. It just doesn't scan. Magic just ain't Science, guys, and I didn't spend all this time learning how things actually work to waste time with a bunch of made-up magical systems. And I will freely admit, because it's comical, that I can use exactly the same concepts if they involve psionics and zero special effects.

Allow me to provide my credentials, so you can fully comprehend the oddity: I've run Dungeons and Dragons campaigns! I've read The Lord of the Rings! I've discussed in hard debate the minutiae of Fantasy worlds! Ok, not for very long, but still.

But here's who ruined me for Fantasy forever: Anne McCaffrey. She tricked me, in my youth. Read the first few Pern books, that's fantasy. But as the series continues it becomes more and more science fiction, until our erstwhile dragonriders (their dragons revealed as the result of genetic engineering) are learning computer programming and it's a much more interesting series altogether. What am I supposed to do in the face of this?

Here's how it usually goes, I start out to write a heroic fantasy starring Sir Biff of Beafsteakton and then get cynical, directing it unintentionally toward a horrible satire of eras past. Which doesn't seem either useful nor artistic. And I write short, which seems to put the final nail in the Epic Fantasy coffin.

Is it just because I have rather a fondness for the Now and the Future? Is it just because I know too much about Nobility to ever treat it with unabashed reverence? Am I, in fact, too jaded to have fantasies? Am I the H.L.Mencken of unfinished fantasy projects? Whatever the answer...

But I can write some things that can reasonably be called Fantasy (by the broad definition of the genre writer).
Magical Realism: it's literature, just add ghost!
Steam-punk: soft sci-fi meets Victorian historical fiction! Damn, that's good stuff when it's good! (And horrible when it's bad!)
Urban Fantasy: Whatever it is that Neil Gaiman writes, it's all true, you just have to break through the masquerade!

Can I count that as enough (for now)? Wait, I should just write more about Sir Biff of Beafsteakton. Underneath his armor rests the heart of a poet and abs most taut. He's like a medieval fireman, is what I'm sayin', coming to extinguish the dragon and rescue the maiden. And promptly ravish her continuously with her full consent.

Well, damn, I'll just write what I want to write.


Liver and onions. This is what I would very much like to eat at this exact moment. Beef liver, for preference, and with a side of mashed potatoes. Yessir, that'd hit the exact spot. Nothing goes with delicious beer, my only food, better than delicious liver and onions.

I've made myself hungry and an ocean on one side and a continent on the other separates me from acceptable satisfaction.

500 Words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die"
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - "Kushiel's Dart" (Jacqueline Carey)

Update - Magical Adventures in the Everyday


  1. David: for a man who can't write fantasy, you can write a lot about not writing about fantasy.

    It's actually funny you write about this topic. Last night I was lying in bed, fearing I was to die from some kind of bronchial infection. I drummed my fingers together and asked myself if there was any kind of actual heroic fantasy I could write. My idea of fantasy these days is: take two or three elements of genre and cram them together. E.g., enviro-noir detective-punk; eschatological monarchist alien epic; high school romance space Nazis; etc. But you're right: that's not what people think of when they think "fantasy."

    Anyway, I think I hit upon the spot when I imagined medieval messiah alien abduction; I can't be sure, not yet. But another funny thing: I'm really bad at thinking up magic systems. On the one hand I'm big on "mechanical" magic: steampunk golems and potioneers have figured in my recent fantasy romps. On the other, I like demon-magic: evil creatures turning your intestines into snakes, etc.

    Maybe Sir Biff of Beaksteakton could acquire superpowers from a diet of liver, onions, and beer. However, this might then only be a re-telling of Popeye/Hulk proportions, to one degree or another. But, you'd have lances and saddleblankets.


  2. I was going to split it into two parts, but there wasn't really a good snip-spot. And I'd just done a stealth three-parter, so I didn't want to press my luck. Nobody likes "To Be Continued..."

    I'll just have to sit down and write (1) a non-ironic Le Morte d'Arthur style tale of knight-errantry starring Sir Beouf, then (2) a tale of a natural sorcerer, an apprentice of an evil wizard, who increases in power until he usurps his master, then (3) Kickass team-up to take down the Dragon Ffasoo.

    Stay alive, but I know the feeling. I spend a significant amount of time in this country wondering whether I have caught an exotic new disease.

  3. Dude, your font kills my brain cells and hurts my eyes. I mean that in the nicest way possible.

  4. Easy way to get over your feelings about using magic: Just make them psionics, but don't tell the reader. Those "in the know" within your stories, the mages and such, won't even necessarily know their magical abilities come from mind powers, or they might. But either way, they're not going to use modern scientific terms to explain their magic.

  5. Sneaky, I like it. I can make and apply a Magic System if I pretend to myself that it's Brain Pseudoscience. SO much difference.

    Anyways, in a disturbing number of these fantasy stories, the power of the magic seems to derive from A. The Current Arc Point of the Plot and B. The Mental Fortitude of the Mage.

    But it is my duty to overcome my mental blocks in all cases and Just Write It. Who knows? It might even be good.


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