Fantasy: Challenging the Tropes

Fantasy Map of Clichea by Sarithus

Wow. It certainly has been a rocky few months. From the publication of my first novel at the end of April to the publication of another – much shorter – one during the middle of June, and yet further into failed attempts to deliver on promises on weekly blog posts and more publications. I have learnt that writing is unpredictable. Never chained by schedules (even my detailed promo schedule).

But, I may or may not have mentioned a new venture of mine in previous posts. To remind you (or inform you), this venture is into the boundless world of fantasy. Like other popular fiction genres such as romance, historical fiction, mystery, and thrillers, fantasy is a saturated one. And, with the advent of self-publishing, even more so.

I must admit though, I am riding on the wave of the supposed successes of the self-publishing industry. That is, trying, and like a novice to surfing, failing – not out of any fault of mine. Like the saturation of genres, the industry of self-publishing is saturated. But that is not all that is saturated. Gone are the days in the late modern period when authors were few and libraries were scarce. Nowadays, libraries – public and personal – are so common. As are books in general – literature itself is saturated.

This saturation, and my poor navigation of the industry – listening to none of the advice on promotion – has resulted in this rocky journey. Nevertheless, as always, it is exciting. Now, I shall not make any promises here. I have noticed that I am far too eager to make promises in my posts and newsletters. And, I rarely meet them. Well, I’m done with that.

The Problem

Nevertheless, I am excited to talk about this today. I have already made it clear – I hate the classic fantasy tropes. To remedy this, I shall be joining the far rarer breed of fantasy authors challenging them. That is certainly an unsaturated market. Two birds with one stone. Now, I can’t give too much away. Not only would they be spoilers but they may feed my irrational fear of another author stealing my ideas. That would be killing my two birds with one stone.

But, as always, I can’t keep mum. Fundamentally, fantasy is a reflection of the real history of the world. Unfortunately, it has all too often been the case that fantasy authors distort this history much like Europeans always have. In their world, Europe is the centre. Like few other authors before me, I want to remind readers that there is a world beyond Europe. That is not to detract from the successes and critical acclaim attributed to fantasy authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, and David Eddings among my favourites. They have truly gone beyond what is possible for the ordinary author. The many languages penned by Tolkien is testament to that.

The One Ring Inscription in Black Speech (Fantasy Language)
The One Ring Inscription in Black Speech

They are who I aspire to. But I also aspire to show colonialism. I aspire to show slavery. I aspire to show racism. I aspire to show that Christianity and the West is not the norm – not with the plethora of inspiration from the East, from Africa, from Hinduism, from Islam, and so much more. As always, I cannot give too many spoilers away. This has constrained me in my Behind the Scenes of The Monk’s Curse posts.

Unveiling…

What I can say is that there are three continents. One unspoiled. One reflecting Europe. One reflecting the victims of Europe. There are a few gods. A complex ontology. And this faith has direct reflections in its world. There are other worlds – also unspoiled. There is magic. There are different levels of this magic. Each is accessible only to those worthy, wise, or otherwise experienced. These forms of magic not only emerge from the existing magical systems of fantasy but from the real history of magic in paganism and Wicca. There are complex political systems and histories – after all, every nation has a history. Why then should fantasy locations be constrained to only whatever detail serves the plot? There are nations which shun heteronormativity.

I shall not go on. Perhaps this challenge is insurmountable. Perhaps not. But it is certainly not made easier by my desire to develop languages for my world – perhaps an exercise years in the making. What I can say is that despite this seeming insurmountable challenge, what I have thus far explored has been like a playground. Creating worlds is certainly more interesting than creating characters and plots to fit the real world. Hopefully, this will reveal a piece that goes beyond the saturation of its markets. After all, is that not the mark of artistic beauty? Certainly in the present day.


READ MORE

Problematic Fantasy – and reality – Tropes

The Problem with Modern Villains

Witches don’t wear conical hats. Witches don’t ride broomsticks. Witches are women. Strong women. A Witch is a Feminist.

Feminism and the Witch Hunts of the Early Modern Period

Mughal-e-Azam: Truly a wonder to behold


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Behind The Monk’s Curse: Chapter Eight

Behind the Scenes, The Monk's Curse - Prologue

Finally. Finally a chapter that plunges the protagonist into his intended plot. Chapter Eight is where it really gets exciting. Unlike the previous chapters (except the Prologue and Chapter One), this is not a chapter filled with people having conversations – on this note, I am reminded of Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones that history is entirely composed of powerful men and women having conversations in grand rooms (of course I paraphrase). But the previous chapters were exactly that; people having conversations that somehow managed to keep the plot going.

But this chapter is the impetus for the whirlwind of events that are to come. This comes with a shocking discovery – almost the whole truth of the protagonist’s past (the search of which is the novel’s main plot point). This shocking discovery leads to a shocking act.

But on the nature of the discovery, it is not solely of historical nature like previous ones. It is entirely fictional, but revealing crucial bits of information pertaining to the practices of secret societies that are deeply set in history. As such, this novel was the conception of clearly defined roles and locations of clearly defined groups.

It was a fun chapter to write. It felt as if the plot was finally progressing. But for whatever its merits, I still cannot say much here. That is where The Historical Companion to The Monk’s Curse comes in. It is a book that I have been excited for for a while. A complete guide to the history of The Monk’s Curse. But until its release, and until next week’s post, happy reading (whatever and wherever that may be).

Behind The Monk’s Curse: Chapter Five

Behind the Scenes, The Monk's Curse - Prologue

In my opinion, this has to be one of the most exciting chapters in the entire novel. Of course the Prologue was exciting. As was perhaps Chapter Two – that is, in my opinion. But, like those two chapters, Chapter Five remains a firm favourite of mine, as the author.

Of course my opinion is skewed. But, unlike Chapters Three and Four, this stands with the chapters I mentioned above as one of the key chapters in the novel. As usual, I cannot say much without giving a spoiler. And, I did promise last week that the 31st of May would herald a comprehensive historical companion to The Monk’s Curse. Firstly, I shall keep my first promise – to not spoil much. Unfortunately, I cannot keep my second. Attempting to write a book encompassing all of my research is proving to be tedious. It is filled with historical detail. In any case, it will not release at the end of this month. Perhaps the end of next…

But as historical detail is important to that guide, so it is to this novel. And the detail begins to take shape in this chapter. That is what makes it so exciting. Spurred by discontent and doubt, the protagonist is led to a shocking discovery which will only lead to more shocking historical discoveries. I did promise monasteries and the like in the blurb. This comes close to that promise, but not quite. I also love this chapter because it links back to another of my favourites – the Prologue.

But, let me leave it there. To sum it all up, this chapter propels the novel in the direction it is to take more than any previous chapters. This novel introduces what will come to be the impetus for many important discoveries. This is where the history begins.

My only hope now is that I may deliver a historical companion to all of this, if not for my satisfaction, the hopefully for the readers of The Monk’s Curse.