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 Nine

Behind the Scenes, The Monk's Curse - Prologue

Today is a momentous day. It is the day that I have held the first physical copy of one of my books. This has inspired me to write the sequel to The Monk’s Curse, and to produce a historical companion to it.

But on to the matter of business. Chapter Nine. I cannot say that this is a chapter of much excitement. Neither does it portray any of the glorious unveilings found in the previous chapters, nor does it capture marvellous escapes found in future chapters. But it follows the protagonist as he reels in shock from the contents of Chapter Eight. It processes his anger. It paves the way forward.

To read, it is a quick chapter. In the grander scheme of things, it serves as one of those that are exciting but not entirely necessary. I am sure that you have noticed by now that I have my preference for certain chapters. Is this allowed as an author? I do not know. But Chapter Nine is far down the list of my scale of liking for chapters.

But, the show must go on. As must the writing. Onward and out to The Historian’s Folly and The Historical Companion to The Monk’s Curse. Godspeed.

P.S. My language is currently being inspired by the phase of Lord of the Rings mania that frequently punctuates my life. Have you read it? You should.

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).