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Jonny Ryan Mac
06-11-2005, 07:22 AM
I originally posted this question in the "Writing Novels" Section.

"What defines a 'Fantasy' Genre. What agents do you know that are keen to pick up, say, a historical fantasy, or an ancient hiscorical fiction?

Any specialists out there?

Saanen
06-11-2005, 04:22 PM
I don't know about agents, but a general requirement for fantasy is that the work contain magic that is integral to the plot in some way.

spacejock2
06-11-2005, 07:03 PM
Your best bet would be to pick out books in the same genre and style as yours and find out who the publishers and agents are. You can then approach them knowing that they're receptive to that style of book.

I write novels in the SF/Humour genre, so I looked up publishers who had brought out that kind of book. Then I ended up with one who'd done nothing like it before, which just goes to prove that wise-sounding advice can be as useful as navel fluff.

Cheers
Simon

preyer
06-12-2005, 12:22 AM
by fantasy, i assume you mean 'the hobbit' type of stuff, no? in other words, 'swords and sorcery'? i think magick in some form is rather a prerequisite for that style of fantasy. notice, too, that 'epic' fantasy (or by whatever name you'd ascribe to it), almost always has a large ensemble cast of characters. just in 'the hobbit' we're introduced to something like fifteen characters in the first twenty pages or so, not to mention having quite a few other names for background tossed in. though i've come to loathe trilogies over the years, most 'epic fantasy' comes in this form (or one massive 900 page tome), but you need to kill all those trees if you've got a couple score of characters to keep track of.

for me, what goes into most of these kinds of books are more the setting. really, if you could remove the magick element, or supplant magick with some form of technology, you could just as easily have a space opera. having the MC be a hobbit, for instance, really doesn't amount to much because they're so human-like. the bad guys are usually pretty generic: medieval orcs are easily made into space pigs, ogres become rancor monsters, wizened wizards turn into scientists or generals or some such character with all the answers and great power.

for years and years, 'fantasy' meant epic battles between a ragtag group of misfits ill-equipped and not prepared for the task of destroying 'the ultimate evil,' and yet by the end the least likely of them all comes through in the end and saves the day using the lessons he learned along the way. i don't think i've ever read one where the powerful good guy actually accomplishes the destroying of the evil one or sword or ring, rather than greatly aid in the 'little guy's' effort. i suppose that's uplifting, but it's cliche. along the way, a few supporting characters drop off which is supposed to make the reader realize the price of war when the reality is most of them would be ditch filler five miles outside their shire/village/burough/secluded idyllic community otherwise opposed to getting involved in any venture not involving farming and child-like amusements.

basically, if you read 'lord of the rings,' there's very little point in slogging through a lot of 'epic fantasy,' as it's all pretty much a rehash of that story.

what's really more 'swords and sorcery' is 'conan'-type of stories, where it's one man against the odds. he comes in a variety of guises, from thief to king. these, i feel, tend to be more on the fantastic side of the imagination. maybe it's to fill in the lack of interplay between several characters, i'm not sure, but i also feel these have to concentrate moreso on different elements of a story than the 'epics.' it's not a good or bad thing, per se, just that obviously your plots are altered. when you don't have fifteen perspectives and people talking all at once, your lone hero plot will have to have more, ah, texture in the environment. notice that there are far lesser trilogies based on a single main character than an ensemble, especially when the ensemble invariably splits up to follow their individual quests.

this doesn't take into consideration 'urban fantasy' or anything like that. i'm really don't know much about that kind of thing other than what i've seen in movies. i assume things like 'bewitched', 'practical magic,' and 'the coven' loosely falls into that category, though i think there's a thin line there between urban fantasy and horror in some cases. also, 'fantasy' implies an imaginary medieval place to most people who don't make a study out of such things.

ultimately, i reckon there are two ways of approaching it: write what you want to write and all others be damned, or learn what the genre expects and write to suit those readers. personally, i always go the former, whatever cross-over there is there is, which is probably going to happen unless you seriously go out of your way to avoid that in which case you have to decide if that path either helps or hinders the story. i don't necessarily go out of my way to avoid parts of my story that overlaps with story-by-numbers, although i give it some consideration when i think it's happened.

there are still plenty of good stories to be written if you can get out of the rut of being another 'LOTR' rip-off. then again, if you wrote one you'd probably have as much luck getting published as not. like a lot of romance readers, they're not looking for something greatly new as much as comfort books (well, i guess that applies to all genres, eh? lol). tip the genre on its ear or give 'em what they want. can you do both?

Jenny
06-13-2005, 04:46 AM
Cory Doctorow and Karl Schroeder wrote an Idiot's Guide on publishing sci fi, and having read it ages ago, flicking back over my notes shows that they said something about characters making the world in fantasy. So, the characters' changing consciousness physically changes the world. It operates on the laws of dreams.

This sounded a bit weird to me, but the more I think about it, the more basic it sounds. In fantasy, the environment helps to reveal the evolving character and forward the character based plot. I guess that's why setting, world building, is so vital in fantasy and backdrop stuff in other genres.

Okay, but that doesn't answer your question about agents. The Guide to Literary Agents is sitting on my desk as I type this. The other place I'd try is googling for agents and genre. Check the bewares here and at preditor-editor.

Jenny

zornhau
06-13-2005, 01:24 PM
>So, the characters' changing consciousness physically changes the world.
>It operates on the laws of dreams.

Sounds like hippy rubbish to me:
Conan meets challenge. Conan carves up challenge with sword. Conan says something laconic and rides into sunset.

Don't see much character development there, yet Conan is shelved with fantasy. Jack Vance's Dying Earth series tends so shelve with the fantasy as well, yet I don't see a vast amount of character development in these.

Some very successful modern fantasy has only sketchy (but effective) world building, e.g. George RR Martin's epic stuff. Some doesn't even have magic in it at all - e.g. Guy Gavriel Kay's alternate takes on the middle ages.

This is like arguing the distinctions between Blues, Rock & Roll, and Country & Western; the genres are real, but the rules are somewhat nebulous.

Jonny Ryan Mac
06-14-2005, 04:55 AM
Truly, I must agree. I think that the lines are blurred. A long time ago, magic, from what we have read in historical documents, was actually practiced. However, most of are not sure at its effectiveness. So that can’t be the only prerequisite.

Then there’s the “Dead Zones”, and the “Medium”. Are they fantasy, hell one might say that “Joan of Arcadia” is a fantasy then. Not books but y’all get the point.

I thin that to most people, LOTR spin offs are what they call fantasy, eloquent texts of description and wonder, not to mention all the fantasy cliché’s. For a laugh check this out.

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~imcfadyen/notthenet/fantasy.htm (http://members.ozemail.com.au/~imcfadyen/notthenet/fantasy.htm)

It’s the best document I’ve seen on the subject.

Cathy C
06-14-2005, 06:10 AM
This was a post that I put up over on the romance thread, but it's equally applicable here.


Currently, on the shelves, there are a number of different things that wind up shelved in "Science Fiction/Fantasy". But there are definite differences. These are the things that I've gleaned from talking with various editors and authors in the genres:

I write paranormal, and it's part of a much bigger grouping, called FFP (Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal,) or SFF (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Futuristic) or just plain paranormal. Many people wonder what an "otherworldly" book should be called, so here are some guidelines:

Futuristic: A futuristic novel is one that is from 2006-infinity, but is EARTH-BASED! This means that you are using humans as they exist on Earth that may or may not interact with other species that have yet to be discovered, or dealing with a world very different than what we now know (whether from natural catastrophe, alien invasion, world politics, etc., etc.) The future world must have rationale that is understandable. For example, humans don't have green blood. They will probably NEVER have green blood, so don't try it. But Vulcans (Star Trek) DO have green blood, so that's okay. Star Trek is a tricky one, because it IS science-fiction, and it IS futuristic, and big chunks of it ARE fantasy. It's generally considered science-fiction, for the record.

Fantasy: The biggest issue with the fantasy sub-genre is the concept of "world-building." Fantasy novels come in two breeds: One is a different world, with creatures that don't exist on earth, that may or may not talk, etc. The other fantasy is "alternate reality." An alternate reality is one which follows Earth history except for one or two things. The Laurell K. Hamilton, Anita Blake world, for example is a good example. Vampires have always existed. But they were hunted like rats -- UNTIL the United States Supreme Court declared them "not dead". Suddenly, vampires could own property, adopt children (since they couldn't bear them on their own), marry, divorce, etc. Probates for "dead" relatives were unwound and life generally was upended. The key to a fantasy is making the fantastical elements an equal partner to the regular plot. So the guy is a vampire -- some are jerks and some are sweeties. It's an ELEMENT of the personality, but they don't have to fall into "set" requirements, because it's NOT REAL, so it doesn't have to adhere to known legends. And yes, there is almost always magic of some form involved.

Science Fiction: This is often confused with futuristic and fantasy, but the goal of science fiction is the USE OF science in the story. Whether the story is set in 2005 or 3035, hard science that is well thought out is key. The Time Machine or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea are science fiction, but not necessarily futuristic or fantasy.

Time Travel: Also a close contender for futuristic. After a long and... ahem, spirited discussion among the authors of a writer's loop I belong to, we determined that the difference between futuristic and time travel is one key element. Susan Grant's The Scarlet Empress was the issue at hand -- should it be entered in a contest under time travel or under futuristic. The joint decision was made that it was futuristic, because THE HEROINE COULD NOT RETURN HOME. Susan's heroine was cryogenically frozen and re-awoken in 2176 to save the world from a "new world order". It was science fiction, and futuristic and was a woman from the past thrown into the future. But we finally all agreed that for time travel to be a key element in the novel, the hero or heroine must have the ABILITY to return to their time, whether or not they choose to do so. Otherwise, it's in a different category.

Paranormal: The key element of a paranormal is LEGEND. Werewolves are legend, and so are vampires, pixies, fairies, doxies, living mummies, etc. A paranormal is PARA or "resembling or imitating" NORMAL "real life". Most vampire novels fit this category, although they might be shelved in horror. There is a handed down legend or fable or "this really happened!" account of something outside the ordinary that we don't generally believe but aren't complete convinced COULDN'T happen. While it can be set in the future, the past or the present, the key is that everything ELSE is normal, except for the addition of this one element.

Does that help any? Or just give you more questions to ask? LOL!

Sharon Mock
06-14-2005, 08:52 AM
Cory Doctorow and Karl Schroeder wrote an Idiot's Guide on publishing sci fi, and having read it ages ago, flicking back over my notes shows that they said something about characters making the world in fantasy. So, the characters' changing consciousness physically changes the world. It operates on the laws of dreams.

I like this definition, but unfortunately I don't think it's useful. It seems mostly an attempt to differentiate "true" fantasy from what is sometimes referred to, unkindly, as Extruded Fantasy Product -- quest stories in which the magical and fantastical elements are no more than set dressing. Fine for theory-mongering, not so much for marketing.

My personal definition of fantasy: fiction containing as a major element impossible things not explained or justified by application or misapplication of science. (That last part is what separates fantasy from science fiction.) The impossible things usually include magic, but not always.

And here's the definition from The Encyclopedia of Fantasy:

A fantasy text is a self-coherent narrative. When set in this world, it tells a story which is impossible in the world as we perceive it; when set in an otherworld, that otherworld will be impossible, though stories set there may be possible in its terms.

(It goes on to further define most of the words in that definition, but I'll spare everybody that part!)

Ivonia
06-14-2005, 08:56 AM
Here is another good link you should check out:

http://www.watt-evans.com/sfvsfantasy.html

and

http://www.watt-evans.com/lawsoffantasy.html

Here's another part of the website you should check out (actually, this is a pretty decent website, and he even covers what submitting a manuscript is like sometimes. Read it if you have time). It covers what makes a good and bad fantasy story:


http://www.watt-evans.com/playinggod.html

preyer
06-15-2005, 10:00 AM
just as an aside, the conan books encompass his entire life, so i'd say they in all have character development, though there didn't tend to be great development in single books. conan wasn't one for life lessons that didn't resolve themselves in bloodshed, but fantasy it was.

preyer
06-18-2005, 07:58 AM
i read those links. i thought it was funny or ironic or whatever that the things i harp about are echoed about down to a single item, just his was more humourous. wait another ten years and people will buy up the next hacked-up LOTR-based trilogy despite its blatant rip-officity. there will always be those people nostalgic for 'the way books used to be written.' and yet, as derivative as these books are, they'll still be written in fifty years, long after all the off-shoots have come and gone. don't think it won't or can't happen, either: rock 'n roll has been living off the same three chords for fifty years. :)

victoriastrauss
06-19-2005, 06:43 AM
Cory Doctorow and Karl Schroeder wrote an Idiot's Guide on publishing sci fi, and having read it ages ago, flicking back over my notes shows that they said something about characters making the world in fantasy. So, the characters' changing consciousness physically changes the world. It operates on the laws of dreams.That's truly bizarre. I read quite a bit of fantasy (and SF) and I can't say I can call to mind any fantasy I've read recently that fits that description.

The problem with definitions like this is that unless you make them so broad and vague that they essentially have no meaning, they will always be substantially inaccurate for a large number of the works they're attempting to pigeonhole.

- Victoria

whitehound
06-23-2005, 04:55 AM
Futuristic: A futuristic novel is one that is from 2006-infinity, but is EARTH-BASED! This means that you are using humans as they exist on Earth that may or may not interact with other species that have yet to be discovered, or dealing with a world very different than what we now know (whether from natural catastrophe, alien invasion, world politics, etc., etc.) The future world must have rationale that is understandable. For example, humans don't have green blood. They will probably NEVER have green blood, so don't try it. But Vulcans (Star Trek) DO have green blood, so that's okay. Star Trek is a tricky one, because it IS science-fiction, and it IS futuristic, and big chunks of it ARE fantasy. It's generally considered science-fiction, for the record.

Fantasy: The biggest issue with the fantasy sub-genre is the concept of "world-building." Fantasy novels come in two breeds: One is a different world, with creatures that don't exist on earth, that may or may not talk, etc. Does that mean that in this system any novel about alien worlds which doesn't involve earth-type humans would be classed as fantasy, no matter how scientifically feasible it is?