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robertquiller
08-28-2004, 02:11 AM
I'm not primarily a fantasy writer, but hardly immune to the easily spread bug of the fantastic, and have made forays into the genre with a book or two, and several short-stories. From this small experience, I have an observation which I would like to hold up for criticism.

It seems to me that fantasy prospers in detail - or, perhaps not detail, but depth - and that the novel is a far better form for this genre than the short-story. I speak here primarily of mythoepic fantasy, not what I like to call abberation lit. (fiction about wierdos in modern settings).

I have a few other opinions about form in fantasy - such as that a mixture of prose and poetry (a la Morris, Macdonald, Tolkien) succeeds better than straight prose - but the main point I would like your opinions on is Novel vs. Short-story in the Fantasy Genre.

Which is preferable?

~ Robert

btinternet
08-28-2004, 03:01 AM
Hi Robert,

I'm inclined to agree with your hypothesis that fantasy is better suited to the novel than the short story. That's not to say there aren't some excellent fantasy short stories out there, but on the whole there's much more allowance for epic scope in the novel.

As a corollary idea, I would opine that many of the good fantasy short stories are set in worlds that have been developed in novel length works elsewhere, and therefore can use that development to elude the 'lack of complexity in short stories' constraint.

Just my thoughts.

BT

ChunkyC
08-28-2004, 03:14 AM
I'm with you. There's a grandeur possible in the novel that short stories just don't have the time to develop.

keltora
08-28-2004, 03:17 AM
Just from my own point of view, I like writing both. I like reading both.

These days, I write more novellas and novelettes, though. It seems the right length to indulge in for fantasy.

:coffee

MThomas2003
08-28-2004, 05:00 AM
I speak here primarily of mythoepic fantasy, not what I like to call abberation lit. (fiction about wierdos in modern settings).

Hmmm. Perhaps we could agree on a different name for non-mythoepic fantasy for those who write and enjoy both forms? :grin

Otherwise, I wholly agree high fantasy or mythoepic fantasy really does much better at longer lengths. Although, I did just finish reading Peter Beagle's "Giants" and his stories had many epic fantasy settings/details and were satisfying as short stories, although pretty long for the "short" category.

I know that high fantasy is a pretty hard sell in many mags, although F&SF and Realms do try to fill a certain quota every now and then. What seem to be included in those high fantasy-like stories which I consider successful are high fantasy elements, but a lack of the more lush detailing and etc. For which I will happily pick up a brick-sized epic doorstopper from my favorite high fantasy author to enjoy.

In my opinion, this may be because the evolution of the hero's journey, which is a successful formula for epic fantasy in all its manifestations, can't always be satisfactorily resolved in 2,000 to 6,000 words, without being rushed.

HConn
08-28-2004, 07:42 AM
I like fantasy short stories. They have less look-at-this-cool-world-building-I-did dawdling.

Not that novels are bad, mind you. I enjoy both and don't think one is better suited to the genre than the other. Whether one or the other is better suited to an individual's tastes is a separate matter.

If you're looking for good fantasy short fiction, look up Black Gate. (http://www.blackgate.com/) The latest issue has been a while coming, but it's full of good short-form fantasy.

Writing Again
08-28-2004, 01:05 PM
I think a lot of novels would become short stories if the world building that has nothing to do with the story were left out.

robertquiller
08-29-2004, 02:30 AM
I like fantasy short stories. They have less look-at-this-cool-world-building-I-did dawdling.


I think a lot of novels would become short stories if the world building that has nothing to do with the story were left out.

That is an interesting point of view. May I raise what objections I have, merely for the sake of my argument?

It is my experience of Mythoepic Fantasy (remember, that was the genre within genre I was referring to in my question), that in order to achieve the 'fictional myth' (not that myths are generally non-fiction, but opposed to a 'real myth': a myth that originated in some actual culture and not just some writer's mind) a certain amount of world-building is necessary for the credibility of that myth. A myth is the product of a culture; a culture is the product of the world in which it exists and the individuals who comprise it; therefore, a myth is a product of the world in which it exists. Necessarily, any worthy attempt at the creation of a fictional myth precludes world-building. World-building is integral to mythoepic fantasy; in some sense it is mythoepic fantasy.

This is what I meant, Writing Again and Hconn, when I said the novel provides a better medium for fantasy's 'depth'. The more we know about the world of our myth, the better we understand and appreciate that myth.

I agree, however, that if we subtracted all the results of world-building from mythoepic fantasy novels they would become smaller. In fact, you underestimated the extent of their shrinking. Since every character and event and setting would be a product of world-building, were they decapitated in this way, they would cease to exist.

~ R.Q.

HConn
08-29-2004, 03:00 AM
that in order to achieve the 'fictional myth'... a certain amount of world-building is necessary for the credibility of that myth.

Sure. But you don't always need to show all of it. Properly done, a story (http://www.worldofschmitt.com/writings/smith/charnelgod.html) hits the myth and the world behind it in a way that does not require frivolous detail to give it depth. All it needs is the right detail.

I used the word "dawdling" for a reason.

It's not the form that matters, IMO. It's the way it's used.

robertquiller
08-29-2004, 03:21 AM
Properly done, a story hits the myth and the world behind it in a way that does not require frivolous detail to give it depth.

Quite. Where we part ways, is that we who prefer the novel for this genre believe, not that this length precludes superfluity, but that it is necessary to get that 'right detail' you speak of. This is because Mythoepic Fantasy is not the 'story [that] hits the myth' but the myth itself. Our differences lie simply in the fact that you think the SS can reach that right detail better than the novel, and I believe that the novel can do so better than the SS.

~ R.Q.

HConn
08-29-2004, 04:34 AM
Our differences lie simply in the fact that you think the SS can reach that right detail better than the novel, and I believe that the novel can do so better than the SS.

I'm sorry, Robert, but please look at these two quotes from my own posts in this thread:


I enjoy both and don't think one is better suited to the genre than the other.


It's not the form that matters, IMO. It's the way it's used.

So, no, that isn't the difference between us.

robertquiller
08-29-2004, 05:05 AM
HConn:

:smack You're right. I hate it when I start talking to the wrong person.

For your individual case, allow me to amend my statement:

"Our differences lie simply in the fact that you think the SS can reach that right detail as well the novel, and I think that the novel can do so better than the SS."

Sorry.

And while I'm apoligizing, I might as well point out that I've been leading you all wrong with my spelling of mythoepic - should be mythopoeic.

Sorry.


-----------------------

However, being the proud, insufferable person I am, though I may admit I made a slip of the tongue, I have this irresistible compulsion to follow up with an epilogue in which I remount my soap-box. I will do so now.

Concerning your remark that it is not form that matters: I won't deal with it in the general sense, but as it applies to the sort of Fantasy we're discussing (mythopoeic). The general purpose of fiction, may we allow for argument's sake, is telling a good story - or whatever you want to insert there, since it's a whole other topic - and genre is simply adding another and simultaneous purpose to the first. So the purpose of Horror as a genre, for instance, is to scare/excite/or-what-have-you, in addition to the basic purpose of fiction. Now the additional purpose of mythopoeic fantasy is generall well-defined, and it is this: to be as mythful and epic as possible.

And concerning your remark that neither the SS nor the Novel is better suited to fantasy: Now my contention is that the form (basically "bigger") of the novel has a better chance of being mythful and epic than the short-story. And therefore, in the case of mythopoeic fantasy, form and content are inevitably twisted, and to go for one without the other is a mistake.

Ah, sigh. You can tell I'm not an habitual fantasy writer; I tend to speak too much in syllogisms.

~ R.Q.

HConn
08-29-2004, 06:27 AM
No big deal, Robert. I need to do two things: Loiter on the internet less and get over myself more.

I agree that novels make it easier to be epic, but not mythful. Sagas are certainly long--some seem endless. But there are plenty of myths that are no longer than your average short story.

I don't know. I write fantasy short fiction, although I shy away from being mythic. I truly believe it's a matter of taste and talent. Some writers are happy in a big, spacious novel. Or series of 10 novels. Some like a short story.

A Pathetic Writer
08-31-2004, 06:18 AM
The problem is, with a short story (and to a much lesser extent a novella) you're dealing with a crucial space and efficiency requirement. Unlike Sci-fi, even, you're having to create entire elements from scratch, and either gloss over them, risking they'll confuse the reader more than anything else, or spend too much time on them, and dilute the story.

For this reason only, the fantasy needs to be "softer" or the story needs to be longer.

Yeshanu
08-31-2004, 06:51 AM
Fantasy's like any other genre. There are good short fantasy stories, and good novels. And bad stories of both types.

I have several anthologies of fantasy short stories in my collection of books that I enjoy re-reading on occasion. Most of the good fantasy shorts that I've read are not set in worlds that were fully developed somewhere else, and most of them were what rq calls "mythapoeic."

It's all a matter of taste.