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What would you call it?
Atthys Gage
Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 9:18 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

A man walks into the woods with a grim mission:  to confront the very Devil himself--only to find that everyone he knows, all the God-fearing folk of his town, are already in league with the dark trickster, and that the time has come for his own unholy anointing and that of his blameless young wife.  


A man wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a gigantic, horrible insect.  His life generally falls apart from there on in. 


A narcissistic young man has a magical painting that ages for him, allowing him to remain young and handsome.  

Okay.  All of the examples above, none of which I need to name for you, have two things in common:  they are all considered classics of literature--oft taught, oft collected, oft praised.  They are also all concerned with events that can only be considered fantastic, or at least paranormal.   Yet if they were posted here on Book Country, would they be considered genre fiction at all?  And what of Poe?  What of Borges? 

I understand the need for genre labels.  I know they are a way of marketing, of allowing a work of writing to meet up with readers who might enjoy it.  Some readers are devotees of a certain genre, while others don’t much care, but the marketplace seems quite insistent that your work needs an adequate label, and if you can’t narrow it down to something pretty damn specific, you run the risk of being rejected out of hand.  

I admit it:  this irks me, but only in an amused sort of way.  I recently posted a short story called:  Windborne.   A little thing, almost a joke.  Reviews seem pretty evenly split between those who enjoyed it a lot (whatever quibbles they might have) and those who weren’t won over, but the one thing most consistent in the commentary was disagreement with the genre designation.  I confess I didn’t give it much thought at first, simply lumping it in fantasy because of the paranormal element.  Then Danielle (who didn’t like the story at all) suggested it didn’t belong in Fantasy.  I decided she was probably right, and switched it to Weird Fiction.  Since then, two subsequent reviewers have suggested it really doesn’t belong there at all, and maybe it belongs in Fantasy. 

Okay, so what makes fantasy Fantasy?  Magic?  Paranormal events?  Samuel R. Delany’s entire Neveryon series is regularly shelved in the Fantasy section, yet--if memory serves--nothing magical happens (there are, I am reminded, dragons--and yet even they are just normal creatures of that particular landscape.)  The only reason for its designation (and indeed, Delany certainly expected its inclusion) as Fantasy would seem to be the muscular, sword-wielding heroes and the archaic societies that make up the setting of the tales.   (Really, there are far more paranormal events in Delany's  Dahlgren than in the Neveryon series, though the former is always classified as Sci Fi (or the less constricting Speculative Fiction.))

Am I getting to a point soon?  Probably not, but here goes:  What if I had set the events of Windborne in a long ago time--a medieval village perhaps; used archaic-sounding language; turned the gawping crowd from modern-day sensationalists to a bunch of unlettered peasants convinced that they were witnessing witchcraft or some such thing.   Would it then pass as Fantasy? 

Food for thought.  

nota bene:  please do not assume that I rank myself or this trifling story with Borges or Kafka or anyone else mentioned above.  Rest assured, I do not.  

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 3:52 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

I understand your confusion of what makes fantasy and what does not. To be honest, fantasy as a word comes from the word "fantastic" which could mean made up by imagination, fanciful, capricious, whimsical, preposterous, illusory, or any other similar words. The word fantasy is used to describe any work that might fit such a definition. I always argue that Science Fiction is just a sub-genre of fantasy due to the fact that it does possess some of the same elements. Even speculative fiction is fantasy. If Kafka's The Metamorphosis had been published today it would be most likely labeled Fantasy. Those labels didn't exist for publication in the same way they do now at the time those works were written, or in their countries. I don't necessarily agree with the labels, but they exist.

Your confusion with what constitutes as fantasy being archaic is false. Those ideas came about when Tolkien published his works, but I argue that the idea of fantasy goes back to folk lore, and works like Gulliver's Travels and Candide. Fantastical events happen in those books without them being separated or defined from their time period when they were written. My work is often confused for being placed in a medieval setting because I have elves, but I'm actually playing with some conventions most often seen in SF by analyzing the effect of technology. If your work fits a more general idea of fantasy, as in being about "fantastical events," then do not worry about changing your genre. Genre now is more of a marketing tool than anything else and the lines can be blurred. (I will clarify though that when it comes to the difference between SF and fantasy, SF usually involves a more concentrated dose of science, hence the name.)

I'll look into your work and give you a better answer, but I thought I would clarify that not all fantasy is swords and archaic english. I suggest reading some Christopher Moore to lighten the mood and to enlighten you. His world is so fantastical that there is no label for him.

Continue on your flights of fancy!
E D Johnson
Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 6:21 PM
Joined: 6/11/2011
Posts: 18

To reach a distinction between science fiction and fantasy, I always look at the root catalyst of change in the story. Is that catalyst brought about by scientific understanding, technology, or some other somewhat plausible in real life event? If yes, then you have science fiction. If that catalyst is magical, mythical, fantastical, supernatural, or in any way unknown, then it becomes fantasy.

Kafka's work would probably be considered "fantasy" today, because the root cause of the change is unknown. Plus, someone changing like that would definitely be beyond the realm of possibilities for real life without some sort of scientific explanation within the work.

As for Wilde, the major catalyst for change in the story is the portrait painted for the young Mr. Gray. Only once the understanding of the fantastic portrait is understood does Gray begin to become darker and more sinister. And of course, once it is destroyed, well... Definitely beyond real possibilities.

The comment of folk lore by LeeAnn is a great inclusion, because many "fairy tales" and "bed time stories" and a crap ton of Disney movies would be considered fantasy by today's parlance. Before, they would just be lumped into fables and such, but today, they are used as diving boards into something else.

The example that I always use to clear up such misunderstandings is Star Wars. Hold with me here; I use the original three. What is the major catalyst of change in the Star Wars universe? The technology that allows them to go faster than light? The space ships that they use? The blasters and droids?

Sadly, none of those are catalysts of change. The secrets of those devices are glanced over for the most prominent feature of the movies: The Force. The Force is a mysterious, vaguely magical, quasi-religious power that is at the root of the whole story, the Light side versus the Dark side. The main character does not learn about reactors or shields or deflectors. He learns about controlling his ability to manipulate people and the environment. The technology is simply there to facilitate the story movement, but the Force brings changes to the characters capable of interacting with it and thus change the story.

So is Star Wars considered science fiction or fantasy? In my book, it goes down as fantasy. And if Lucas has a problem with that, I'll bring up the newest three movies and the fourth Indiana Jones.
Atthys Gage
Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 6:47 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

LeeAnna: I agree entirely that the roots of fantasy lie in the distant past of folk-tales and such, and of course even beyond that in myth itself, which is one of my favorite topics, and probably a reason I am drawn to fantasy writing. And I misspoke if I gave you the impression that I thought all fantasy was archaic civilizations and sword-play. I only meant that those are common trappings that can lead a work that isn't particularly 'fantastic' to be shelved with Harry Potter and Earthsea and so forth. Contemporary Fantasy (which both of my last two novels would have to be classified) is a whole other thing, but it too has certain trappings: magic usually; often monsters; most often a heroic quest or mission that the main character is drawn into, often unwillingly.

The story Windborne has none of these, with the exception of the one paranormal event. Since its just a very short story, the parameters are different. But is it the lack of heroism and strange beasts that made Danielle say that it really didn't feel like genre fiction at all, rather "more of a literary fiction short... in voice and style, and in theme and action" or the fact that I used such an annoyingly modernist tone. Style or substance?

I also might note that some agents are not entirely keen on genre-blurring, though I'm sure it varies. I have found that most of them really prefer a nice clean marketing pigeon-hole.

Thanks for the response. And for the recommendation re: Christopher Moore. I will give him a look. I will check out your submissions as well.

Atthys Gage
Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 7:33 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

E.D. Johnson: absolutely regarding how to classify Star Wars. It is totally sword and sorcery (light-sabre and jedi). Of course, that's the glory of the thing.
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 7:35 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

@EDJohnson: I have always said that Star Wars was more fantasy than SF. My mother is a Trekkie, so I've had more than my fare share of arguments of one versus the other. Its more like Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings.

@Atthys: I know that some agents aren't entirely keen on genre-blurring, which is a shame. Bringing up Star Wars again, it does have a sense of genre blending, or some of the more popular Manga/Anime, which obviously has a big pull here in the US. It is frustrating that such visual art forms like movies, comic books, or cartoons can manage to pull of the idea of genre mixing, but put it on paper and it is difficult to succeed. Some people need the visual cues to understand what the world is like, and only a talented writer would be able to pull off such feats. That is probably why some agents don't like genre blending because its difficult to market without visual cues. My husband is a Dragon Ball fan (in most of its incarnations), and I was thinking about how you would be able to describe in words primate-based, lycanthropic aliens who can radiate so much energy they turn blonde. Uh, yeah... that sounded strange. As it turns out, Moore makes stranger work. That is why I recommended him. They put him in the Literary section when you go looking for him.
L R Waterbury
Posted: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 12:04 AM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 60

Atthys, I'm glad you brought up the issue of Borges because that introduces the problem of magical realism. As far as I know, magical realism is not usually classified as genre fiction. Instead, it is LITERATURE. After all, as far as I know, no genre fiction writer has ever won a noble prize. And yet, I think most would agree that rather fantastical things happen in works of magical realism. Just look at almost anything Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote (towns get swallowed by water!) or any book by the Brazilian author Jorge Amado (statues come to life!). But Marquez (I think it was Marquez) has protested the use of the word "magical" when it comes to labeling this genre because, and I'm paraphrasing here, in Latin America many people believe magical things really happen.

So, I guess my question is: if people believe in it, then is something magical or fantastic at all? Using that argument, some of Toni Morrison's work could be considered realistic fiction since a highly surprising percentage of the American population actually believe in ghosts. I can't remember what the actual number is, but it pretty much knocked my socks off when I read it.

I guess then, my definition of weird fiction (not quite fantasy, not quite science fiction) would be work that includes elements empiricists consider impossible, but yet some proportion of the population believes possible.

Atthys Gage
Posted: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 12:46 AM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

L.R. -- An interesting distinction. Though, as with ghosts, the things some proportion of the population will believe boggles the mind. I adore Borges and I've seen him described as everything from speculative fiction (particularly things like Tlon Uqbar Orbis Tertius) to magical realism, but, of course, he gets shelved with literature. I admit, the distinction sort of rankles, not because I don't love a lot of genre fiction (I do, and for the most part write it) but perhaps Danielle is right about Windborne. I mean, is literary a bad word? Aren't we all making literature?
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 1:36 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

Literary is only a bad word if you're writing a screenplay. Otherwise, we are all writing literature.
Danielle Poiesz
Posted: Monday, August 15, 2011 9:16 PM
Literary is certainly not a bad word! I apologize for any confusion my comment may have caused, Atthys. Literary fiction is just a different thing than genre fiction--not lesser or greater. Just different.

Determining whether or not something falls into the genre-fiction category of "fantasy" can be tricky because, to a certain extent, it's subjective. It's not purely the presence of fantastical elements that make it fantasy. It's more about the plot and character treatment, the pacing, the diction, and the accessibility.

Author Louisa Burton wrote a great blog post on this very subject ( I would definitely recommend checking it out! She pinpoints "the great divide" perfectly when she writes:"[In literary fiction,] story and character take a backseat to style, theme, and imagery. The pacing is often stately; the artful use of language is paramount."

It's these things that made WINDBORNE seem more literary to me. It had a more leisurely pacing and elevated language. It also seemed to be focused more on theme than the actual plot, giving it a thought-provoking and open-ended air rather than a clear, forward-moving story.

These aren't necessarily negative comments, though--your piece just has a different style and, to me, falls into another kind of writing. So when evaluating it as genre fiction, those qualities and techniques all come into play. A genre fiction reader expects something different than a literary fiction reader.

Does that make sense?

Atthys Gage
Posted: Monday, August 15, 2011 10:30 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

Danielle. Thanks for responding.

Yes, what you say makes sense and, in fact, I don't really see Windborne as fitting the genre fiction category either , which is why I am removing it from Book Country. Story and character do certainly take a backseat to style, theme and imagery, and I don't have any problem conceding that. I never did, actually, but just hoped it might make for an interesting discussion. (Windborne is a conceptional piece more than anything else, and any attempt to develop the character of the individuals would have weakened it's impact. The only real character in the piece is the character of the crowd--unpleasant, which is why I threw a person at them.)

Anyway, I haven't really decided whether I fit as a genre writer in general. I do favor a literary tone and love it when authors attempt the out-of-the-ordinary. Perhaps I'll try posting another excerpt that might fit better. (My first excerpt doesn't seem to be roping very many people into reading it. At least Windborne got some attention, although that was probably mostly because it was so short. )

At any rate, thanks for commenting.

Carl E Reed
Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 5:12 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608

This has been a very interesting discussion to follow. Great comments by all posters! I’ll try and keep my own comments as brief as possible.

Book Country’s genre descriptions help me select a classification category when it’s time to post another story. The blurred boundaries and hair-splitting distinctions between fantasy/weird fiction/sci-fi/magical realism/horror can go on forever.

For myself, I regard fantasy as something that could never happen and science fiction as something that—however improbable—might. (But what of FTL drives in sci-fi? Doesn’t that automatically make—given what we know of the laws of science—any story that includes FTL travel a fantasy story, by definition? Got me there . . .)

As to Atthy’s original point: I’m sorry to hear you’re pulling WINDBORNE from the site. I think the story itself (and the attendant commentary from reviewers) made it a very interesting posting. I wouldn’t pull it down just because some people quibbled with your genre classification. As to Danielle’s point (your short-short coming across as literary fiction) I would take that as very high praise indeed—but then work on incorporating more story into the tale.

FYI: I recently ran across a short story of Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Willow Landscape” [a fanciful Chinese tale about an impoverished scholar and the old landscape painting with which he was loath to depart] whose publishing history could serve as an object lesson and commentary on all of the points being made here. CAS had originally sent the story to Farnsworth Wright (editor of WEIRD TALES) in 1930. FW rejected the tale with the comment, “. . . it lacks the swift action we want for Oriental Stories.” Upon receiving this rejection, CAS sought commiseration from his peer and fellow weird fiction writer, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. HPL exploded, “It is just like FW to reject ‘The Willow Landscape’. What a damn fool! ACTION—hell, what a standard! And yet I know that is the god of the herd.” [HPL was known to write editors on behalf of his friends to remonstrate with them over short story rejections. For that matter, it was accepted practice for writers back then to routinely re-submit rejected (and slightly reworked) stories to the same editor six, eight, ten, twelve or more times before being published. Good luck with that kind of behavior today!] In this particular instance FW did indeed finally accept the story and publish it in 1939, nine years after having first rejected it.

So what’s the take-away? If I were you, Atthys, I would keep on writing in your own distinctive style and voice (this is what LeeAnna and L R Waterbury and E D Johnson do, each in their own unique, different ways) but work on incorporating more of that “god of the herd” element: action and energizing, page-turning plot (as Danielle suggested)—if you want to submit to genre markets.

As a final point of commiseration: I know what it’s like to beat your head against the wall in fury and frustration over rejections that praise your “high literary style” but inevitably conclude “not right for us.”

But I’m determined to keep at it—to keep writing and re-writing, polishing and improving—until one day I (accidentally?) write something so good “they” can’t ignore it. Or die trying.

How 'bout you?

Atthys Gage
Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 7:11 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

Carl; Thanks for chiming in. Personally, I have no doubt that you will–accidentally or otherwise–succeed in pushing something through that perplexing bramble of thorns we know as the publishing industry, hopefully long before you die trying.

As for Windborne, it has already been pulled down. Certainly, I did not interpret Danielle's comment as meaning that I ought to delete it, but I felt that it was distracting me a bit from the things I have written since then (as I said, once, Windborne was old, and hardly a major work). It doesn't particularly interest me as more than a miniature. You referred to it as an interesting exercise, and that is quite apropos. But I'm fine with it being that. It did provoke a wide-range of reactions, and that is all to the good.

God of the herd, eh? Heh, heh. Lights, camera, action...
J Boone Dryden
Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 12:13 AM
Joined: 5/7/2011
Posts: 42


One issue you bring up is that you are using as examples pieces that are -- for lack of a better term -- proto-genre. All of the pieces you mentioned (Young Goodman Brown, Metamorphosis, Dorian Gray) are all works of their respective times; i.e., Romantic, Russian Structuralist, etc. They cannot easily be identified with a genre, because they are all from before there really was a genre for them to be identified with.

I think Hawthorne and Poe are great examples of SF/F proto-genre, because they were writing about things that questioned science and the world around them; however, they wrote within the confines of their time, writing works that were as common as those around them. Twain is the same way (using the example of "Connecticut Yankee"). They were all writing within the constraints of their time and pushing some boundaries. But at the end of the day they're still their own genre.

I think on thing that has been brought up that I disagree with is the suggestion of magic realism. I would potentially say slipstream more so than magic realism for one reason: magic realism, for the most part, was an artistic movement that then inspired a literary movement with the major premise being to exemplify or highlight the extraordinary (the "magical") and present it as realistic and mundane in the world. There is nothing intrinsically Fantasy about it, though there is a strong element of the fantastic. While this may be splitting hairs, I liken it to saying that "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wing" and "Earthsea" are both in the same category. One certainly has magic; the other is merely magical. It's a semantic difference, but it's a very big one, in my opinion.

Slipstream, on the other hand, is a bit looser in classification, as it traditionally just means literary and genre blended. "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" would be a good example. But it's more like Science Fantasy -- a mesh of two genres than something entirely its own. There are no specific traits of it other than those presented by those things being blended.

I think if you consider it Fantasy you should choose your best option and perhaps justify your choice. Or Weird Fiction. Or Magic Realism. Whatever you think fits it best; I'd say to just research it and find the best home. (PS: I tried to find the piece in your profile, but I could not).

As a side note, L R mentioned that there haven't been any genre writer to win the Nobel Prize: to be fair there have been genre writers who have won that prize, just not for genre pieces (Doris Lessing being noteworthy for works like "Memiors of a Survivor" and "The Making of the Representative for Planet 8"). The Nobel, unlike other prizes, is for the life work of an author; many of those who write (or have written) commendable SF/F either died before the prize began or before science fiction and fantasy were more respected (though there's an obvious argument against that); many others are still alive and not quite old enough to have the body of work required foe the prize. However, there have been more than a few who've won the Pulitzer, which I feel is more of an achievement.

Anyway, I wish you the best of luck with your placement of the story. I, too, always have difficulty placing stories at times. Two pieces I swore were science fiction really have had a very tough finding homes in those markets. I believe they may be more in line with magic realism or something entirely different.

Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 12:30 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

Hi Atthys!

Nice to see you here! Sorry I missed this conversation earlier.

Myself, I would classify all of those as fantasy of one sort or another, and yes, they would absolutely fit here on Book Country.

Kafka would be classified most likely as New Weird (The Metamorphosis) or Slipsteam (The Trial).

Picture of Dorian Gray would fit nicely into Horror.

Edgar Allen Poe would fit into Horror or one of the many Mystery categories.

And there is absolutely such a thing as literary fantasy and literary science fiction. China Mieville, Jonathan Carroll, Borges, Dino Buzzati and Samuel L Delany come to mind.

And I would even argue that you can slot any work of magical realism onto the Genre Map: Contemporary Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, etc, depending upon the setting of the novel. It would depend entirely upon the story and how much of a fantastical element is present in the book.

Does that help?



Atthys Gage
Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 8:29 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

Colleen. Howdy. You run a fun site.

I confess that I am as much amused as bemused by the proliferation of genre-types I've encountered since launching this frayed thread. Slipstream had me guessing, at first, but New Weird? Okey dokey, then. (A friend recently told me that her band was classified in the trade mags as Doom Jazz. Guess Goth Bebop was all full up.) Anyway, nice to know whatever I write, I can probably find a classification for it.

J. Boone. I actually found your definition of magical realism to be the simplest and most convincing, and the now deleted story probably fit best in that niche. The magic was one simple, inexplicable act (a man who floats). Everything else in the story is perfectly mundane. Really, the whole thing was as much a 2000 word long joke as anything else, and the main reason I deleted it was because it was the only thing of mine people seemed to be reading. Probably this was mostly because it was short, but it isn't particularly representative, so I didn't really want to be identified by it.

Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 3:52 PM
Joined: 8/9/2011
Posts: 1

I think you could argue that almost all fiction was once genre fiction - mythology, romance, horror, sci fi. I have seen Jane Austen classified as both YA and romance. Dickens and other Victorian novelists wrote many mysteries, proto-crime novels, and thrillers. Lots and lots of paranormal activity.

I agree that the genre labels are both helpful and frustrating. Thinking about them has been useful even when it is frustrating. I appreciate this discussion!
Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 5:01 PM
Joined: 3/29/2011
Posts: 25

I don't read much literary fiction (except classics), but I would definitely read literary fiction with fantastical elements. Honestly, I think cross-genre fiction is some of the best fiction there is. So if it fits on the genre map, post it! I would love to read some literary fantasy or magical realism.
Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 1:30 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

I'm a bit discouraged by what I'm reading here. I'm starting to wonder: is this the site for me?

I'm delighted with the insights offered in this discussion, and I'm blown away, humbled, in fact, by the depth of knowledge which the contributors seem to have, far more than my own. I'm going to reread carefully, and seek out works cited, in pursuit of clarity on the topic.

The thing I take away so far, sadly, is that my stuff may not appeal to the Book Country community. It may not be genre fantasy.

I too build strange worlds in which extraordinary events occur but, while the premise of my nonsense, truth be told, depends on magic, I deny it, making my case for the viability of a pontificating cat with a wealth of semi-plausible detail. 

I create what I believe to be literary fiction of a fantastical nature. Does a genre audience go for it? Or am I spinning my wheels, digging the racket, giddy over the amount of dust I'm kicking up, but getting nowhere? 

Will you answer a simple sixty second survey, yea or nay, posted below?  

Read a synopsis of my forthcoming adventure. If you might check it out once it's posted, give me a thumb up. If not, hit thumb down. That's it. 

Here goes nothing: 

Was ever an age as rife with screwballs as the sixteenth century? For delusional idiots, the era can hardly be beat. Into the unholy mix of zealots and monsters I’ve flung Sly, aka Sly Boots, aka Puss-in-Boots, a stinker himself.

This is silly fantasy, goosed with what appears to be a wealth of research. Take the history with a grain of salt. I’ve fudged facts. I’ve embellished. I’ve plundered history books for zany information and woven the scavenged bits into my narrative; I hope it sounds like I know what I’m talking about. I don’t. I’ve not been to sea on a square-rigger and, while I’m ancient, I wasn’t around in 1585.

The Valois of France were corrupt, to the bone. Phillip of Spain did try to marry a deranged brother to Elizabeth of England. On the other hand, a cat, a pig, a cow and an urchin did not team up to foil an assassination plot.

Margaret Cavendish was an aberration for the time, a female philosopher. I’ve swiped some of her sallies for Sly’s use. The remark that ‘Aristotle himself would wish he had never been the master of all schools, now to be lectured to, and by a cat’ is word for word, except that the original fretted: ‘and by a woman.’ This material, while a bit lengthy, was too good to resist.

Sly is an intricately plotted saga of misery and mayhem - one fine mess after another - all of it as ridiculous as I could make it. The animal is full of beans, and opinions. Whether you’re with or against him on any particular stance, you’ll be giggling at what the rascal has to say on matters of universal concern, then and now.

Thanks, Mimi

Atthys Gage
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 2:43 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

Mimi;   I found your pitch pretty intriguing and you sound like a colorful writing.  I'll give it a try.  

(I wouldn't, though, base your decision to post or not on how many thumbs up you receive.  This is a pretty old discussion, and probably not many people will see it.  I only did because it was my post originally. 

Good luck.
Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 4:33 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

Thank you so much for responding.

Old discussion or not, it's new to me. I joined less than two weeks ago. I'm going through the conversations, hitting the ones most pertinent to my situation, then I'll double back and investigate the others.

This site is fabulous! I learned about it by accident, on Huffington, or Daily Beast, or Salon, on one of the three spots I look at every day.

Posted: Friday, December 9, 2011 11:44 AM
Joined: 12/1/2011
Posts: 35

Well I will chime in too, since I am reasonably new here & just starting to get into a rhythm of reviewing and commenting on various stories and topics.

Putting labels on types of fiction is becoming more and more subjective as new sub-genres and wholly new types of literature are developing.  Fantasy when I was growing up was basically the "sword-and-sorcerry" genre whose popularity exploded with the pervasiveness of D&D.  It has morphed into a more far-sweeping category of fiction that seems to differentiate itself like this: if it takes place, at least in a very surface way, in a untechnological "past" then it is fantasy, whereas its opposite (a technological future) is science fiction.  The middle ground is called literary fiction, at least in the bookstores.

The gray area comes in with modern fantasy.  If you have a story set in modern day but with fantastical elements (let's say like a modern Pete's Dragon, just to keep it simple) where does it land?  Dragons are a staple of fantasy, but that story falls on the line between two genres.  Then it falls upon the publisher to decide where it will get the most exposure and, ultimately, sell the most copies.

Now I feel like I am rambling, so I will just say this: place your tale where you think you will receive the most and the best feedback.  Think like a publisher.  The map is pretty flexible, so use that to your advantage.  It sounds to me like you would want "Historical Fantasy" and planted firmly in the light corner of the tone map.  But you don't have to listen to me.  Most people don't. 
Mimi Speike
Posted: Friday, December 9, 2011 1:45 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

Here's the problem with calling it Historical Fantasy: the major personalities are fairly faithfully drawn, but the rest is cut from whole cloth, pure whack-o invention. To call it historical on any level would be highly misleading.

Well, historical fantasy is something else, I guess. Still, it feels uncomfortable to me. This is the Earl of Leicester being bested by a cat. And the vain, notoriously jealous Elizabeth outraged that her newest courtier, Sly, of course, has cast his eye elsewhere and, to add insult to injury, he has seduced her beloved pet monkey. 
Posted: Friday, December 9, 2011 2:01 PM
Joined: 12/1/2011
Posts: 35

I get it, really.  But from your description, I would gather that the "reality" you set the story in is one which you can actually research and not have to create out of thin air.  I also got the feeling that the fantasy elements will be hemmed in with actual people and events.

I was trying to think of a book that would make for a clear parallel, and my best ones are from the multiverse of Michael Moorcock and the Eternal Champion series.  Some of those stories take place during WWII and include people riding dragons into arieal combat over France.  Those books are always found (when you can find them) in the fantasy section.  I am sure that someone else could come up with a better example than that.

The other road to take is the "alternate reality" one, and then you can more freely determine where you want the story to land.  But I am sticking with my historical fantasy opinion because . . . well, because I am stubborn.
Mimi Speike
Posted: Friday, December 9, 2011 2:10 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

Love that last bit. I'm the same way. And, thanks for your input. Gives me much to kick around.