Tag Archives: fantasy

Fantasy from Cradle to Grave

by Andy Peloquin

Imagination is such an important element of childhood. The more imaginative a child is, the more their brains grow and expand. Imagination and daydreaming fosters critical thinking skills, creative problem-solving abilities, and opportunities for cognitive growth. Simple things like painting, drawing, playing outside, and making messes gives children the opportunity to expand their imagination.

One article on Psychology Today says, “Fantasy-prone children (those who daydream and have imaginary friends) tend to have positive interpersonal, creative, and cognitive capacities. They tend to be more outgoing, better able to focus their attention, and more effective at seeing things from the perspective of others.”

The day they discover books is the first day they discover just how big the world is. Infants and toddlers learn about new countries and places they could never have imagined possible. They are taught about animals: fish in the sea, birds in the sky, mammals of such wondrous shapes, colors, and sizes.

As a child grows, they begin to find their own interest in books. They hear stories that teach them vital life lessons, lessons that will shape them into the men and women they will become. They learn that they are the hero in their own story, and that the only limits to possibilities exist in their minds.

Fantasy gives children a way to “put themselves in the mental shoes of others”. It goes beyond simple fiction—as one expert says, “this cognitive ability to adopt other perspectives is what makes elaborate pretend play so easy even before our brains are fully developed.”

As children grow into teenagers and adults, their imagination waxes and wanes depending on how much it is engaged. By the time they reach adulthood, many begin to seek out the escapism offered by fiction. With all of our daily troubles, nothing offers that escape like speculative fiction—fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, and more.

But that vivid imagination can follow us through the years, as we become adults. One psychologist drew an interesting comparison: “The joys of becoming caught up in entertainment are a big part of what many of us live for. In this sense, we are like those of firm religious faith who believe that a genuine paradise awaits them, except that we don’t even have to die to get there.”

As the narrative of our stories transport us to other realms—realms filled with monsters and aliens, wizards and space captains, heroes and villains—we step outside the limits imposed upon us by society and stretch the boundaries of “possible”. Even if we have to return to Planet Earth when we close the pages of our books, we know those worlds of impossibility are still there, waiting for us.

And, as we mature through our adult years and enter the later stages of life, that hunger for imagination follows us. We think back to our “glory days”, when we were young and strong and carefree. When we read about mighty heroes and warriors of renown, we get that sense of “I was like that once”. It brings back memories of the good times and the bad, and gives us hope that we had a live worth living.

From birth to death, cradle to the grave, imagination and the realms of fiction give us a way to step beyond our limits and experience something marvelous!

From Fairytale to Fantasy – How Did You Get Here?

by JA Clement

I write fantasy, and I’m just coming down from the mad amounts of work involved in a new release. I’ll not talk about that now, except to say that one of the aspects of it that I’ve really loved over the last couple of weeks was getting emails from readers who were as excited about it as I am. In particular this has meant a lot because for a lot of years when I was younger, there was no-one I knew who liked fantasy, so there was never any point in enthusing about it at all.

When I was a kid, I was considered very odd by my classmates because I hated Sweet Valley High and preferred to read fairytales. As far as they were concerned, I was still reading baby books; but I loved the endless possibilities of dragons and witches and giants, and there was nothing that called to me, as a clumsy, unfashionable girl who was no good at sport, in a set of books where shapely blonde teenagers vied for the attention of handsome young men, apparently through the medium of cheerleading.

At ten or eleven we moved to upper school, and the difference became even more pronounced. In my school library there was shelf after shelf of “girls’ books” like Judy Blume (in all fairness, her stuff was very good) and Malory Towers. All the good adventure books were apparently “boys’ books” or classics, so that’s what I gravitated to for a while (my reading choices became a source of ongoing puzzlement to the librarian, a lovely elderly lady who was very much a product of her time) but then one day hidden right at the back, at the bottom of the Reference stack, I found a pretty good beginner’s selection of sci fi and fantasy.

In the ten minutes it took me to skim a few blurbs, I was enraptured. There was just half a shelf, some very old, but there were swordfighters, robot civilisations, magic, spaceships, witches, new worlds, dragons – all by names I would soon come to recognise such as Asimov, Clarke, Pratchett, Andre Norton, and McCaffrey. I devoured them over the next couple of weeks, and the token novel they had for each new author was enough to send me down to the town library, a great hulking Victorian place where amongst what seemed like acres of books, they had a whole shelving unit full of all the rest of these authors’ works. Bliss! From then on, I would save up the change from my dinner money and buy book after book. I got a Saturday job in a bookshop – at the end of a year I had four pounds in my saving account and pretty much a year’s wage in books on the shelf…. But the only thing was, no-one I knew was at all interested in sci fi or fantasy, so every time I found a new author and came home bubbling about it, there was no-one to tell. It was very frustrating.

With the burgeoning of social media, I met a few likeminded souls, but through Uni and my earlier working years, there were not many. Gradually this started to change, and is changing faster all the time now: in recent years fantasy has become very much more widely-read, and more accepted. With the ascent to fame of such authors as Robin Hobb and George RR Martin, fantasy has changed tone considerably – even Pratchett changed from the silly, funny earlier books to much darker and more nuanced later novels (I love the earlier ones, but for me the later ones like The Night Watch are where it really became gripping). It’s a long time since fantasy was just for kids…

For me the real epiphany was when Worldcon came to London. I went, and did a couple of panels etc, but for me the shared references and commonality of taste meant that people-watching was the real fun. There was a joyful gusto about the whole thing – an uninhibited sharing that really lifted the heart. Everywhere there seemed to be fun – four jawas dashing about pushing a hostess trolley on which crouched Spiderman in full regalia; the very impressive Darth Maul who engaged in a lightsaber fight with a six year old Jedi and allowed himself to be horribly slain in the main hall with much groaning and theatrics, leaving the kid in fits of giggles (and the parents and most of the onlookers too). I saw Patrick Rothfuss take a selfie with two fans dressed as Adem mercenaries, and all three of them were geeking out as much as each other. I suddenly realised, with a shock of delight, that I had found my tribe, and there was a whole conference centre full of them… It was a truly magical moment.

These days I’ve got my whole family interested in fantasy. Even my mum, who thought fantasy was silly for about sixty years, got interested with the films of Lord of the Rings, progressed through Robin Hobb and is now as up to date with the lighter end of fantasy as I am, if not more so. It makes it all so much more fun when you can discuss your latest book with others, and hopefully pass it on for their enjoyment as well.

That community, that gleeful sharing is a large part of what keeps me going as a writer. I’d be writing anyway because I get twitchy if I don’t, but I go to the length of publishing for that magical moment when someone ‘gets’ your story, when these amazing tales and characters and events that play in your head like films translate well enough that someone else loves them too. That is a really magical sharing, an incredible privilege. That’s like a little bit of Worldcon right there….

So shout-out to you guys, to the readers. We do what we do for and because of you, and your words of encouragement are what keep us writing. I am still in touch with a handful of people I only ever met at Worldcon, people from all over the world, and I continue to meet interesting new fantasy fans all the time in cyberspace (and sometimes even in real life). I love that. It’s all about the sharing. And it all started with half a shelf of elderly books in the school library, Pratchett and Norton and Asimov.

Now, I have a couple of my own paperbacks on the shelf and mostly read ebooks – I only tend to buy the ones I really like in paperback now due to lack of space. I’m just catching up on a Lindsey Buroker or two, and next I’ve got a choice between rereading Rothfuss, a new book by N. K. Jemisin or a short by Mhairi Simpson, depending on what suits my mood when I come to choose. Decisions, decisions….! Or, of course, get on with writing the next one of my own. It all feels more than a little luxurious.

So that’s how I got into fantasy… Now it’s your turn – what was it that brought you to fantasy? Authors? Books? Films? Events? What are you reading right now, and what’s next on the list?

And what is your all time favourite fantasy or con-related memory?

JAC


Find out more about JAClement and her books at http://jaclement.wordpress.com

James E. Wisher’s Top 10 Fantasy Series

by James E. Wisher

10. The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind: I suspect this will be the most polarizing choice of this post so I thought I’d start with it. I enjoyed this series both for its take on magic and the main character’s personality. The action scenes were well done as was the character development. Whatever you may think about the author, the story was engaging and well written.

9. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling: This series had to be included for its sheer impact on pop culture. Very few people will fail to get a Harry Potter reference. The story gets deeper and better with every book.

8. Night Angel by Brent Weeks: I absolutely loved this series. The Night Angel stories are the sort of books I aim to write myself. Fast paced, lots of action, engaging characters. I read the omnibus edition, which is close to 1000 pages, in three days. I think that says it all right there.

7. The Black Company by Glen Cook: I’m not sure if Military Fantasy is a genre, but if it is the Black Company books are the best examples of it you’ll find. The most important aspect of the books is the interplay between the members of the company. After a while you start to believe these are real people. I can’t think of a better compliment.

6. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan: This series is one of the few that I thought might have benefited from being shorter. The first few books are amazing, some of the best written fantasy you’ll find, but as the series progresses the pace slows down and it becomes repetitive. Brandon Sanderson did a fantastic job finishing the series after Jordan died.

5. A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin: I love this series. The only reason it isn’t higher is because of the pace at which Martin puts out his books. Waiting years between releases is torture and that’s a fine compliment to his writing. Now hurry up and finish the damn series. I need to know what happens.

4. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson: The first book of this series introduces one of my all time favorite characters, fantasy or otherwise, Whiskeyjack. The world weary soldier determined to do right by his men grabbed me from the moment I met him and held through the whole series.

3. The Dark Elf Series by R. A. Salvator: Ask any fantasy fan to name a dark elf and the first one you’ll hear, 9 times out of 10, is Drizzt. His conflict and desire to overcome the evil nature of his race creates a compelling story across over twenty books. I’ve read them all and while I prefer the earlier stories, they’re all great.

2. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: The story that basically created the epic fantasy genre as we know it today. No list of fantasy novels could fail to mention it. It’s simply the most important story in the genre.

1. The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks: This is the series that made me want to be a writer. The Sword of Shannara is the first fantasy novel I ever read back in ninth grade. It made me fall in love with stories and want to write my own. For that reason it’s number one on my list.

Thanks for reading.

If you’d like to learn more about me and my books you can visit http://www.jamesewisher.com

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Basic Types of Magic

 by Andy Peloquin


One of the most common elements in fantasy novels is magic. Just as technology is what drives many sci-fi novel plots, so too magic is the driving force behind many fantasy stories. But the truth is that there are SO MANY different types of magic to use.

Below is a rough “guide to magic types”, based on my experience reading and writing stories involving magic. Each universe/novel can have their own rules to follow, but this is a general outline of some of the more popular types of magic to use:

Mage – Mages tend to fall into the category of “scholars”. Most mages belong to an order or scholastic organization that trains them to use magic. The sort of magic used by magic may be innate (within them), or they could use magic that comes from the world around them. They may also be able to use talismans and other magic-imbued items. Mages usually use spells, cantrips, and incantations to access magic.

Wizard – Wizards also tend to belong the “scholar” category, but their magic is often far less academic. Some wizards will use books to learn their wizardry, but many will have access to it innately or instinctively. They tend to have an inner wisdom that grants them access to magic, and often are talented in wizardry. Study and practice can hone the talents, but wizards often inherit or acquire magic from outside sources.

Sorcerer – Sorcerers almost exclusively use innate/inner magic, which comes from within them. Sorcery tends to be more “soul magic”, meaning sorcerers control the magic using their internal power. Sorcery is also more instinctive. It can be honed, but the power is usually connected to the power of their soul. Some sorcerers also have instinctive access to the magic in the world.

Cleric – Clerics are given access to divine powers, which come from their particular god or goddess. They may rely on religious talismans, or they may access the divine powers using a spell or ritual. Clerics belong to a religious order or sect, and they are almost always priests (or paladins).

Druid – Druids, like the druids of ancient England, tend to rely on the powers of earth, stone, wood, wind, fire, and other forces/objects of nature. They may have knowledge of lore, herbal medicines, and the hidden properties of plants and herbs. However, their magic is almost always connected to nature.

Alchemist – Alchemists are like “magical scientists”. They may use magic to transmute liquids and solids, or they can create new substances with magical-like properties. A great deal of alchemy is based on modern science, though with a distinct “fantastical” twist to it.

Remember, there are exceptions to every rule. These are the “broad strokes” categories of magic, but the rules aren’t hard and fast. Every fantasy author will use their own take on magic, including the means of accessing it, the cost of using it, and the origin of the magic used.


You can check out Andy’s books here.

Fantasy Built on the Religions of Our Ancestors: The Historical Context of Mythology

by USA Today Bestselling Author, S.M. Schmitz

Ossian on the Bank of the Lora, Invoking the Gods to the Strains of a Harp by François Gérard

Ossian on the Bank of the Lora, Invoking the Gods to the Strains of a Harp (1801)
by François Gérard


With hugely successful series like Percy Jackson & the Olympians and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Rick Riordan has brought mythological fiction into the mainstream. While his middle grade books might typically find younger audiences, mythological fiction is an exciting fantasy subgenre for adults as well.

I began writing mythological fiction because of my background as a world history instructor. One of my areas of interest is social history, and religion and belief systems are a significant aspect of all cultures throughout history. Those beliefs have shaped gender relations, education, class divisions, politics, foreign policies, and systems of alliances.

What we now label as mythology isn’t just a collection of interesting stories; they are little windows into the pasts of our ancestors, snippets of their lives, their beliefs, their fears, and their hopes.

My first mythological series is The Immortals, which is loosely inspired by The Book of Enoch. This non-canonical text describes the fall of a group of angels after seeing some of the beautiful women on Earth. Pieces of the mythology from this Ethiopian script are found throughout The Immortals series as those humans who have been conscripted by Heaven to fight on its behalf combat demons on Earth.

One of the many things world mythologies can teach us is about gender norms and roles. The story of Lilith is a perfect example. According to some other non-canonical texts (which are also used for The Immortals), she was the original wife of Adam, but “refused to lie beneath him.” The implication is that Lilith refused to be subservient to a man and instead demanded to be regarded as his equal. She was cast out of Eden and in some texts, partnered with a fallen angel (perhaps Azazel or Samael). This union then produced all the demons that would plague mankind forever.

The moral of the story, of course, is that of expected gender roles. Lilith is punished for not fulfilling the role expected of her and is exiled, while her partnership with a fallen angel and the subsequent birth of thousands of demons firmly places her existence as a malevolent one for having failed to behave as a subordinate to man.

The Unbreakable Sword series is a multiverse world in which all pantheons from every civilization coexist. Although it has a contemporary setting, many of the most famous gods and goddesses from the most popular world mythologies are still alive and can be found in this series. The primary focus, however, is on the Tuatha Dé of Ireland.

The stories contained within the early Irish myths not only give us fascinating tales of heroes like Cú Chulainn who must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to marry Emer, the romantic tragedy of Deirdre and Noísiu, and one of my personal favorites, “The Wooing of Étain,” but can teach us about pre-Christian Ireland’s social and legal structure as well.

Because no written language existed before the Christianization of Ireland, we sometimes have to read these myths with the understanding that they were transcribed by monks and are almost certainly altered and, sometimes, Christianized (for example, I’m almost positive that in the original legend of Caoranach, St. Patrick didn’t spend two days and two nights in Lough Derg battling the mythological serpent). But the original legends still provide insight into early Irish rituals (for example, the concept of the gessa or the celebratory feasts that accompanied traditional changings of the seasons) and laws (inheritance rights, and the responsibilities and duties of a king).

While we fiction writers often leave out the historical context of the myths we’re adapting since we are, after all, crafting entertaining fictional stories inspired by the religions of our ancestors, the historian in me invites readers to explore the legends of our ancestors more fully, to see their worlds through their tales that have survived the millennia and entertain us still.

Whether it’s Magnus Chase or Cameron and Selena from The Unbreakable Sword series, if you find inspiration in their adventures with the gods, then let the gods inspire you to journey with them into the past.

For more information on S.M. Schmitz’s books, please visit smschmitz.com.

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