August 1st 2012
I Know It When I See It
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Similarly, I know a fantasy novel when I see one. And yet, how broad a range does “fantasy” cover?
My first published novel, The Glasswrights’ Apprentice, was set in an imaginary world that vaguely corresponded to medieval Europe (minus the Christianity, plus a religion based on a thousand gods). Feudalism was strong, buttressed by a caste system where people were born into one of five castes (and could, occasionally, move between lower castes if they had enough money). Guilds were the primary institutions for training artisans, and guild members were responsible for the majority of luxury goods.
Just to be clear, there wasn’t any magic in the books. No imaginary creatures, either. No talismen of power, no epic quests, no struggle to save all of humanity from a supernatural evil force.
And yet no one ever questioned whether the Glasswrights Series was fantasy. It was published by Roc. It was shelved in “Science Fiction and Fantasy” in major bookstores.
At the end of this month, I’ll see my most recent novel hit bookstores. Darkbeast (published under the pen name Morgan Keyes) has talking animals, bonded magical creatures that are able to absorb the negative emotions and actions of their humans. As in my earlier novels, there’s a religious system that bears no relation to the real world (this one is based on a blend of Greco-Roman deities and Celtic gods). There’s a social structure that inhibits easy transformation from one life (in a rural village) to another (in a major city). Oh, and there’s a traveling acting troupe.
So, what is it that makes fantasy fantasy? What broad definitions bring D.B. Jackson’s and Marie Brennan’s historical fantasies under the same umbrella as Jim Hines’s contemporary fantasy? How about S.C. Butler’s Stoneways Trilogy, with its wizards, shapeshifting animals, and dwarves? How are all of those related to my Glasswrights novels, and to Darkbeast?
Chime in, folks! What are the minimal elements necessary to declare a book a fantasy?
Filed under Mindy Klasky. You can also use to trackback.
Mindy Klasky is the author of eleven novels, including WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD and HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH in the As You Wish Series. She also wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, about a librarian who finds out she's a witch. Mindy also wrote the award-winning, best-selling Glasswrights series and the stand-alone fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE. Visit site.
- featured posts
- For Novelists
- Hard SF
- learning to write
- Mindy Klasky
- Not Remotely Writing Related
- our authors
- our books
- publicity and promotion
- publishing trends
- the business of writing
- women in SF
- writing humor
- writing life
- writing process
Browse our archives: