Today I am pleased to welcome back Thaddeus White, fantasy author for a guest post on my feature for 2015. Here are his views on fantasy in society, and its influences.
Name: Thaddeus White
Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)? England
Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be? I think that this is definitely the case. Superheroes are utterly dominating cinema and are starting to make headway on TV as well. The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films (and Harry Potter) have enjoyed immense success, as has (and will) Star Wars. Game of Thrones is hugely popular as well. Sci-fi and fantasy aren’t niche anymore, they’re mainstream.
I think the shift has occurred for several reasons. CGI allows a truer rendition on-screen of what happens in books, and there’s increasing awareness that fantasy isn’t necessarily fairytales and elves (the rise of grimdark). This means that those into gritty and grim stuff can find much to enjoy in fantasy. As geeks have inherited the earth, it’s helped to make science fiction cooler.
There’s also a natural ebb and flow to what happens to be ‘in’. Right now, sci-fi and fantasy are doing well, but sooner or later fashion will shift.
It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?There are many fantasy tropes, but this isn’t limited to this one genre. The flood myth and dragons are commonplace in religion and old legends, and how often is a spy also a ladies man? Tropes can be overused to make something boring and generic, but they can also be handy pegs, shorthand to let readers know something without having to detail it (eg dwarf = short, probably bearded, may well have an axe, likes a drink).
Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this? [Disclaimer: I am a chap]. I think it’s far less the case than it was, and it’s important to note that other genres are female-oriented (romantic fiction, for example). A potential issue with fantasy, set either in a medieval or a largely realistic medievalish world, is that there wasn’t gender equality, so the stories are often male-dominated. Women can of course have roles in commerce, religion and magic, but (keeping to medieval norms) it’s hard to give them common roles in warfare or political power. It’s impossible to impose modern gender norms on a world aspiring to be the equivalent of, say, 14th century England.
Sci-fi’s an entirely different kettle of fish, because you can make a sci-fi society credibly equal, or even matriarchal in nature. Shifting Starbuck from a male to a female character in Battlestar Galactica was a credible change.
How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? I think internal consistency is critical to credibility. People will suspend disbelief for magic or advanced technology beyond anything possible today, but they will never believe a world or universe where the author contradicts his own tenets. So long as an author adheres to the rules that are established, there’s no problem.
What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most? What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers? It’s interesting you mention those, because one of the biggest influences on me was the videogame Vagrant Story (came out about a decade and a half ago now). It had a phenomenally good translation to English (it was originally in Japanese), and Alexander O. Smith deserves huge credit for the translation. It’s almost Shakespearean, and, (as well as English), French, German and Latin are mingled together to give the city of Lea Monde, and the wider world, a deeper sense of history. It was an inspiration for me when I was doing the extensive world-building behind my first book, Bane of Souls.
Another major influence, albeit in a smaller way, was the BBC adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s one specific moment I shan’t spoil that, as a young child, made me realise just how exciting fantasy could be.
Social media links:
Amazon UK author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thaddeus-White/e/B008C6RU98/