Fantasy, Science Fiction and Heroic Literature in our Society – Logan Judy

 Name:  Logan Judy

www.loganjudy.com

http://www.loganjudy.com/newsletter/

www.facebook.com/loganjudyauthor

http://twitter.com/loganrjudy


Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)?
:  Northern Indiana (Remington)

Bio: Logan Judy is a fantasy, science fiction, and dystopia author who began writing when he was 12 years old.  Nine years later, he published his first novel, Finding Sage, and the sequel a year later. He currently lives in Indiana with his wife Rebecca and her Don Quixote-esque guard dog, exploring new worlds and writing new stories.

How do YOU define fantasy/science fiction? Both science fiction and fantasy can be broadly defined as stories existing outside of our own present terms of reality.  Either you have science fiction, granting things plausible but not yet discovered or invented, or you have fantasy, existing outside of plausible reality altogether.  I love that definition because it leaves a great realm of possibilities open to us as writers.  So if I want to write fantasy, I don’t have to stick to wizards, elves, dragons, and vampires; I could create something entirely new!

If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books? The hero as a literary construct has been given a very rigid definition by literary critics: a young person, usually male, who receives a call to action, rises through challenges with the help of a mentor, experiences a metaphorical (or literal) death and rebirth, then returns home to glory while having become a different person through self-knowledge.  It’s neat, clean, and defined.  I don’t like that about it.

When it comes to heroism in my books, I like to concentrate on one theme in particular: sacrifice.  There are many things that can make a hero, including bravery, strength, saving people, and conquering great things, but to me, a hero is someone who will sacrifice themselves for somebody else.  Beyond that, I like to leave it wide open.  So that might fit some or even a lot of those typical definitions, but it also leaves a lot of room open for stories that maybe haven’t been done before in quite the same way.  So you could have the aforementioned scenario, or you could have a young woman who sacrifices herself to save her little brother without the help of a mentor, and without a rebirth or return.  She’s every bit the hero that Frodo is.

It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this? It most definitely is . . . just like every other genre in fiction.  Nearly all romance has a formulaic progression to it, but that doesn’t keep A Walk to Remember from making me cry.  The book about small town wonders has been written scores of times, but that didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying Dandelion Wine.  There’s a logical fallacy in assuming that just because there are ‘tropes’ that there’s no originality within that.  Different writers can have different takes on the same ideas and concepts.  Dracula is nothing like Twilight which is nothing like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, yet all feature vampires, so that’s less a criticism than an acknowledgement of classic influences – or at least it should be.  In fact, some of the best and most exciting fantasy I’ve read in recent years have been interesting takes on classic tropes, as opposed to completely new inventions.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? If you substitute the word ‘consistent’ with ‘plausible’ then absolutely it does.  But there’s a great deal of difference between the two.  In science fiction, for example, plausibility is a key part of the appeal.  Classic writers like Jules Verne and George Orwell were so successful because their stories were just close enough to reality to make us imagine that they could be prophetic.  But when it comes to fantasy, we have something different altogether.  That a dark lord could make magic rings and bind everyone to them in a land filled with elves, dwarves, halflings, and orcs is not plausible, and yet Lord of the Rings is enormously successful–because it is consistent.  The rules of the world make sense because of the willing suspension of disbelief.  So the premise of the world in science fiction and fantasy doesn’t necessarily have to be plausible, but internal consistency is non-negotiable.

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?  What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers? I grew up on fantasy, particularly the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, as well as more contemporary works such as the Percy Jackson series, Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, and the Star Wars saga.  But of those, I would only ascribe Lewis as a strong influence on my writing.  Since becoming a young adult, I have been progressively influenced by science fiction and dystopia writers, particularly George Orwell and Ray Bradbury (although the latter of those claims to have written only one science fiction novel, Fahrenheit 451, labeling his other works such as Something Wicked This Way Comes as fantasy).  I especially identify with Ray Bradbury; if you read interviews where he talks about his writing method, that’s exactly how I operate.

Fantasy, Science Fiction and Literary Heroes in Our Society Guest Post – Sharon Kae Reamer

Name: Sharon Kae Reamer

Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)? Expatriate American now living in Cologne, Germany.

How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today?  It is all-pervasive in the sense that most everyone has seen a SFF movie. But there are many people I meet who have never read a SF or fantasy book. For example, I know many people who’ve seen The Hobbit trilogy and LoTR films but have never read the books. I’ve encountered quite a few people who have told me, flat out, that they would like to read my books but that they don’t like fantasy. I don’t try to argue with them. To each his/her own.

Why do you think this is?  It suggests that genre literature, in particular, speculative fiction, is still not seen to be something ‘worthy’ as literature. Maybe in some sense it is still perceived as ‘pulp’ fiction or escapist literature. It is escapist literature, but I view ALL literature as escapist. Maybe because fantasy and SF are not perceived to have social relevance to the problems we face in today’s world (or even historically). But I think that’s a huge mistake in perception, at least from my point of view. If done right, the speculative genre can be a fantastic mirror to aspects of our culture on this planet.

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be? Yes, probably, but as stated above, mainly in the media of film and television rather than books. Although in YA, I think anything is possible these days. It seems to be the playground where speculative fiction is most highly tolerated.

What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life? A hero is someone who has been forced to abandon his or her ‘normal’ life for a greater purpose, be it saving someone they love, a quest to retrieve a magical or scientific artefact for the force of good, or to battle against a negative force to save the world/universe, just to name a couple examples. There are many definitions of what heroism is or does. It can also be a small thing, like being faithful and waiting for someone to return even if there is no hope of it (Ulysses’ wife Penelope comes to mind here).

Ideally, I don’t see a lot of difference between real life and literature heroes, except that real life heroes do not have to deal with magical or science fictional type situations. Doctors Without Borders is a ‘hero’ in real life because they save people. Superheroes in fiction save people but on a much more extravagant scale. But DWB are superheroes to me in real life. J

If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books? My heroine from The Schattenreich series, Caitlin Schwarzbach, will risk anything to save those she loves. To me, that is heroism. It’s a quiet kind of heroism. She doesn’t want to put herself in danger, but she does because she can’t stand the thought of anything bad happening to those she loves.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? There are two famous quotes I think summarize the differences in how things work in fantasy and science fiction:

“Science fiction is something that could happen – but you usually wouldn’t want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn’t happen – though you often only wish that it could.” Arthur C. Clarke, 2000

“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.” Rod Serling, 1962

In both SF and F, plausibility is a hugely important factor. Otherwise, we cannot take the reader with us. He/she will be left standing in the wizard’s laboratory/launch pad while we go merrily off alone (cackling madly and collecting cats) into the worlds we have built. As a reader, I have to believe that whatever is going on on the page is plausible, be it giant space worms or man-eating unicorns or intelligent slime mold. These things may or may not exist (i.e., they are not ‘facts’ in any sense in the world we live in at present), but if they are presented to be an integral and logical part of the world the author has built, in other words, plausible, then I will accept their existence in that world as ‘fact’ .

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?  What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers? I came of age in relation to science fiction and fantasy reading in the early eighties. Many of those writers are ones that I still think of fondly. Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, William Gibson, Lewis Carroll, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams. Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley. I could go on for a long time. I don’t know if all their works would still hold up now if I read them again. But it doesn’t matter. They were influential in making me a reader of speculative fiction, and so remain very influential.

In relation to films, I’d guess T.O.S.S. that my parents let me watch (my younger brother was not allowed to watch it when the series first came out). I was riveted from the very first episode of Star Trek, and still love the concept. I instantly fell in love with the original Star Wars trilogy as well as the first three Indiana Jones films and simply could not wait for the sequels to come out. It was excruciating. There was also 2001, and a slew of others since then. There were also those weird fantasy/horror films, many or most of them black and white films, I remember from my childhood that influenced me a great deal (most of which I saw on television): The 5000 Fingers of Doctor T, The Haunting, all those monster movies, most of which I watched with my Dad – The Werewolf was probably the scariest to me – and Invaders From Mars, any Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode, The Wizard of Oz, Godzilla and Mothra – these were all influential to me growing up. My Dad still enjoys trying to get me to watch films that will scare the crap out of me when I visit him. I’m usually a willing participant, but I sometimes regret it afterwards when I’m trying to get to sleep. The first film I ever saw in the movies was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with Kirk Douglas and James Mason which my grandfather took me to see. It made a huge impression on me.

Nowadays, the fantastical or science fictional movie has loads of special effects and is presented so realistically that if I were a kid growing up today, I’d be hooked on SFF all over again.

Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold? My Schattenreich series contains Celto-Germanic deities. Some of the deities portrayed and characterized are purely Celtic. Some have crossover status (i.e., they exist in both the Celtic and Germanic pantheons). My interpretations of these fantastical persons, as such, are vital to the identity and worldviews of the characters in my series. Because the religions I portray do not exist any longer in the modern world in their original form, I don’t really know how important they are to our identity. But because there are a large number of neopagan or modern pagan religions that use some of these divinities in their practice, I believe they have relevance to who we are, even if it is just in recognizing the god/goddess within us. Most of us who have some sort of northern European ancestry can probably relate to the fantastical portrayal of the Celtic and Germanic pantheon. This has continued from early historical times (i.e., during the late Iron Age) right up until the present. I don’t believe in any fantastical creatures, although I think they are important as they give us the means to learn something about ourselves and have formed the basis for our modern culture. In other parts of the world, ancient religions populated with one or more deities are still important to the identity of the cultures. And much of this representation is based on myths, even for the major religions (even those with only a monotheistic pantheon) of the modern world.

So I would say the answer to the second question is: yes, totally.

Here’s some links:

 

http://www.sharonreamer.com/ (website)

http://sharonreamer.blogspot.com (redirects to sharonreamer.blogspot.de)

https://www.facebook.com/sharon.k.reamer

https://twitter.com/sharonkae

http://www.pinterest.com/sharonkreamer/

 

The books in The Schattenreich series (published) are Primary Fault, Shaky Ground, Double Couple, and Shadow Zone. Forthcoming in summer, 2015: Triple Junction (final book)

Primary Fault has been honoured with a Indy B.R.A.G. medallion and Indie Book of the Day.

 

 

 

Fantasy, Sci-fi and Literary Heroes in Our Society- Guest Post – Andrew Weston

Today I am pleased to welcome back Andrew Weston, science fiction author, for a guest post on my feature for 2015.  Here are his views on fantasy, sci fi and literary heroes in society, and its influences.

Name: Andrew P. Weston

Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)? Kos – Greek Islands.

How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today? I think both genres are extremely pervasive, and you can see that from the focus the entertainment industry devotes them. As an experiment, I researched the internet, using a variety of sites, regarding the top 10 films of 2014 – guess what? Science fiction and fantasy dominated every list I looked at. It’s the same story when you peep ahead into 2015. Why is this? Quite simply, because the entertainment industry isn’t stupid. They cater to the obvious demand, and the public would appear to have an increasingly voracious appetite for entertainment that stretches the imagination.

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?Certainly, because the science fact of today, was very often the science fiction of yester-year. You only have to think of the long running series “Star Trek” to see this aspect in an everyday setting. When it first came out, I can remember everyone talking about the handheld communication devices they used to speak with each other around the planet. Doors that swish open when you walk toward them. Hypo sprays, etc. Such things are now common, and people are much more accepting when new and innovative ideas are presented in a factual way. That’s why well written Science Fiction and Fantasy can contribute so well to keeping things fresh.

If you could pick a couple of characters from literature as ‘heroes’ who would it be and why? My first choice would be the character of Thomas Covenant from Stephen R. Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane series.

He’s an everyday guy who suffers the indignity of contracting leprosy and losing two of the fingers from his right hand. His wife divorces him and takes their son away. Neighbours shun him, and he becomes a lonely hermit of an individual, cut off from society. To compensate, he becomes overly rigid in his approach to life. (Lepers have to exercise extreme caution so that they don’t pick up new infections that can spread their disease further and cause terrible disfigurement). His illness becomes manageable, and he manages to lead a balanced – if somewhat lonely – life. Imagine his horror, then, when he is miraculously snatched away from reality, and transported to ‘The Land’ – a place of magic and wonder where the very air brings healing and relief. Although healed, his disfigurement identifies him as a prophesised hero, come to save the land, from the cruel taint of the Creators arch-enemy, Lord Foul.

Mind blowing!

And yet, despite all the wonders he sees and experiences, Covenant doesn’t want anything to do with it – and determinedly slogs through every hurdle put in his way, whilst stubbornly clinging to the notion that everything around him is false. He doesn’t want rewards, accolades or special treatment. He just wants to go home. An antitypical hero if ever there was one, because at the end, he ends up saving the Land from destruction. A great character.

My second choice would be an ‘old fashioned’ kind of hero, John Carter, (of Edgar Rice Burrows, “A Princess of Mars fame”, in what became known as the Barsoom Series).

He’s an old style ‘man’s man’. An army veteran snatched from home to fight someone else’s war. It had high action in an old-world setting. Sword fights, damsels in distress, daring feats in the face of certain death, and a ‘never give up’ attitude. What I liked about his character, is that when he’s originally snatched away, he falls in with a crowd of ‘typical aliens’. Green skinned, multi-armed Tharks. They are a warlike race, and because of his superior strength and agility (Due to Barsoom’s lower gravity), Carter soon rises to fame among them. However, Barsoom also has a red-skinned humanoid race, and he soon becomes embroiled in their politics and attempts to bring peace to their troubled world. A great story, and trend-setter of its time.

It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this? I’m realistic about it. Cliché’s will often recur because of the very nature of the genres involved. Look at early science fiction. Popular stories were full of tales about robots, space travel, settling on distant planets. Fantasy novels were often set on ‘alternative’ worlds where elves, dwarves, and humans co-existed in an uneasy alliance forged around the use of magic. Sound familiar? Of course it is. Its bread and butter stuff. It’s what you ‘DO’ with it that matters.

Here’s an example. Think about what’s popular in TV/Films lately? Vampires, witches, aliens, artificial intelligence. But look at the difference – say, between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Twilight from the Underworld franchise. The new Battlestar Galactica v something like Edge of Tomorrow. Transcendence v the Anomaly. Like I say, you’re taking similar settings, but it’s what you do with it that matters.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? ‘Facts’ are the foundation of a good story. If it’s believable, people will be able to relate to what they’re reading. If they relate to it, you capture their imagination. You suck them into your imaginary world and get them involving themselves. That’s exactly what you want. Yes, by all means – stretch the imagination – make it outlandishly fantasmagorical if you want to. But ensure to base it in well researched ‘reality’. Remember, even if your characters live in a world of magic and wonder, unless you’ve done your homework, and established that magical system upon well founded ‘laws and precepts’ – ‘strengths and limitations’, it’s going to sound false and turn people off. You have to consider such things nowadays…or suffer the consequences.

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?  Who would you say are the most influential writers/film-makers? Influenced me the most? I grew up with Gerry Anderson. What a mind. Some of his concepts were incredible. Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space 1999. I also loved Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Lost in Space. Land of the Giants. Those influences stuck with me all my life and led to a vivid imagination.

Today, I’d say some of our best film makers are Peter Jackson, JJ Abrams, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas. Of course, the advancing nature of special effects have helped immensely. Nonetheless, films by these guys are guaranteed to draw the crowds and are of high quality. I’d be delighted if any of them decided to take of the IX?
(Perhaps you could give them a call?).

****

Andrew P. Weston is a Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.

An astronomy and law graduate, he is a contracted writer of fiction and poetry. Creator of “The IX” – and the “Guardians” and “Cambion Journals” series, has also has the privilege of being a member of the British Science Fiction Association, and British Fantasy Society.

When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA in one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.

Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-P-Weston/e/B00F3BL6GS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Author Website:

http://www.andrewpweston.com/

 

Andrew’s latest book is a fine military science fiction – which I featured recently.  Check it out, you won’t regret it!

IX coverlarge

Meet some of Andrew’s characters:

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/character-interview-number-twenty-five-marcus-brutus/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/character-interview-number-twenty-four-alan-mcdonald-fantasymilitary/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/character-interview-number-thirty-daemon-grim/ (not from IX)

And Andrew: https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/new-release-the-ix-by-andrew-p-weston-fantasymilitaryhistorical/

The IX

Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/IX-Andrew-P-Weston-ebook/dp/B00RM54QBA/

Amazon.UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/IX-Andrew-P-Weston-ebook/dp/B00RM54QBA/

 

Fantasy, Science Fiction and Literary Heroes in our Society – Thaddeus White

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:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MorrisF1

Website: thaddeuswhite.weebly.com

Blog: thaddeusthesixth.blogspot.co.uk

Amazon UK author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thaddeus-White/e/B008C6RU98/

Fantasy, Science Fiction and Literary Heroes in Our Society – Guest Post Jacob Foxx

Name: Jacob Foxx

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

How do YOU define fantasy/science fiction/heroism? I define science fiction as human experiences with the fantastic, where the fantastic has its roots in natural and physical laws. Something in our existing body of knowledge about the world provides the basis or explains the spectacular or fantastic thing in the story. To me, it doesn’t matter whether it is hard science, soft science, the future, the past, or an alternate reality, if it has roots in human knowledge, it is science fiction. Some things have a combination of science and fantasy, such as zombie and superhero stories. Both sit on the boundary of the genres. For those, you have to look at each on a case-by-case basis.

Fantasy is simply human experiences with the fantastic, where the fantastic is not rooted in natural or physical laws. It can be rooted in religious belief, mythology, spiritualism, or anything supernatural. There’s no need for an explanation of the fantastic, it simply exists. At the boundary are objects that might be real but are unproven or dismissed by mainstream science as fantasy. The writer might believe the object of their story is real. If the writer attempts to create a scientific explanation, no matter how improbable, it probably fits better in science fiction. If the author doesn’t make an attempt at a scientific explanation, I’d say its fantasy.

I use the word “root” as in foundation. The fantastic object or event must have its foundation in natural or physical laws, not its parts or some tangential relationship. A fictional dragon might obey the laws of aerodynamics or possess biological qualities similar to an actual reptile, but the creature itself is fantasy.

How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today?  Why do you think this is? Science fiction is extremely pervasive thanks to the increasing role of new technology in daily life, as well as advances in CGI and other special effects in movies. There are also an increasing number of people that work in the technology sector as opposed to factory floors or farms. Creativity and critical thinking are more highly valued in the new economy. From a societal standpoint, science fiction is a positive force because it encourages curiosity and open-mindedness. Most of all, science fiction makes us think about the future, whether just a few years or generations ahead. We could all do a little more long-term thinking.

Fantasy is enjoying a renaissance thanks to CGI. The biggest fantasy franchises are all classics from the 20th and 19th centuries that adapted to the big screen and television. A few decades ago this was largely impossible. Special effects just weren’t advanced enough for an epic like The Lord of the Rings. Modern filmmaking technology has given new life to fantasy stories, even ones as old as Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I think fantasy is also growing rapidly due to increasing diversity of beliefs in the West. I’m not old enough to comment on society prior to the 1990s but my general impression is that older generations had a mild disdain towards the supernatural, pagan myths and fables. It was weird, and weird was shunned. There was a preference towards realism and relatable heroes of the day. Christianity was also the dominant source of allegorical tales and fables, which didn’t leave much room for others. American society has since grown much more diverse in thought and far more open to the fantastic. We live in fantastic times after all.

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? Science fiction is still male-oriented but not as extensive as before. Sadly, my favorite genre has been the slowest to adopt gender parity. Most science fiction authors are probably men, or at the very least an overwhelming majority of the bestselling authors. The gender breakdown among the readers is probably just as lopsided. Clearly science fiction is failing to appeal to half the audience. There are probably a few causes but it is something I hope changes very soon.

The imbalance has led to some other unfortunate trends in the literature itself. Many science fiction novels are somewhat misogynistic with male-dominated casts. Often there are only one or two female characters that aren’t portrayed in a positive or flattering light. They fulfil the limited role of the love interest. Many embody the adolescent male fantasy: doe-eyed nymphomaniac desperate for the affections of the hero. Such stories don’t appeal to female readers. As a result science fiction has yet to reach its full potential.

I am not as familiar with the fantasy genre but my impression is that it is far less male-oriented than science fiction. If anything, it has reached gender parity. There are plenty of female main characters that are quite compelling. A large number of fantasy authors are women, and probably a majority of fantasy readers. Some antiquated stereotypes remain but they are fading fast.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? In fantasy, consistency is more important than plausibility. As long as a fantasy world has its own “facts” and adheres to them throughout the story, it works. Obviously, they don’t have to correspond with any real-world facts. Plausibility is rarely a factor. However, world-building is just as important to fantasy as it is to science fiction. The more fantastic the world, the greater thought needs to go into how everything fits together. Problems arise when the fantasy facts don’t seem to fit the world or don’t seem to give rise to the world the author created. If the world breaks down, the story breaks down.

In science fiction, plausibility is important but not essential. I used to think scientific plausibility was essential but often times a story is better served by playing a little loose with the science. Inaccuracies tend to drive hardcore fans nuts but I’ve become more tolerant of them as long as they aren’t blatant nonsense. My general rule is the closer a fact is to the central conflict in the story, the more plausible or grounded it has to be. Science fiction world-building also needs the same consistency as fantasy. Whatever new technologies or facts exist in the author’s universe, they need to have to fit within the overall setting. In other words, it has to be very clear how we got there. Here, science fiction has a smaller margin of error than fantasy.

How has science fiction changed from the days of Mary Shelley and Jules Verne? It is getting much harder to impress audiences these days. Mary Shelley and Jules Verne had almost no competition. Today, science fiction is a crowded genre. Theoretical technologies are now the norm, thanks to the maturation of the genre and advances in real-world technology. Shelley and Verne also used fantastic technologies to make social commentary. Sadly, fewer and fewer science fiction writers do this today. There seems to be a reluctance to challenge readers intellectually or to stimulate critical thinking on controversial issues. It may have to do with the reluctance to betray one’s own beliefs for fear of alienating readers. Shelley and Verne didn’t have mainstream ideas and certainly weren’t afraid to present unconventional perspectives.

Shelley and Verne also wrote about technologies that were truly out there. H.G. Wells was another that sought to see farther into the future than anyone had previously. Contemporary writers tend to utilize established sci-fi technologies already familiar to readers. There is also a strong preference towards familiar character archetypes and stories. Most movies are sequels or reboots of 20th century classics, or are adapted from old comic book heroes. This might be a temporary nostalgic phase, but as a whole, science fiction has lost some of its creative edge recently.

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?  What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers? Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek has had the largest impact on me. It brought a positive and hopeful vision of the future but also presented the serious challenges we will face as well. Knowledge and critical thinking were essential to the success of Star Trek missions. In most conventional fiction, the protagonist triumphed through feats of physical prowess or tactical genius. Star Trek was about problem-solving and creativity. It much better resembled the major challenges of the real world. Most of all, Star Trek was about progress. It wasn’t about making the best of an imperfect world but finding ways to make it better. There were futuristic technologies of course but there were also new political, social, and cultural advances in Roddenberry’s future, many of which are those we aspire to today.

The ideals of Roddenberry were embodied in Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He was part commander, part statesman, part explorer, part scientist, and part philosopher. He is the ideal Starfleet citizen and a portrait of everything we could be in the future. The principles of the Federation, such as the Prime Directive were also impressive given that they applied to situations we have yet to face and probably won’t for centuries.

From a literary standpoint, Frank Herbert’s Dune is the best sci-fi novel I’ve ever read. The planet of Arrakis came alive in a way no other fictional world has for me. H.G. Wells and George Orwell have also been very influential. In terms of influencing the genre as a whole, I think the big three probably have had the greatest impact on science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke. More recent influences are Orson Scott Card, Michael Crichton, and William Gibson.

James Cameron is probably the most influential science fiction filmmaker of our time. Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2, and Avatar are classics that everyone should see. George Lucas, of course, inhabits a special place in science fiction.

 

Fantasy and Literary Heroes in Our Society Guest Post – Charles E. Yallowitz

Welcome to the next instalment of the Fantasy in Our Society Series. Today I welcome fantasy author Charles Yallowitz.

Author Info

Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)? Long Island, NY, USA

  • Are fantasy/science-fiction seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?

I think they’re definitely more acceptable and not as fringe as they were when I was a kid, but I can only really speak for fantasy.  Personally, I always felt science-fiction was accepted more than fantasy.  I think the rise of ‘Harry Potter’ books/movies, ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies, and ‘Game of Thrones’ have certainly helped the fantasy genre get a slight foothold with the mainstream audience.  It’s no longer a bunch of ‘nerds’ with a loose grasp of reality and delusions of chivalrous grandeur.  At least among the younger generations who are growing up with more fantasy in the culture.  You do have an entire generation that grew up with ‘Harry Potter’, which certainly brings a change to the perception of fantasy.  I still get older people saying they don’t like fantasy or they can’t suspend their disbelief enough to get into the story. I feel weird saying it’s becoming an age gap situation, but it feels that way at times.  I should mention that there are plenty of older people, myself included, who enjoy fantasy.

  • It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?

Yes it is and so is every other genre out there such as Westerns have horses and guns.  I’ve come to have issues with the declaration of cliché and trope because it tends to be used solely because the person is simply bored with the item.  Elves, magic, and orcs seem to get this a lot.  In fact, I see it happen mostly when a fan of one series is trying to declare superiority over another series.  Meanwhile, people new to the genre won’t have any idea what’s a trope, what’s fresh, and what’s a twist on a trope.

I’ve found that you can boil nearly every story down to something else.  For example, I’m thinking of a story where feuding kingdoms/families are trying to take control of a kingdom with a lot of backstabbing, death, and brutality.  You might be thinking ‘Game of Thrones’, but I was thinking ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’.  Both are entirely different stories when you get into the details and settings, but they still share something that I’ve heard some people call a trope.  My point here is that we fight so much over why stories are the same that we seem to no longer pay attention to what sets them apart from each other, which can lead to a decrease in stories as time goes on.

  • 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?

I’m male and it definitely has been geared more for my gender in the past.  I think that’s starting to change in terms of there being more female authors like J.K. Rowling.  As far as characters go, the female protagonist has always been fringe for some reason and that’s probably pushed many female readers away.  I remember loving a character in the Forgotten Realms books named Arilyn Moonblade and she didn’t get a lot of attention with that mythos. Not like the male characters like Drizzt and Elminster, which I always thought was a shame. All that being said, I think it’s starting to shift toward female protagonists that can hang with the males and that should bring in more female readers.  So it’s a slow evolution toward equality here that I see more progress with in the indie scene.  In traditional books, women seem to primarily be romantic interests and sidekicks/supporting cast.

From my personal experience, I have found an odd response to female heroes.  In my own series, I have two big heroines in the form of Nyx, a powerful spellcaster with confidence and a temper, and Sari, a flirty and cunning gypsy.  These two and all of the supporting female characters seem to get a lot more criticism than the male characters.  Any sign of ‘weakness’ (a.k.a. emotion) is railed at while one of the male heroes can do the same thing and nobody seems to care.  It makes me feel like the two women carry more risk and weight to the story, which is both exciting and nerve-wracking as an author.

  • How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable?

Being a fantasy author, I speak more for that genre.  In regards to science fiction, I will say that real facts play a big role in the story and probably more so today than in the past.  People love pouncing on a science fiction story to throw real world science into the author’s face and prove why something is impossible or simply wrong.  Best way to explain it is that many vocal readers are more focused on the ‘science’ part of the genre than the ‘fiction’ part.

Now for fantasy, it’s both easier and a little more awkward.  You can explain the bending or removal of certain laws of physics if you’re on a different world and have a high level magic system.  Readers that refuse to suspend disbelief will still complain and you can’t do anything about that, but if it fits within the structure of your world then it’s right.  The easy part is that you make the rules.  The awkwardness comes from the same source because you need to religiously stick to your own establishment.  For example, if you claim teleportation is impossible and explain why then you can’t have everyone doing it in a later book without there being a lengthy reason.  Consistency is where a fantasy author will gain their facts and help pull willing readers into their world.

  • Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold?

I’ll admit that when I saw anthropomorphic personification, I was thinking of furries and anime catgirls.  It’s interesting how every culture seems to have this at certain levels of acceptability. I see a lot of this in Japanese mediums while I rarely see it in American mediums.  There are a few comic book characters that fall into this category, but they tend to start as humans that transform due to a mutation (Beast from X-Men) or accidents (Lizard from Spider-Man). I’m kind of harping on this one thing, but it certainly demonstrates a person’s mindset when it comes up in conversation.  I’ve had conversations about this specific topic and someone inevitably brings up the idea of bestiality.  This is definitely more of an individual identity topic with a touch on the overall culture.

To answer the second question: YES.  Our fairy tales, mythical beasts, and culture mythos are a foundation of our culture.  There are symbols within them and lessons to be learned even if they aren’t the same for each person.  Being in the United States, it’s a hard thing to really wrap my head around because there is a national mythos (i.e. Washington cutting down a cherry tree) and a religious/bloodline mythos (i.e. I’m Jewish, so I have the Golem story).  So these two areas mold a person to some extent either to learn lessons or rail against them because one finds them to be nothing more than useless folklore.  Our sense of good/evil, heroes, right/wrong, and other basic foundations of behavior can be shaped by these things. Popular fantasy can fall into this too because it builds off some aspects of fairy tales and mythology and shows characters who are influenced by these stories.

Fantasy and literary heroes in our society guest post – Joe Bonadonna

Hello, everyone! My name is Joe Bonadonna, and I dwell in the Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders . . . Chicago, IL, USA.

So far I’ve published three books: the heroic fantasy collection, Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, published by iUniverse; the space opera, Three Against The Stars, published by Airship 27 Productions; and Waters of Darkness, a sword and sorcery pirate adventure, written in collaboration with David C. Smith, and published by Damnation Books. I have stories appearing in Heathen Oracle’s Azieran: Artifacts and Relics; GRIOTS 2: Sisters of the Spear, from author Milton C. Davis’ MVmedia; and Janet Morris’ Poets in Hell, from Perseid Press. I have also written a number of articles and book reviews for the online version of Black Gate Magazine.

My Amazon Author page:

http://www.amazon.com/JoeBonadonna/e/B009I1KYIK/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1417454147&sr=1-2-ent

My blogspot:

http://dorgoland.blogspot.com/

How do YOU define fantasy/science fiction/heroism?

I’m old school, so I’ve always defined science fiction as inhabiting a post-industrialized world, with theoretical and practical advances in fields such as technology, genetics, and even psychology at its core. You know, the usual . . . spaceships, time travel, cloning, aliens, and such, and usually set in the future, although that alone is not always a qualifier.

As for fantasy, there are all kinds: all fiction, one can say, is fantasy; someone dreamed up the story, imagined the world in which the story takes place, even if it takes place in the real world of here and now. But we’re talking Heroic Fantasy here, so I’ll go with that. Heroic Fantasy to me is always set in a pre-industrialized society — no electricity, no planes, trains or automobiles — and that covers a lot of territory, from the prehistoric to the 16th or 17th century. When it comes to Heroic Fantasy, I’m pretty set in my ways. It has to follow certain rules and guidelines, and follow the Homeric tradition; I don’t go in for a lot of cross-breeding with other genres of fiction, such as paranormal romances, horror stories, vampires, werewolves and other supernatural genres — although elements of each often play roles in HF. I do not consider pulp fiction characters such as The Shadow, The Phantom, Green Hornet and such to be Heroic Fantasy: heroic fiction, to be sure, but those characters and that genre or style belong in another discussion for another day. When I discuss Heroic Fantasy, I discuss fiction that is not set in the real or modern world. You may disagree, but I’m just saying, is all.

Heroic Fantasy is very specific, in my opinion, and does not need to be world-spanning, world-in-jeopardy in plot, which I consider to be Epic Fantasy. For instance, Game of Thrones I view as Epic Fantasy because of its multi-cultural approach and world-spanning events, but since I have not found many truly unselfish heroes in the Homeric tradition, I don’t consider it Heroic Fantasy. Lord of the Rings crosses into both epic and heroic fields by nature of its world-building and memorable characters. The characters in Janet and Chris Morris’ stories and novels of The Sacred Band are firmly rooted in the Homeric tradition of Heroic Fantasy, with the added touch of drawing upon myth, legend and history.

Some other novels I consider Heroic Fantasy are Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword, E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, H.R. Haggard’s The Saga of Eric Brighteyes, Parke Godwin’s The Last Rainbow, T.C. Rypel’s The Deathwind Trilogy, and novels by such authors as Evangeline Walton, David Eddings, and Guy Gavriel Kay, to name a few. However, these are just my opinions, based on my personal preferences, and in no way are absolutes. At one time, 30 and 40 years ago, the genres of “fantasy” and sword and sorcery were much smaller, more confined, and far more easily tagged with labels. Now, take the Harry Potter novels, for instance . . . they are fantasy, to be sure — but are they Epic? Heroic? I would say they lean more toward Heroic Fantasy because of the selflessness of Harry, his willingness to sacrifice himself to save his friends and destroy Voldemort. He stands up to evil, faces odds greater than he may be able to thwart, and goes about it with no ulterior motives, such as wealth and power. He is very much an Everyman, in spite of his magical powers.

And this brings us to your next question: How do I define Heroism?

Heroes to me are those who will stand up for what they believe is right, without thinking of themselves or their personal gain; and they could be good guys fighting on the wrong side, simply warriors fighting for their country. They fight for the underdog, the lost cause — and as I once heard in a film whose title I cannot remember, “Lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.” Heroism is about selflessness, doing right by others, fighting for a cause greater than oneself. True heroes are not concerned about wealth or power, their only concern is to help people, to defend those too weak to defend themselves. They strive to right an injustice, and fight for that in which they believe, with no selfish or personal motives other than to save the lives of family, friends and fellow countrymen: they fight for king and country. And what always struck me as truly heroic (and of course, fatalistic) are the actions of those who know they are fighting against overwhelming odds, who know they will die in the final battle.

As for my own work . . . I consider Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, to be Heroic Fantasy, due to the nature of Dorgo, my main character; there are elements of horror and the supernatural inherent in his adventures, which owe a great deal to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and film noir. My space opera, Three Against The Stars, features four main characters I consider to be heroes in the Homeric tradition: Marines defending their planet. Waters of Darkness, my collaboration with David C. Smith, is pure, old-school pulp fiction sword and sorcery, with a large element of horror as the centerpiece of this pirate novel, which is set in 17th century Madagascar. My short stories and novellas published in various anthologies range from Sword and Soul fantasy, to Heroic Fantasy, to straight horror.

I do not put comic book superheroes in the Heroic Fantasy genre. They are part of something else. I am not putting them down, because they belong in a class all their own. The motives of the superheroes may be pure, noble and unselfish, but they are superheroes — not the ordinary, Everyman that constitutes most of Heroic Fantasy. Due to their very nature, the origins on their becoming endowed with superpowers, I would class them more as Heroic Science Fiction, or even Science-Fantasy, to use a very old-school term. Technology, chemistry, genetics, scientific experiments gone awry — these are more often than not what gave superheroes their superpowers, in the first place.

And now, for the sub-genre of Sword and Sorcery:

In my eyes, Sword and Sorcery is to Heroic Fantasy what film noir is to murder mysteries and crime/detective stories. In S & S, the main character is not always heroic, in the Homeric tradition: he/she can be a rogue — a thief, a mercenary, an assassin — whose motives are often (but not always) self-centered, based on greed, revenge, power. The beauty of S & S lies in the use of the anti-hero, as in the best of film noir. Conan was not always the pure hero: his goals were not always selfless, not always altruistic. He was a rogue, a killer, a survivalist, and yet, as subtly written by Robert E. Howard, he often rose above his baser instincts to become a true Hero. That is the magic of Howard’s original concept, of his vision. He created Conan to be all things, to fit whatever role the nature of the story called for. While I prefer the characters of King Kull and Solomon Kane, Conan was truly a character written “for all seasons.”

Another difference I see between Sword and Sorcery, and Heroic Fantasy, especially Epic Fantasy, is that the stories, by tradition, are more intimate, more confined. I’m talking old-school S & S here — much of Howard, Leiber, Jakes, de Camp, and Fox — in their stories, their worlds were not often at stake, although cities and kingdoms were usually in jeopardy. These are like the western genre in films and books: small-scale stories set against a larger canvas, but not always integral to that canvas. The American Civil War may be going full throttle, but someone could be seeking a lost Spanish treasure the Arizona or California territories that will have no bearing on the war or its outcome. The best S & S tales to me were always the novellas of Howard, and the short, 60- and 70-K word novels of other writers. In my opinion, it was Michael Moorcock who took the genre into new territory, setting his Elric, Corum, and Dorian Hawkmoon stories and novels against a wider canvas and adding the world-in-jeopardy theme. His sword and sorcery tales gradually grew into more thoughtful, thematic and expansive Heroic Fantasy. I won’t go into titles and authors here, but I will say that there are many novels, many multi-volume sagas published nowadays and promoted as Heroic Fantasy that I consider more in the sub-genre of Sword and Sorcery. And quite a lot of comic books and science-fiction novels are being considered by fans and authors alike to be Heroic Fantasy; but I would say they are more Heroic Fiction. Semantics? Perhaps. The tomato and potato thing? Maybe. But like everything related to all forms of art . . . it’s all a matter of personal opinion and taste.

 

How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today? Why do you think this is?

I left the fantasy and science fiction scenes back in the mid-80s because I wanted to explore other genres of fiction, such as some 19th century literature, horror and crime novels, British mysteries, WWII thrillers, and the great writers who were published in Black Mask magazine. I also wanted to and did write screenplays, as well as needing a long and healthy break from fantasy and sci-fi. I never really returned to reading science fiction because what I liked to read was no longer fashionable. But I did return to fantasy around 2000, and found a whole new ball game, a whole new set of rules, and a publishing industry at the start of a sea change, with indie/self and small press publications. Besides the overwhelming number of books being published, and the ever-increasing number of authors, both films and television were jumping on the fantasy and science fiction bandwagons, inundating the market where their own brand of original stories or those based upon published novels. Graphic novels such as Sin City and Watchmen hit the theater screens, while The Walking Dead took the small screen by storm. DC Comics, and to a much greater degree and success, Marvel Comics, changed the course of films based on comic books. With the success of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia, fantasy is everywhere these days — films, and network and cable television. And science fiction in films, while somewhat lagging behind, is starting to make waves again with films like Interstellar. In short, the B- and C-grade films of the 1950s and 1960s became the A-list projects of today.

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?

Short answer: yes, indeed so.

What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life?

Not really. It all depends on the writer and the nature of the character and the story. In real life, as in fiction, there are all sorts of heroes. Take Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, for instance: truly a heroic character because of his convictions and what he stands up for, fights for in his daily life. History and fiction, in both literature and films, are what have always inspired me. And more often than not, Heroes die fighting for what they believe in and stand for. The 300 Spartans, The Alamo, Spartacus, Wake Island, Bataan, Beau Geste, Masada, Bridge on the River Kwai, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Gunga Din . . . these are some of the historical events and fictional stories in books and cinema that have worked on my heart and soul. Most if not all the characters — both real and fictitious — die in these stories. That always affected me, especially since at the age of seven I was exposed to the death of 92 children in a grade school fire, and at the same time had already started becoming familiar with the above films, and then later, the novels and poems. So I have always connected with stories of this kind, no matter when or where they took place. And when people tell me that killing off main characters or the entire “cast” is the easy way out, I must disagree: history has shown us that this is quite often the case. And if the events in a story, the need to end the tale in the deaths of one or more characters demands it, then go for it. For instance: had Frodo fallen into the Crack of Doom with Gollum, had Harry Potter died in the final battle, the poignancy level for me would have been amped up by a factor of ten. Nothing hits me harder than the death of a beloved and memorable character: Sidney Carton, from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, remains to this day my favorite of all heroic fictional characters. He was no warrior — he was a drunk who gave his life unselfishly for the woman he loved, to save her husband from the guillotine. A totally unselfish act. What is more heroic than that?

If you could pick a couple of characters from literature as ‘heroes’ who would it be and why?

You mean, pick them to write about? If that’s the case, I’d like to write Sidney Carton’s story before we meet him in A Tale of Two Cities. He is a tragic and heroic figure who really appeals to me. For Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell shared-universe, I have written about Victor and Adam Frankenstein, Galatea, Lemuel Gulliver, and Quasimodo — not that they were all very heroic characters, but I can give them that heroic gravitas. I’ve also had the opportunity to write about real, historic figures, like Mary Shelley, Aristotle, and da Vinci, and will hopefully be exploring even more real-life characters in the near future.

If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books?

By the plot, the mystery to be solved, the people in jeopardy who must be saved, and by the villains that must be overcome and defeated. What are the stakes involved? What does the hero stand to gain or lose? Does he undertake the case, the quest, the mission for money? For love? For justice? For revenge? Dorgo the Dowser would like to profit from some of the cases he takes on, he hopes to make a profit, but more often than not, he doesn’t. And most of the time, his cases involve helping a friend, seeking justice, or he just gets embroiled in something because basically, he’s a good guy who always strives to do what’s right. Except for the pirates in Waters of Darkness, who are mercenary by nature but are also the good guys, my heroes are unselfish, and they will risk their lives doing what they believe is the right thing to do, and expect nothing in return, save the personal satisfaction of doing good.

It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?

To my mind, every genre has its tropes, and the job of the writer is to use these in new and different ways, to turn them inside-out, to turn them on their heads, or avoid them altogether. Dragons, elves, dwarves, vampires, werewolves, zombies, the king returning to claim his rightful crown, the evil sorcerer . . . all these and more have been used for decades. The trick is, if you’re going to use them, add a twist to their story, and put a new spin on these characters. Avoid the cliché and make them your own. In my stories of Dorgo the Dowser, I use mythical creatures, mostly from Greek mythology. What I try to do is give them each their own culture, society, and religion, with personalities that run the gamut of human qualities. One of the things I’ve done is to portray certain mythological creatures — I call them “Muthologians” — as characters in 1930s Warner Brothers’ gangster films.

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?

No, I see it changing. Quickly changing. When I was cutting my teeth on sci-fi and fantasy, most writers were male. I grew up with Catherine (C.L.) Moore, Leigh Brackett, Mary (Andre) Norton, Anne McCaffrey, and later Janet Morris, Marian Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K. Leguin, C.J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee, Evangeline Walton, and many others. Now I’ve met many female authors, such as you, Alex Butcher, as well as Diana Wicker, Catherine Stovall, Deborah Koren, Nancy Asire, Beth Patterson, and Valjeanne Jeffers. . . And let’s not forget Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Myers, and Laurel K. Hamilton.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable?

If I wrote hard science fiction, I’d make sure to get my facts straight. In my space opera, in my sword and sorcery, heroic fantasy and horror stories, I strive to make elements and plot points as plausible as I can.

How has science fiction changed from the days of Mary Shelley and Jules Verne?

Of course. SF has changed simply by virtue of the advances in biology, psychology, medicine, technology, etc. In the days of Shelley, Welles and Verne, things like quantum physics and wormholes and strong-theory were unknown. We are pretty much living today in the science fiction they imagined.

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most? What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers?

Since I do not write real science fiction, I’ll forego that part, although my space opera was influenced by E.R. Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, Edmund Hamilton, Alex Raymond, and Marian Zimmer Bradley. My first influences in fantasy and sword & sorcery were Greek mythology, Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, and R.E. Howard’s Solomon Kane and King Kull; later I encountered Janet and Chris Morris, Tanith Lee, Guy Gavriel Kay, Charles Saunders, and Ted (T.C.) Rypel.

As far as film-makers go . . . I grew up on writers Curt Siodmak, Rod Serling, Joseph Stefano and his original The Outer Limits, and director Jack Arnold. My cinematic influences are mostly non-genre writers and directors: Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, William Wellman, Michael Curtiz, and John Ford.

Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold?

I say very important. Our myths and legends and folklore define us, shape us, and even influence us on so many levels. Religion does the same thing. You can learn a lot about a country and its people, about a nationality by studying their myths and religions, as well as their history, which may be the most important factor in learning about other cultures.

What are some in YOUR society/cultural identity, how are they perceived and why are they important? Why have they endured?

I come from a predominantly Sicilian-Irish, Catholic background. So right there we have the Roman versions of the original Greek myths, as well as the ancient Celtic lore and Gaelic legends. Throw in the Catholicism in which I was raised and taught for nine years, and that also sums up a lot of what I write. For instance, the main religion in Dorgo’s world is monotheistic; Judeo-Christian in tradition — but it’s not the only religion. I have a number of others that are polytheistic and pagan in origin. I use these to give depth to many of my characters: some live and breathe and act by their religious convictions. And not all “priests” are holy men, and not all rogues are irreligious. I strive to make my characters as real as possible, and as relatable to our own world as I can make them. What endures is because in all religions, in all cultures, there is a common thread, a common element of truth. And truth, in real life as well as in fiction, will always endure. When you write for and from the heart, it’s the most honest writing you can do.

Thank you for having me, Alex. It has been a pleasure.