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 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.