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.
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:
Andrew’s latest book is a fine military science fiction – which I featured recently. Check it out, you won’t regret it!
Meet some of Andrew’s characters:
And Andrew: https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/new-release-the-ix-by-andrew-p-weston-fantasymilitaryhistorical/