Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why fantasy "adventure"?

The sub-genres of fantasy are many and varied. Some years ago I started thinking of my novel Talon as a fantasy-adventure novel, without really doing any research into it. To me, the spirit of adventure is inherant in the plot, the way it moves, the action (especially the fight scenes) and the epic nature of the overarching story.

Some sub-genres of fantasy include:

  • historical fantasy
  • comic fantasy
  • contemporary fantasy
  • dark fantasy
  • fairytale fantasy
  • heroic fantasy
  • high fantasy
  • superhero fantasy
  • sword and sorcery

Of these, Talon most fits in with high fantasy because of the epic struggle between good and evil forces in the world of Chryne. High fantasy is different to sword and sorcery (which can also have epic conflict between opposing forces) mainly because of its moral tone and world-affecting plot. The moral aspects in Talon are obvious to most of my draft readers and editors, however I have tried to make it somewhat open to interpretation.

Why use the term "adventure" at all? Perhaps I should just call it 'high fantasy'. What does the word "adventure" add? And isn't it true that all fantasy, science fiction and horror novels contain an adventure of some kind? Many action novels/movies do as well. How do we define this? This is something for me to think about, and I welcome your feedback by email.

The history of the genre of fantasy is fascinating and the more I study it the more I realise I have read only a fraction of what the genre has to offer. If you're interested in fantasy I highly recommend "Fantasy of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History" by Randy Broecker. If you want to buy it, please click the link in my Amazon panel to the right. I'll close this post with a quote from the book:

"The earliest roots of fantasy literature can be found in the epic poem Gilgamesh circa 2000 BC and in other classical works such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid. These, along with the mythologies of the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Germanic peoples all with their various deities, form the basis of heroic fantasy. It is quite possibly the oldest theme in literature."

With a genre that accesses the most ancient themes and speaks to the deepest moral issues in every person's life, fantasy is an escape for just about anyone. But that's a topic for another blog.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Rejection is a concept writers must get well acquainted with. When you pour so much of yourself and so much time and energy into a piece of writing, it can be devastating to be told it just isn't good enough. Over all the years I've been part of writing groups (all of my adult life and then some!) this one lesson has been commonly taught. But it's important to remember that rejection from one publisher or agent doesn't mean your work is rubbish. It may mean that, but what it probably means is "your work isn't right for me at this time".

As with the music industry and performing arts, it takes both talent and tenacity to make it big as an author. Naturally there needs to be a filtering process between backyard-Benny and the big-screen (or in my case the big press) or else production and publishing houses would not be perceived as producers of high quality material. This would drastically affect sales. Furthermore, at any one time there are far more actors, singers, writers (etc.) than there are funds and places/projects to produce their work and build their careers.

Today I received another rejection letter. This is from one of the major literary agents in Australia, which will remain un-named. The agent in question turned around my submission in an impressive amount of time (just over one month). Her cover letter suggested that she did read my synopsis and at least part of the first chapter. Her reason for rejecting Talon was because it didn't excite her. Understandably one's personal taste has to come into the equation and an agent would hardly be able to do their job properly if they didn't first enjoy and love the work of their authors.

So where does this leave me? First of all, I was hardly expecting anything other than a rejection, so it hasn't been much of a blow. And secondly, I do think my novel is exciting and I am committed to seeing it published when it is ready. There is always going to be that tiny voice in the back of my mind saying nasty things like, "it will never be ready" or "it's not good enough" but all I can do is keep on improving it and continue learning.

For now, I have my work cut out for me. I am working through a series of edits done by Stephen Thompson ( which are absolutely excellent. I highly recommend Stephen's services over at esstee media.

Editing is something I enjoy, but it is time consuming and uses a different kind of creativity to writing. But that's a topic for another blog.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dark Space By Marianne de Pierres

Marianne’s writing is not for the faint-hearted. She tells it like it is, even if it happens to be a futuristic world she’s invented. The substance of her worlds is palpable, with places you can see, hear and smell in your mind. Her characters strut across the pages, cantankerous, callous and compassionate all in one chapter. The language Marianne uses is utterly ingrained in the world and she utilizes the device of contradiction to produce intriguing oxymorons. Marianne is a unique and powerful voice in science-fiction, a credit to the writers of her country.

Dark Space is an ominous space opera set primarily on the mining world of Araldis where the main character, Baronessa Mira Fedor was raised. After fleeing back to her home planet to avoid a gene-transfer that would rob her of a rare talent for flying biozoons (organic pilot ships), Mira is among the survivors of a system-wide invasion by body-fluid-sucking aliens.

The setting in Dark Space consists of a number of planets in the Orion system inhabited primarily by humans and humanoids (called “humanesques”). Earth is never mentioned, but there are obvious influences such as the pseudo-Italian language and certain customs indicative of various Earth cultures. The Aristo women, for example, wear concealing “fellalas” which seem like the Islamic abaya overgarment. An author note at the beginning reads “I have taken extreme liberties with the Italian language. Please do not look for grammatical accuracy — you will not find it. This is the far, far future!”

The foreign/made-up words used throughout Dark Space are in keeping with the setting, but make it difficult to understand what is going on at times. There are techno-babble words like “mag-beam”, “res-shift”, “moud”, “preserv-field” and “catoplasma” ; and pseudo-Italian words like “studium”, “nobile”, “cavaliere”, “ragazza”, “speranza”, “sorella” and “bambini”. Even halfway through the novel there are new words appearing in sentences with no explanation of their meaning. Marianne shows instead of telling the reader what is going on, to enhance immersion. When context doesn’t make it obvious what certain words mean, it is best just to keep reading. Eventually the reader has a general idea of what the words mean without being explicitly told. This is artful storytelling, but can be frustrating at times.

Another artful storytelling technique is the use of oxymorons. On page 253, for example, intergalactic vagabond Jo-Jo rasterovich is forced to take a philosophy course to remain in a good spying position in Scolar space. Marianne writes from his point of view, “The agony and ecstasy of it all went on for several weeks...” an oxymoron that fits nicely with the sadomasochistic character of Jo-Jo.

Many of the characters in Dark Space are sexually deranged in one way or another. There’s Trin, the son of the Principe (ruler of the aristocrats in their part of space), who has problems performing without the aid of “bravura” until he meets a ginko (alien) with mottled skin-folds and gills. Then there’s Tekton, a character set apart from most of the others, but closely tied to the events that unfold on Araldis. Intelligent and ambitious, Tekton engages in sex with various beings throughout his travels, mostly to curry favour. And Jo-Jo Rasterovich, who has nightmares about the wobbling thighs of one sexual encounter, enjoys being walked on by an alien with spines in her feet...

With her sexuality unmentioned for most of the novel, Mira stands apart as the most appealing of the four main characters. Honest, fair-minded and hard-working (especially for an aristo), Mira charts the turbulent territory of Dark Space, giving the reader a voice to anticipate rather than despise. Marianne de Pierres pulls no punches—the selfishness of some characters extends to unnecessary and brutal killings that shock Mira as much as the reader. But in this climate of dark motives and vicious acts of violence, Mira is revealed as a diamond in the rough. The four characters trade turns in the novel until the final chapter, which has seen the darkness of Mira’s world turn to chaos...

Chaos Space is the name of the second book in the series. I look forward to reading it. But that’s a topic for another blog.

To buy Dark Space or read articles about writing by Marianne de Pierres, visit her website: