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Fantasy Faction Book Clubs => 2013 Fantasy Book Club => Book Club Archives => Fantasy Faction Book Club => [SEP 2013] The Folding Knife => Topic started by: Nighteyes on September 21, 2013, 09:31:04 PM

Title: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Nighteyes on September 21, 2013, 09:31:04 PM
There is a really interesting discussion to be had here as to whether KJ Parker should be classified as fantasy or not.  For me a fantasy novel should include elements of the fantastical - i.e. magic, beasties, other worldly races, and by that definition, KJ Parker is NOT writing fantasy.  But she is writing in a very detailed and vividly imagined make believe world - therefore does that make her a fantasy writer?  Though the argument might be made that her world is effectively just Europe at the Roman era, and possibly just after.  Interesting...

And without doubt she is a writer beloved of many who read widely in the fantasy genre ....

What do we all think?  I for one, don't think there is a right or wrong answer here.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Arry on September 21, 2013, 10:23:44 PM
hmmm.... Well, I will admit, I read the book waiting to find some aspect of magic,  or something fantastical creep in. I wondered if perhaps Basso's "luck" would in fact have some sort of roots in something more akin to magic. But, alas, his luck was luck, and sometimes perhaps not even that in the grander picture. I don't think I would consider it fantasy, personally. I don't know the technicalities of what is "required" or "not required" for the genre, but it definitely lacked a fantastical element for me to consider to consider it fantasy. I guess others can label it as they will, but a fictional world to me seems more ... just fiction than fantasy if there are no fantastical element within that world.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: DBASKLS on September 22, 2013, 03:39:15 PM
With a chapter to go, I have no problem with the book per se. It's been a good read and I've enjoyed it. However, I don't think it's fantasy. The world is civilised, there are mod cons, there is no magic or any talking creatures!

I read Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth a while ago and that felt a bit like some of the fantasy I'd been reading because it was set in a fictional English medieval town. This is how The Folding Knife feels, it could be the Roman Empire, even the names are Romanesque.

I think by definition fantasy needs something fantastical. A fictional setting doesn't count.

Also I think some of the language used is very non-fantasy. For example,

Aelius's will
refers to
donations to
a disabled charity

The word disabled wasn't even common parlance in the UK until the last 20 or 30 years. It feels wrong to use that word in a fantasy novel!

Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Idlewilder on September 22, 2013, 05:59:39 PM
Just about to catch up on week 3's chapters this evening, but very interesting point! I'd still class this as fantasy due to it being "second world" but I can see how it could be considered otherwise. Taking the possibility that this isn't "fantasy" per se as read, what would you classify it as? Erm...magical realism would be out. Literary?

Quote
I read Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth a while ago and that felt a bit like some of the fantasy I'd been reading because it was set in a fictional English medieval town.

Just as a little aside, Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourite books. And I did also note a similarity in the writing to a lot of epic fantasy, despite it being historical fiction. (Though, actually, Pillars is also set in a fictional place...in England...huh  :) )
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: DBASKLS on September 22, 2013, 06:24:31 PM
Just as a little aside, Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourite books. And I did also note a similarity in the writing to a lot of epic fantasy, despite it being historical fiction. (Though, actually, Pillars is also set in a fictional place...in England...huh  :) )

Are you saying England is fictional or that my grammar is so bad I implied that?!?!? ;)
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Idlewilder on September 22, 2013, 06:26:23 PM
Just as a little aside, Pillars of the Earth is one of my favourite books. And I did also note a similarity in the writing to a lot of epic fantasy, despite it being historical fiction. (Though, actually, Pillars is also set in a fictional place...in England...huh  :) )

Are you saying England is fictional or that my grammar is so bad I implied that?!?!? ;)

Apologies, I meant that Pillars of the Earth is set in a fictional English town. Kingsbridge, I think (off the top of my head)?
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Nighteyes on September 22, 2013, 07:15:14 PM
I think creating fictional towns but in a real country is not quite the same as what KJ Parker has done.  The setting is still recognisable whereas KJ Parker has created an entire second world. 

How about the City and the City by China Mieville?  Is that second world as it is a whole made up city, or because it is set in Europe with visitors from places like the USA, it's still recognisable as being on Earth, so simply a police procedural with a philosophical bent?
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: pornokitsch on September 22, 2013, 07:22:34 PM
I'm going with fantasy in that it ain't set on our world.

Interestingly enough, Parker has other stories set in this world - and some of them do have magic in them. Even if the Folding Knife doesn't have magic in it, does that make the Folding Knife a fantasy? A tricky question.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Arry on September 22, 2013, 08:35:07 PM
I'm going with fantasy in that it ain't set on our world.
That seems to be a standard criteria, so I'm not surprised. But I almost feel like a fictional world with no fantastical elements is akin to a fictional city, just on a grander scale. If an author uses a fictional city, surely that is not grounds for labeling it fantasy, or there could be a whole slew of books/authors suddenly pushed into the genre for creating a fictional place (within their works of fiction). I know there's differences between a city and a world, technology, laws, customs, etc. But ultimately, I'm still not swayed that having a fictional setting in the scale of the world versus the scale of a city is quite enough for what I expect from a work of "fantasy".

Quote
Interestingly enough, Parker has other stories set in this world - and some of them do have magic in them. Even if the Folding Knife doesn't have magic in it, does that make the Folding Knife a fantasy? A tricky question.
That is an interesting detail. So the world The Folding Knife is within does contain magic, just the characters/events within this particular story did not encounter any. Kind of like some of the characters within ASoIaF may not have encountered magic within their story lines. Now this was a different book/story line that did not intersect as the ones in ASoIaF are (or will). But still, I don't know. It's grey. Like everything else when you try to apply labels.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: DBASKLS on September 22, 2013, 10:42:11 PM
I was trying to think if I'd read any other books that weren't classed as fantasy but weren't set in our world at all. I can't to be honest.

Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses is set in an alternate world and has no fantasy elements (as far as I can remember) although I'm sure I was drawn to that book through a fantasy route. I'll sleep on it!

Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: AnneLyle on September 23, 2013, 09:18:02 AM
I believe the correct name is "interstitial" - Ellen Kushner writes it as well. There are no fantastical elements in her novels (e.g. Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword), it's just a secondary world, but they've always been marketed as fantasy.

I think one needs to distinguish between fantasy as a marketing category and fantasy as a literary genre. Kushner and KJP get marketed as fantasy because which other section of the bookshop would you put them in? Not historical, obviously. These days you might just get away with putting them in lit fic - if Margaret Atwood fits there, why not KJP? Maybe because SF has always been a bit more respectable than fantasy, especially in the UK with its legacy of writers like H G Wells, John Wyndham, etc.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: pornokitsch on September 23, 2013, 01:11:54 PM
But still, I don't know. It's grey. Like everything else when you try to apply labels.

I agree! It makes it really fun, actually. It is interesting that the other books make a difference though - I mean, on one hand - why wouldn't they? Same world, same rules, etc. On the other... why should something that happens in a different book change the genre of this one?! AAAAAAH.

/falls down philosophical wormhole
/eaten by wormhole dragons
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: AnneLyle on September 23, 2013, 01:18:14 PM
Yeah, people asked why I didn't set Book 2 of Night's Masque in France, since that's where Mal was heading at the end of Book 1 - but I never envisaged there being any skraylings there (for various reasons), so it would have been historical fiction, more or less. Don't think my fans (or my editor) would have appreciated that!

It's probably easier going the other way - starting with little or no magic and then sneaking it in, bit by bit. If it's good enough for GRRM...
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: AJDalton on September 23, 2013, 08:36:30 PM
Come on, now. Of course K J Parker is a fantasy author. Basso's luck is more than luck. In Belly of the Bow, the academics in the university study 'phenomena' that the ignorant call 'magic', but they are unable to control it despite their observation and recording of it. It slips from their grasp. It eludes them. It is magic. Basso changes the entire course of history, as do his brothers. The scenes back at the farm of their youth are reminiscent of the Greek gods 'at play' and squabbling. Their domestic concerns entirely outweigh the 'importance' of wider civilization. KJP is a visionary who moves tawdry fantasy into metaphysical and headier areas. But KJP does it so subtly, using the mundane and ordinary as magical devices. It slips from the reader's grasp. It eludes them. It is magic. KJP is a practitioner of magicks arcane. Beyond that, KJP is a major influence on me, me an international fantasy author who is but a creation, phantasm and trick of KJP.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: pornokitsch on September 24, 2013, 05:45:32 PM
That's an interesting theory. Basso's luck would fit with the magical system that's described in the Fencer trilogy. Nice point!

That said, it still comes back to my point above - I find it really interesting that whether or not this is a fantasy in our eyes is 'defined' by other books, and not the text itself.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Arry on September 24, 2013, 05:59:15 PM
That's an interesting theory. Basso's luck would fit with the magical system that's described in the Fencer trilogy. Nice point!
That is what I kept expecting the magic to be, but then there was no confirmation of it, and so many others were saying there was not magic in the book, I thought maybe I was just looking too hard.

Quote
That said, it still comes back to my point above - I find it really interesting that whether or not this is a fantasy in our eyes is 'defined' by other books, and not the text itself.
heh .... I think ultimately, accepting a secondary world, any secondary world is a pretty standard definition of 'fantasy'. But that doesn't mean it's what I expect when I pick up a book marketed as such (for reasons mentioned above). But, yeah, the wormhole of defining one books genre based on other books contents is certainly cluster-fiesta of possibility. Makes so much sense, and yet no sense at all.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: pornokitsch on September 24, 2013, 06:45:41 PM
I hate to guess at the author's intent, but I'm pretty sure there's no magic. At least, within The Folding Knife, there's no magic, nor system thereof. Basso's luck is just luck (or is it "fate"?).

That said, I think it could kind of click with the magical system that's in the Fencer trilogy. I kind of like that theory for its... I dunno... neatness, as it makes a nice RPG-style "rules" for things. But that would also undermine a lot of what Basso says about fate, luck, and belief towards the end, which I think is really important. And I don't like it because, again, that would be a fairly major part of the setting that has nothing to do with the content of this text, and I don't think we can judge what happens here by the rules of a setting (that may or not even be the same setting) introduced in other books.

(If Fencer and TFK are set in the same world - which is possible! - there'd presumably be a hearty time difference between them. Magic is an established, ancient, known 'thing' in Fencer, but goes completely unmentioned in TFK. So TFK would need to be much, much earlier or much, much later than Fencer. AAAH!)
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: AJDalton on September 24, 2013, 07:32:00 PM
So TFK would need to be much, much earlier or much, much later than Fencer. AAAH!)
Heh, heh. See, we shouldn't underestimate the genius and magic of KJP! It would be foolish.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Victoria Hooper on October 01, 2013, 01:15:31 PM
I would personally consider this fantasy, even without Basso's luck, simply because the story takes place in another world. But the points about Basso's luck are really interesting. I don't think it's magic, exactly, but it does sometimes seem a little too good to be true. I wonder if it's a comment on what luck as a character stat might look like in a character's story. You know how some games let you increase your luck just like you increase your strength and dex, etc?

It also reminds me of another book that isn't generally considered fantasy, but I actually think it kinda is. Holes, by Louis Sachar. The co-incidences are so astounding in that, and everything weaves together so neatly, that it has a very folklorish, magical feel for me.

Also I think some of the language used is very non-fantasy.

Just wanted to pick up on this point because it's something I really noticed too. Things like 'that'd cramp anybody's style' and 'sniffed round anything in a skirt'. I wondered if phrases like this were used to relate the world to us, to make the parallels with modern war and politics stand out more, and to give it a kind of universal feel - people in power have always and will always behave like this? What do you think?
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: eclipse on February 12, 2017, 10:50:09 PM
@Lanko might you be interested here?
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Lanko on February 12, 2017, 11:07:02 PM
My answer is yes.

In Blue and Gold, there's a whole amount of alchemy with purely made up elements and effects.

In The Devil You Know you can't get more magical than making a pact with the devil, getting your own pet devil that can conjure whatever you wish and even stop you from dying no matter what.

In The Last Witness magic is also fundamental and powerful.

The Folding Knife doesn't have magic - his luck is pure chance, that kind of person who is in the right place at the right time with the right abilities, Napoleon, Caesar, etc wouldn't be who they were if they had tried earlier or later - but it does have its own made up world, made up battles made up cultures, made up consequences.

Maybe Basso's republic is very much inspired by Italian merchant republics and the Empire he fights with is an allusion to either the Byzantine Empire or the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages, but since they are from the East, I'm thinking more of the first.
But then there are countries that appear to still be in the Antiquity, like the nomad horsemen he hires at some point and the country he tries to conquer in dark forests seem to resemble Gaul a little.

What if we removed dragons or ice walkers from Game of Thrones? Would it stop being Fantasy? Or if the Falconer never appeared at the Gentlemen Bastards?

So for me it's Fantasy because it's fiction without any ties to any kind of historical accuracy/reference, which would make it historical fiction.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: eclipse on November 13, 2017, 07:57:00 AM
@Lady Ty , @Sgtwolf01 , @cupiscent

This might interest you.
Title: Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
Post by: Sgtwolf01 on November 13, 2017, 12:21:11 PM
@Nighteyes

Now I have to say that I'm not familiar with K.J Parker or his works, but I should still be able to answer.
Now were asking if Parker counts as a fantasy writer or not, but before we answer that we have to ask this first. Are the books of K.J Parker set in our world, a.k.a Earth or not? If they are set on Earth proper then Parker's books would be either historical fiction, historical fantasy, alternative history or something of the sorts.

If not then Parker would be a fiction writer, because even if his stories don't include fantastical elements, thus making his story a fantasy. They'd still be fictional since they don't exist, even if they are based of things from our world. SO the question becomes, which camp does K.J Parker fall into?