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Author Topic: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?  (Read 11198 times)

Offline Nighteyes

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Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« 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.
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Offline Arry

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Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #1 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.
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Offline DBASKLS

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #2 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,

Spoiler for Hiden:
Aelius's will
refers to
Spoiler for Hiden:
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!

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Offline Idlewilder

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #3 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  :) )
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Offline DBASKLS

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #4 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?!?!? ;)
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Offline Idlewilder

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #5 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)?
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Offline Nighteyes

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Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #6 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?
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Offline pornokitsch

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #7 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.

Offline Arry

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Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #8 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.
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Offline DBASKLS

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #9 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!

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Offline AnneLyle

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #10 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.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2013, 09:21:28 AM by AnneLyle »
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Offline pornokitsch

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #11 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.

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Offline AnneLyle

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #12 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...
« Last Edit: September 23, 2013, 01:20:52 PM by AnneLyle »
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline AJDalton

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Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #13 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.
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Offline pornokitsch

Re: Does KJ Parker count as a fantasy writer?
« Reply #14 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.