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Re: Creating a Religion Seems like whenever there's a thread about some aspect world building in fantasy writing forums, there is a disconnect between people who want a well rendered world to be in place, even if it's mostly behind the scenes, and the world-building minimalists--folks who think that most aspects of world building are a colossal waste of time that distracts the reader from the most important aspects of the story.

It's certainly true that world building can become a form of procrastination, and that even some very successful authors probably do fall too in love with the minutiae of their worlds for the taste of many readers. I'd say there's room for all kinds of tastes and styles in fantasy, but I also think that the average reader of secondary world or epic fantasy expects to be immersed in a world that feels like it's real. We also tend to read authors who fall inside our own comfort zones. As someone who is trying to write my own novel, I also experience the frustration of not being able to please everyone. One person might get annoyed that I interrupted an event or action-focused narrative to mention that there's a statue and two candles on the alter at all, and another person might want me to go into more detail about these features.

One thing I've noticed on fantasy boards is that other readers and writers haven't even heard of some of my favorites, but they have favorites of my own that I haven't encountered. I've also discovered new writers because of some of these discussions.

Nearly all of the secondary world and epic fantasy I've read that's been written in recent years has some pretty intricately rendered world building, but maybe that's simply because I tend to gravitate towards that sort of thing. So my question for the world building minimalists out there, is can you recommend some newer secondary world, epic style fantasy that doesn't really concern itself with world building aside from what's immediately relevant to the plots and main characters?


June 25, 2014, 10:03:25 PM
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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database) Thanks for posting this! A very worthy project and long overdue. I remember reading somewhere recently that nearly half of the fantasy that's being written in recent years is by women (and there have been a lot of female fantasy authors since the 80s, at least), and that a high percentage of fantasy readers are women, than women win a respectable percentage of Hugo and Nebula awards. But they seem to get left off a lot of the "all time best of" lists, and they're often overlooked in forums (even here on FF) when people recommend favorite authors to one another.

Is there a way to contact the author of this list re names that should be included but aren't? I was wondering about the criteria for "strong female character" and "romance present" as well, since some authors who write books with one or both of these elements are missing the requisite "Y." Maria V. Snyder is an example of one such. Blank all the way across in spite of having a strong romantic arc in many of her books (they're published by an imprint of Harlequin) and having all female protagonists so far.


July 23, 2014, 04:29:21 AM
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Re: Do you avoid 'YA'? What does it mean? YA is definitely a real thing, at least in the US. It's a marketing demographic, not a genre, and YA fantasy is quite popular. It seems like a lot of it is contemporary, paranormal, or urban, but as Abercrombie's new novel illustrates, it works in a secondary world as well.

Some of the "classic" fantasy and SF novels I grew up reading would probably be marketed as YA today (instead of being shelved with either children's books or with the adult SFF). The Harper Hall Trilogies by Anne McCaffrey come to mind,as do some of Mercedes Lackey's fantasy novels.

Some non fantasy YA stuff I enjoyed reading as a kid were KM Peyton's books. I don't think it was called YA back then, but I think they would be today. So were some of Judy Blume's books (the ones aimed at teens instead of grade school kids).

A good YA story can certainly appeal outside of the teen demographic. I've heard numbers ranging from 25%-60% adult readership for YA fiction. It probably varies by genre as well.

These are, I believe, the hallmarks of modern YA.

1. A teen-aged protagonist (usually between 12-18). This is a pretty firm requirement. The character shouldn't age out of the teen demographic during the story either. In the US, this corresponds to what we call middle school and high school aged protagonists, though of course a fantasy world could have a very different education system (or none at all).

2. The actions of the teen-aged protagonist should drive the story.

3. Told in the voice and perspective of the protagonist as a YA, not as an older, wiser version of themselves, and certainly not in the voice of an adult narrator who is judging and interpreting the teenager's values and choices. So deeper first person and third person narratives are common in modern YA (as opposed to mid grade which still sometimes has omni narrators). Harry Potter was interesting, because it started as MG but segued into a YA story by later in the series, but the author maintained her omni pov (though she did spend more time showing us Harry's thoughts and feelings directly than many omni narrators do).

4. Focuses on themes and plots that are relatable to teens. This can include coming of age stories, but other kinds might work too. The character is often learning to navigate the world as an adult. This doesn't mean there can't be danger, high stakes, or issues that are also interesting or relevant to adult readers.

5. Contrary to common belief, YA novels can have swearing, sex, drugs and other "edgy" stuff, at least if they're marketed to older teens. While there is often a message, it's not necessarily couched in preachy or black and white terms. But it may depend on the publisher or target market (there are YA Christian books, for instance).

I'll add the caveat that these are just my impressions that I've pieced together from talks I've attended and agent and editor blogs I've read on the subject. There are probably more specific things some people could add, and of course, different agents or editors might have slightly different criteria for what they personally want.

September 22, 2014, 03:09:00 AM
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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database) The winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards this year was by a woman, and it's SF, not fantasy. A mind stretching read too, but very good.

It's hard to get statistics on the actual number of publications of SF and fantasy by gender. It's even harder to break it down into subgenres, because there is a certain amount of subjectivity and disagreement about these. But approximately 40% of the members of the SFWA are women. Of course, there are plenty professional SF and F writers of both gender who are not in this organization. No idea if the numbers are representative or not.

Since 1970, women have won nearly 40% of the Hugo awards for best novel, and 34% of the Nebulas. In the past twenty years, 40% of the Hugo winners and 50% of the nebula winners have been women.

I don't think women who write SF and F are that few and far between. Strange Horizons magazine participates in something called the count (an analysis of how literary coverage is affected by gender of the author), which suggests that SF and F novels written by women are less likely to be reviewed or discussed on book blogs.

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2013/20130422/2sfcount-a.shtml

http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2012/05/women-in-sff-month-in-conclusion/


September 23, 2014, 09:25:05 AM
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Re: RIP Terry Pratchett This makes me very sad. He brightened so many lives with his fiction, and he was way too young.
March 13, 2015, 02:18:00 AM
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Re: The best female science fiction and fantasy writers you should read now
Jacqueline Carey is one that did get pushed forward a bit with her Kushiel series, but she doesn't get anywhere near as much coverage for the Agent of Hel UF, which is a shame, because it's a really good example of that sort of stuff. Diana Gabaldon is getting a lot more now with the success of Outlander, although she was successful before the TV show. Generally she's not shelved in fantasy, and is more considered a historical fiction author.

I've noticed that too. It's a real issue when people are asked to list the "best," or their favorite fantasy or SF novels too. Books by women, even ones that were/are bestsellers, or won prestigious awards, are often overlooked. There was that infamous Guardian Survey (http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2011/may/31/women-science-fiction-writers) in the UK where only 4% of the titles on a list of 500 books were by women. A recent npr poll (http://www.listchallenges.com/npr-top-100-science-fiction-and-fantasy-books) was better, but even so, only 14% of the 100 titles were by women. A ton of really good and groundbreaking work by women gets left off, and instead the lists are often padded with titles by some of the same male authors over and over again.

There also seems to be a bit of a difference between the UK and US. It looks like female SFF writers fare a bit worse overall in the UK. It appears that nearly 50% of the US SFF books received by locus are by women, but fewer than a third of the UK books are (http://www.strangehorizons.com/2014/20140428/2sfcount-a.shtml) I'm not British, so I can't say why this is, but it sort of surprised me, because I always thought of the UK and US being really similar in terms of gender consciousness and gender issues. In both cases, though, fewer books by women end up being reviewed.

So the question is, why? Why do people tend to forget books by female authors (even award-winning authors) more often than they do books by men? And why are fewer books written by women reviewed? And is the problem getting worse in recent years? If so, what can we do about it. Should we all just slap male pseudonyms on our books? And will that even work in an age when social media and so on makes it pretty hard to hide who we *really* are. James Tiptree Junior managed to hide her gender for years, but that would be much harder to do if she were expected to FB, tweet, blog and appear regularly at cons.


March 17, 2015, 09:33:38 PM
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Re: Am I Sexist?: Males reading female authored fantasy

I think a point that needs to be made regarding complaints that the book is overtly 'preachy' or political, is that writing the status quo is in itself a political act.  So all those writers portraying a world that is either strongly representative of current societal norms or some supposedly-historical social situation are (perhaps unconsciously) supporting a system that many people find problematic.  Yes, some present it in order to examine it, subvert it, etc, but others try to pretend it's 'just the way things are'.  Just saying we shouldn't present that as a sort of 'neutral' position.

This. I'm surprised how often people assume that there's a way we can world build, characterize or spin stories that is neutral or value free.

March 17, 2015, 09:41:25 PM
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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database) I'm female, and I've been reading fantasy (and SF) since I was a little bitty thing. There was a time (the 80s and 90s) when I was at least more likely to be a bit more cautious about books by male authors I didn't already know. This was because (in my experience) books by male authors back then were much more likely to have a complete absence of female characters, only token female characters, or female characters who existed only to be "decorative" or rescued by the men in the story, or the characters had very stereotypical male and female traits. Also, the characters of both genders written by male authors were often flatter and less interesting to me, and the plots often seemed simpler and more linear.

Not all by any means. But there just seemed to be a lot of "pale imitation of Tolkien" stuff coming out in the 70s and 80s, and a lot of it was written by guys. The new female writers I encountered at that time just seemed to be telling more vibrant (by my standards) stories with characters who thought things and felt things and worlds I cared about.

That's not anywhere near as true as it once was, and in recent years I've discovered a number of male writers who I think do excellent characterization and wonderfully intricate plots with people of all genders as characters. They're not always perfect, and they could certainly have more female characters and more could write stories set in worlds that are more female friendly, but at least the experiences and relevance of women are not ignored by most of them anymore (there are a few still who do, but I won't raise that here). I wonder, though, if an increase in the quality of the fantasy written by male writers has shoved attention towards the good stuff written by women aside. I don't think there are fewer women writing fantasy now than there ever was, so why aren't we hearing about women fantasy writers anymore?

What seems to have happened is a concentration of new female fantasy writers in UF and YA, however, and I'm having a harder time finding really popular bestselling secondary world or epic fantasy novels (for adults) written by women, aside from some who have been at it for a while (like Robin Hobb, Carol Berg, and Kate Elliott). And some of the women who were really popular writing EF in the 80s and 90s have either migrated to YA or UF, or they've sort of fallen off the cultural radar. I suspect that there are a number of new EF writers who are women, but I'm just not finding them or hearing about them, however. Seems like people remember and talk about male writers more than they do female. Even with UF, a genre supposedly dominated by women, the two names that seem to pop up the most are Jim Butcher and Kevin Hearne.

I can't say why that is. I really love secondary world fantasy. It's what I want to read and write. And I hope being female won't make readers of either gender assume I can't write it. I know that many of my critting partners and betas have been male, and they've been very positive about it (even the, gasp, romantic subplot) for the most part.


April 27, 2015, 03:45:35 AM
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Re: Romance/Relationship in Fantasy
How much Romance do you want in a fantasy novel ?

Which Couples are you Favourites in fantasy/sci-fi



Hmm, I can enjoy a fantasy novel with no romance, or where romantic elements are unsuccessful, but overall, a good romantic subplot is the icing on the cake. They can be M/F, F/F. or M/M. I don't care, but the only thing is that I want it to be something that arises for reasons that make sense in the story. I want to see why they care for one another, and it had better be more than just their mutual hotness or that the guy saved the girl or gets her as a reward for being a hero (or vice versa for that matter). I want them both to be interesting and well-drawn characters who advance the plot in other ways too.

I was okay with Coby and Mal, though the age difference bothered me a bit. But that happened more often back then, I suppose, and Coby had a role to play in the story and was an independent character, not just a damsel in distress. That's the most important thing for me.

Some fantasy couples I've enjoyed reading:

Seregil and Alec in Flewelling's books, There was an age gap there, though with beings with expanded lifespans, maybe proportionally it means less.

Kero and Eldan in Lackey's By the Sword

Eowyn and Faramir in LoTR. Just a small part of the story, but I love it when wounded souls get together.

Shale/Jasper and Terelle in the Stormlords books by Larke

SF, not fantasy, but I liked the way Cherryh handled romance with her Hani characters in her Chanuur books also.

Caz and Betriz in the Curse of Chalion. Another large age gap, but it was a nice ending.


May 04, 2015, 02:29:52 AM
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Re: How to Avoid Scaring Away Male Readers - Too Much Touchy Feely Stuff (literally)

The whole "warranted" stipulation is what scares me. Its subjective.

Yep it is, and readers, including male ones, aren't a hive mind. That's why attracting a publisher and finding a readership is so darned hard these days. There's no set formula for when something is appealing or done well.

But there have been and are male writers who incorporate romance into their stories. It used to be quite common. I think it still is outside of the grimdark subgenre of fantasy (which has romances sometimes, but they never end well).

Heinlein. The guy who's often held up as the champion of "old school" hard, military, manly man SF? Plenty of sappy romantic subplots in his juveniles, and in some of his adult novels too. Also some where he didn't do such a great job (imo). Friday, anyone? But the man didn't shy away from putting either love or sex (for the adult ones) in his books, and male readers hardly shunned him for it.

Funny how many people who are arguing that modern SFF writers should be more like Heinlein never actually read any of his books.

A popular male fantasy writer (at least before he got strange and started writing books about little girls' panties and even creepier themes) who had romance in most of his stories: Piers Anthony.  My high school boyfriend loved him. Me, not so much (though some female fantasy fans did back in the day).

Plenty of other examples as well. Even Fafherd and the Gray Mouser had girlfriends in some of the stories (though it wasn't a given they'd make it through alive).

The guy getting the girl, losing the girl, and getting the girl back is a very old theme in adventure fiction. The main problem with the old stories is that the women were often sort of flat as characters, only shown through the eyes of the MMC or an omniscient narrator who spent a lot of time describing their breasts. Interestingly, the complaints about "icky romance" taking over fantasy and SF didn't emerge until there were more writers of both genders writing stories where the characters of both genders were more fleshed out (or the romance was sometimes even shown through the eyes of a FMC).

I also think the aversion of "most" male fantasy readers to romantic subplots is overstated. My first fantasy novel has a romantic subplot and I spend time inside the heads of both people involved. 4/6 of my betas have been male, and not a one has complained about that part of the story. In fact, they all liked it (and the FMC).

My take home on this is that what people say they like when they're listing pet peeves in forums versus what they actually read and enjoy are not always the same thing.

If you write a good story with a romantic subplot that is organic to the story and the characters, then most people will probably like it just fine. No promises that all people (of either gender) will or that it will find a home, even if it is good and your betas all love it (it's a tough and uncertain market these days). But I've seen little evidence that agents and publishers think romantic subplots are any more unmarketable than they've ever been.

And worst case scenario. Say far more women do like your novel than men. Women read fiction more than men these days. And while fantasy may attract more male readers than many other genres, approximately half (possibly more) of fantasy readers are still women. The cliche about most fantasy readers being male hasn't been true for a long time. If you attract more female readers, you can still do very well indeed. There are a number of very successful fantasy writers who have made their living by appealing to mostly female readerships.


May 10, 2015, 12:34:46 AM
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