So, I’ve mentioned on my podcast, First Cup of Coffee, that I like listening to L. Penelope’s podcast, My Imaginary Friends. (Our podcasts are also part of the Frolic Podcast Network, but we listened to each other before that.) On this week’s episode, Making an Impact, she talks about her experiences on panels at a recent convention. I tell you, folks, I was gaping at the speakers when she said the other panelists had said that the Fantasy genre is inherently politically conservative – and no one challenged it.
People: I SO want to challenge this assertion!
Apparently the thought process is that Fantasy often involves the trope of restoring the One True Thing in some sense. Defeating the Big Bad to restore the Time Before. The Chosen One appearing to usher in a time of peace and plenty. The recovery of magic or something else that has been lost.
I’m sure you all can recognize these themes.
First of all, I want to point out that this is a pretty narrow conception of what the Fantasy genre encompasses. I mean, yes, there are people who equate “Fantasy” with “Tolkien.” People have said exactly this to me. Never mind that Tolkien was writing a hundred years ago, so that’s akin to saying they equate Science Fiction with Fritz Leiber, Jr. and Isaac Asimov. Sure, all of these authors made substantial contributions to the SFF genres, but there’s been movement since then.
A lot of the time, when people say “Fantasy,” they do mean Tolkienesque epic fantasy – including all those writers who’ve followed that path. It’s a grand tradition, but it’s not the only tradition. The writers who keep to that fairly narrow interpretation of fantasy, who write only pastoral, non-tech, peaceful-farmers-are-pure-of-heart tales might be conservative. I dunno. I think the writer brings their values to the story, regardless of genre.
Fantasy is a broad genre with many themes. There are a LOT of people writing it who very much do not have conservative values.
Second, I don’t think there’s ANYTHING inherently politically conservative about the concept of creating peace and plenty, of overthrowing an oppressor. Our current political situation speaks to that. The avowed conservatives in power may give lip service to “family values” and “making things great AGAIN,” but a totalitarian government is exactly that – and resisting can be an act of rebellion. Fantasy absolutely takes on these themes. For example, my Forgotten Empires books (see? even the series title speaks to something lost) tell of people laboring under an oppressive empire. They rebel, eventually and in their own ways, but that recovery of what’s been lost is hardly an expression of conservative values. Those are radical and dangerous choices. And, yes, those stories are absolutely part of my personal response to an authoritarian government that serves only the rich – and part of my resistance to that.
I’d argue that the best Fantasy takes on sweeping political change.
There’s a lot more to the enormous and varied Fantasy genre than Tolkien and farm boys called to be the Chosen One. Let’s make some noise about it.
It’s laundry day here, and Jackson takes laundry VERY seriously.
Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Gravedigging: Share Something Great from a Dead Project.
While intriguing, this is also a tall order. I mean, for me, very few (if any?) projects are truly dead. Though I suppose zombie works also qualify for this spooky theme. Also, if there’s something Great in it, then the projects is almost certainly not dead. The truly dead projects are those that have nothing redeemable in them.
Also, this topic seriously took me down a rabbit hole of looking at old fragments of stories and various projects that languished for one reason or another – some going back twenty-five years to when I was first rooting around and finding my voice as a writer.
But here’s a little something that’s kind of been hanging around in the Undead Files. I wrote it down in part to capture a certain feel. It came from a dream when I was immersed in other projects and couldn’t devote time to this. Turns out that was ten years ago! I could’ve sworn it was only a couple. Alas.
Anyway, it’s rough – the names are placeholders – but I still see the shine in it. Come on over to read it.
THE FIERY CROWN has a cover – and it’s gorgeous! I love the fiery colors. Some of you may recall that this second book in the Forgotten Empires trilogy was originally titled “The Fiery Citadel.” Then St. Martins asked if I’d mind changing the title to THE FIERY CROWN so we could have a crown on the cover instead of a much-less visually appealing citadel. I happily agreed (the title still totally works) and here we are!
Out May 26, 2020!
“A timeless tale of love and survival amidst a lush backdrop teeming with greed and deceit.”–New York Times bestselling author Darynda Jones
A desperate alliance. . A struggle for survival. And a marriage of convenience with an epic twist of fate. . .
WILL THEIR LOVE STAND THE TEST OF TIME
Queen Euthalia has reigned over her island kingdom of Calanthe with determination, grace, and her magical, undying orchid ring. After she defied an empire to wed Conrí, the former Crown Prince of Oriel—a man of disgraced origins with vengeance in his heart—Lia expected the wizard’s prophecy to come true: Claim the hand that wears the ring and the empire falls. But Lia’s dangerous bid to save her realm doesn’t lead to immediate victory. Instead, destiny hurls her and Conrí towards a future neither could predict…
OR TEAR THEIR WHOLE WORLD APART?
Con has never healed after the death of his family and destruction of his kingdom—he’s been carefully plotting his revenge against his greatest enemy, Emperor Anure, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. When Lia’s spies gather intelligence suggesting that Anure is planning an attack against Calanthe, Con faces an agonizing choice: Can he sacrifice Lia and all she holds dear to destroy the empire? Or does his true loyalty exist in the arms of his beguiling, passionate wife—’til death do they part?
The Forgotten Empire series is:
“Captivating…engrossing.” —Romance Reviews Today
“Sensual fantasy romance you won’t want to miss!”—Amanda Bouchet, USA Today bestselling author of The Kingmaker Chronicles
“Action-packed…sexy…highly recommend.”—Harlequin Junkie (Top Pick)
I put up my Halloween decorations yesterday – and brought in the hummingbird feeders at the same time. That felt like a symmetrical seasonal changeover, all happening in the due course of the seasons.
So, on Monday, in a fit of frustrated eye-rolling, I fired off this tweet:
Why are there so many classes offering to teach pantsers how to plot and story plan? They make me want to offer a class like “Pantsing for Plotters: Giving Up Control and Learning to Trust Your Creative Self.”
— Jeffe Kennedy (@jeffekennedy) October 21, 2019
To my vast surprise, this tweet has received SO MANY likes and responses. Clearly I wasn’t the only one feeling this frustration. Quite a few people wrote back about feeling the pressure to learn to pre-plot. I’ve felt it, too. There’s a strong opinion in the writing community – and maybe in the world at large – that outlining and pre-plotting is the best way to write. That it’s faster, more organized, requires less revision later.
The thing is: it’s just not true.
I mean, sure for some people, that process works. It’s certainly the one we’re taught in school (for the most part). But I was the student who hated trying to write an outline before I wrote the paper. I tried, but it was agonizing. Finally I figured out to just write the paper, then make an outline from it, and turn that in. If the teacher or professor had comments or tweaks (which almost never happened), I could add them in. Though those were the days before word processing, so I’d have to retype the paper. STILL, doing it that way was faster for me, and produced better work.
This is key: we must find what works for each of us individually and honor that process. Those people who insist that we not only CAN learn a “better” way, but *should* – and I can vouch that a few people popped into my timeline to say things like “No offense, but you have to learn this if you want to sell books” – are not being helpful. (Also, I really think that if you feel compelled to start a reply with “No offense, but…” or “Honestly…” then maybe you’re not engaging in a positive way.)
But “Pantsing” – derived from the phrase “fly by the seat of your pants,” and not my favorite descriptor by a long shot – is a way to access creative flow. I prefer to call it Writing for Discovery or Gardening. (I talked about this more on yesterday’s podcast, but for those who don’t listen, I’m reiterating a bit here.) For me, getting into the trance of writing opens up portals to other places, and the story flows in from there. “Gardening” is an analogy with a similar feel, where the beginning of the story is all planting seeds, the middle is nourishing the garden, and the ending is when it blossoms – and you discover what you’ve got.
Writing this way is absolutely an act of faith. It requires giving up conscious control of the story, which feels most uncomfortable to many people. It’s really the opposite of the academically taught methods, which focus on a cerebral approach. Sure, I get that many of my author friends access creative and subconscious flow in pre-plotting a story and writing the outline. Sadly, those conscious brain activities open no portals for me.
Several responders made the point that perhaps more pre-plotting and story-planning classes are taught because those methods *are* eminently more teachable. Which is a super valid point. In some ways, teaching someone to give up control and leap into the creative flow is nearly impossible. It’s so individual.
BUT, I think we can teach that this is an absolutely viable – and magical – way to access stories. We can make it clear that many, many authors who sell books (myself included) write this way. And we can talk about ways to open those portals, and how to keep them open. Also: not to panic.
So, I think I’m going to try this. I’m seeing about setting up a class. I’m also considering podcasting daily during NaNoWriMo with tips on pantsing your way through the month-long challenge. (There is, apparently, a podcast version called NaPodPoMo.) I’m also considering getting the author coaching set up and providing personalized support for writers during NaNoWriMo. If any of these ideas sound good to you, please let me know!