Is Fantasy Inherently Conservative?

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.

THE FIERY CROWN has a cover!

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)

 

Cover Reveal! THE FIERY CROWN

The cover of THE FIERY CROWN is being revealed at Tor.com today! This is book two in my Forgotten Empires trilogy – out May 26, 2020 – following THE ORCHID THRONE, which is out now.

Here’s an article about the book launch signing. (I kind of love that Kamala Harris is smiling over my shoulder like a beaming guardian angel of goodness.)

There have been so many lovely reviews and wonderful feedback for THE ORCHID THRONE that these last couple of weeks have been an E-ticket Cinderella Ride. (I know the Disneyland reference is dated, but Julie Brown will never go out of style. I’ll plant a flag on that hill.) I particularly love this review on a BookBub recommendation.

If you’ve been missing Rhysand and Feyre, the Night Court, and the realm of Fae, The Orchid Throne by Jeffe Kennedy is for you! To say I loved this book is an understatement. I devoured it! This book has something for everyone and is a must-read for fantasy fans. Following the story of two very different people, The Orchid Throne sets up the world of the Forgotten Empires, hooking the readers with its lush fantasy, political intrigue, and steamy romance.

As a fan of Rhys and Feyre, myself, I totally preened over this!

Otherwise, I’m deep into working on THE FATE OF THE TALA. Those of you who listen to my First Cup of Coffee podcast will know that I’m keeping the protagonist of this one a secret, which means I haven’t been posting snippets as I’d like to. But I have the (incredibly gorgeous and powerful) cover in hand, and we’ll do a reveal sometime in the first week of November. Then ALLLLLL will be revealed! Because of course, in the grand tradition of The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms, the protagonist is on the cover. I hope to have the book out by Thanksgiving, so we’ll see!

And for those of you who’ve been asking… yes, Jenna/Ivariel will make an appearance. 🙂

 

Career Goals for the Established Author – a Work in Progress

Here’s a little tease of the cover of THE FIERY CROWN, sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE, and book two in the Forgotten Empires trilogy. The full cover will be revealed on Wednesday, October 16, at Tor.com. There will also be a sneak peek of the first chapter!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the big career goal to which we currently aspire. Come on over to where I’m spilling mine. 

 

Fight Scenes for Peace Lovers

I did a book launch signing yesterday for THE ORCHID THRONE, along with Jane Linskold. So lovely to see that my local indie bookstore, Page 1 Books, has such an array of my books!

It was a fun event and I so appreciate all the folks who took the time to come out.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Writing Fight Scenes. Now, I – somewhat famously, if I want to give myself that much credit – don’t like writing fight scenes. Come on over for advice on writing fight scenes from someone who hates writing them. 

THE ORCHID THRONE now available!

          

Welcome to the world of Forgotten Empires from award winning author Jeffe Kennedy that begins with The Orchid Throne.

A PRISONER OF FATE

As Queen of the island kingdom of Calanthe, Euthalia will do anything to keep her people free—and her secrets safe—from the mad tyrant who rules the mainland. Guided by a magic ring of her father’s, Lia plays the political game with the cronies the emperor sends to her island. In her heart, she knows that it’s up to her to save herself from her fate as the emperor’s bride. But in her dreams, she sees a man, one with the power to build a better world—a man whose spirit is as strong, and whose passion is as fierce as her own…

A PRINCE AMONG MEN

Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, has built an army to overthrow the emperor. But he needs the fabled Abiding Ring to succeed. The ring that Euthalia holds so dear to her heart. When the two banished rulers meet face to face, neither can deny the flames of rebellion that flicker in their eyes—nor the fires of desire that draw them together. But in this broken world of shattered kingdoms, can they ever really trust each other? Can their fiery alliance defeat the shadows of evil that threaten to engulf their hearts and souls?

Reviews

The Orchid Throne captures from the first page and doesn’t let go as Jeffe Kennedy weaves a timeless tale of love and survival amidst a lush backdrop teeming greed and deceit. You will fall for Lia and Con and root for them with every breath you take. This is a book that will linger in your thoughts for a very long time.”- Darynda Jones, New York Times bestselling author

“A fantasy romance by a writer at the top of her game.There are two strands to this story and each is beautifully distinctive. The chapters portraying Lia, the virgin queen who protects her people from the ruthless emperor through statecraft and artifice, are lush and hypnotic. Those that follow the damaged Conri and his army of rebel slaves are raw and propulsive. Kennedy plays with these differences building tension so that when the two come together it is like a match to tinder. The world building is immersive and there are secondary characters to root for (especially fond of Ambrose, Conri’s wizard). I only wish I didn’t have to wait so long for the 2nd book.” – Maria Vale, author of The Last Wolf

“An enchanting world awaits in The Orchid Throne … With detailed world building and an intriguing cast of characters–especially a warrior woman and an enigmatic and amusing wizard–this captivating story will have readers holding their breath.” – Bookpage

How Emotions Are Held in Contempt

First things first: Love in Panels is sponsoring Romance for RAICES, a silent auction to raise money for the heroic lawyers helping people in the internment camps at the border. I’m a huge fan of their work, so I’m participating with a first chapter and synopsis critique, along with some author coaching on figuring out how to position the story genre-wise. This is really helpful for people writing cross-genre, like me, especially in SFF + romance. It’s a great cause and I promise to do my best for you. 🙂

Some updates for those who don’t listen to my podcast (I’m not saying you should, just that I tend to give a lot of the most immediate news on my writing life there):

  1. THE ORCHID THRONE, Book 1 in my new series, The Forgotten Empires, comes out in two weeks!! Can’t believe it’s almost here. Eek!
  2. The sequel, Book 2, THE FIERY CROWN, comes out May 26, 2020, which isn’t an *awful* wait time, right? I’m doing a final read-through/polish on the content edits right now, then back to Editor Jennie it goes.
  3. I have a New Shiny going out on submission, something I’m super excited about. Cross your fingers and stay tuned for news!
  4. Next I’m turning to THE FATE OF THE TALA, the climactic book in The Uncharted Realms. (And kind of for The Twelve Kingdoms, too.) It’s looking like I’ll have that out in early November. I’m also planning a spinoff trilogy that takes things up with the next generation – a certain pair of twins and their younger buddy, who will be born during FATE. 🙂
  5. If you like to read in French, LA GUERRE DE LONEN, the French translation of LONEN’S WAR, Book1 in my Sorcerous Moons series, will be out October 4.

All exciting stuff!

I’ve been reading (listening on audio to) Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC, which I’m enjoying. She has terrific insights into the way creativity and the universe work. However, she slides into dissing genre books. She mentions a story idea she had that Ann Patchett ended up writing (which became STATE OF WONDER), unbeknownst to each other and through a strange synchronicity. As evidence of the extreme coincidence, Gilbert clarified that this was a specific and unusual story idea, not a “vampire novel.” She, of course, doesn’t specify *which* vampire novel, but it doesn’t take a lot of cogitation to figure she means something like TWILIGHT and not INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Though could be she lumps all vampire novels together, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I know she’s being flip, but see how absurd it is to act as if all vampire novels have the same plot?

Later she discusses Harper Lee and how she never wrote anything after TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Gilbert makes great points about competing with yourself creatively and being intimidated by previous success, but she follows up by saying she wished Lee had “churned” out some fast, cheap novels, including a “light romance.” She mentions other genre books in the same breath. All clearly NOT art. All easily written and just as easily discarded.

I find it ironic, because although I’m no luminary author like Patchett (one of my all-time favorites) and Gilbert, if she’d asked me I’d tell her that there’s big magic in fast writing. The flow comes fast and furious when I get it going.

Anyway, I know we’re all familiar with the Literary Writing vs. Genre Writing bias. It’s something that continues to bemuse me, how people decide what’s art and what isn’t. What’s valuable storywise and what’s “cheap.” I know I have a different perspective than many people because I became disenchanted with academia long ago, and I’ve never been much interested in the posturing over what we *should* be reading.

Still, one thing I’ve noticed is that some of this falls out along the lines of emotion vs. mind. Or even vs. spirit or body. Stories that have strong emotional content are considered female in general, and not particularly valid. The occasional article that disses romance in favor of things like thinking about how the Amazon jungle is burning, always carry the implication that intellectualism is more valid and valuable than emotion. Spiritualism is usually elevated even above that. Even the male writer navel-gazing on their sexuality is considered more important than emotional lives.

This goes hand in hand with the way women are often told they are too emotional, or unable to control their emotions. Of course, those are only certain kinds of emotions. The soft and suspect variety.

Anyway, this is what I’m mulling these days.

Signing THE ORCHID THRONE!

If you’re in the Albuquerque, NM region – or want to be! – I’m signing THE ORCHID THRONE (Forgotten Empires Book 1) at Page One Books, 4:00 pm Saturday, October 5, along with the wonderful Jane Lindskold, who will be signing WOLF’S SEARCH (Firekeeper Saga Book 7).