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Fantasy fiction 101

 
 
msolga
 
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 07:53 pm
I confess I have not read one single fantasy novel, ever.
I once tried reading The Hobbit, after a really, really enthusiastic recommendation, but gave up. I'm not sure why now, but I did. That was ages ago.

But I notice on the book thread here that so many of you are hugely enthusiastic fantasy fans. So I'm wondering if maybe I'm missing out on something? (You never know!)

So, OK, you are speaking to a person who is completely unfamiliar with this genre. (& there may be others, for all I know.)

Could you explain (in lay-person terms) what it is which appeals to you about fantasy novels? Does it help if you're into science fiction, too?

If you were going to recommend just one novel to a complete fantasy ignoramus, what would it be & why would you say it's a great read?

Thank you in advance, anyone who contributes information & advice.
Based on your recommendations, I will check out my local library & see what's available.

I think it might be time to take the plunge! Wink
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Type: Discussion • Score: 11 • Views: 9,582 • Replies: 185

 
dyslexia
 
  2  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 07:56 pm
@msolga,
A Voyage to Arcturus is a novel by the Scottish writer David Lindsay. First published in 1920, it combines fantasy, philosophy and science fiction in an exploration of the nature of good and evil and their relationship with existence. It has been described by the critic and philosopher Colin Wilson as the "greatest novel of the twentieth century"[1] and was a central influence on C. S. Lewis's The Space Trilogy. It was made widely available in paperback form when published as one of the precursor volumes to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in 1968,
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 07:59 pm
@dyslexia,
Thank you, dys!
As a first read, though, or later on, when a person gets the hang of the genre?
What do you think?
(Sounds pretty interesting to me!)
dyslexia
 
  2  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:02 pm
@msolga,
it's an easy read. I like it (whatever that means)
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:04 pm
@dyslexia,
"Easy read" (first up, anyway!) sounds a sensible way to go!

Thank you, it's now on my library check list! Smile
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:12 pm
This connection between science fiction & fantasy interests me. If, in fact, there is often a real connection between the two. Not having read all that much science fiction, either ( Embarrassed ), apart from say, John Wyndham, Kurt Vonnegut, plus a few others, it's a bit of a mystery as well. (This is a 101 thread, remember? Wink )

Most of my reading (of which there's been quite a bit!) has been in completely different genres.
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  2  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:17 pm
@msolga,
Hiya, msolga!

As with any other genre, there's fantasy and then there's fantasy. If I had to recommend a starting point for a new-comer to fantasy novels, I'd probably recommend that you go back to Tolkien. Skip The Hobbit. It's a fine book but it was written really with an audience of pre-adolescents in mind. Go straight to the 'Ring' trilogy -- Fellowship of the Ring, The Twin Towers and The Return of the King. Why do I enjoy stuff like that? For the same reason I enjoy Mallory's Morte d'Arthur or a good translation* of La Chanson de Roland or Poema del Mio Cid (again, for me, in translation.) These are wonderful gestes, wonderfully told.

There are some terribly bad books of fantasy fiction out there as well, of course. But don't get turned off on the whole genre just because a particular book turned out to be a stinker. An sf writer named Fred Pohl has also written some fine fantasy (mostly short stories). There is a place where science fiction and fantasy tend to overlap. Sometimes a fantasy writer's setting may be assumed to be another planet (making it sci fi, I suppose), sometimes merely a part of this planet which exists only in the writer's imagination.

Anyway, try it. You might like it. And let us know what thoughts you come up with.

Ciao!

*unless you can handle Medieval French; myself, I need an English translation
littlek
 
  3  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:19 pm
MsO, why force the genre to fit?
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:36 pm
@msolga,
Fantasy is a long river. It's such a vague genre that it's too difficult to describe. Much of it entails magic and trolls and magic etc.... But much of it also entails aspects that fall slightly on the border of science fiction but the publisher chooses to not label it as such.

You don't have to be a fan of science fiction to enjoy or understand fantasy. In some ways the two genres actually oppose each other. Hard science fiction is somewhat grounded by the understanding of the laws of physics while fantasy is based on suspension of disbelief and magic. And even then there is plenty of overlap between the two.

One of my favorite authors is James Morrow who's biting satire against religion can only be qualified as fantasy:
Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah.

But ignore this nonrecommendation for now. To keep it simple, I'll stick with a traditional fantasy suggestion. Keep in mind that Alice in Wonderland also falls into the fantasy genre. That's my fallback suggestion.

It's been awhile since I dove into a fantasy book so my knowledge of the recently published works of the genre is very limited. In fact it's been quite a long time and I'm having a difficult time remembering the titles other then a handful of C. J. Cherryh fantasy books. I preferred her fantasy titles over her science fiction novels though she's more famous for the latter in terms of awards, etc....

I will be paying close attention to this thread to catch up on the books I've missed. The genre is a great form of escapist entertainment. Imagining oneself into the world where wizards and trolls and dragons are fighting for your attention! Cool


And confession time: I never read the Lord of the Rings.... Neutral

msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:42 pm
@Merry Andrew,
Hey there, Andrew! Good to see you're back. (I inquired about you on the "lost & displaced thread ...)

Quote:
As with any other genre, there's fantasy and then there's fantasy.


I guess that goes without saying. I'm at the stage of sorting out a working definition of 'fantasy fiction" for my own understanding of the genre. Say nothing of "science fiction", too, as I mentioned earlier. Say nothing of cross-overs between the two! This may sound a bit silly, but I want to be confident we're talking about the same types of books here.

Ah, Tolkien again! He always gets a prominent mention. Interestingly, Andrew, others have suggested that The Hobbit is absolutely essential reading, prior to tackling the trilogy. Your suggestion makes sense. My only concern about beginning with the Ring trilogy, is that it is a trilogy ... by which I mean a pretty hefty commitment for my very first fantasy read.

Quote:
There is a place where science fiction and fantasy tend to overlap. Sometimes a fantasy writer's setting may be assumed to be another planet (making it sci fi, I suppose), sometimes merely a part of this planet which exists only in the writer's imagination.


Ah. This is starting to make more sense now! Wink

Thank you.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:46 pm
@littlek,
Hi k.

I think I touched on that in my reply to Andrew.
As much as anything else, it makes it clearer for me (as a complete novice to this area of fiction!) to understand where you 'fantasy fans" are coming from. I have a very narrow understanding of the scope of the genre.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  2  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:53 pm
@dyslexia,
dyslexia wrote:

A Voyage to Arcturus is a novel by the Scottish writer David Lindsay. First published in 1920, it combines fantasy, philosophy and science fiction in an exploration of the nature of good and evil and their relationship with existence. It has been described by the critic and philosopher Colin Wilson as the "greatest novel of the twentieth century"[1] and was a central influence on C. S. Lewis's The Space Trilogy. It was made widely available in paperback form when published as one of the precursor volumes to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in 1968,


My God Gabby, my perception of you has just gone through a siesmic shift.

"A Voyage to Arcturus" is a masterpiece, and that you (seem to) recognize it as such has caused me to question all of my judgments.

Tell me you didn't just Google up this excerpt from Wikipedia.

littlek
 
  2  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:55 pm
I have never gotten through any of Tolkein's books myself. I tend toward sci-fi. But, I used to love me some fantasy as well. Like most fiction novels fantasy takes the reader out of his or her personal world. Aside from that, I'm not sure why I enjoy it so much - maybe I get that same sense of traveling that I enjoy, but can't partake in much. Reading a book is a whole lot cheaper!

My favorite fantasy authors for young readers are Ursula K LeGuin and Anne McCaffrey and I currently still adore Terry Pratchett. McCaffery wrote about dragons and dragon-riders (Pern series). They are coming-of-age novels. LeGuin wrote the Earth-Sea series which I reread and enjoyed as an adult.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:55 pm
@tsarstepan,
That was a terrifically helpful & informative post, tsar! Thank you very much! Very Happy

Quote:
The genre is a great form of escapist entertainment.


Ha ha, this explains why I've never gotten involved with it, I suspect!
An obsessive interest in what I'd call "gruelling reality"! And "what does it all mean?" preoccupations ... leaving no stone unturned! Razz

No time like the present for a bit of a change from all that relentless heaviness, hey? Wink Smile
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 08:59 pm
@littlek,
I find Anne McCaffrey's and Pratchett's work a tad too intimidating.

Don't they have their own series of novels that number in the hundreds of books? It seems that way. That keeps me from starting with such a herculean task. Starting a particular fantasy series and after 15 or 20 books know that one is only a quarter the way through the series and they tend to pop out more books for that series twice a year.

Also Brooks' Sword of Shannara series is an infinitely long book series as well. Shocked
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 09:04 pm
@littlek,
Quote:
I have never gotten through any of Tolkein's books myself. I tend toward sci-fi.


That's interesting, k.
For all I know, that could end up being my preference, too. It's all a bit of a mystery at the moment.
Perhaps I should have included "science fiction" in my thread title, too? Especially since there appears to be considerable over-lap between the two.
They both pretty much unexplored territory, so far.
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  2  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 09:04 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
I have reduced my library to less than 20 books, Voyage is one of those.
Cycloptichorn
 
  3  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 09:07 pm
@msolga,
Fantasy is a wonderful genre, entirely because of it's very nature: the stories are not bound by what our minds consider to be 'real,' or consistent with our physics or understanding of time and space. This allows for more options on the part of the writer or storyteller than in a book or movie which is set within the 'real world.'

Heavy-handed fantasy makes little attempt to hide this and tends to rely upon these elements for the weight of the story. Better fantasy novels create a world in which un-real things happen, but they mostly make an interesting backdrop to a more emotional or exciting story - and in many cases a story which could happen anywhere. But even in those novels, there are moments in which the writer can take you to places that you've never seen before, places that you never imagined existing. Full of ideas you hadn't thought of or heard before, stuff that isn't a variation on a theme. All the best new ideas are in sci-fi and fantasy novels. Pretty much all the technology we see around us here was inspired by fantasy and sci-fi novels of the past.

The genre is so wide open, that you can take a genre you used to like and find fantasy novels that are much like that - but set in a world not bound by the rules that we are so used to.

Quote:
An obsessive interest in what I'd call "gruelling reality"!


Many fantasy novels live up to this, just creating a different reality. I'm re-reading a series called 'Malazan, Book of the Fallen' which is, at 9 books and somewhere around 7000 pages, an extremely detailed and adult account of the human condition, with some of the best writing and poetry and intelligent discourse I've ever read. As well as exciting.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  2  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 09:09 pm
This has been terrific so far. (Especially the part where Finn complimented dys on his excellent choice of reading matter! Wink )
Thank you very much to everyone who's contributed to my understanding & also for your suggestions. I am going to have an interesting selection of books to explore at my library, I can tell! Smile
I must go out soon. But I definitely hope there'll be more posts!
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  3  
Reply Fri 24 Sep, 2010 09:09 pm
@tsarstepan,
tsarstepan wrote:

I find Anne McCaffrey's and Pratchett's work a tad too intimidating.

Don't they have their own series of novels that number in the hundreds of books? It seems that way. That keeps me from starting with such a herculean task. Starting a particular fantasy series and after 15 or 20 books know that one is only a quarter the way through the series and they tend to pop out more books for that series twice a year.

Also Brooks' Sword of Shannara series is an infinitely long book series as well. Shocked


Pratchett!! Read Pratchett now!! I cannot emphasize this enough. Halfway through The Color of Magic, you will be so damn glad you did. There are a ton of Discworld books, but the mostly stand alone - you don't have to necessarily worry about getting them in the right order. They are also very fast reads.

If you want to check him out without getting caught up in the Discworld series, try a book he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman entitled Good Omens.

Cycloptichorn
 

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