Book review – The Sub-Genres of British Fantasy Literature

The Sub-Genres of British Fantasy Literature by A.J. DaltonAdam (AJ) Dalton’s slender exegesis is part of his PhD work, serving to help position his own fiction at the forefront of the subgenre of metaphysical fantasy that he coined back in 2008. That subgenre, Dalton claims, is a darker evolution and extension of traditional epic fantasy, reflecting the cynicism and anxieties of the modern world yet still maintaining many of the traditional tropes and never turning as nihilistic as Grimdark. While the heroes and Chosen Ones of metaphysical fantasy may go on quests to save the world, and to discover themselves, they may break both in the process. Unlike traditional epic fantasies, there may not be happy endings, but unlike Grimdark, there is always hope.

The evidence Dalton gathers to support this argument relies on examination of his own books (notably Necromancer’s Gambit and Empire of the Saviours) and contrasts against other leading fantasy literature, as well as the social and historical context of previous subgenres of fantasy. I can’t help feeling that a greater examination of the development and differences between metaphysical fantasy and Grimdark might have been beneficial, given Grimdark’s continued dominance in the field – though as it stands I firmly support Dalton’s assertion that metaphysical fantasy ploughs a more hopeful and optimistic field, since despite the bleakness of the times we still need heroes, even if they are broken ones.

I’m also slightly surprised that Dalton doesn’t focus more on the work of Michael Moorcock, whose conflicted Eternal Champion surely has to be the Golden Age progenitor of metaphysical fantasy, but that is probably an argument for somebody far more scholarly than myself. In effect Dalton has laid the groundwork for a robust discussion of the history and context of British fantasy literature, that I can happily recommend both to fans of the fantastic and to folk who have less familiarity with the genre.

Luna Press Publishing, 2017. ISBN: 9781911143161
Buy it here.

As an endnote, I’m musing as to whether Heir to the North and The High King’s Vengeance would fit into the sub-genre of metaphysical fantasy. Obviously I prefer to describe myself as an Epic Fantasist, but HTTN and HKV certainly fit a few of the definitions of the sub-genre. There is hope, and faith despite all that happens, everything that breaks or is destroyed, and though the end is not happy, it’s definitely not grim. Dalton notes that metaphysical fantasy looks at epic fantasy through a prism of the modern day yet still “tolerates challenge and difference, celebrating subversive humour and the courage to act.”

I prefer that worldview than that of Grimdark, which appears to be the only other available side of the coin as far as fantasy is concerned these days. It’s probably interesting to note too, that I approached Grimbold Books with Heir to the North as a result of finding them recommended on Dalton’s website. There’s a bit of a meta link there, isn’t there?

Let me know: am I metaphysical, or just plain Epic?

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Live on the Nerd Book Review!

Happy Monday, folks! If you listen to podcasts – and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t – then you might just be interested in the Nerd Book Review podcast, available on itunes and Podbean, amongst many other platforms. Especially because this week NBR’s host Cameron is talking to an award-nominated Epic Fantasist and SFSF Socialist from Sheffield. You’ll never guess who that is…

Listen, comment, rate, and share!

Fantasycon 2017: Aftermath

Well, that happened!

You may have noticed that I was on the shortlist for Best Fantasy Novel at the BFS Awards this year – I did mention it once or twice. I didn’t win, and nor did Grimbold’s other shortlisted novel, Joanne Hall’s The Summer Goddess, but that wasn’t unexpected. (I did win some stroopwafels, which definitely was unexpected)

Best Fantasy Novel went to Adrian Tchaikovsky, for The Tiger and The Wolf, and I think he rather deserves it too. And I also reckon Jen Williams is more than worth a shout for The Ninth Rain next year. There y’go, you heard it here first.

No automatic alt text available.But while that award didn’t go Grimbold’s way, the award for Best Independent Press did. I’m absolutely over the moon for Sammy, Zoe, Jo, Kate, Joel, and all the other Grimmies who have put in such a massive amount of hard work over the last few years to make Grimbold Books a fantastic, professional, and passionate genre publisher that can stand toe to toe with some of the biggest names in modern fantasy and not look out of place.

And that reminds me…

My sole panel appearance of the weekend was on the subject of small presses, alongside Ian Whates, Francesca Barbini, Donna Scott, David Riley, and Peter Mark May. It was interesting to hear all of the other panelists mentioning the difficulties that small presses face in getting word of mouth and decent publicity for their titles in a marketplace that skews heavily toward the polar opposites of The Big Five and the densely populated white noise of self-published titles. Obviously, I’m a massive advocate of small presses, despite the low regard in which they are held by the vast majority of the self-pubbers. I firmly believe that small presses have a hell of a lot to offer to authors. If you don’t believe me, look at the sheer breadth of subgenres and titles that such presses embrace. Look at the #smallpressbigstories articles up on Fantasy Faction. Look at the academic work that both Luna Press and Fox Spirit have put out. Look at our award nominations. We didn’t get there by accident, y’know.

And yet, outside of conventions, it’s difficult for a small press to get any traction in the genre, flooded as it is with the same old names and their adherents endlessly banging the drum on every forum ever. Blame Amazon, blame Waterstones? Blame small-c conservatism on the readers’ part? If I had any of the answers, you’d be the first to know.

Heaven knows, small presses will never have the same reach and visibility as the Big Five, I’m not asking for that. But guys, you won’t get cooties from reading small press fiction. Live a little.

Chopper on Tour: Fantasycon 2017!

In what is swiftly becoming an annual tradition, or an old charter, or something¹, I’ll be attending Fantasycon 2017 at the end of this month. This year, after the northern wilds of York, Nottingham, and Scarborough, FCon takes place in the rarefied airs of Peterborough, at the Bull Hotel. I don’t have anything new to launch this time around, but I’ll be on a panel discussing small press publishing on Sunday at 10am, and reading – probably from The Witness, but that may change – at 11am alongside Lee Harrison and Ritchie Valentine-Smith.

Oh, and there’s the small matter of an awards ceremony later on Sunday afternoon. 🙂 If that sounds presumptuous, don’t worry – my money’s firmly on one of the other three riders.

I will definitely have copies of HKV and HTTN on hand to sell, should you not have picked them up yet.

See you there!

 

¹Apologies to Robert Rankin

Listed!

So… this happened. The High King’s Vengeance landed on the British Fantasy Society’s Best Novel shortlist, alongside Jen Williams’ The Silver Tide, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Tiger & The Wolf, and Joanne Hall’s The Summer Goddess.

Holy frickness.

If you squint a little, you can just see HKV behind that collection of excellence. A fifth-level swashbuckler trying to stand toe-to-toe with epic-level rogues and sorcerers. I’m a trifle overawed. Quite honestly, I feel like Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell’s character from Galaxy Quest) – simultaneously ecstatic and gloriously out of place, an imposter who really isn’t an imposter yet feels completely like one. I have no doubt that a few beers will help sort that out. But meanwhile, group hugs and whooping congratulations for everybody on the combined shortlists, the wonderful Grimbold team, and massive gratitude to everybody who put HKV way up there on that pedestal.

“I’m just jazzed about being on the show, man.”

Thank you all very much!

And that’s not the only good news – my publisher, Grimbold Books, is up for Best Independent Press at the same awards, alongside such small press powerhouses as Fox Spirit Books, TTA Press (Interzone, Black Static), Alchemy Press, and NewCon Press. A much deserved nomination for Sammy, Zoe, and all the rest of the crew too! And double hurrah for Joanne Hall and her co-conspirator Roz Clarke for the Best Anthology-nominated Fight Like A Girl! And to Nadine West and Sammy Smith for their short story nods! And Evelinn Enoksen for her Best Artist nomination!

Tell you what, Fantasycon is going to be fun this year… 🙂

Free Review ARCS from Kristell Ink!

Joanne Hall

Kristell Ink are about to release a flurry of new novels and novellas, and if you’re a reviewer or would like to try your hand at reviewing you can pick up review copies NOW!

Sammy says :

We have pretty ARCs and review copies of several of our new and upcoming publications available including:

Blood Bank by Zoë Markham
Mermaid by Kate O’Connor
Children of the Shaman by Jessica Rydill
Empty Skies & Sunlight by Kate Coe

and coming soon (but available now if you don’t mind a rough ARC!) …

Anachronism by Jennifer Lee Rossman
Escaping Firgo by Jason Whittle
The Promise of a Battered Moon by Jack Teng
Gwythias: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe
Scylla & Charbydis by Lindsey Duncan

Get in touch! All we ask is that you give the book(s) a fair and honest review on your blog and/or reading review site of…

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Terra Nullius

Good news! (Because there’s not much of that around these days, so let’s take what we can!)

Terra Nullius, a forthcoming anthology from Kristell Ink Books, edited by Kate Coe and Ellen Croshain, will include a brand new story by yours truly.

Terra Nullius: land belonging to no-one. An anthology of speculative fiction that explores the colonisation of our Solar System and far beyond, where pioneers carve out a new existence under other stars. New worlds and new challenges, with alien races and strange technology, but also the many facets of human emotion during the struggle to make a new home…

My story, Escape, looks at a team of far-future explorers discovering a long-lost colony world from the first, pre-hyperspace diaspora. Of course, not everything is as straightforward as the exploitative explorers expect…

Other stories in the anthology will include:

Regolith – Nina Johnson
A Salt Moon – Jessica Reisman
Reaper – Matthew Pederson
Terra Incognita – Jessica Rydill
The Chlorophyll Run – Erica Eastick
Countdown to Deliverance – Thomas Spargo
My Sister’s Grave – Jonathan Oliver
Tap – Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe
Wind and Stars and All Creation – Gregor Hartmann
No-Name – John Bayliss
The Brides of Rack and Ruin – Jill Hand
First Contact – Will McMillan-Jones

Now that’s a fantastic line-up of new and established names, and I’m looking forward to reading them all! Oh, and there’s already artwork for the anthology – check out this fantastic Nele Diel cover art, and look out for Terra Nullius later on this year!

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