Venn and Now

Today’s storm in a teacup in fantasyland was the brief and unlooked-for revival of a Venn diagram, on Twitter. Take a look, and see if you can spot what’s wrong with it.

Now for context, let’s point out that the diagram was originally posted in a blog in August 2015, and the author specifically asked, in the post, for more women authors to be suggested in the comments. Which means that he knew the diagram was badly flawed. But not so flawed that he couldn’t resist resurrecting it now without any corrections, tweeting it without that context. Unsurprisingly, with that context not in view, folks started to get upset, and the author removed the tweet in a huff (well, in a huff with me, at least…).

Now, let’s finish sighing and shaking our heads, and agree that this is a bad diagram. It was bad in 2015, when the author didn’t add the suggested women to it, and it’s still bad now. Pratchett and Erikson are hardly alike, and nor are Bakker and Hobb. And while you could still perhaps argue that GRRM was a central pivot of the fantasy genre in 2015, I think the genre has changed massively since then.

In fact, this is a highly exclusionary diagram. These 25 are on the inside; everybody else is outside. Don’t bother reading outside this diagram, there’s nothing out there. Everything else is irrelevant. Well, that’s pretty bullshit. I like these authors but as Jake said at the end of the Gunslinger, There are other worlds than this.

Here’s the important bit:

Fantasy isn’t a Venn diagram. It’s a landscape. It’s a map. There are hidden treasures. Close your eyes, take a stab, that’s your starting point. Pick a direction, any direction. Go. Stay on the road, go off-road, up into the mountains, down into the grimdark swamps, have a good old ramble. See what’s around the next corner, and the corner after that. Make your own map. By all means ask for advice along the way, ask for directions, but don’t force yourself to travel only in one direction. Don’t go walling yourself in. Don’t get caught in dead ends. Tear down the borders. See that empty space beyond the Venn diagram? It’s all yours.

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Empire Dance 5: Weapons Free – Out Now!

Yes, it’s true, at last, the fifth part of The Empire Dance is live! Weapons Free was released digitally this morning – hurrah!

You may be wondering why it has taken so long to get this fifth part onto the shelves. The answer is remarkably simple: there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Since The Packard Defence, I’ve been promoting Malessar’s Curse (Heir to the North and The High King’s Vengeance), getting both those books converted into audio format, writing short stories (one of which, The Witness, is eligible for short story awards this year – just sayin’), writing articles for Fantasy Faction, generally defending small presses and promoting Grimbold Books, and sometimes presenting the SFSF Socials here in Sheffield. Oh, and I have a mundane job, too. Not to mention that I was reluctant to release Weapons Free until I had brushed the rest of the Empire Dance books into more glossy shape.

(New covers – shiny, huh?)

So: happy book birthday, Weapons Free! Whooooop!

The Art of War

Revealed this morning over on Fantasy Book Critic, here’s the rather stunning cover for the charity anthology The Art of War, due on 13th February 2018, raising funds for Medicins Sans Frontieres. There’s 40 stories in this massive, epic project, nearly all of them accompanied by illustrations by Jason Deem. Edited by Tim Marquitz, and conceived by Petros Triantafyllou of Booknest.eu, The Art of War looks to be a veritable who’s who of dynamic modern fantasy and, folks, you should totally get yours reserved.

The Art of War – cover by John Anthony di Giovanni and Shawn King

Amazon US ¦ Amazon UK ¦ Goodreads

Self-interest alert: yes, The Art of War contains something by me – Asalantir Forever! is a nippy little bugger that takes swords & sorcery into the trenches and shows that you can do the same thing over and over again… and the results will never change.

Still here? Don’t forget that Empire Dance 5 – Weapons Free launches in early January! And there’s still time to enter the Twitter-based giveaway compo for e-copies of Malessar’s Curse!

The Season of Giving! [Giveaway Alert!]

Because it’s been a sucky year all around, what with shit demagogues and rubbish policies, I thought I’d try to lighten the load for some of you. Well, three of you, at any rate. Goodreads are being scumbutts with their giveaways, so I figured I could give a few ebooks away instead.

All you have to do is follow me and Grimbold Books on Twitter (@stevenjpoore and @GrimboldBooks) and RT the tweet shown below, and you’re in the draw to win both parts of Malessar’s Curse – that’s Heir to the North and High King’s Vengeance – in either epub or mobi format.

The draw will take place on Christmas Eve, and I’ll be in touch with the lucky winners after that!

ED5 – Weapons Free – 30 Days Away!

It’s true! No, really! Weapons Free, the fifth installment of The Empire Dance, a serialised, trope-waving, planet-busting, space opera that began waaaaay back in 2010, is finally in the gates! It’s gnawing at the metal, flanks heaving, eyes on the prize….

…and can be all yours for just 99p, come January 6th 2018! Preorder now!

The lines of power must be redrawn – they cannot remain as they are.

The carefully plotted steps of the Irian Disciples have led to this – a crushing attack on First Fleet’s operational home, Belsea. But with Drift Ghost returned to the fold, High Admiral Bessemer isn’t ready to surrender. On Capitol meanwhile, and deep in the nether dimensions of K-space, Chris Taylor and Mark Ibsen make startling revelations of their own – discoveries that place them even deeper in peril. Something must give, something must change.

It’s time to start fighting back.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Weapons Free!

I often get asked when the next installment of The Empire Dance will come out. (When I say often, I mean at least two people have expressed interest in it. That’s good enough for me.) More on that to come, but it did make me wonder if I ought to give the first four volumes of the series a bit of a clean-up – Echoes of War first came out in 2010, and I’ve learned a fair bit since then. Plus, the cover art was  rather… yeah. Not good.

So I’ve disabled all the old paperback versions, and decided to retire the series from Smashwords – no offence to Mark Coker, but I don’t think anybody goes to Smashwords for decent genre fiction these days. I certainly can’t remember the last time I bought anything from there.

Volume by volume, I’ve worked my way through the series and quietly reissued them through the Kindle Unlimited programme (much as I may dislike Amazon’s chokehold on digital fiction). Echoes of War was the first to benefit, of course, with a couple of additional scenes and a bit of tightening up, as well as some funky new cover art. I’ve taken the opportunity to tweak the hyperlinks inside too, because by ‘eck it needed it. All of the first four titles – Echoes, Midwinter Fury, The Kiiren Boy, and The Packard Defence – are out with spiffing new artwork, and if you’re not a big fan of the Unlimited package then you can still grab them all for less than the price of two cups of coffee. Good value, what?

You want to see those covers? Eh? Go on then….

You can find out more about each book by using this site’s menu – see the Empire Dance there? Go on…. dare ya.

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?