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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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
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Children of the Shaman by Jessica Rydill
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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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Reviewed by my own book cover

While we’re on the subject of reviews, you can see a piece where Heir to the North is effectively dissected by its own sentient book cover over at Michael R Fletcher’s site¹. No, really, that picture is more than capable of speaking a thousand words. Sometimes, in fact, it’s a struggle to get the damned thing to shut up.

 

 

¹Buy his book.

Humber SFF#2 Made In Hull

ICYMI, I’ll be at HumberSFF on Saturday 25th Feb – if you’re in the area, do drop by!

Humbersff

We’re really excited to be holding our next FREE event  at Hull Central Library from 1pm February 25th. Check out their Science Fiction and Fantasy offerings, along side their digital library they  have an impressively up to date collection with plenty of the classics too.

Three authors will be our guests, each of whom have award-worthy reputations.

Eventbrite - HumberSFF  Social #2 Made In Hull

Jim Hawkins’ screenplay was nominated for a BAFTA, but he will be reading from his23081300fragmentsoftomorowlatest collection Fragments of Tomorrow. Jim’s prose work has regularly appeared in “The Best Of ” styled anthologies and his short stories can regularly be found in Interzone, one of the UK’s leading genre magazines. Jim inspired new writing for both screen and novel through the Hull University’s Creative Writing Degree. You can find more aboutJim Hawkins on his author page

Lee Harrison’s debut fantasy novel, The Bastard Wonderland, was recently featured on the-bastard-wonderlandthe Not the Booker…

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The English Way…

2017-01-10He’s right, y’know. It’s a very English thing, hiding your light under a bushel. And as authors, we’re more reserved than most folks. But with a new year comes a new round of shortlists, longlists, and nomination suggestions. For what it’s worth, however much it may be, here’s my eligible writing from the last twelve months.

Novel

The High King’s Vengeance, published by Kristell Ink/Grimbold Books, edited by Joanne Hall, cover art by Jorge Luis Torres.

Short Fiction

Take Me With You, Piercing the Vale (Fox Spirit Books, edited by Adele Wearing).
Full Compliance, Evil Genius Guide (Fox Spirit Books, edited by Darren Pulsford).
Rent, Aliens: The Truth is Coming (Tickety Boo Press, edited by Andrew Angel & Dave De Burgh).
The Day Brockwell Park Stood Still, The Singularity (online, edited by Lee P Hogg).

Hey, I’m proud of this little haul. 🙂

Kind Words – and Critical

Because the first review of High King’s Vengeance came in over the Fantasycon weekend, it kind of slipped under the blogging radar somewhat, so I’m going to take the opportunity to point you to it now.

Paul at The Eloquent Page was kind enough to read Heir to the North last year, and also to say nice things about it. I wondered what he would have to say about the sequel – would it live up to his expectations?

Viewed on its own, The High King’s Vengeance is a well-executed epic fantasy that is bound to please many a genre fan. As the second part of a much larger story, it is something far better. Seeds that were sown way back at the beginning of the first book suddenly become relevant, and there are a host of splendidly brain-melting revelations.

I get the distinct impression that though Cassia’s story has drawn to a close, there are other tales of Caenthell, Hellea and Galliarca still to be told. I do hope so, I’d be more than happy to read them.

I think that’s a “yes”. 🙂

You can read the full review over here, and I respectfully submit that The Eloquent Page is very worthy of your time if you’re looking for opinions on something new to read.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, this review came in for Heir to the North:

I do wish, however, that this novel didn’t join the apparently infinite ranks of “Gender-as-Obstacle,” in which the female lead is oppressed/undervalued/underestimated chiefly or entirely because she’s female. That Cassia is very much a Smurfette, with never a single meaningful interaction with another woman, only makes this worse, as it gives me a depressing impression of the world she inhabits.

OK, with hindsight, guilty as charged. It wasn’t something I even thought about when I wrote HTTN, and I suspect that’s rather the point. Other people have made the same point in passing, though not as bluntly as this reviewer. (And that bluntness isn’t a bad thing either. Nor am I quoting the review here so that others can pile on the reviewer. Don’t ever do that. Seriously.)

I’d like to think that I’m a slightly wiser person now than I was when I wrote Heir to the North. I’m certainly more aware of what I have written and how I wrote it. You may not find too much of a progression in High King’s Vengeance (it was written before HTTN was even signed by Kristell Ink), but you will in future projects.

And so I respectfully submit that Kelley Ceccato is very worthy of your time if you’re looking for opinions on something new to read.

July Update 2: High Points

I like using the two-act structure. There’s either a peak or a trough at the end of the first act, depending on how you want it to work. I’ve used this structure for Malessar’s Curse – the plot rises to a crisis point – not a cliffhanger as such, but a definite break.

I’m trying to view 2016 in the same way. The first half has been a definite downward curve, sinking to a nadir over the second half of June. Not unexpected, but unwanted nonetheless. I write about gods, but I don’t believe in them, so I’m not going to blame some mystical non-existent deity for the non-stop cull of celebrities and cultural role models. No, you can blame cancer for that. And that means that the Brexit vote is even more stupid than you previously thought, given the potential and probable effects on pan-European cancer research.

But enough of the negative vibes for now – after all, I’m supposed to be looking forward, as the Brexiters have desperately requested, rather than back. So let’s ignore the impending economic and socio-political apocalypse and think about the good shit.

Because believe it or not there is still good shit to celebrate. Some of that good shit even turned up in the first six months of the year, diluting the effects of the downcurve so that it was more or less tolerable (rather than downright intolerable). And because it’s me, most of this good shit has to do with writing. (You see, this is what I was missing through the interminable years with the dog’n’dansette – something to balance out the grind & cliquey bullying.)

So let’s go RAH! for the high points:

Nominated onto the longlist for the main Legend Award at the David Gemmell Awards. (Didn’t get onto the shortlist, but I wasn’t expecting to)
Nominated onto the shortlist for Best Newcomer at the British Fantasy Awards. Now that caused dancing in the streets round our way, I tell thee.
Four (four!) short stories published in the excellent Fox Pockets series. And I’m inordinately proud of all four of them.
Audiobook version of Heir to the North recorded and almost ready to go! (In fact, as I type this it has just been signed off and authorised for sale on Audible. Get ready…!)
Hardback editions in the works!
High King’s Vengeance all set for launch!
And of course July marks the start of my personal convention season – EdgeLit, SledgeLit, Fantasycon and Bristolcon (and this year, Derby Writers’ Day too). Days spent talking SFF with great people and fantastic friends.

This is the list I go to when my brain tries to tell me I’m not good enough (shades of the mother-in-law Jan’s backstabbing imprecation that I’m “not much of a go-getter”). Brain is right, but only in that so much of the above I would never have been able to achieve on my own. The list reminds me that I’m part of a team, and that they’ve got my back. And that increasingly, I’ve got theirs. That’s a damned good place to be in.

WIN_20160412_18_39_28_ProIt’s not all writing-shaped either. Some of it is cat-shaped. Far from being the corner-hugging scaredy-cat that ran for the attic on arrival, Mycroft has become very attached to us both. He’s a source of giggles and fun every day.

And while I still don’t have a writer’s vinyl!“office space”, we have at last managed to drag the vinyl (and some of the DVDs) out of the attic for proper display and use. I haven’t played some of these since the late 90s. Even better, the Dreamcast still works too! Shenmue! Shenmue II! Jet Set Radio! Who needs Next-Gen consoles, eh?

2016 may be one of the shittier years, but there’s enough going on – if you look at the basics – to cushion the worst of the blows. Some days it’s easier to get out of bed than others. And some days, if that’s the best you can do, if that’s all you can do, you look at how far you’ve come and you say: you know what? I’ve already won. The rest is a bonus.