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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Chopper on Tour 2016 – Fantasycon by the Sea!

What a weekend that was. Seriously, never has a convention felt both more and less like a holiday than this one. And I say that as a good thing, looking back at it now after all the dust has settled and we’ve shaken the sand out of our shoes and beaten off the seagulls with very long sticks. (And apologies for the belated write-up – it’s been a long month already!)

Low points? Okay, there were a few; let’s get them out of the way now so we can focus on the good stuff. The Grand Hotel was grand in name and decor, but like so many old galleons, there were leaks below the waterline, ghosts in the closet, seagulls in the bathroom… It didn’t affect me, for the most part – the room Joel Cornah and I shared had a glorious sea view and was serendipitously directly opposite our dealer’s table on the first floor balcony. It was basic, and the window onto the balcony had last closed properly in 1945, but there was a kettle, and hot water in the morning, and it was somewhere to sit and breathe for 10 minutes any time I needed to give myself a break. At conventions, that’s the most important thing.

The food? I’ve had worse at many Tesco cafes, though the scrambled eggs did stretch the definition of edible and they certainly made the homeward journey windy. The word basic will be rolled out more than twice in this post. Customer service in the bar was hopelessly slow.

But.

But.

The package – the convention as a whole – was excellent. I’ve always wanted to sweep down that sort of staircase with an entourage. I panelled with brilliant authors and editors. I busted the karaoke with a rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero that the audience won’t soon forget. I said hi to Joe Hill and Scott Lynch, and talked with Elizabeth Bear. I made tentative SFSF plans. For half an hour I abused my PLH to serve wine from behind the cocktail bar. James Bennett proposed marriage¹. I finally met the wonderful Stan Nicholls, and nearly made off with Pete Newman’s freshly-won Gemmell Award before he could flee with it back to the Grand. The lovely folks at Unsung Stories

And as a co-frontperson (with Joanne Hall and Joel) for the Grimbold Books stall, we defied the dispersed layouts to strike fear into the wallets of everybody at the con. 🙂

Oh, and there was the small matter of a book launch, or three. The Summer Goddess (Joanne Hall), The Book of Angels (AJ Dalton), and my own The High King’s Vengeance all got officially launched on the Friday evening in a frenzy of wine and badges. A successful little party it was, and thank you to all who came!

And last, but definitely not least, there were the British Fantasy Awards. You won’t be surprised to learn that I didn’t win – Zen Cho took Best Newcomer, and deservedly so to be honest – but I’m still incredibly honoured to have been shortlisted alongside such a talented fire-team of authors. That makes Zen Cho the honorary Heir to the North, I reckon.

Next up in the tour diary – Derby Writers’ Day on October 15th, and Bristolcon on October 29th. Hope to see some of you at either of those!

 

¹Dear reader, what can I say? I had to decline – I’m not sure Rach would have been very understanding…

Caenthell Lives!

It’s here, folks – it’s here! High King’s Vengeance launches TODAY. If you’re at Fantasycon-by-the-sea, you can swing by the Cocktail Bar in the Grand Hotel at 5pm to join the launch party, along with Joanne Hall (The Summer Goddess) and AJ Dalton (The Book of Angels). If you’re not at FCon (and why not?) you can follow all the weekend’s fun on Twitter with the hashtag #FCon2016 while you wait for Online Retailers to deliver your copy!

Pic: Tim Wreford-Bush

In fact, some copies have already been seen in the wild – here’s Crunchie, of South Wales, with one of the first! Send me – or Kristell Ink Books – your book pics, preferably with cats, because we’re like that – and we’ll post them up!

Meanwhile, it’s time to load up Elsie with all the launch stock and get on the road. Next month I’m in Derby for their Writers’ Day (15th October) and Bristol for Bristolcon (29th October) and I’ll be happy to sell and/or sign at both events.

Enjoy your weekend, and enjoy the book!

Countdown Commences!

At 5pm on Friday 23rd September, in the cocktail bar at the Grand Hotel, Scarborough, as part of the Grimbold Books Triple Header Launch at Fantasycon-by-the-sea… The North Will Rise Again. Again.

That’s right folks, there’s just over two weeks a mere handful of days before The High King’s Vengeance bursts into the world. And if you can’t make it to Scarborough, don’t worry – you can preorder both paperback and ebook now via Amazon and have them delivered direct! Or, just as thrillingly, you can go into Waterstones and ask them to order it in for you.

There’s several good reasons for picking a copy up in person of course, not least of which is that I’ll be signing and reading! Plus, and this is a biggie, it’s the Triple Header – The Summer Goddess, by Joanne Hall, and The Book of Angels, by AJ Dalton, are being launched at the same time. Who knows what might happen?

And THERE WILL BE BADGES. Limited edition Team Rais and I Am The Heir To The North badges, your choice! All you have to do is turn up…

And did I mention the hardbacks? No? Oh, just wait….

After that, on Sunday 25th September, I hope you’ll join me on the edge of your seat to find out how Heir to the North fares in the British Fantasy Awards. I’m up for Best Newcomer alongside Marc Turner, Zen Cho, Peter Newman, and Becky Chambers – and having read all the whole shortlist over the summer, I have to admit that I feel like a real outsider. Whoever takes this one will thoroughly deserve it.

See you in Scarbie!