Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I know I haven’t posted much with substance lately and I feel like I need to. Lately just getting in my daily 1500 words has been enough of a struggle, so also posting up an article on the blog is a stretch, specially when those take 2-3 times longer than my normal daily quota. But I have passed 80K words on my first novel, so I think a little slack is in order for me not maintaining my blog for the three people that read but never comment.
As many of you know, I have a newfound fascination with Brandon Sanderson, which I’ve discussed a couple times already, and read two his books (I’ll be working on the others soon). With the publication of his latest book “The Way of Kings” (which I loved) and the up-coming “Towers of Midnight”, Brandon has been out and about promoting said books and publishing a flurry of articles about how he came up with the ideas for the book, how long it took him, and his overall thoughts about the fantasy genre and where he fits into it. My favorite one was on John Scalzi’s blog and ended up being a bit looked down on by some pretty cynical people who had issues with his definition of post-modernism
Unlike me, Brandon actually graduated from college, so he’s an edumacated sort. I think partly because of his background in college and his ingrainment in the writing of epic fantasy novels for so many years, he’s developed a sort of history and road-map to the fantasy genre. From the genre defining Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, the grandfather of modern fantasy, to the next generation of novelists like Terry Brooks and Stephen Donaldson, fantasy moved on through the 80’s until Robert Jordan came along, who Sanderson considers the father of modern day fantasy.
I’m taking my view from the eye of a newbie writer. I haven’t graduated from college, hell I barely graduated High School, I even flunked the first semester of Senior English, which I had to scramble to take via correspondence the last half of my senior year in order to graduate. So bear with me in this…I am after all, a newbie.
Regardless of his exact definition of post-modernism, I appreciate the effort he put in to laying out his mode of thinking about the fantasy genre. Someone should, and he seems qualified for the position. I thought his article was fascinating, it really got me thinking about the fantasy genre as a timeline, rather than just what would I want to read.
Something I’d never really thought about, but struck me was the evolution of the fantasy genre; watching it split and change over the years. Terry Brooks was a far different author than Stephen Donaldson, and so was Robert Jordan from other modern fantasy authors. I was introduced to the fantasy genre with Dungeon’s and Dragons. I devoured the Shanarra, Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books and many others at that time. As a teenager, that fantasy was amazing to me, and certainly felt epic.
It’s not till recently that I was introduced to David Eddings, Stephen Donaldson and others from the earlier days of fantasy, and I’m still trying to keep up with deluge of fantasy coming out now. With blurred lines and so many excellent books coming out like The Windup Girl and The Dark Tower series concluding it’s hard to keep up with everything, and enjoy reading the books that I read for what they are. Stories in time. 
Rarely do I sit back and think about the overall progression. I certainly see the recent push following the success of Twilight and all the other teen vampire novels coming out, but I just don’t have the breadth of knowledge to step back and really think about 50 years of publishing. Where we’ve been, where we’re going, and the whys and whos that answer all the little questions in between.
I appreciate Brandon (and others) doing the heavy thinking here. This is stuff I’d never really thought about, and I’m glad that there are people out there who are thinking about it. As Brandon said in one of his interviews, he gets to stand on the shoulders of Robert Jordan. As a newbie author, I get to stand on Brandon’s shoulders.
I get to enjoy his punditry and analysis of the fantasy genre and decide where I want to find my niche. As I sit down to write every day I find myself ruminating Brandon’s words, trying to figure out what sort of story I want to write. Do I want to write classical fantasy, swords, sorcery, epic adventures from stalwart group of protagonists? Should I delve into the political side, melding epic adventure with political espionage? How about intricate plot lines involving anti-heroes who slog through the muck of society barely staying on this side of tolerability?
This is stuff I haven’t thought about before, and I should. I love epic fantasies, I hope to write them (well I am, but we’ll see how epic it really is). 
Thanks, Brandon, for doing some of the work for me. It makes it easier to think up plot lines and gives me some goals to set to make my story better.
Then again I have to compete against massive tomes like Way of Kings. Let’s hope I have a really kick-ass editor.

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