Monday, June 11, 2012

Why I love fantasy! ~ guest post by Ben Hennessy

Here at The Speculative Salon, we're very pleased to introduce a wonderful new fantasy author, Ben Hennessy. He's sharing his reasons why he loves fantasy, things I'm sure we all love! Be sure to check out his debut book, Queen of the World.

I love fantasy.

It’s bloody marvellous. You’ve got elves and goblins, fairies and orcs; creatures with ears of startling proportions. Old men stealing impressionable young children from their homes to teach them magic tricks without anyone wondering what the hell they’re doing. Big, looming evils threatening the world with voices so gravelled you could use them to stone your driveway.  Dragons, that bastion of all things swords ‘n’ sorcery, defying gravity and the very physics of flight by soaring with grace through the cold winter skies. Wars between races raging hundreds of years, sometimes for territory or expansion, but often just because they look and act strangely (A bit like the real world then, ho ho ho...).

Now, you might have noticed I’m picking out some obvious clichés in fantasy fiction and, perhaps, making fun of them. I’m not trying to be snarky here. I’ve written a fantasy novel, Queen of the World, so if I was trying to mock the genre I’d be pretty much shooting myself in the foot. I wasn’t lying when I said I love all of it. But the above paragraph isn’t far-fetched. Fantasy does have its stereotypes which have engrained themselves into pop culture. Same as gritty noir stories, about the hard-boiled detective sitting in a smoky office when the pretty woman turns up, (sexily) hiring him to find the man who’s trying to kill her. Or perhaps the action hero single-handedly storming an enemy compound, armed with a machine gun and a couple of hand grenades, who manages to utterly decimate the place without sustaining more than a few photogenic scratches. To the average person, fantasy means hobbits, swordplay, Merlin and dragons.

So why point this out? Visitors to the Speculative Salon probably have a fair grasp of the world of fantasy fiction. I’m not exactly revealing anything new. And that’s the crux of this flighty little guest post. Fantasy fiction succeeds in unison with all the clichés and preconceptions. A good writer and a strong story, populated with interesting characters, drag us in because we know what we’re getting. A whole world created for us by the author. Something we already enjoy, but in a way we haven’t seen before. Are all fantasy novels rip-offs of Lord of the Rings? No, and damned right they shouldn’t be. Do fantasy novels generally deal with similar themes? I’d argue yes.

 It isn’t important for our hero to pull up in a Toyota and step outside to light a Marlboro, before casing out the local Starbucks. Why? Because the author creates his-or-her own cultural highlights, deciding what they drink, eat and wear. Maybe the characters ride horses, maybe they ride snakes. Maybe they ride sharks through an underwater location. (In fact, I should make a note of that. Shark mounts would be amazing.)

The citizens of a fantasy world would probably find Easter to be a hilariously odd holiday – a giant rabbit gives out chocolate eggs to celebrate the death of a man two thousand years previous! – and that’s fine. Why? Because authors give them their holidays. The national religion, the remembrances and the important dates.

Fantasy authors can create languages, icons and deities. They can produce fables, myths and legends. It’s all up for grabs, and it’s all thematically set to a backdrop of majestic scenery, towering cities and salt-of-the-earth heroes. Throw in a dwarf or a gryphon here and there to see if it works. If it doesn’t? Take it out again and try something else. There are no limits when you’re world building. There are no restrictions when you’re crafting civilizations. This is why I love fantasy. When I pick up a new novel from an author I haven’t heard of before, it’s like stepping through that cupboard into Narnia all over again. I’m trusting them to give me a whole new reality to lose myself within, and ready to open my mind to all of their creations. We, as fans, know what we’re getting, and yet it can always surprise us. Hopefully, Queen of the World will provide that same comforting sense of immersion, while maintaining a sufficient sprinkling of originality which defines each novel from the next. We don’t need elves, old wizards and diabolical evils every single time, but we do need that grand flavour so specific to fantasy. It’s why we keep coming back for more.

Blurb Queen of the World~
In the legends, the Four saved the world from war and poverty. These incredible men walked the lands, seeking an audience with the ruler of each nation. They demanded that humanity focus its efforts on education, trade and culture. No longer would the people face starvation and terror. This commandment was enforced with displays of miraculous power. After all, it is difficult to argue with the Gods. Once finished, the Four left with a promise: If ever your people fall back into darkness, then we shall return.

Now, over five centuries later, Sarene grows tired of her village life. Suffocated by the confines of her surroundings and the overbearing protection of her family, she yearns to have an adventure of her own.

But the world outside is not as tranquil as it seems.

And Sarene is already in danger.

Author Bio~
Ben Hennessy is an exciting new author from Essex, England. Brought up on a literary diet including the likes of Stephen King, David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett and David Eddings, he looks to take all these elements and create a unique style of fiction which blends heroic fantasy and a subtle sense of wry humour. Having spent the last decade working various jobs in locations such as Ireland, New Zealand and Vietnam, he is now hoping to forge a new career as a full-time writer.

His debut novel, Queen of the World, is scheduled for release Summer, 2012. Due to be published by Inspired Quill, it tells the story of a young girl who finds herself at the centre of a whirlwind of political ambition, deadly creatures and men who are as Gods.

When he is not poking his keyboard, Ben enjoys travelling the world, finding new music and crashing parties.

Author Links~
Twitter, @HennessyWrites


S.A. Hunter said...

Hi Ben - I enjoyed your blog on why you enjoy caught my eye on the Twitter stream as I'd recently done a blog on a similar theme. It's a question readers and other writers often ask those of us who choose to write in this genre. Al the best on the publication of your novel, Queen of the World.

Ciara said...

Hi Ben ~ It's a pleasure to meet you. I've been a lover of all things fantasy and sci-fi even before I started writing books in this genre. I loved this post! I'll check out Queen of the World.

Ben Hennessy said...

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It is an interesting question - I also get asked why I write fantasy, and exploring the answers can be a lot of fun. :)

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