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Is Earth Big Enough for Two Epic Fantasies?

Is Earth big enough for two epic fantasies? Right now, I am asking myself this question because I am sorely tempted to set both the super hero project and the magic project in same fantastical version of Earth. Given precedents in both novels and comics, I think it is possible to have multiple epic narratives running at the same time (or nearly at the same time). But, perhaps most importantly, do I want fantastic Earth to be a core setting in my work?

I want to write an epic fantasy dealing with super heroes. If one reads super hero comics from Marvel or DC, one will quickly realize that there are numerous epic stories running nearly concurrently. So, my own super hero project will best be served by keeping in mind that a super hero’s story is lurching from one epic crises to the next with a brief respite in between (if he or she or they are so lucky). And yes, I do want to put my creations through that wringer.

Rick Riordan’s mythology inspired works are all set on the same fantastic version of Earth. Each series has its own developing epic story that succeeds one another, though not always interacting. I am not familiar with Riordan’s work, but I do think this is the general gist of it.

So, it is possible to have multiple epic stories in the same setting. But is that really what I want?

That is the kicker, isn’t it?

Part of me is super excited to use a fantastic Earth for the bulk of my creative endeavors. It cuts a huge amount of time out of world building. I can focus on the fantastic stuff without having to invent everything whole cloth.

But, as readers of this blog will note, I do have serious reservations about using Earth, no matter how fantastic I remake it, as a core setting.

I am, perhaps overly, concerned with getting things right. If I have a hero who is a scientist, I, therefore, should know a bit about his area of expertise (and not fall into the trap of having a hero scientist prattle on in areas that aren’t his field). If I have stories dealing with realistic crime, I want to do the proper research. Wanting to get subjects right is a good thing. But it can also cripple an author who gets bogged down in the minutae of research.

Another concern, which I haven’t written about, is the contemporary temptation to be overly referential to earlier works. Referring to earlier works is okay. But I am not interested in turning my work into a metafictional commentary on fandom or transforming my characters into annoying fanboys and fangirls. I want to approach the story more seriously than that.

(This is my problem with the Young Avengers and one of my problems with The Magicians).

So, is fantastic Earth going to be a core setting? I am going to try it and see where it leads me. And if it doesn’t work? Back to the drawing board. Or writing journal/ keyboard and computer screen.

(By the way, how does fantastic Earth sound as a reference for Earth as a setting for fantastic stories?)

And Then It Hits Me. . .

I have wanted to write an epic science fantasy story for quite some time. On Wednesday, I got a significant amount of work done on a character sheet. I wrote away happily listening to public policy videos from my Youtube watch later list. I felt a euphoric sense of accomplishment. And then, the next day, it hits me. . . the story developing from the character sheet doesn’t work. Damn it all to hell. But all is not lost. Most of the plot elements work better in other places.

I have waffled between a real world or a secondary world setting for the magic project. This specific epic science fantasy had, as its protagonist, a sorcerer. But as I worked on the characters, I realized that this is not what I mean by magic project. A magic using protagonist, and antagonist, isn’t enough. A magic project implies (and freaking calls for) the work to focus on magic as its main subject.No matter how much magic I throw into this setting, the story isn’t going to be about magic. And that is not what I want.

(I’ve obviously changed my mind as to the setting of the magic project. I’ll write about that in my next post.)

The plot developing from the character sheet works, annoyingly enough, far more satisfactorily in my portal fantasy project. So, it won’t be so difficult rolling these characters somewhere into the portal fantasy. Or should I call that epic portal fantasy project?

I opened this post stating I have wanted to write a science fantasy project for some time. I wanted this project to be separate from the portal fantasy project. But the more I think about it, the harder it is to ignore the fact that the portal fantasy presents a greater opportunity to have a world that mixes science fiction and fantasy. So, there is a good chance this world gets merged with the portal fantasy universe (or I break it up and add bits of the world to other, newer worlds).

Finally, even the historical inspiration fits better being the basis of a different project. As I read on this period, the early Macedonian Empire and the Wars of the Successors, the more I want to tackle the subject head on, rather than obscuring it through the filter of a secondary world narrative. How I’m going to do that I don’t know. I’ve got so many other projects I want to work on.

As I write, I discover that the creative process doesn’t always proceed in ways that I expect. Sometimes work on one project works far better on another. Sometimes a project does not work well on its own. Sometimes I discover that I am wholly uninterested in a project and must, despite my reluctance to do so, abandon a project to the depths of my writing journals. No matter where my writing takes me, no matter how the final story reads, the process is always fun.

 

The Superhero Blues (Reprise)

Carrying on from yesterday’s post, one option for all of the characters for Earth set fantasies is to move them all to my Superhero Project. It has been almost two years since I last wrote about “The Superhero Blues,” but my problems remain. As much as I want to write superheroes (especially superhero inspired epic fantasy), I still have several hangups that prevent me from moving forward. No matter how much I wish it weren’t so. Maybe I can work through these roadblocks.

The first issue I have is the plethora of superhero stories in publication or circulation. Superheroes are everywhere. Even in novels (which was not quite the case when I wrote “The Superhero Blues”). If I had written earlier, maybe I would have a leg up.

The second issue I have is one of originality. I want to write a superhero epic fantasy, not a metafictional comedy or a literary slumming trip. The problem lies in that every possible superhero story has been told. At least ten times over.

The third issue lies in how I want to tell the story. I want to mimic in novel form the breadth of comic book story telling. Yes, the easy approach involves a novel equating to a story arc. But that is not what I want. I want a set number of chapters spread over four or five books that tell a continuing story. That means that numerous story arcs exist in each novel and carry over between novels. I am not sure publishers would really go for such a mosaic novel.

But, should I really let my hangups prevent me from writing the story I want to tell? Shouldn’t I write what makes me happy? Is there, actually, an audience for this? Allow me to try and refute my previous three arguments against writing the Superhero Project.

Is there really a plethora of superhero stories in circulation? Yes to comics. Yes to film. Yes to television (the CW might as well be called the DC Network). But not so much when it comes to novels. There is currently, to my reckoning, no more than ten books (not counting Wildcards) dealing with superheroes. And certainly none that approach superheroes in the way that I want to.

Finding (or creating) a new take on a seemingly exhausted subject is an interesting challenge. (And, to be honest, it is highly tempting to push the envelope further than most comics seem interested in going). It is a challenge and temptation I am happy to tackle.

Am I selling publishers short? Yes, the mosaic novel (or multi arc novel) is out of fashion. But maybe it just needs the right push to get back in the game.

I should not let my fears hamper my creative impulse. I will write my Superhero Project. Will I be successful? I don’t know. But I won’t know if I don’t do it.

Style vs. Freedom: Earth and Secondary Worlds

I have a conundrum. I have a project. The specifics are immaterial to this post. The prospective setting, however, is. I am undecided between setting the project on present day Earth or a secondary world. The issue is one of style versus freedom.

The biggest selling point for setting my project on Earth is the style of major cities. I love the diversity of architectures. The dynamism of modern city life has always called to me. Even contemporary fashion has its appeal.

And let me not forget the pull of the small town. I may loath having grown up in a small town, but I cannot deny the appeal it has.

As much as the style of Earth attracts my desire to use it as a narrative canvas, I must admit that I am interested in occultism and the unexplained. For those who remember the Magic Project, my fascination with the occult and unexplained does cultivate an inclination to use real occultism and the unexplained as inspiration for my writing.

But my fascination with the occult and unexplained also weakens my freedom of imagination. I am, perhaps, too entwined with the fascination to be able to do anything but write a fantastic realist novel. And that is not what the project under discussion is (though the term does define the Magic Project very well).

Two other issues also impact my freedom of imagination: the required hidden nature of the occult and the presence of too much science and technology. A demimonde or occluded fantastic world existing alongside our experienced world isn’t what I want. I want something more known. I also really don’t want to have to explain away why modern technology doesn’t break the illusion.

Making up a world allows me to do what I want. I can have the level of technology I want without having to deal with the bits of technology I don’t want to deal with (yes, I recognize figuring out ways to magically beat modern technology may be fun). I also provide myself with a freedom to go as crazy as I want to.

The style issue remains. But I can make up my own style and draw inspiration wherever the hell I want.

So, I’ve convinced myself that a secondary world is the best option. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the characters I’ve already created.

Turmoil For the Studio in My Mind

I am shocked that I haven’t posted anything in almost two months. Life has been very hectic these past few months (I’ve grown to hate summer vacation and having to deal with rowdy nieces and nephew). Thankfully, school starts next week, so I’ll be free of my nieces most of the day and I can get some work done on both the blog and my various writing projects. Speaking of my writing projects, I’ve been frustrated at the lack of progress I’ve had over the past few months. I have ideas. I know where I want to go with several projects. But getting down to writing? No such luck.

As I get ready to finally get some writing done, the mental studio I have in my head is in turmoil. (As always happens when I feel ready to start the writing process). I struggle with the need to write short stories. I don’t know if I should write novels, series, or super novels. Characters are wanting to move to other projects, And I’m likely a grimdark writer.

The portal fantasy(ies) have returned to being a bane for me. There are three project ideas I have: a sword and sorcery/ planetary romance type story that could be a standalone or expand into a series of (maybe) standalone novels, a definite standalone novel that is rather literary, and an epic fantasy that features a (rather) contained multiverse of a few worlds. I like ideas one and three with idea two being jettisoned as something I’m not sure I want to write, too literary I think. The sword and sorcery/ planetary romance project is more personal and deals with some issues I have with the genre. The epic project is more colonial in theme. For a while, I didn’t see the two ideas melding together well. One project has Earth as home to the protagonists, but I want Earth nowhere near the colonial story. I know I’m being skittish. And I have found a way to work the two ideas together. I just don’t know if the combined project will become to unwieldy.

Furthermore, Honor Gale looks to jump ship to the portal fantasy from the magic project. Why exactly? I don’t know. Time will tell, I think.

With Gale moving to Project Portal, I need to find something to do with Jett and Tyler.

Which leads me to Project Redwind, Project Magic, and Project Epic(?).

An epic fantasy featuring superheroes is far more difficult to write than I imagined it could be. I want to emulate, as much as I can, a long comic book run (like Wolfman on New Teen Titans or Claremont on Uncanny X-Men). The problem with this idea is that there are a lot of stories forming a, perhaps not coherent, whole. Can this be done in novel format, even with multiple novels? I don’t know. Furthermore, I want to try and differentiate this epic fantasy from any inspiration it may accrue from Marvel or DC. I know what I want to do, I just don’t know how to do it.

Project Magic is going well. I’ve hit upon where I want to go with this project. I just need to stop myself from researching myself to death. That comes from wanting more realistic and multicultural magical traditions. I also need to decide exactly how realistic I want to be.

Project Magic spawned out of a secondary epic fantasy I’ve wanted to write for years. For a time, I thought Project Magic supplanted the earlier project. That does not seem to be the case any longer. Project Magic has become, perhaps, more traditionally epic than Project Epic (I need a better name). I won’t go into too much detail with this project at the moment. Maybe some other time.

But where should Tyler and Jett go? I don’t know. I need to figure out where each project is going. I’ve already written how Tyler and Jett would fit in Project Redwind. I’m not sure how I’d fit them in Project Magic. And Project Epic will be, honestly, a home coming for the two (under different names, of course).

This is just a small sample of the turmoil going on inside my mental studio. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get everything back on track soon. Time will tell.

Digging Myself Out

In the wake of my National Novel Writing Month collapse, I’ve been busy digging myself out. I am pleased with the progress I’ve made over the past few weeks. But, as always, there is still much work ahead of me.

Though project Black Magic did not collapse, I didn’t really understand the project until a few days ago when the theme came to me in a flash of inspiration (and was there the whole damn time in hindsight). The theme brings all of my disconnected ideas and dreams for this project together in a way that it wasn’t before. I wanted an epic fantasy set on contemporary Earth, and now I’ve got it.

I also admit that I didn’t do enough research when I wrote about the project in October. Reading Soulstealers by Philip A. Kuhn and A Guide to Mexican Witchcraft have been revelations. I know what I’m going to write. I know the story.

But I’m not done with the research, yet. There is still so much I need to know before I feel comfortable writing this story.

The biggest problem arising from the November Collapse is project The Journey. I want to write this story. I have to write this story. I will write this story.

I just need to figure out where the hell I’m going with it without making the world building look silly.

I have an idea but I need to work on it more.

And, ultimately, I need to just take the plunge.

But, The Journey is not alone as a possible portal fantasy. What about Two Cities? I, honestly, think I can do both.

The Journey is, by design, an adventure novel, a quest. Two Cities, by contrast, is a novel of adaptation and community. So, writing both projects probably will not lead to overlapping or repetition.

I know now, too, that the story I want to start with is The Journey. Now, I just need to figure out a new title and get to work world building.

My NaNoWriMo Failure

I decided this year to participate in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. I was excited. Until I sat down at my computer and tried to pants a novel.

I’m not a pantser. I need to know where the story is going before I start. Otherwise, I bog down trying to figure out which path is the best for the overall work. That’s if I’m careful and lucky. If I’m not, all of my ideas and projects crumble like shoddy architecture, burying me in weeks of excited frustration. I’m still digging myself out (and battling on heck of a cold).

Where did I go wrong?

I wanted my first project to be the portal fantasy (The Journey until further notice). Out of all of my projects, this is likely going to be the one that I go all in for. I really want to write this novel. But in my drive to write, I crashed head first into a world building road block that did not crumble.

I’ve written about the problems I’ve had with world building The Journey. I have the basics down. I know that the first part of the novel/ series is set in a city-state which is a mix of Venice, New Orleans, Rio de Janiero, Cyrene, and Singapore. The city lies at the mouth of a river which serves as the major transportation hub for the entire region (which I’ve come to call the Bloody Coast). The city also holds strategic control over a bay within the the Bloody Coast.The city is one of many independent colonies dotting the coast. There are also a number of indigenous states on the coast and into the interior. All good.

The problem lies in the inspirations for the indigenous states. Originally, in keeping with the New Orleans inspiration for the main city, those states were inspired by the American South. But the city is also parts Rio and Singapore, so I find myself interested in exploring the Americas and Asia further for inspiration. Right now, I’m leaning towards a mix. Some states will be inspired by the Maya, others the Aztecs, and a few based on the South (one definitely on Texas). This is okay, I guess.

(I’m working on a secondary world which will utilize numerous inspirations in construction. Therefore, I’m worried about cultural appropriation. Is it okay for me to use the Maya, the Aztec, China, Japan, the Zulu, Zanzibar, etc. for inspiration? The cultures I create won’t be xeroxed copies. The cultures and states will likely be mixtures of influences. But I’m still worried. And that worry is crippling.)

Language is also proving itself to be a pain in my ass. Right now, the city is named Delphin. Delphin, lying at the mouth of the Delphus River, has a special relationship with dolphins, both in the river and in the bay (which might be called the Bay of Delphin). Nearby colonial states are named Suchos, Uto, Porphyria, Kalamos, etc. Other states would have been named Barbatos, Paimon, Thevru, Toaur, Chloropetras, etc.  Most of the names are sourced from real ancient languages. The names of local characters are similarly sourced. Horrible.

Basing naming on corrupted or mutated forms of ancient words is okay if I were writing an independent secondary world. But I’m not. The protagonists come from Earth, so the fantasy world cannot have names that are blatantly based off of Earth languages, no matter how remote or changed. This world does. I should change it but I don’t have the time nor do I want to sound silly. Hence my conundrum.

I desperately want to write this novel, as much as I still want to write the superhero story, even with all of the problems it is causing me.

But a part of me wants to reverse the portal fantasy and write Two Cities. Hence things begin to snow ball. And I haven’t even touched on the collapse of Black Magic.

This whole month has been one pain in the ass. Hopefully, what I make of this mess will be far better than what I had before.

The Series Post

I’m going to write a series. I just don’t know if it will be composed of novels. I’d rather write a comic book series. To be honest, I prefer comics, manga, and television series over novel series. Especially when it comes to fantasy.

Fantasy novel series tend to be big, fat books (unless they can standalone). Take Brandon Sanderson’s latest super series, The Stormlight Archive. The first two books (The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance) are individually over a thousand pages each. If that trend continues over ten novels, there will be over ten thousand pages. And how much will not be bloat?

That is my big problem with gigantic fantasy novels. A good proportion of the novels do not advance the plot. Rather, the novels meander or worse, stand still over the course of thousands of pages. I detest this kind of fantasy.

Which makes me wonder, if I detest the dominant form of fantasy, do I really dislike fantasy? Sometimes, I do have to wonder if I’m not just wasting my time. But, I must remember, I am a harsh critic who rarely likes anything I read. That is certainly true of most contemporary fantasy fiction.

Perhaps the answer is more straightforward. Unless I gorge myself on a series, I spend an hour of my time on any one television series at a time. For comics and manga, I can read a volume in less than an hour. When it comes to those big, meandering novels, it can take me weeks. I have to devote a large amount of my time for something I might hate.

That is why, honestly, If I am going to write a series, I’d rather it be a comic book.

That said, it might be tempting to challenge myself into writing the kind of novel series that I want to read.

Texas Gothic Part Three: Autobiography

Hobbes County (the name of my Texas Gothic project) is a fantasy novel. There is no question about that. What is at issue is how autobiographical the work is going to be.

Hobbes County, a fictional county in Texas, bears resemblance to McLennan County in Central Texas, Cushing in East Texas, and Santa Fe on the Texas coast. All three communities influenced Hobbes one way or another.

McLennan County is the primary influence on Hobbes. I grew up in McGregor, Texas. And my conflicted feelings about the place drive the interior conflict of the narrator. Also, it helps that McLennan County is rich in folklore and urban legends.

My grandparents used to live in Cushing, Texas when I was a child in elementary school. Their small farm layed outside the small town by some miles. Indeed, rural is a good way to describe it. What I remember most about my grandparents’ old farmstead is the rickety old bridge that, to my child’s eyes, spanned a chasm impossibly deep with a sickly green river meandering on its way. I also remember me and my myriad cousins trooping over to the cemetery next door. All in all, my grandparent’s old place (which was sold off years ago) was something else.

For about a year, my family moved to Santa Fe, Texas to be closer to the rest of the family (my grandparents had moved back to Santa Fe by then). The move was an unmitigated disaster. Indeed, once we moved back to McGregor, it would be another decade before we visited them again. I hated Santa Fe with a passion. But, in hindsight, I can’t help but wonder what would have been.

What of my past will be included in Hobbes County? That rickety old bridge for sure. Definitely that old farm. And maybe speculating on what might have happened if I were bolder.

I must now conclude my Texas Gothic series. For the next three days, I think I’ll play around with topics. Until then. . .

Texas Gothic Part One: What Might Have Been

At one time, I dreamed of being an English professor. (The bitterness of losing that dream plagues me still). I had many academic interests. Of special relevance to the project at hand is Southern Literature, and Southern Gothic in particular.

My interests in the literature of the American South is partially explained by my background. Though I am a native to central Texas, my mother’s family comes from east Texas. (Eastern Texas is clearly Southern while there is debate about central Texas). A part of me is genuinely interested exploring and understanding what it means to have a southern heritage.

At the same time, I am apathetic, if not outright hostile, to that same heritage. It is inescapably a part of me. But, much like my relationship to the small town where I grew up, I want to deny it as much as I can.

The internal strife will make for writing gold, I think.

Now, I am not planning for a lot of entries into this series. I’ll have a post on small towns, and I’ll have a post on autobiographical elements in science fiction and fantasy.