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?)
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.
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.
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.
SFSignal has been an important part of my morning routine for years now. It was my go to site for everything science fiction and fantasy since I first encountered it many years ago. On Thursday, SFSignal published its last post. The signal has gone dark.
SFSignal will be deeply missed by the community. But I am confident that the spirit of the site will live on as John DeNardo and all those who made it possible go on to new horizons.
National Novel Writing Month is a bust. I didn’t even get off the ground.
I intended to write The Journey. But challenges rose up that forced me to rethink my plans for the project. And, in a further bit of pain in my rear, I’m questioning my overall plans for several of my projects. Theme of my life, it seems.
So, where do I go from here?
That is what I’m working on.
I still want to write The Journey, but I also want to limit any “actual” portal fantasy to just the multi world epic I’m planning. I really don’t know what to do, here. Yet.
The Magic Project has gotten bigger and bigger, assimilating more and more projects. I don’t know if I like this. Do I want to write a mammoth series or limit myself to smaller works (if you can call about 1,500 pages for a trilogy small)?
The truth is I really need to go back and figure out what I want to do. Maybe I’ll have better answers before the year ends.
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.
It has been a while since I blogged. I should probably update. Many of the updates in this post should have their own, larger, posts, but I’m watching my nephew and step niece at the moment.
Avoiding the Puppies
I wish I could say that I have not near obsessively followed the latest fight of the recurrent plague that afflicts science fiction and fantasy fandom. But I have managed to keep my fingers from writing anything about it. Too many pixels have already been wasted on this seemingly never ending fight.
The only thing I will say is that I am wasting my time on this. I should be writing.
That is all.
Late to Iceman’s Coming Out Party
A few months back, the younger version of Iceman from All New X-Men was dragged out of the closet by Marvel Girl. The revelation did not come without controversy. Thankfully, the majority of the blowback originated from criticism of how the story played out, rather than the revelation that Iceman is gay.
It has taken me quite a while to get around to reading the issue at hand. I follow All New X-Men through the trades as provided by my local library. So, I’m way behind.
Personally, I think Iceman’s outing could have been handled better. It needed foreshadowing. It needed build up. And it needs to go somewhere. Not at the end of a run with the future of the character (not to say the least about the X-Men as a whole) uncertain to say the least.
What I want to know is: what has happened to Benjamin Deeds since his coming out? Anything?
This is one of my problems with LGBT characters in comics. What happens after coming out? Do the characters continue to be interesting or do they fade to the background while other, straighter, characters get more attention?
What has happened to Benjamin Deeds, Anole, Striker, and all the others?
I’ll stop myself now before I go into a full blown rant. But I should return to this issue again, soon.
Primary World Epic Fantasy?
I want to write an epic fantasy set in the real world. I have two options for this: an expansion of my magic project and a return to my superhero project.
Expanding the magic project should not be difficult. I already have a good idea of how I’m going to do it.
My only problem is that I don’t want to create a “real” magical tradition and force all magic into that provincial box. I want to use as many traditions as possible. Which means I’m going to have to do a lot of research in order not to fuck up.
As for the superhero project, I want to write it. I just don’t know what I want to write. I’m not happy with my original plan. But I am, actually, fond of what my Teen Titans idea could lead to.
World Building Modern Fantasies
As much as I want to write a primary world epic fantasy, I also want to write an epic fantasy set in a more modern secondary world. I like ancient history a lot. Indeed, my portal fantasy is set on a more “ancient” inspired world. But I prefer modern history far more (when I wanted to be an English professor, I intended to focus on modern and postmodern literature). So it goes as no surprise that I want to write fantasies inspired by the times I love. Now what ideas do I have. . .
This is it for now. But I’m going to try and post more regularly.
If I am honest with myself, the portal fantasy will not be the first of the four projects I wrote about last October to be completed. That honor will, more than likely, go to Black Magic (which has a new and better working title). The frustration is that the portal fantasy is one of my oldest ideas. I really want to write a portal fantasy. But, in the end, I have no satisfactory idea where the hell I’m going.
The earliest iteration of the project was sword and sorcery. The series of stand alone novels followed the adventures of Leo Crowley (Tyler’s antecedent) after he became trapped in a fairly standard Bronze Age inspired world. The main difference between this older version of the portal fantasy is that Leo became merged with a demon shortly after he is summoned to the fantasy world by an evil wizard. At the time, I liked the idea. It was a decent juvenile effort, but too derivative of traditional sword and sorcery. (I want to write a sword and sorcery series, but I want to make it my own). So I abandoned the project for years.
Gradually, I began to wonder what would happen if a fantasy city intruded onto present day Earth, thus was born Two Cities. Characters from the present day (at least at the time of writing) travel through time and to other worlds for an adventure or two (or more), but characters from fantasy worlds rarely return the favor (that I know of). It is time, I think, to change that. I like this idea. There is a domesticity and literariness that calls to me. But where is the conflict (or one that I don’t feel is needlessly stupid)?
Finally, I returned to a modified form of my original idea with two leads, Jett Drake and Tyler Spang. As I wrote in my series of posts on the portal fantasy in October, Tyler had all the action and Jett just hung around. I’ve recently hit upon in interesting arc for Jett, but now Tyler is in the lurch. I don’t want Tyler’s adventures to amount to nothing more than sex tourism. The idea is strong and I like it. But it needs work.
Honestly, I should step back from portal fantasies for a while and figure out fully what the hell I want to do with these projects. What is it, ultimately, that I want to write?
I have an answer. I want to combine both Two Cities and The Journey (for lack of a better name) with a few more ideas into a grand epic fantasy that spans Earth and two or three fantasy worlds. I want to explore how Earth would react to real life fantasy worlds. I want to imagine what types of diplomacy, trade, and tourism could develop. And I want to see how Earth characters would deal with other worlds facing epic conflicts, moments, events, etc.
This is very ambitious stuff. Creating two to three worlds would strain my world building to the breaking point and beyond. I don’t know if I can do it. Nor, honestly, do I know how to make it all work at the moment.
I have a lot to think about.
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.