Monday, June 27, 2011

Neil Gaiman's Advice

 I went and saw Neil Gaiman last night.  He is touring for the tenth anniversary edition of American Gods.  He is an eloquent and amusing speaker and I enjoyed the evening very much.  During the Q & A someone asked the ubiquitous question “What advice would you give to you fantasy writers?”   I suppose that authors must prepare stock answers for this question, but I thought his advice was particularly good:

  • You have to write.
  • You have to finish what have written.
  • Don’t read fantasy – except to stay on top of the genre – instead read everything else.
  • Read primary sources.
  • Read outside of your comfort level.
  • Tell the stories only you can tell.
  • The quicker you come to writing those stories the better.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Foundations: My Seminal Fantasy Books II

Three more authors which were read aloud to me:

L. Frank Baum: The Oz series.  The Oz books are an early episodic series –a band of adventurers that go from one encounter to the next with only a loosely connecting plot.  I very much enjoy the whimsy of Baum’s world.  Additionally,  Oz is surprisingly un-sexist for its time.  Its protagonists are often female: Dorothy, Ozma, Betsy, Trot, etc.  and the rulers and moral authorities in Oz are female: Ozma, Glinda, etc.

George MacDonald: The Princess and the Goblin; The Princess and Curdie; The Light Princess, The Golden Key, etc.  MacDonald’s work is infused with mysticism and (sometimes strange) symbolism.  Both are at times heavy handed, but they also give a depth and mystery to his work that I find very compelling.  There is a great depth of beauty to his writing.  I find the moral elements to be somewhat over done, but also laudable.  I find I dislike overly moralistic fantasy, but I equally dislike too much moral relativism or ambiguity.

Lloyd Alexander: The Chronicles of Prydain.  Alexander worked with Welsh and Norse mythology in his five book series – there are elements that are very reminiscent of Tolkien.  To me they are the classic “coming-of-age, orphan discovers grand destiny” tale.  They are a great mix of heroic adventure and humor.