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Month: May 2012

Creating worlds – Heroic Fantasy vs Science Fiction – Part 1

Posted in Setting, The Hounds of Annwn, and Works

I need to set the stage for this article first…

I go back a long ways. I remember the “paperback revolution” when I was a child because I could finally talk my mother into buying almost as many books as I wanted. Ace Doubles were just coming out, and I read more science fiction than anything else in my book-heavy childhood. I never went to school with fewer than 3 paperbacks, in case I ran out during the day. All this to say that I know my classic science fiction well.

Fantasy during that period, on the other hand, was largely a wasteland of Victorian juvenilia and the occasional odd foray by a literary sort (think: James Branch Cabell) or a conventional science fiction author — until high school, that is, when at last the authorized paperback editions of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit became readily available in America. I bought them all immediately and devoured them, and they changed my life in unexpected ways.

The journey of the adult hero

Posted in Characters, Heroes, Plot, The Hounds of Annwn, To Carry the Horn, and Works

To kick off this new blog, I've decided to share a few thoughts about heroic plots involving non-juvenile heroes.

The typical journey of the hero involves a young man who follows a call and leaves his childhood behind him, maturing through action and conflict into a suitable, perhaps even great, adult. The plot is typically done with him once his path to maturity is complete. It's a young man's tale.

In To Carry the Horn, my current work in progress, the basic plot concerns George Talbot Traherne who is drawn from his Virginia countryside life to an otherworld populated by characters from Welsh mythology. George is 33 years old when the action starts. He is already mature, comfortable with responsibility, his character formed. How then can he become a hero, in the traditional sense of the plot?

The answer is in the deficiencies of the modern adult world versus the idealized world of heroic tales. For a youth in a traditional story, part of the challenge of becoming a hero is finding something worth doing, recognizing and growing into his proper place in the world. George, however, lives in a world all too real and mundane, where many of the basic adult responsibilities of manhood are watered down or absent. He has grown into a proper place in that world, but that world is not serious enough to satisfy him. It's too similar to the protected life of childhood that the youth in a traditional tale seeks to escape.

Perhaps if he lived a life of direct action (military, police, etc.) he might feel differently, but he is just an ordinary, good, competent man feeling constrained by the exigencies of modern life.

The otherworld provides him with scope for action, to explode out of his stunted growth into true maturity. He finds something worth the doing and eagerly seizes the opportunity. He can now build a foundation for a life worth living.