Good morning, and thanks for visiting the blog.
I’ve come bearing gifts! Which today will take the shape of a guest post from one author whose work I’ve had the pleasure to delve into earlier this year during a blog tour.
First thing’s first though, let’s check the sidenote in our logs because…
This log is filed under our #SciFiMonth archive. SFM is a month-long celebration of the wonders of Science Fiction, a blog event combining the love of the genre with the connective power of book blogging.
For more info on Sci-Fi Month, check out the introductory post on Imiryl’s blog and join us in this mission to read and rebel! I really recommend you follow the event’s Twitter as well, to stay on track with everybody’s posts.
Honoring this awesome month I’ve asked some of the most creative authors in sci-fi (and, in this case, that breach into other genres as well) to share their thoughts and experiences on the blog.
I couldn’t talk sci-fi without inviting Jordan Loyal Short, whose book The Skald’s Verse I was lucky to read during a Storytellers on Tour blog tour for the book and which I absolutely loved (If you’re keeping an eye on the game tag in my introductory SciFi Month post, and guessed ID Tag 001, then you’re kind of a big deal rn). With its exciting new look, The Skald’s quickly proved to be more than just a pretty face; it was the clash of Norse-inspired and Roman-inspired cultures, the exciting magic systems based on song and voice, and, of course, the artful blend of science fiction and fantasy in this story that made it one of the best reads I’ve had this year, and one of my favorites overall.
I was fascinated by Jordan’s use of both science fiction and fantasy in the construction of his worldbuilding. I talked a bit about this subgenre (debatable designation) in my Meet Some of Sci-Fi’s Greatest Subgenres post, but in sum, I’ve always been completely drawn to everything that is made up of a meeting of worlds. Science fantasy not only allows us the best of both worlds, it extends between them.
All this to say I’m keeping a close eye on November 12, the day the sequel to The Skald’s Black Verse, The Weeping Sigil, is releasing (and perhaps cursing the Sci Fi Month schedule I’ve brought upon myself…Just a little bit…). Jordan was kind enough to end the first book on a cataclysmic cliffhanger to give us something to look forward to this 2020 :’)
Today though, he gathered his kindness to discuss Redrawing the Map: Blending Science Fiction and Fantasy, so without further ado, let’s plunge into it!
Jordan Loyal Short is an author of epic fantasy. His first novel, The Skald’s Black Verse, is a dark and beautiful story about families, cultures, and beliefs at war with themselves. The protagonist, Brohr, must navigate the tangled loyalties and unforgiving biases of a planet conquered by invaders from another world. Using black magic, and the bizarre bond he shares with his stillborn brother’s spirit, Brohr unravels the truth about himself and an eon spanning war that has reached its end game.
You can see Jordan’s latest book reviews at Booknesteu.com.
Jordan has worked in a variety of industries, as a waiter, bartender, copywriter and more. He lives in Washington state with his wife where he is currently daydreaming about the end of the world.
Redrawing the Map: Blending Science Fiction and Fantasy
I love science fiction. And I love fantasy. But can these two star-crossed lovers make it in a world where plenty of readers and writers like crisp, neat boxes they can tick? Fuck yes! There is so much potential to take the best of these genres and stitch them together like Frankenstein’s monster. Sure, nobody wants wristwatches in their medieval period pieces, and they sure as hell don’t want magic swords in their hard sci-fi. But give me sentient A.I. swords and time travelers forgetting to take off their wrist watches and I’ll be up reading well past my bedtime.
Science Fiction and Fantasy really aren’t as different as people want to think. I mean, is it “science” when Frankenstein reanimates his monster with lightning, nope. It’s friggin’ magic. And my friends, magic is awesome. Magic is what we don’t understand. It’s what we say is impossible. It is the awe we feel when thunder shakes the house. But when it comes to fiction, this line is already blurrier than it seems at first blush. When you are reading a novel you likely are not interested in a lecture on the temperature differentials that cause a sea breeze, you just want to feel the wind on your face. Now, of course, if the novel you are reading says that mushrooms taste good, it’d better have a convincing rationale to support something that so clearly contradicts our understanding of the world. Mushrooms are, after all, quite disgusting.
No game of fantasy/sci-fi bingo would be complete without mention of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous third law. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But the reverse can also be true. “Any sufficiently advanced magic starts to look like technology again.” What the hell do I mean by that? Our brains are brilliant at making connections in an instant. They take the mysterious and make it mundane in the blink of an eye. A stick that points toward the home of the gods on the mountain top—a compass! A mystical box that carries the sound of your voice through the ether to someone far away with a box of their own—telephone! A vibrating wand that—never mind—you get my point!
This no man’s land between established genres allows writers to delve into themes often inaccessible to the extremes of rationalism and make believe. It’s hard to talk about the pitfalls of social media if your story is set in the stone age. It’s also hard to explore the shamanic experience in the ultra-modern world of New Earth 2225. Science fiction lends itself to brainy questions, exploring the advancing frontiers of science, and the implications of societal change. Fantasy often tackles more personal themes, coming of age and self-actualization. Instead of tromping over the same old ground, you can redraw the map, and tell a story in a setting that allows a new perspective on familiar territory. Before you go saying that there are plenty of novels that break these conventions, stop, I cannot hear you.
Either genre is great on its own, but each has a separate toolbox, and its own strengths to draw from. There are so many fascinating ways to combine them. For example, I’ve seen a few authors establish a scientific basis for magic. This can be complex and realistic or just a simple rationale. Underpinning the arcane with a quasi-scientific explanation allows the suspension of disbelief for readers who might roll their eyes at traditional magic systems. Just remember we don’t always need metachlorians. FFS. Ixnay on the etachloriansmay. Sometimes drilling in too far will have the opposite of the intended effect. A magic system can be greatly enhanced with simple ideas that have a rational, if not scientific basis.
Sometimes what a story needs is one moment. Maybe it is an epiphany, maybe it is a twist, a red herring, or even just a mystery without an easy answer. Taking a world that conforms to expected reality, and suddenly breaking our conception of the laws of physics can have a unique and transcendent effect on fiction. In a universe that unfolds according to the quantifiable interactions of particles and waves, beauty requires something ephemeral, something that transcends the purely mechanical. A little mote of beauty to catch you off guard. Our psyches need a release valve from the deterministic. Otherwise, why the hell did I even bother to right this article?
You can even pit the two genres against one another in a battle of reason versus emotion. Those heartless Terminators have no idea what’s in store for them as the Care Bears harness the power of love. I would read that book. It would be terrible, but gloriously so. Really, it’s just an extension of the age old theme of town versus country. The bucolic grandeur of nature versus modern efficiency.
The possibilities of mashing up these two genres are just about endless. When you get tired of the same old ‘chosen one is called upon to find the magic sword and slay the dark lord’ tale, you can tell a new story. Crack open the genre like an egg and suck out the yolk*, be weird, try new things. Create imaginary swear words! Quantum Nutsack! See how fun that was? Nutsack is capitalized, let that sink in. There is an endless expanse of unexplored territory, countless new worlds just waiting to be explored- genres be damned!
*Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.
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