Thursday, October 09, 2008

Curious Cat Question

What do people here think of created or secondary world fantasy?

You know what these are: from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, CS Lewis' Narnia, Terry Pratchett's Discworld, Stephen Donaldson's The Land to the multitudes of epic fantasy series like George R.R. Martin, Raymond Feist, Robert Jordan and Terry Brooks. There's also the Dragonlance series (and probably its TSR brethren also), Piers Anthony's Xanth series, Ann McCaffrey's Pern (though this later turned into SF). In the case of the latter, try to think in terms of traditional fantasy worlds.

To define this, a created or secondary world is separate from the real one but with self-consistent rules (i.e. mythology, geography, natural laws, etc.). Think of it as a world that is not familiar or not recognizable from the one we know. For example, we may read about dragons but have you really seen one?

So do you read them? Why do you read them? Or would you read them?

More pertinently for the locals, would you read a secondary world fantasy story written by a Filipino? Should these even be considered? Have you ever thought of writing one?

Explain and discuss.


sharmaine said...

What's a secondary world fantasy?

banzai cat said...

That's any fantasy world created by the writer for the purpose of the story. But this term is usually used in connection to "traditional" fantasy. So think of Tolkien's Middle-Earth with its elves and dragons.

sharmaine said...

Ah, I see. hmmmm.

dodo dayao said...

Not much of a fan myself, having stopped at Tolkien and CS Lewis and eventually liking the films more. I did try dipping into some of them down the line - - -Jordan (RIP),Donaldson - - -but always thought they were secondhand JRR at best,significantly less of a challenge to read (and I would assume, write, although that's pure speculation on my part) and lacking any kind of emotional connect/resonance. Guess it's safe to say it's not my cuppa tea. Having said that, I'm a fan of Gormenghast and I like Mieville and Vandermeer and a handful of others but I'm not sure if any of this falls squarely in the tradition - - - or are even considered fantasies - - - maybe in the peripherals. And anything's possible. I could stumble on one that would steal my heart.

Filipino secondary world? Yeah, interesting . . . only if the secondary world is nominally Filipino. Soon as it gets too Middle Earthy,too foreign and indistinct and generic, I'd probably sign off. Probably.

(Is there a standing rule that secondary world fantasies should almost always be trilogies? Are there exceptions to this rule? )

JP said...

Yea, it's cool with me. It isn't the parameter which I look for most but a good secondary world can be very cool and intersting. I'd love to read a well-written Fillipino secondary world fantasy. Anything apart from another vaguely Celtic/Arthurian setting! :)

Paolo said...

I love secondary world fiction ^_^ Probably came from early exposure to David Eddings and japanese video games (most of which took place in what you'd call secondary worlds I suppose).

When I was, oh, around 12 I suppose, I started writing one - not really to publish, but simply to make a story. I spent countless hours fleshing out the background of the world, the political and religious system etc. - I think that's what made finishing the story so hard: I kept getting caught up in the world building that I never did get to work on the actual story as much. @_@

It still holds a pull on me though, even if I'm currently leaning towards writing something else. As for Filipino secondary worlds - I'm not a picky reader. I'll take a good story no matter the setting or origin.

banzai cat said...

dodo: Actually I did consider whether to include smaller-scale writers like Peake (and despite the smaller focus, Gormenghast is self-consistent). There's also Vance which is SF but so far in the future it's regarded as fantastical already.

Actually, you make an interesting point: so its the different nomenclature of Tolkien you don't like or the European touch as JP says?

jp: Celtic/Arthurian = European, yes? However, is that something you've sworn off because you don't like it or because you're tired? Could you be convinced to still try it? (Say by something really good?)

banzai cat said...

paolo: Funny enough I know exactly what you mean. I cut my teeth with those pre-writing preparations with world-building but never got around to writing per se. Finally had to write something else to get my butt moving. ;-)

Though I gotta ask: would you prefer Filipinos writing created worlds in the vein of the traditional fantasy or something... oh, I don't know, Filipino-flavored?

dodo dayao said...

I think it's the Celtic/Arthurian aspects that feel exhausted to me, doesn't do much. I actually liked Tolkien for resisting this, for his unique nomenclature,as it were. Just don't feel his model's been topped since, and I'm not even much of a JRR fan. Miyazaki's Nausicaa comes close or maybe even equals it, not in terms of any specific parallels, but mostly in the sense of otherness evoked.

Personally, I'd lump Peake under the umbrella ,too - - -same with Vance, with Mieville, with Vandermeer. The approaches they take to secondary world-building are like counterweights to the excesses of the subgenre.

One question, though, do you think a case can be made for alternate reality scenarios - - -say, Man In The High Castle - - - or fantasy fiction where characters commute from our world to another - - -like Little ,Big - - -to fall under the banner ?

Sean said...

I write one myself, so it's a fair bet that they're fine in my book.

I think of it as more a technical exercise than a literary one, though. The quality of such worlds lies more or less in how all the elements fit together, and in whether or not the whole setting and story makes sense somehow. I hold a high regard for logically-constructed worlds that seamlessly integrate story with background.

That said, I'll admit that it's difficult to read most stories based around secondary-world fantasy; there's usually a "reading prerequisite" centered around setting and history. I find that the best stories of this type can exist independently of this prerequisite, however, and I keep this in mind whenever I do my readings. (Which explains why I didn't like Vin Simbulan's "Wail of the Sun" from PGS1, I suppose.)

M.R.M. said...

I do like that type of fantasy fiction when it's done well (in the case of Martin); I'd definitely be interested in a Filipino secondary-world fantasy.

Particularly if it were written by a certain curious cat, :-)

banzai cat said...

dodo: That's an interesting reference you mentioned, Nausicaa which I also love. You're right: despite the swords and armor used in the story, there is no sense that this is Arthurian or Celtic. Of course it's a SF story but the fantasy story gets equal billing with that story. Anyway, analysis of that story later. :-)

In terms of alternate reality scenarios, I think that we can't include that in the secondary world category because it's a different category altogether, i.e. alternate history. Too much familiar in the story, ika nga. You may have a Roman Empire or a Chinese one lasting to the 21st century but you still have Romans and Chinese in the first place. (Now if the Romans were called Remusians and the Chinese the Tzin, it might pass.)

On the other hand, the portal-world/fish-out-of-the-water stories like Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen Donaldson and even Crowley can fall into this secondary-world category though personally I've never gotten into stories like that. But that's just me. ;-)

sean: That's a good question you pose: given the requisites needed for a secondary world, your reading of a story may be hindered by the same conditions imposed by the story. After all, the story with a secondary world has to have layers in order to have texture such that the reader will believe it's fully-formed world. However, the question is would the reader be open enough-- or patient enough- to accept that explanation to begin with. (Er, sorry if I'm confusing your position and the position of a general reader. Thoughts coming in too fast.)

mahesh: Hehe thanks man. How ya doing? We also want more of a certain rip-roaring Indian SF/fantasy that a certain guy was writing. More! More!

JP said...

>>However, is that something you've sworn off because you don't like it or because you're tired? Could you be convinced to still try it? (Say by something really good?)

I'm tired of it. And it would have to be something really good, something which bypassed all the silt built up by imitative fantasy genre authorfans and went back to the original mythic matter and built afresh from there.

Jack Vance's Lyonesse novels are a great example. Celtic fantasy done like no one else.

Don said...

as long as its not Tolkien-ish I'll read it