Tuesday Althing: Traits of Heroic Fantasy
Welcome to another Tuesday Althing!
Alas, no videos today — but an exciting announcement! And a little about a fantasy literature subgenre and my thoughts regarding at least one of its distinguishing traits. First the news:
After four months of major head-scratching, tire-kicking, collaborator-collaborating, website-development-cussing, LLC-filing, art-permissions-asking, programmer-friends-leaning, and the off-putting of most fun things, a writer friend and I launched an ezine specializing in heroic fantasy fiction and poetry.
The name? Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.
The reason? Because my co-proprietor and I have more money than we know what to do with, and we want to give it to other writers! (Kidding, of course; we’re as tight with our money as any other writer you might know. But HFQ is indeed a paying market for writers.) There are actually a few reasons.
But I’ll only give one reason today, it being the one that might most interest fans of Norse myth and Scandinavian lore: characteristics of storytelling.
In Thor’s Day Alert #3 I mentioned how myth stories start with a bang, often with some sort of simple catalyzing action like mischief or big talk. Readers jump right in and get caught up in the storytelling stream. And we enjoy the ride without having to wade through the sometimes stagnant shallows of character history or motivation or inner pain.
Indeed, the more I thought about it, the more I recognized in my favorite characters (Per Hansa, Conan, Don Quixote, Elric, Grettir) a similar trait: an outward focus. This outward focus might also be described as a propensity to act, to do something — be that through dialogue or deeds — rather than sit around and let one’s ego and super-ego hash out the story’s circumstances in private.
[In my opinion, an outward character focus is a trait crucial to flavoring the best heroic fantasy tales; it would, however, wreck most good mainstream literature. Can you imagine Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar if she didn’t share her most personal thoughts, plans, and emotional pains with the reader?]
As you read Norse myth, do you notice an outward focus in the characters of Thor and Odin? Do you agree this trait is one of the reasons why you enjoy the myths and find them so pleasurable to read again and again? How cool would it be to discover some new fantastical stories and poems that read as if they were born from an oral storytelling tradition, like most mythology in general?
If that sounds good, then check out HeroicFantasyQuarterly.com. Our first issue will publish 1 July 2009. I’ll keep you posted.
‘Til next time, then, remember: people were enjoying stories long before writers got involved.
Thanks for stopping by!