How do you take your fantasy? Well me personally I like it all kinds of ways *wink* but recently I discovered E.L. Tettensor and sampled two different ways she writes fantasy and I have to say I enjoyed both immensely. Today she’s here to talk to us about fantasy and her latest book MASTER OF PLAGUES.
Tabitha’s review of MASTER OF PLAGUES coming soon!
Now lets hear from the author and be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY below!
One Lump or Two?
Or, How do you take your fantasy?
One of the great things about fantasy is the sheer variety it affords. So much so that we often feel obliged to subdivide it to an almost absurd extent, carving out progressively smaller niches until the distinctions between them are so subtle as to be almost meaningless. Gaslight fantasy. Flintlock fantasy. Steampunk. Not the same, but not all that different, either. Coors Light vs. Miller Light, as opposed to Coors Light vs. Guinness. Cabernet sauvignon vs. merlot, rather than cabernet vs. champagne.
Er… excuse me for a moment, will you?
Right, I’m back. And now, glass of wine in hand, I may continue.
My point is this: the great strength of the genre is its versatility, its ability to cater to an almost limitless assortment of tastes. As an author, this is both liberating and scary. Liberating, because you can paint in any colour, as far inside or outside the lines as you like. Scary, because when you’re faced with infinite possibilities, it can be incredibly hard to choose between them. You end up like Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker, standing bewildered in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, paralysed by the sheer glut of choices. And the mother of all choices, the one from which every other choice springs, is this:
How much fantasy do I want in my fantasy?
This is the first fork in the road, and it’s a doozy. Depending on the path you take, you could end up in Hogwarts with J.K. Rowling, zapping bad guys with your wand, or Under Heaven with Guy Gavriel Kay, where the only real hint of the supernatural is a bunch of angry ghosts by a lake. So, which do you choose?
There’s a lot to be said for high magic, high fantasy worlds. They spread the wings of our imagination, take us someplace fundamentally different where all things are possible. They showcase the ingenuity of the author, dazzling us with the sheer inventiveness, the richness, of what they’ve created.
But I think there’s a lot to be said for low magic worlds too. No surprise, since that’s what I tend to write. Both the Lenoir and the Bloodbound series are comparatively light on fantasy. No elves or goblins or dragons. No light-slinging warlocks. The supernatural is there, but it’s often more implied than seen, a dark undercurrent that threatens to break the surface at any moment. The Lenoir series, in particular, has just a dash of the supernatural. It’s the cherry on the sundae, rather than the crust of the pie.
It’s a choice I made consciously, one that reflects my own interests as a reader. I enjoy stories set in worlds very like our own, but subverted just enough to keep the reader off-balance. It’s familiar enough that you can slide right in, but different enough that there’s never any question that you’re not in Kansas. There’s no need for info-dumps or excessive worldbuilding, because we’ve been here before, more or less. But we’re disoriented too, a little wary, like a dream where something’s not quite right. Because the supernatural elements are there, lurking just below the surface. And when they do break through, it’s all the more jarring because it’s rare.
As an added bonus, this approach can also make the characters more compelling, because they’re often experiencing all this for the first time too. When Lenoir steps into Merden’s shop and finds himself surrounded by the macabre accoutrements of dark magic, he’s as unsettled as we are. He has no idea what to expect, and neither do we. This shared experience strengthens the bond between hero and reader. This effect can be achieved in high fantasy worlds too, but it’s tougher; you have to make your hero an outsider of some kind, and not every book can be about outsiders.
It’s entirely possible that I’ll branch out into high fantasy one day, but for now, I’m finding plenty of great toys to play with closer to home. So I’ll take one lump in my tea for now; your mileage may vary.
Giveaway for a print copy of MASTER OF PLAGUES by E.L. Tettensor. Sorry US residents only folks!
E.L. Tettensor likes her stories the way she likes her chocolate: dark, exotic, and with a hint of bitterness. She has visited more than fifty countries on five continents, and brought a little something back from each to press inside the pages of her books. She is also the author of the Bloodbound series, writing as Erin Lindsey. She lives with her husband in Bujumbura, Burundi.