Dec. 31st, 2010 11:00 pm
pippin: (Default)
[personal profile] pippin
So what were your favourite books from 2010? Your least favourite?

Are there any 2011 releases you're looking forward to?
heidicvlach: (Default)
[personal profile] heidicvlach
This post on mermaid variations got me thinking about dragon variations. The concept of a dragon is such universal imagination fuel, I'm sure there are more directions to worldbuild in.

The most common dragons are the serpentine/naga kind, and the dinosaur-like, bat-winged kind. Quetzalcoatl might be considered a feathered dragon, and I've seen artists drawing feathered dragons like six-limbed Archaeopteryx. General Earth consensus seems to be that dragons are markedly reptilian -- but feathered dragons do tie in well with the evolution of theropod dinosaurs into birds.

Has anyone found other interpretations of dragons? Insect-like dragons, maybe? I've seen a few designs of small dragons with insect wings, usually either a "dragon-fly" pun or a sort of dragon faerie. Are there mammalian dragons with more bat-like qualities than just the wings? Amphibious dragons like giant newts? Do sandworms count as worm-like wyrms? I'm wondering just how far the definition of "dragon" can stretch.
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
[personal profile] lea_hazel
Royalty and nobility are one of the most common conceits of epic fantasy. Almost every fantasy novel takes place in a world comprised of a series of kingdoms, or similarly structured alternatives. Epic plotlines usually follow the royalty or at least high nobility of one or more of these kingdoms. This applies doubly when the protagonist is a commoner; gaining access to the higher echelons of society is part of their reward.

When I tried to think about fantasy novels (excluding contemporary, and even those have their vampire kings and fairy queens) that defy this convention, I thought first of A Wizard of Earthsea. I may be misremembering, since I read it in translation years ago, but I don't recall Ged or any of the other major characters being noble. A few other books came to mind, where characters sometimes deal with nobility but don't wind up discovered as the long-lost heirs to something, or receiving a noble title, or anything.

I can't think of many fantasies that don't take place in a royal hierarchy, though. For some people, the crowns and swords and other medieval trappings are a major part of fantasy's charm, but it's still a pretty diverse genre. Do people think non-monarchic systems are too much of a divergence for fantasy, or does it just not occur to them that there are other options? Like the title says: If dragons -- then monarchy?


Dec. 2nd, 2009 08:55 pm
pippin: (Default)
[personal profile] pippin
Werewolves and other werebeasts and transforming animals and humans -- what are your thoughts? Where does your suspension of disbelief start wavering? Do you prefer magical or genetic transformations?

Does a large mass difference bother you? Do you stay awake at night wondering how a woman with a menstrual cycle could safely and regularly become an animal with an oestrus cycle? Do placental mammals turning into birds or marsupials make you go "err" at the story? Do you get annoyed when the animal forms have human intelligence/morals, or even abilities like telepathy?

...Is this something you've never thought about because you're not weird like me?

What are your favourite stories with werebeasts?


Oct. 30th, 2009 02:00 pm
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
[personal profile] lea_hazel
More about non-human characters in fantasy, because it's my current fixation.

I've been thinking a lot about mammalian mermaids, especially since finding these two pieces of art of manatee mermaids. You cannot google for this sort of thing easily, because it turns up results about the theory that manatees breastfeeding their young were the source for the myth of the mermaid, and every single one has the same joke about how the sailors must have been mighty drunk.

Given this line of thought, I've been wondering, with which marine mammal is it best to cross a human to get an interesting mermaid? Seals? Spotted-skin, predatory mermaids with puppy-dog eyes. Dolphin? Curved-spine, greyish mermaids who frolick in the seas, do tricks for fun, and apparently bludgeon other animals to death for fun (disclaimer: Cracked.com hates dolphins with fervor).

Whale mermaid? I'm having difficulty picturing this one, actually. Manatee mermaid? As seen above, an herbivorous mermaid who flourishes in fresh water, has a healthy layer of blubber, and whose hands might be hidden beneath paddling flippers. Not exactly the Little Mermaid. Walrus mermaid? That might be pretty awesome. Otter mermaid? Hey, it's still technically a marine mammal, but then, so is a polar bear.

In non-mammal mermaids, this artist has a whole gallery full of mermaids based on the fish in her fish tank. Very detailed and intriguing, and highly recommended. I've also seen octopus mermaids, which are sometimes called sea-witches, or cecaelia.
foxfirefey: Feet placed sole to sole and colored like green moss. (moss feet)
[personal profile] foxfirefey
So, John Scalzi has a feature on his blog called "The Big Idea". It's a great way to get really tantalizing previews of books you might want to read--and is heavily skewed toward SF/F genre books, too, although it isn't exclusive. A whole site dedicated to the concept is in the works, too.

The latest Big Idea by Nicole Peter has a lot of interesting things to say about urban fantasy, to wit:
In a time of chaos and uncertainty, is it any wonder that urban fantasy, the genre of the contemporary fairy tale, is on the rise? After all, urban fantasy offers a vision of the world in which traditional evils...are often times merely misunderstood. Meanwhile, traditional heroes...are often revealed to be sanctimonious, narrow-minded, and murderous zealots. The binaries neatly dividing good and evil are blurred in this genre, and the underlying message in many urban fantasies seems to be that the individual must make his or her own choices: that we must rely on our own experiences and intellect in a world that wants to brand outsiders as evil, to force ideological dichotomies on reality, and to make soldiers of us all.

Are you an urban fantasy fan (disregarding urban fantasy that you don't like and mainly considering that which you do, if any)? If so, what draws you to the genre? If not, what repels you?
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
[personal profile] lea_hazel
What books or book series do you know that have non-human protagonists? I know POV characters are almost always human (or very like human), for maximum reader identification, but what about major supporting characters? I remember reading Moorcock's Swords trilogy, where the hero was a member of the long-lived elf-like species. I know there are quite a few books with elf protagonists but they're often not that different from humans.

Urban fantasy of course has a lot of werewolves, vampires and the like, but seems to have less of the people who were born not human, as opposed to humans who were turned into something else. I have a few books on my reading list that have non-human protagonists, but the majority still seem to cast non-humans in minor or antagonist roles. There are a few series I've heard of that flip the perspective and use traditional antagonist species like goblins or orks as protagonists, although I haven't read any of them (yet).

What books have you read with major inhuman characters? Which did you like best, and least? Which species of inhuman would you most want people to write more of? I gotta vote for dwarves.
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
[personal profile] lea_hazel
I was thinking... How do you define fantasy? What do you think makes a novel a fantasy book, rather than science fiction, or some other genre? Aside from obvious tropes and markers (dragons + monarchy + quest to save the world), I mean. Is it the presence of magic? Is it a setting that has the semblance of human past, however flimsy? Any setting that's not contemporary or historical, and lacks obvious science fiction markers, like advanced technology, space-faring or other forms of futurism?

I'm asking because I'm curious, but also because I'm working (on and off) on a story that I'm not sure if I could define as fantasy or not. It has no magic, the mythology is no more real or cohesive than human mythologies, all the characters are human. Yet it takes place in a world that is more or less obviously not Earth, and makes no mention of Earth or of human civilization as we know it. Ostensibly, it and our world are mutually exclusive. It's also lacking in any of the traditional fantasy plots; more of a family drama than anything else.


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