More Musing on Epics and Fantastics

John Ginsberg-Stevens chimes in with something that I think it right on the nose-
Epics can be much more than that, especially if they hearken back to the idea not of the quest, but of the journey. There is a point where the vast epic becomes comfortable, and lacks the emotional power of a classical epic. The potential for poetry gets lost in the blood and intrigue; the potential for magic is lost, as magic becomes a weapon or a rationalized system, instead of moments of wonder. There are not only depths that epics can plumb, but stories of different sorts of bravery and cunning, dealing with foes that are just villains, but the we recognize from our own travels through life.

And he just hits this whole thing square on the nose. There, right there, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Epic as in journey- that makes perfect sense. When you boil it down, no matter what, all epics are about journeys into and out of fantastical things, places strange and wonder-laced. And I’m glad he agrees with me on the over mechanization of magic- it seems that in the quest for the real in Epic Fantasy and the gritty and the OMG HARD CORE MACHO MACHONESS the epic fantasy has shaken off the very fantasy at its heart, sloughed off the wonder of its magic for a psuedoscience.

On a related note, I expected to be all “Oh, really? What? Shouldn’t we be talking about something else?” when reading Sam Sykes post about races in Epic Fantasy, and I was actually intrigued, because in the end, he too is talking about a return away from the gritty realism. How fantasy is about wonder- and about awe (awe in the real meaning of the word- something horribly beautiful). I mean, I do disagree with some of it, and think he’s oversimplifying some other pieces, but in the whole, he’s boiling out something-

And of course, his post makes me think of Perdido Street Station, and the intense level of bizarre world building that went into that and it’s races. I think, there is something, here, that me and some of the others are striking towards, something blurry and out of shape and just out of reach…a new way of approaching epic fantasy…something that we can grab onto and bring it back, it would be very interesting indeed.

2 thoughts on “More Musing on Epics and Fantastics

  1. Thanks, Paul! I think that distinction is one way to get past the conventions that have solidified in many epic fantasy works and start moving out into new terrain. Not abandoning the epic, but circling back to its roots.

    Sam’s post had some good points that relate to some of what we’re discussing here, and I think Sam himself walks a tightrope in relation to magic and grittiness, but his writing is so visceral and sometimes surreal that he really undermines some of the conventions. Regarding race, I am only uneasy about talking about race through biological variations because that can imply that our own ideas of race have a real biological basis,when they do not. They are cultural ideas based on phenotypic traits. What’s great about Perdido Street Station is that Mieville is invoking a lot more than a conversation on race with the beings that appear in that story.

  2. Pingback: Epic and Urban Fantasy Linkdump | Cora Buhlert

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