Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Fantasy, SciFi, Paranormal

Late-night Friday, March 6, Space X launched the last of its first generation of space capsules, sending supplies to the space station. My daughter made an excellent video of the launch from Longwood, about 35 miles west of the Kennedy Space Center. It was the first time any of us had seen the secondary "burn" (rocket ignition), that sends the booster back to land after it detaches from the space craft. Except at the time of the video, no one recognized why a second explosion suddenly lit the sky, and since even the children know about Challenger, there were a few bad moments recorded on the video. 

(FYI, I was standing in my driveway in Venice, FL, watching the launch from 90 miles away, when I saw that sudden "V" made by the Challenger explosion and rushed back inside to hear the TV announcer intone that obviously there had been an "anomaly.")

For Susie's video of the launch, complete with a couple of scary moments, click here.

Found on Facebook


As so often happens with this blog, a book I read this week (recommended by my son) set me to thinking . . .

Firstly, it was among the most fascinating books I've ever read, if not the most fascinating. The writing was excellent, but the imagination involved simply blew me away. Wow! It was a long read, but I finished it in record time and am already beginning Book 2 of the series. Is this a series I will want to add to my "read over & over" list? Probably not. It's too dark, too harsh, too agonizing at times for a Happily Ever After author like me. But oh my, when it comes to story-telling . . . 

Secondly, I stopped to ask myself where this book sat among the many genres of Fiction, and I realized that in bookstores it had to be shelved under Fantasy. I can hear some of you murmur, "Fantasy? Elves and fairies are dark, harsh & agonizing?" Except, that's the problem with the genre title of Fantasy. It conjures the wrong image. I had read through most of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series before I realized it was Fantasy, not Science Fiction. I mean, it was set on a planet far, far away (long before Star Wars), so it must be SciFi. There were a lot of odd creatures, but no elves, fairies, witches, wizards, etc., so how could it be Fantasy? But that was back when I was only a reader,  not a writer. 

Truth is, Fantasy covers a LOT of territory. If you're writing about dragons, for example, it's Fantasy. In Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, you could add in Alternative History, but all those dragons make Fantasy the primary genre. And the book I praised above—no matter how dark, no matter how many four-letter words, no matter if some of the good guys get killed—Scott Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards series is Fantasy. He has built an intricate world of his own making, peopled it with hordes of incredibly well-delineated characters, all set in a time vaguely reminiscent of our own 16th or 17th centuries. There is nothing "scientific" about it, except perhaps continued references to a far more advanced culture pre-dating their own. (Somewhat reminiscent of what happened in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders series.)

Yes, Fantasy can be fairies, elves, witches, and wizards, but it includes so much more. Never be afraid to reach out and enjoy the truly thrilling sweep of some people's imaginations. It can literally put you into a whole new world.

If you're wondering where Steampunk comes in this discussion, I'd call it a form of Fantasy. The world of Steampunk is not as as drastically different from ours, being based on late 19th c. Earth, but Steampunk "science" is based on putting recognizable devices into an era where they did not exist. Examples:  vast arrays of dirigibles, vehicles that run on steam, computer-like devices, radio-like transmissions, etc. Therefore, since we are playing Time Travel with scientific devices, Steampunk is a form of Fantasy.

So what makes Fantasy different from SciFi? 

In a strict definition, Science Fiction contains "real" science. It is not simply set in the future. The devices—whether computers, engines, space ships, fighter planes, communication machines, etc.—must be within the realm of possibility; i.e., based on proven scientific knowledge. Linnea Sinclair once told me she wrote "Futuristic" (SciFi with strong emphasis on Romance), but truth is, the scientific details in her books are so precise, a number of bookstores shelved her work under Science Fiction. She is definitely among the authors whose books I have read several times over. Somehow she gets it all in there - all those pesky technical details plus the romance. Most of us don't have the technical knowledge to do that. 

So . . . SciFi contains "Real" Science in stories set in worlds that could actually exist. If a book's "world" contains dragons who talk, for example, it's Fantasy. If it's a world, no matter how odd, that could conceivably exist—Tatooine, for example—then we're talking SciFi. Wookies are okay, as is the mystique of Obi Wan—every culture has things impossible to understand—but personally I draw the line at Ewoks. For me, that's when the series crossed into Fantasy.

Is Paranormal just ghosts, vampires, and shapeshifters?

Absolutely not. That's another common fallacy. Although Gail Carriger did the impossible— made me enjoy reading about werewolves and vampires—the Paranormal stories I love the most are those that involve amazing gifts of the mind. Which is why I'm so fond of the works of Jayne Castle. All her books have heroes and heroines with special "gifts." In fact, the variety of talents, including those of the bad guys, is absolutely amazing.

So no, when you hear "paranormal," do not dismiss it as things that go bump in the night. The variations of Paranormal are as endless as they are intriguing. And yes, there's allowance for a touch of fantasy here as well. For example, Jayne Castle's much-loved "dust bunnies," which pop up in all her "Harmony" books. And why shouldn't a planet far, far away have a dust-ball-like creature with four eyes? (I have no idea why I love dust bunnies but am totally turned off by Ewoks. Maybe because dust bunnies occur in all of Ms Castle's books, whereas Ewoks seemed a fantasy intrusion into a serious SciFi series.)

A quick note on Futuristic.

There was a time when Futuristic meant Romance set in the Future, but over the years it seems to have transformed into Hot Sex set in the Future. And I'd love to know where that leaves series like Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge and Meljean Brook's The Kraken King. Steampunk/Alternative History? Flat-out Adventure in an Alternative Universe? Or just Adventure in a realm far, far away? 

In any event, there are fabulous worlds out there, just waiting to pull you in. Don't get stuck in a rut of reading just one genre; take a chance, plunge right in to the worlds of Fantasy, SciFi & Paranormal. If a charming con artist or a former assassin isn't your idea of a hero, try the works of Jayne Castle who writes the heros and heroines we'd all like to think we are. Or perhaps you'd be as enchanted to discover the Gail Carriger's special take on vampires and werewolves as I was. Or the truly tough heroines and semi-mechanical men presented by Linnea Sinclair? And if you don't mind dark & agonizing, please indulge yourselves in the works of Scott Lynch, who has more imagination than any other author I have ever encountered. Or if you prefer your ghosts gently presented, the romance mostly behind closed doors, you can take a peek my The Ghosts of Rushton Court, so far my best-selling Regency Gothic.

But please—I'm begging you—take a chance on above genres. I suspect you'll find they have a lot more to offer than you thought they did.

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The Blue Moon Rising series

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For a link to Making Magic With Wordsclick here. 

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.

For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page, click here.

Thanks for stopping by,



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