This Fantasy Thing

Well, The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom (hereafter known as QMK) is almost finished. I expect to have the book published to Kindle this weekend. I will not be advertising the fact, however. My attention is going to be centred elsewhere for at least a week, other things are happening in my life, good things though. I do not see this as an obstacle. I am going to use the time to plan a release event for QMK. It is going to be a different kind of fantasy!

I used that description recently on social media and it got me thinking; what is fantasy? I do not mean that as a deep question. I suspect that most people have an idea of what fantasy is, but then maybe that is the point, does the common supposition meet with the actual genre definition?

As usual, there are more than one definition for this genre, so I will be using a general understanding of what fantasy means, as set out here:

Speculative fiction set in an imaginary world, often involving magic, mythology, and elements of folktales.

The reader’s ability to suspend their disbelief is a prerequisite for enjoying all forms of fantasy, be that Charlotte’s Web, Gulliver’s Travels, or The Lord of the Rings. I believe that this is something that those of us who had indulgent parents acquire at a very early age. Certainly, my mother taught me and my brothers to learn to read before we started to school. Talking animals, magical people, and strange worlds were already a staple for me before my first teacher read us The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The very things that are common elements in the fantasy genre.

QMK falls into what might be called heroic fantasy, or high fantasy as it is also known. This is the area where The Lord of the Rings (LoTR) and Game of Thrones (GoT) reign supreme. Indeed, it was the basis of medieval Europe that is common in both these two imaginary worlds that proved to be the root cause of my being inspired to write a fantasy novel. My son is fan of both LoTR and GoT, but I expressed a growing boredom for stories set in medieval Europe; he told me to go and write something different then! So, I did.

The world of QMK is entirely imaginary, but it takes its inspiration from 19th century Europe. The armies are similar to those of the Napoleonic Period. The society is also similar, but not exactly the same, as that part of real history. There is only one race of beings, humans. There are no Orcs or Elves to be had. Talking animals are also absent. Magic, or rather magick, is very much present, however. Indeed, it is magick that has prompted one group of people to develop a power that threatens the fantasy world of QMK, which is the cause of a developing plot element that extends beyond the first book. Yes, I have at least one more tale developing following on from this one. The Mountain Kingdom of Oroson introduces a different type of geography for the main continent it is found on. Mt. Oroson is the larges mountain in the (fantasy) world and totally dominate the continent. Commerce is dependent on trade and communication passing either through or over the spurs of Mt. Oroson. This is facilitated by the creation of gates that allow traffic to flow from one area to another and so bypassing lengthy alternative routes that might prove more perilous. The gates were of course constructed by the use of magick. Large plateaus, or spurs as they are called in the book, extend out across the continent from the base of Mt. Oroson, the lowest of which is some 200 feet high, the tallest over 2000 feet. They would be impassable obstacles if it were not for the gates. Of course, the Mountain Kingdom levies a charge on those who want to use the gates and that is how it has become the preeminent state in its world.

Obviously, there is nothing really like Mt. Oroson in our world. We have plenty of mountains, but they can all be climbed, travelled over or through or around. Mt. Oroson can only exist in a fantasy world. There are some elements and themes in the story that can exist in ours, however. The oppression of women on the basis of their sex is one. It has been well documented historically and it continues to exist today. One of my central characters, Princess Saran, wants to continue her father’s work after he dies without a male heir, but she has no legal claim to the throne because she is a woman. Her determination to defy a law legislated by men to protect male privilege is one of the driving plot elements. It could take place, with a little modification, in our modern world just as easily.

I suppose that this is one of the reasons why fantasy has remained such a vibrant part of our literary culture. Although fantasy worlds can seem well beyond our reality the best ones still retain elements that are important to our human experience of existence. Love, fear, courage, indifference, pride, envy, compassion, empathy, everything that we value and dislike about ourselves is there in a good fantasy. I hope readers discover that I have captured those elements in my fantasy.

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