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Viriconium

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  • Viriconium

    i recently picked up Viriconium by M John Harrison. i just began reading "Viriconium Nights (or Knights? there seems to be some confusion...), when two reference names came into my mind: Gloriana, and, of course, Ghormengast.

    Peake, as a big reference and influence for many writers, developing sort of an "alternative way" for fantasy, with a complete un-Tolkenesque approach, has lead the way to some "urban fantasy" (i donآ´t know the accurate genre name if there is one), which i think to be the future of the whole genre. so the envrionment changes from nature into the city, or as in many cases, the castle (as a city).

    from this point of view, it seems to be difficult to go "back to nature" in writing fantasy. that is what many writers do of course, but then it is always sort of a more or less Tolkien influenced writing. what do you think, has this way of writing also caused a change to the relation of fantasy writing to science fiction?

  • #2
    Viriconium

    Maybe we've seen a resurgence of what used to be called science fantasy,
    that is a background like Leigh Brackett's Mars, where science and sorcery are often interchangeable and nobody is quite sure which is which. How this relates to Gormenghast is probably more to do with literary ambition than influence, but I'd say China Mieville's work could readily be classified as science fantasy (should we want to make any classifications!), as could
    much of Jeff VanderMeer's, Jeff Ford's and so on. While Steve Aylett's work is distinctly urban, it seems to draw more inspiration from William Burroughs than it does from Peake. Burroughs remains another interesting influence. Increasingly, I'd say, barriers are breaking down so thoroughly that labelling stuff is no longer useful -- it merely confuses. Look at the influences a modern writer has, putting Tolkien aside: Peake, Burroughs, Ballard, all of whom have their work labelled as either fantasy or sf at some stage in their careers. The 'new weird' tends to invoke Lovecraft,
    Clark Ashton Smith and I'd add C.L.Moore. Drawing from such a variety of sources, adding their own idiosyncracies, taking also from Victorians and moderns, calling on the tones of Joyce, Eliot and Pound as well as Yeats and Wilde, such writers could well be defining the dominant literature of the 21st century. It could be that in time such fiction will simply be thought of as 'fiction' while the literary forms currently dominant will have to be defined in relation to that 'fiction'. What do you think ?

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    • #3
      another classification (and i know that it is maybe wrong to classify everything, but it is what happens naturally, when a new way of writing is established) would be "imaginative fiction", which is already used for some contemporary fantasy . i think that one pretty good to describe how the more fantastic branch of fiction could develop in the 21st century.

      itآ´s and interesting thought that such imaginative writing - influenced by the classic writers of the 19th and 20th century (i also think of Stevenson and Wells here), and the early utopian /dystopian writers - and what some people could describe even as (yet another classification...) "postmodern" fiction (Eco, Calvino...) could be the dominant literature of the future. if such literature would be the "mainstream" (but a mainstream that consists of many different substreams of course), then it would be urban themes literature. from that background - the ever growing megacities, the metropolis as the only place for existence at all - some sort of Rousseau-like "back to nature" would not be too far away. maybe this is what mainstream, tolkienesque fantasy is preventing nowadays - a mediaeval, pre-industrial and anti-modern world as sort of an reservation, and what many readers enjoy because it is disconnected from real world developments. if this is good or bad is another question of course.

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      • #4
        Maybe, also, we're beginning to see a convergence of science fiction and fantasy because of the changing circumstances of our society?

        Science these days doesn't favour hard SF, because the legacy of Newton has faded, and things like quantum mechanics, relativity, and chaos theory take his place. So a modern science fiction writer has to be a bit more circumspect, delving more into the realm of philosophy and metaphysics than his predecessors.

        The modern fantasy writer, on the other hand, must be increasingly caught up in the urban sprawl. It's rather difficult to write a rural fantasy when you live in the city and you don't know one end of a horse from the other. So, for an increasing number of fantasy writers, maybe an urban environment is the only sort of environment that can truly come to life in their work.

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        • #5
          There should not do so much classifying. I think fantasy should stay fantasy sci fi scifi mostly. I dont like Sci Fi too sterile and loveless, I have no liking for machinistic stuff. Fantasy should not be classified as all ancient and medivial all the time, tolkien is a little vague on things like relationships. Sci fi can be good but less than others . It is a trifle chamaelic adding technology to haunted house senarios. Each book should be judged on its idividual and unique merits and story and classification forgotten and only used as a vague guide. Pidgeon holing is a bad thing. It can put you off a good book if you dont like sci fi . Sci fantasy is a good idea though sometimes.

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          • #6
            That last post just made me think of an excellent scifi/haunted house story. Its on the Animatrix DVD,but I can't remember the name of the specific episode. I consider the Animatrix to be the real sequel to the Matrix and there are a number of episodes that blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

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            • #7
              What I liked about KING OF THE CITY was that the city seemed more like a character than a setting. I have difficulty imagining a natural setting, and since they all seem to be the same to me, I am not stimulated reading fantasic travelouges. Events that take place within a cityscape are more enjoyable. In fact Monty Python's film version of the Jabberwocky is more fun than say the seige at Helm's Deep, since our character is travelling within the city as opposed to the viewer observing the battlements, steps to the main entrance, throne room and precipice.

              Brasil, Dark City, Momento and Blade Runner were very stimulating because the city reflected the condition of the characters. Is it okay to cite movies in this conversation?

              Urban fiction hasn't as many fantastic mythologies as do natural settings. I'm referring to elves, goblins, fairies, gnomes, dwarves and etc. So that storytelling has to fictionalize humans instead. That makes for interesting storytelling. It's not that you have to be inventive. It's that you get to be inventive. Variants of existing cities seem similiar to alternate histories to me, which can be very stimulating too.
              The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

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              • #8
                Yeah

                I loved Brasil; Blade Runner too.
                The music from Blade Runner is sweet, by Vangelis.

                -Blade Runner Blues

                -Blush Response

                My two favorites of the bunch. If you are ever looking on the net they are good (not that I am encouraging downloading illegally ).
                When they had advanced together to meet on common
                ground, then there was the clash of shields, of spears
                and the fury of men cased in bronze; bossed shields met
                each other and the din rose loud. Then there were
                mingled the groaning and the crowing of men killed and
                killing, and the ground ran with blood.

                Homer, The Illiad

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