The Many Worlds of Fantasy

Fantasy stories… they immediately bring to mind castles, deep forests, horseback knights, swords, archers, and maybe even a few elves, dwarves, and an ogre or two.

Does it to you? Or maybe the question is, should it?

After decades of reading fantasy novels, it is what I think of – even after writing a fantasy series of my own that has none of the above. Well, okay, there is a sword or two!

But the truth is the first fantasy story I started developing for a novel had all the traditional elements of knights, castles, kingdoms, and warfare over the throne that runs from Tolkien all the way up to George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones.

I’d honestly forgotten about it until I found two of the short stories recently and shared them on Patreon. Even though I liked many of the characters, the story itself never kept my attention. I wasn’t passionate about it. Which is why when I came up with the world of Myrrah, I gladly switched to it.

Because the story, characters, and world felt so new! I love discovering unknown places. 😀

But does that mean there is nothing left that is new in those traditional fantasy world settings?

Heck, no! Game of Thrones should clear that notion up very quickly. It has all the archetypical fantasy elements from kings and queens to knights, armies, warfare, and even dragons. It is simply missing some of the typical fantasy races like elves and dwarves. Instead, it has new ones in the children and white walkers. If the undead can be considered a race?

worlds of fantasy

Yup, looks pretty traditional in setting!

The important thing is that Game of Thrones shows that keeping traditional fantasy elements but creating a new and well developed world, plot, characters, with a few new elements along with twists to the old (only three dragons) can still create a riveting, and best selling, story.

But many new fantasy stories have completely new and unique worlds. I love my friend A.M. Justice’s story and world for her novel A Wizard’s Forge. It is unlike anything I’ve ever read. No wonder it won a well deserved award!

Fantasy now comprises everything from neolithic settings (Bones of the Earth by Scott Bury) to space (Pearseus by Nicholas Rossis) and everything in between, including new worlds (mine! and The Bow of Hart Saga by P.H. Solomon) to dark, twisted futures (Blood Skies by Steven Montano). Why the change?

Fantasy isn’t just written by European white guys anymore.

Seriously! Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George R.R. Martin, and heck, I’ll throw in J.K. Rawlings are all white and hail from cultures immersed in the myths of Europe’s medieval period and older tales. But that is far from the whole of our world and fantasy.

Amazing stories set in the Far East (A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe) to Africa (Alicia McCalla) with creatures familiar to people of those cultures are appearing as ebooks. Fantasy has grown to be inclusive because adventure and new horizons is so much a part of what it is.

The old roots have grown and flourished to expand into new settings, worlds, races, and stories.
worlds of fantasy

This looks new!

As an author, the options are so vast it is sometimes difficult to choose which way to head. When I wrote Born of Water, I wasn’t necessarily thinking I wanted to write something unlike every fantasy story I read and loved as a teenagers. Heck, I LOVED those stories! I wouldn’t change a word of them. But I do remember occasionally reading a novel and thinking it was a poor rewrite of something else. Same characters, plot, and setting. *yawn*

That repeat of someone else’s work is what led me to develop something wholly new and mine in the world of Myrrah. I love sailing. I wanted a culture that had grown up around boats and warm waters with dangerous storms. I wanted less swords and more magic.

And I seriously considered elves. Really! Before I created the Kith, I was weighing have the reclusive people Lavinia, Niri, Ty, and Ria meet far to the north amid the forests to be elves. But…

All those traditions carry a weight, almost a responsibility. Elves behave a certain way. A few stories deviate, but not many. It is really hard to take a stereotypical fantasy race and change it into something new (vampires and Twilight is a rare example!). And just like not wanting typical knights fighting for a throne set in a castle, I didn’t want the burden of writing the culture of elves when I wanted something else. So the Kith came to be! And then the Tiak, Nifail, Ashanti and all the rest.

I fully admit I couldn’t totally leave out dragons. Neither could George R.R. Martin either. 😉

What are your favorite fantasy settings? Do you care if the stories are traditional castles or do you love something new? Does it matter or do you just want a good story? Let me know in the comments!

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