I’m having a fascinating time moving into the world of the fantasy novel. How lucky we are in SF/F to have such a diverse genre to play in!
In late August, my first fantasy, A Thousand Perfect Things comes out. I thought long and hard about what kind of fantasy to begin with. For awhile I considered a traditional fantasy, but some reason, I find the usual epic fantasy is not a style I relish. (Still, I love it when others pull it off well, like Martin, Erickson, Weeks, Abercrombie.) Nor am I comfortable with softer worlds of hedge-wizards and courtesans. It’s too easy-going, maybe. I like something a bit stranger than that.
I think what I love about fantasy as altered history is that I can create unusual and fun worlds and still have a tether to the familiar. SF/F fans enjoy the imaginative leaps, but most will only go so far. We reach a point where we are too confused. Where it is just too hard to follow, to relate. I do think that is a danger, especially for a writer like myself who tends to lean rather hard into strangeness.
Using the ground of history anchors the reader to something familiar. We can sink into, say, 1857 Shropshire, and feel that we know the place. From those recognizable surroundings we can then enjoy the slow unveiling of indigenous magic and extra-normal events. It is not all totally new.
And it’s better so. I don’t want to ask the reader to pedal uphill all the way, but to enjoy the surprises and find them intriguing and entertaining.
Or maybe I just like the lovely surprises–such as finding that outside a gracious country manor house there’s a terrorist bird in a sycamore tree. And it can read.