Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day

Alpha Heroes is a blog dedicated to romantic fiction -- the genre, the writers, the heroes, the heroines, and above all, the stories. There's just something about these books that I find really satisfying.

But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Occasionally I get a little burned out on romance, even given the wide variety between vampires, werewolves, rakes, pirates and moguls.

When that happens, I turn to my back-up plan, which almost always turns out to be something from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section.

They're not so different. I don't claim to be a literary expert, but it seems pretty obvious that they come from the same root, the chivalric tales that were popularized in Eleanor of Aquitaine's court. Not surprisingly, I love medieval romances and I love the swords-and-sorcery flavor of high fantasy. You nearly always find similar themes of good vs. evil, honor vs. villainy, and sometimes you even get a love story.

The main difference is generally that the relationship and love story, if there is one, is not the main focus of the book -- instead there are battles and politics and double-crosses; romances might be more of a plot element than the main point. And you aren't by any means guaranteed a happily ever after.

What I love about good fantasy is the way it exercises my imagination. Alternate histories like Jacqueline Carey's* or Guy Gavriel Kay's; worlds that are basically familiar but with brilliant twists, like Melanie Rawn's Sunrunners, or CL Wilson's Fading Lands -- they get me daydreaming about... I don't know, possibilities. Or impossibilities, perhaps, but nevertheless, they take me out of the everyday in a way that romance usually does not. (Note: links go the first book of a series, or in Kay's case, just one of my favorites).

Good sci-fi/fantasy is more than escapism. If I had to reduce it to a soundbyte, I'd say that really good sci-fi/fantasy poses questions about human nature: what if our environment was wildly different from what we know? What are the constants of society, of the individual, of morality? and what would flow and change? How would YOU be different? What if we had powers that we only dream of? What role does technology play?

Some of my favorite fantasy authors are listed above. Additionally, I have enjoyed Robert Silverberg, Sara Douglass (wow, isn't that some gorgeous artwork on her landing page??), Katheryn Kurtz's Deryni books, Roger Zelazny, and Juliet Marillier. Lately I've been reading a lot of SM Stirling-- watch for a review before too long on his Emberverse I trilogy.

Who are your favorite science fiction and fantasy authors?

*And speaking of Carey, don't forget, today is your last day to sign up for the giveaway!


Chris said...

Oh, I loved The Summer Tree trilogy. And I really wanted to be a prince of Amber in my younger days - the princes had it way better than the princesses.

Jo said...

David Eddings, Robin Hobb, Raymond E Feist, Lisa Shearin, Melissa Marr, Jeaniene Frost, Stephenie Meyer are all awesome fantasy authors that amaze me with their novels! They're awesome!

Generic said...

A classic tale that I reread about every two years is Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Mists of Avalon" which tells the Arthurian legend from the female characters' point of view.

Francis Turner said...

I wonder if you'd be interested in some of the sort of half and half SF/Romance or Fantasy/Romance books.

Good examples are Lois M Bujold's Sharing Knife (which IMO also combines Mark Twain and Louis L'Amour), Wen Spencer's Tinker and Endless Blue and Sarah A Hoyt's Heart & Soul trilogy. The latter I just reviewed here

Anonymous said...

Oh no, I've totally forget about this until now! I had planned to read Zelazny's Amber Chronicles but now I don't think I'll get to it. Maybe I'll extend it to SciFi/Fantasy week instead of day. Thanks for the reminder.

Erin said...

I totally forgot about the Sunrunner books! My 19 year old self loved the binding off The Dragon Prince. Never read past the first 3 though. Did you?

Nicola O. said...

Erin, yes, I read all six. I also read a couple of the ones she did after that but I didn't like them as much.

Eeek, Generic, I totally meant to include Mists. Love that book.

Francis, I think I read *something* by Bujold but I can't remember what. I get her mixed up with Sara Douglass' Wayfarer books (unfair, I know).

Jo, awesome list!

iwrite, I doubt if anyone would have a problem with that. ;)

Silver said...

So far, Melanie Rawn, Jacqueline Carey, Sharon Shinn, CL Wilson (looking forward to her next book). The others are on my TBR pile: Sara Douglass, Katherine Kurtz, Robin Hobb, George RR Martin. Way tooooo many books.

Nicola, are there more books after the two trilogies of Dragon Prince and Dragon Star? What are the titles? I love those books, except for books 2 and 3. I cried when Sioned died. I love the way the author described the process, what Sioned was thinking and feeling during that moment.


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