Tuesday, October 24, 2006

When Fantasy Moves Into History

If I were still a grad student or given to writing essays on literary trends, I think right now I'd be interested in looking at the infestation of dragons and faeries into historical narratives and period dramas. It feels like that's what's occuring in Naomi Novik's and Susanna Clarke's fiction when I read them. What other authors are working this vein? I understand the commercial interest of it of course, but think it would make for an interesting cultural studies or literary essay as well. Sadly, though, I think someone else will have to write it.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Graham said...

Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw and (somewhat older, of course) Crowley's Little, Big.

I understand the commercial interest of it of course, but think it would make for an interesting cultural studies or literary essay as well. Sadly, though, I think someone else will have to write it.

Don't look at me...I barely have time to post snarky comments here any more.

2:12 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Yes, I was thinking of "Tooth and Claw", too, though stupidly I'd forgotten "Little, Big" for some reason. Even though I loved it.

You must do something with your schedule so you have more time to snark.

2:20 AM  
Anonymous Graham said...

You must do something with your schedule so you have more time to snark.

Give up karaoke practice?

5:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Historical fiction has often verged on fantasy in the past- Fantasy with the correct costumes and important dates.

As Dr. Johnson said, "He who is tired of snarking is tired of life."

Rick

1:46 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Well that's the thing, Rick, history has had a sort of "verging on" quality of fantasy for a long time, but it's not so much a "verging" on aspect at this juncture, so much as a sudden release of dragons and faeries, recognizably obvious fantasy elements, into historical narrative. And for the record, I consider any fiction, despite its real locations or historical narrative, a sort of fantasy in and of itself. It's bringing it down to a specific distinction like this that is the interesting and vital thing, sort of like the second quote in the Arendt post. Distictions are important. Otherwise, as she says, we can call anything anything else.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dragons are no more imaginary beings than feisty medieval men and women with 21st century values, moral codes and sanitary habits. And yet we've had them forever.

Rick

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Niall said...

Would you include something like Stephenson's Baroque Cycle? Less overtly fantastical tha any of the examples discussed above, but still contains speculative elements.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Niall, I think I would include the Baroque cycle. Certainly less overt, but I think drawing from the same well.

3:26 AM  

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