We are hosting a guest post from Tara Maya, author of the Unfinished Song series, on her blog tour to promote the release of her new novel BLOOD. Tara is stopping by our blog today to share her views on the definitions of science fiction and fantasy genres.
The eternal questions: Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there in truth no beauty? And what is the difference between science fiction and fantasy?
David Brin has weighed in on this last question. In his essay, The Difference Between Science Fiction and Fantasy?, he asks, “what is my definition of the separation?”
For all the courage and heroism shown by fantasy characters across 4000 years of great, compelling dramas — NOTHING EVER CHANGES! Aragorn may be a better king than Sauron would have been. Hurray. Fine. But he’s still a freaking king. … The core thing about fantasy tales is that, after the adventure is done and the bad guys are defeated… the social order stays the same.
Obviously, he thinks scifi is cooler, but he’s explained why. To be honest, I think that one reason many people prefer fantasy is because change is static; nostalgia, rather than anticipation, is the guiding motive.
But does it have to be this way? I think Brin conflates two issues. Why is fantasy overwhelmingly feudal? Does fantasy fetishize an unchanging past?
Castles and swords, knights and princesses… I love these things, and I’ve never been able to walk through an old castle without wanting to write a story about it. Legends and myths give me the same feeling. I want to bring these things back to life. I want to imagine myself into that world. One has to leave knowledge of the future behind in that world because people who lived during medieval times did not have a sense of progress. They had a sense of an unchanging world, or in some cases, of a deteriorating world.
It’s also certainly true that fantasy often falls back on feudalism. This is not so strange if one is using a quasi-medieval pseudo-European (or even pseudo-Japanese or pseudo-Chinese or pseudo-Timbuktu) culture. I had an idea once for a story set in a pseudo-Tibetan setting, and what disturbed me most was that most readers wouldn’t have been able to really tell it apart from a pseudo-French one from the same era: Monks, kings, peasants, horses, swords. Yet even in Urban Fantasy, one often finds that the Secret Organization of Were-creatures, Vampires and Merfolk, or whatever it is, operates along quite feudal lines.
One of my secret goals has been to create some democratic fantasy. Now, I don’t always succeed. Faearth (the world of my Unfinished Song series) has no emperors or kings because they are not “advanced” enough. They are not a democracy either. They have elements of both autocratic and democratic governance, in the way that many neolithic cultures did. The system differs from tribe to tribe, and also from year to year, but the basic system is that there are three councils or “societies”: the Society of Matriarchs, the Society of Patriarchs, and the Society of Tavaedies (the warrior-dancers with magic).
These three groups make important decisions together by casting stones (on a mat or into jars), a kind of voting. No one else is allowed to vote, but in theory, everyone in the tribe can vote eventually, if they survive arrows of ordinary misfortune, since the only qualification for becoming a Matriarch or Patriarch is old age or a Shining Name. It’s as if the voting age in our society were 60, except for athletes, veterans and movie stars. (It’s much younger for them because they marry and die younger.)
I did not want to write about a utopia (nor a dystopia) in The Unfinished Song. There are many things I think are admirable in the cultures I describe, but also things which are rather horrid. There is also real change; real progress–though it may be as much a threat as a promise. One thing it is not, is an immutable world. Indeed, that is the crux of the dispute between the fae and the humans. The fae are immutable, immortal and eternal. Their time is circular. The humans, like the Black Arrow of Lady Death, can only travel time in one direction. They must change, as inevitably as they must die.
Where To Buy Tara Maya’s Blood: