Monday, October 02, 2017

High and Low

I do not write ‘low fantasy.’ That is, fantasy that is set in more-or-less our ‘real’ world, into which fantasy elements intrude (which is something a bit different from ‘magic realism,’ which is actually surrealism, not fantasy). The familiar tales of werewolves or vampires are part of the long tradition of low fantasy.

On the other hand, Tolkien wrote high fantasy. The stories are set in their own world, with its own rules. The popular ‘Game of Thrones’ series is, as well. Both high and low fantasy have long traditions and, not surprisingly, the border between them is sometimes blurred.

Roger Zelazny’s ‘Amber’ novels are an example of essentially high fantasy that impinges on our own world in a low fantasy manner. In that the underlying cosmology of the Amber ‘universe’ (of which our own universe is only one among a possibly infinite number of variations) is fully realized, it has to go into the high fantasy category.

The bulk of my own fantasies follow a rather similar pattern. The Malvern tales start in our own world, amid familiar events, but enters another realm with different rules. Somewhat different, anyway. This world of ours is always a part of the larger ‘infiniverse.’ Whether I will ever actually set a tale here is questionable — and I’m not sure whether that would be high or low fantasy!

I honestly have a problem with the basic premise of much low fantasy – that there are hidden things in our own world, magical beings or what have you. It bends logic and science. Fantasy must be believable. Alternative worlds with their own logical sets of rules allow that desirable ‘suspension of disbelief’ we need. I take care never to break those rules, once I have created them.

This does not mean everything is thoroughly explained (though I, the author, might know the reasons for things). Nor would the characters necessarily be knowledgeable of why things work as they do — ‘magic’ might be largely an empirical science. But it is an integral part of their world, an alternate world to this one.

The basic premise of the whole world of my fantasies (and they are all interrelated) is that, among the infinite possible worlds, magic is easier in some than in others. Why the differences exist is somewhat explained here and there in the novels; no need to get into it here in any detail, but it is largely about how closed off one world is from the others (ours being very much so). This is part of the basic design of each universe — with infinite possible worlds, some will be so and some won’t. Or, more properly, an infinite number will be and an infinite number won’t.

So I have an extremely large canvas on which to paint my high fantasies. Will I ever bring any of it back to our own world? I suppose it is possible — and of course I have jotted down ideas from time to time. There is something to be said for bringing the familiar into ones stories, for creating a connection to our own mundane lives. I have only done that so far in the aforementioned Malvern books but there is no reason not to explore it — if, someday, I find a reason.

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