Fairy Tales & Fantasy discussion

Fairytale and fantasy

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message 1: by Prue (new)

Prue I had a comment this week from an agent who said there is no place in contemporary fantasy for the world's oldest fairytale(s). I felt it was an incredibly
ignorant comment to make. What do other fantasy readers/writers feel?

The Stumpwork Robe

message 2: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 19 comments I agree. Almost all storylines can trace some aspect of their make up to a fairytale beginning. Most authors learned the basics of storytelling from reading the classics. They are what has gone before and thus influence the future, contemporary fantasy. It is complete foolishness to shun something simply because it is old. The very fact that we still know the oldest fairytales is a testament to their worth. If they weren't lost to obscurity, then someone must have seen value in them. Someone of note. :)

message 3: by Prue (new)

Prue How I wish I could copy and paste your opinion, but in the interests of good manners, I feel its best to keep the discussion here and not between me and the agent.
Speaking for myself, my furthest memory is of fairytale and legend and it is probably why I never would have written anything other than fantasy.

message 4: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 19 comments I loved fairy tales as a child. I read my way through the entire fantasy/fairytale section in every library I had access to as I grew up (we moved a lot). Through their influence, I realized that on the page, anything is possible. I also learned about the importance of our decisions and their effects. I also learned that what mattered in life was what was on the inside, not the outward appearance. Legends and fairytales have had a strong influence on my childhood.

In my oppinion, reading a well-written retelling is more enjoyable simply because it is a retelling. The past life of the story adds to the depth of the new creation.

message 5: by Prue (new)

Prue I remember as a child, being shown pictures by a fourth grade teacher, of rabbits and squirrels and other forest animals in a lamp-lit copse with fairies, gnomes and elves surrounding them. We were asked to write a composition and I remember my heart beat that little bit faster as I thought of all the fairytales I had been told and all that I had read and I just let my pen (inkwell and pen in the 1950's) fly with my own rendition. This same teacher, a Mrs.Thorn, would show us different pictures each week and each week, I would write another fairytale story. It is my absolute strongest memory of primary school.
I agree Rachel, if the re-telling is well-written, it is a marvellous extension of a past legend. It enables the legend to move on and on through generations.

I said somewhere else, that I believe the spoken word, the bard telling heroic tales of dragonslayers and sleeping princesses, gold rings and djinnies was the forerunner to fairytale in the written form, whereby in our most contemporary time we now have the genre of fantasy . . . writers who 1000 years ago would have been travelling bards and troubadours.
When one thinks about it, it is an extraordinary legacy, isn't it? Which brings me back to my unenunciated question . . . how can that afore-mentioned agent not recognise this legacy and accept that fairytale will always have its place in fantasy?

message 6: by ~♥Alyssa♥~, Cool! I'm a mod! (new)

~♥Alyssa♥~ (lyssie123) | 11 comments Mod
Gahhh...This is intimidating! You're all so smart and mature, and...WOW!

message 7: by Prue (new)

Prue Not really, Alyssa. That agent's comment really just got up my nose and I've given it a lot of thought and wanted to know what others think.

I can seriously be the dumb blonde, quite often actually!

message 8: by ~♥Alyssa♥~, Cool! I'm a mod! (new)

~♥Alyssa♥~ (lyssie123) | 11 comments Mod
Really? Wow, I find that hard to believe! Well, you still have a very interesting and well-thought out opinion.

message 9: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 19 comments I can be a bit of a dumb blonde too. :) I just have thought about this topic quite a bit since it was a favorite genre of mine while I was growing up. :)

message 10: by Prue (new)

Prue I am glad you have, Rachel. I thought the comment may have generated more of a response from the general Goodreads membership though. Particularly in the light of the Twilight phenomenon. Vampires et al have their own place in fairytale/legend after all.

So good to talk to you however.

The Stumpwork Robe

message 11: by Kevis (last edited Sep 01, 2009 09:46PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) Prue,

Although I agree with you that it is a silly comment to say that there is no place for fairy tales in contemporary fantasy, I do understand why your agent said what he did. A year ago I published a book that is a fairy tale disguised as a fantasy book. Most of my readers, or at least the ones who were familiar with fairy tales, enjoyed reading my book. Not surprisingly, the only people who attacked it were people who were unfamiliar with the archaic modes of storytelling.

Part of the problem is that the greedy corporations that are the gatekeepers of contemporary media are more concerned with making a quick buck than educating the public. Because of this, many people are not exposed to the old legends and fairy tales and are programmed to reject anything that falls outside of their comfort zone. Whenever they encounter a book that is foreign to them, instead of trying to learn what it is about, they simply reject it and pass it off as rubbish.

Recently, one of my readers took me to task and said that after he started reading my book he literally hurled it on the floor in utter disgust. Why? According to the reader, he had never read a book that was written in the storyteller's narrative mode and thought that my writing was simply amateurish.

After talking with the reader I learned that he had never been exposed to the kind of literature which inspired my book. Anyone who has read Homer, Spenser, Mother Goose, Hans Christian Anderson, Brother's Grimm, Lord Dunsany, George MacDonald, TH White, C.S Lewis, or J.R.R. Tolkien would have recognized my style of writing. But sadly, this reader, who has been weaned exclusively on modern fantasy books of the likes of Robert Jordon, Terry Brooks, and others thought my book was rubbish because he had no frame of reference for the kind of folklorish material I mentioned above.

Increasingly, our modern society is failing to properly educate young people on the classics. Since young people are the focus of the commercial industry, the torchbearers of the classics such as you or I, are finding ourselves being cut off from the very people who need to read our books the most by the progenitors of the kinds of statements that your agent made to you. If these people are allowed to have their way, one day there will indeed be no market for the kinds of books we write, because they would block every attempt by the purveyors of the old legends to inform new generations on the kinds of stories that came before them.

message 12: by Prue (new)

Prue That's a terrible thought, isn't it? Perhaps we should be grateful to Disney for Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, The LittLe Mermaid, Pochahontas (legend?), Aladdin and so on. Then to movies such as The Labryinth. Because at least at some stage in their lives, children are being introduced to the world of Fairytale.

I have a favourite author who bases quite a lot of her fantasy on fairytale and that is Juliet Marillier. This particular agent would do well to check the rankings on Amazon alone of Juliet's books. That she is popular is undeniable. That people accept fairytale and legend-based fantasy is obvious.

Take Cecilia Dart-Thornton who uses much legend and folk-tale in her books, not even a variation, but a beautiful rendition of the actual legends. Her fan club is emormous. Her books sold to Time-Warner I believe, straight off Delrey's Writers Workshop for a massive sum. In both Juliet's and Cecilai's case, their language and tone is beautiful and certainly not what I would expect from 'commercial' novels.

So there is a market and I think that was my point . . . that this agent was blind, that she had a very narrow view of fantasy. She is a top agent in my country and in the past, handled one of the biggest selling contemporary fantasy writers we know. The difference being that this particular writer did not use fairytale/legend so directly.

I do agree with you about the lack of education in the classics. But I wonder if then it becomes the role of the movie and television industries to carry the torch. I have mentioned Disney. I should also mention the fantastic success in my own country of the British-made television series of Robin Hood and Merlin. Massive fan-base opening up potential for Y/A and even A readers to pursue Arthurian legend and the legends arising from Robin Hood.

All this aside though, Kevis, I can't envisage writing in any other way. Fairytale, legend and folktale resonates with me. If I wanted to make money, I suppose I should be writing chick-lit, but because I want to enjoy what I write, I shall plug on using fairytale and legend.

Thank you so much for responding to my post, it's always a relief to know there is someone who shares a similar experience. What is the name of your book so that I may look out for it?

message 13: by Kevis (last edited Sep 01, 2009 09:59PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) Prue,

The thing that inspires me most about what we do is that every time agents and publishers say that a particular genre of literature is not en vogue, a book shows up to bite them in the backside. I personally know authors who wrote vampire fiction for years and never got to see their work in print because publishers kept telling them that no one wants to read books about Vampires. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Stephenie Meyers shows up and turns the entire industry on its head.

Publishers told J.K. Rowlings the same thing about kids not wanting to read books about Boy-Wizards. Not only were kids dying to read her book, but so were adults. The result? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone is the 2nd best-selling book in history next to the Bible.

Before Rowlings, it was King ("No one wants to read Horror!"), before King, it was Tolkien ("No one wants to read about pointy-eared people!"), and on and on. When will the supposed gatekeepers of contemporary literature ever learn?

My take on the matter is to keep on trooping on. There are millions of people who share the same interests that you and I do. If we play our cards right, those readers will flock to our books and the agents and publishers who turned our books down will be staring at each other with jaws dropped wondering how our books managed to slip through their fingers.

BTW, my book is called The Legend of Witch Bane. I appreciate the interest. Also, thanks for mentioning Juliet Marillier. I'll be checking into her work. :)

message 14: by Prue (new)

Prue Shall seek out The Legend of Witch Bane and it is lovely to have talked with you.

The Stumpwork Robe

message 15: by Kevis (last edited Sep 01, 2009 09:57PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) Prue,

I'm following you here on GoodReads so that I can learn more about you and your books. I look forward to reading them. And thanks for the wonderful and very engaging discussion!

message 16: by Prue (new)

Prue My pleasure!

message 17: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 19 comments I believe that it is important to expose children to the classics as they grow. I feel I would be lacking parts of myself without my time spent with C. S. Lewis and others. Reading isn't a instant gratification recreation. It takes work. Also, like those things that take work to enjoy, the reward is greater for the effort.

message 18: by Kevis (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) Rachel,

I couldn't agree more. Living in a society which would rather have schools teach five-year olds about sex rather than Snow White is one of the things that fuels me to take up the battle flag for the classics. Children are being robbed of their innocence in more ways than one and it is up to the people who know better to carry on the rich tradition that was so wonderfully passed on to us. I won't apologize because I would rather kids read Dr. Seuss than Dr. Ruth.

message 19: by ~♥Alyssa♥~, Cool! I'm a mod! (new)

~♥Alyssa♥~ (lyssie123) | 11 comments Mod
There's some really good ideas being expresssed up there. And while I agree with post 11 about how the archaic storytelling writing style is very common in old classics and makes for a very good read, I would just like to add that I love Terry Brooks' books, especially his 'Landover' series. I do not find them lacking in any element of classic storytelling. I found them very enjoyable, and they should not be overlooked just because the fantasy is "modern."

message 20: by Kevis (last edited Sep 02, 2009 12:57PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) Alyssa,

The wonderful thing about literature is that there is something for everyone, including Terry Brooks. The problem is that corporations are trying to be the overseers of the culture and deciding what we should or should not read. There are as many different kinds of stories as there are people. We, the people, own the right to decide what we should read or not read, or watch or not watch. Corporations are completely out of line by trying to dictate our choices for us.

My frustration is with the type of people, such as the agent Prue mentioned, who have the audacity to say that there is no place for old literature in contemporary society. This coming from the same people who would rather publish a memoir by Paris Hilton than a work of literary fiction by a new, albeit unknown, author. Something is wrong with this picture and I, for one, am not sorry to see publishers shutting up shop because they don't make enough money to stay in business. Seems to me that the handwriting is on the wall. Most people don't want to read memoirs. If people are not spending money on books, maybe publishers need to reconsider the kinds of books they are publishing. It certainly doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

I would like to add this caveat. We are living in a technological age where people seem cut off from one another. God has been replaced by science. Temples have been replaced by clubs. Priests have been replaced by t.v. sets. People are starving for the kinds of literature that fills the soul. The fairy tales do that. Just look at the popularity of The Lord of the Rings. If today's publishers had their way, Tolkien's 'fairie story' would never have seen the light of day. In this cold and ever changing world, the old tales are probably more relevant now than when they were first written.

message 21: by ~♥Alyssa♥~, Cool! I'm a mod! (last edited Sep 02, 2009 12:51PM) (new)

~♥Alyssa♥~ (lyssie123) | 11 comments Mod
Oh, I wasn't tring to insult you, I think I just misunderstood and wanted to make it clear that a book doesn't have to be a classic to be good. And I know you guys all deny it, but wow, you're all so smart!

message 22: by Kevis (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) Alyssa,

I wasn't offended by what you said. I just wanted to make my point a little more clear since I think my passion for this subject might make it seem as though I am coming off rather aggressive. Please don't think I am angry with anything you said. I'm just excited to have a chance to participate in this excellent discussion and you have made some wonderful points.

message 23: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 19 comments Every tale has a tone or purpose. Some tones or styles are more suited towards one thing than another. There is nothing wrong with Terry Brooks' tone or style. The problem is when Terry Brooks' or Rachel Rossano's style is the only one publishers will consider.

message 24: by ~♥Alyssa♥~, Cool! I'm a mod! (last edited Sep 02, 2009 12:59PM) (new)

~♥Alyssa♥~ (lyssie123) | 11 comments Mod
Don't worry, no offense taken at all. You certainly have given this a lot of thought, and it shows. Your points above are excellent! And thanks!
(I still say you're smart. :) )

message 25: by Kevis (last edited Sep 02, 2009 01:01PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) Rachel wrote: "There is nothing wrong with Terry Brooks' tone or style. The problem is when Terry Brooks' or Rachel Rossano's style is the only one publishers will consider."

Exactly what I was trying to say in a nutshell.

Alyssa, if it means anything, I read and enjoy contemporary just as much as anyone else. Just saying that there is room for more authors than just Stephenie Meyers or Dan Brown.

message 26: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 19 comments I guess I am trying to say that publishers seem to be looking only for the blockbusters and ignoring the potential classics that will not be blockbusters on their first run. Instead, they will linger in the public conciousness and become a classic of more value than their flashy cousin.

message 27: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 19 comments PS I love Dr. Suess. He is more profound than most of the childrens' book authors out there today.

message 28: by Kevis (last edited Sep 02, 2009 01:04PM) (new)

Kevis Hendrickson (kevishendrickson) Rachel,

As you mention it, I wonder how Dr. Seuss would fare if he were seeking a book deal from today's publishers? That's some food for thought. Hmmm...

message 29: by ~♥Alyssa♥~, Cool! I'm a mod! (new)

~♥Alyssa♥~ (lyssie123) | 11 comments Mod
"Kevis wrote: Just saying that there is room for more authors than just Stephenie Meyers or Dan Brown.

Yes, I wish publishers weren't so unbending and convinced they know which type of book is best and any other isn't worth it. It's unfair. And good point, Rachel.

message 30: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 19 comments Thanks :)

message 31: by Prue (new)

Prue I have followed this discussion with such interest.
I am now presuming that out there in the actual 'buying' and 'reading' world there are thousands who enjoy fairytale/legend-based fantasy, whether the tone is highbrow or lowbrow. The only way to prove a point I suppose, is to keep buying what we like, reject what we don't and for those of us who may be writers, concentrate on writing what we enjoy writing, simply for the enjoyment.

I am interested in fairytale/legend, therefore I will buy that. But I am not interested in vampires so I won't buy Stephanie Meyers or any other vampire writer. I don't like odd worlds, I like a world that approximates our own, without unpronounceable made-up names. And I especially like a book that relates to fairytale and folktale. Everyday I wonder why our ancestors believed in such creatures as the Cabyll Ushtey or the Caointeach or Jenny Greensleeves. What was it about their lives that gave rise to these legendary folk? A book about how these legends impact on characters in a story is what I will seek out and read. Long live legend!

message 32: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 19 comments Hear! Hear! :)

message 33: by Prue (new)

Prue You may be interested in checking Writer Unboxed (google it) about the subject 'fairytale in fantasy.' Fantasy author Sophie Masson wrote a great piece and the comment was interesting. She is to be followed by Juliet Marillier on the same subject in October.

The Last Stitch (The Chronicles of Eirie, #2) by Prue Batten

message 34: by Prue (new)

Prue Juliet's piece on the above subject for Writer Unboxed was marvellous . . . and now she has released her latest title 'Hearts Blood' which has a strong connection to the old fairytale, Beauty and the Beast. Juliet talks about the writing of the story in the latest Writer Unboxed.

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