TLDR: I talk about what I like/don’t like in the fantasy genre, and how that’s motivated me to finally invest in writing my own fantasy cycle.
If nothing else, the ending to the decade-long epic television masterpiece, Game of Thrones,certainly stirred a lot of discussion. And feelings. And more discussion.
I said my piece on it. Mostly positive (Seasons 1-6), with some criticism over the rushed execution of the final two. Problems that could’ve been solved with more time. But once I released my thoughts into the universe, I realized I’d already moved on. Whatever I loved and didn’t love about the show, it was merely an interpretation of a world I loved long before there was a first season script. A world I’ll return to on the page, again and again and, one day, hopefully, read the ending delivered by the man who created it to begin with. A true fantasy cycle, complete.
More than that, it got me thinking. Anyone who knows me, or has followed this blog since the beginning, knows my love of Tolkien. When I had more time to do it, I wrote a number of essays on the Tolkienverse (posted here on this blog for those so inclined). But, almost equally, although very differently, I love the world of The Song of Ice and Fire. I love it in a similar way I love the Warcraft universe. And while I’ve tried to find other fantasy that fits me the way ASoIaF does, it’s a tough fit.
Much of fantasy deals with the idea of a central hero, and any number of things he must do/not do, discover/not discover. Parallel to that is the of a battle between idea of light and dark, and the underlying conflict that runs through many fantasy worlds. I’ve read a number of really solid fantasy series—well written, exceptional character development and worldbuilding—that nonetheless didn’t leave me satisfied.
What I realized, as I pondered the new void left by the departure of Thrones from television, was that what I love about ASoIaF are those things that cross over into my favorite genre to read: historical fiction (and non-fiction).
What caused me to pick up the series years ago was reading that Martin used the Plantagenets, and more specifically, the Wars of the Roses, as inspiration. Hello! England 1066-1603 is my entire aesthetic! So, of course I picked it up, and of course I loved it. Although a parallel world, it had all the intrigue and web-weaving of the real-life history that, to this day, is better than any fiction (don’t @ me).
What I love about the series is that it’s less about a quest, or a single goal, and more about an event that sends an entire kingdom into turmoil. It’s about all the things each of the characters do as a result of that inciting event, who they were, who they become, how they become what they become together, or apart. It’s about family and lineage; a rich, interconnected history. And yes, it has dragons, but those dragons are more interesting to me in light of their link to the family who purportedly shares their blood and history.
I know, I know, Tolkien did the hero/quest thing, and his work is, bar-none, my favorite to ever be written. But Tolkien set the stage, while others iterated and interpreted. That isn’t to say some didn’t do it as well, or better, only that for me that gold only struck once.
For me, a fantasy series that ticks the boxes has an event that, however small, changes everything; that has all the richness of historical fiction; that draws on the complexity of family and lineage in a way that drives the central plot(s).
All that to say, once this realization hit me, the ideas started flowing. I spent the past few days worldbuilding an entirely new parallel world, writing tens of thousands of notes and biographies and histories. Drawing from what fascinates me about the Middle Ages of our own world, mixing it with my favorite fantasy elements. I’ve already built rich genealogies and am starting now on their stories and histories. I have a map! It’s rudimentary, but one day I’ll have one designed professionally; it’s far too early to commit anything to precision. And although I’m not ready to start writing in this world, the very first line of the series popped into my head, practically screaming at me. No, I’m not sharing it… not just yet, anyway.
Of course, worldbuilding was always my favorite part of the creative process. Anyone who has read my House of Crimson & Clover series, love or hate it, knows how much time was spent on genealogy and history. The writing part is decidedly more complicated, but it’s the coloring in that makes the world really real.
What I know for sure is this: I’ve never been so energized by a project.
What does this mean for my other projects? It doesn’t change much. A Storm of Revelations (Midnight Dynasty Book 2) releases June 18th, and 1976 (The Seven Book 6) comes out on my birthday, July 31st. I haven’t set a date for 1980, the final Seven book, but my plan was to finish the series this year. I hadn’t planned another Midnight Dynasty release until 2020 at the earliest, and my Vampires of the Merovingi series (historical fantasy) takes considerable time for proper historical research. I’ll continue to work with Becket on our co-writing projects, which we do in the spaces in between.
With The Seven almost finished, that frees up a lot more of my creative time, and with a vision this clear, and this real, expect to hear a lot more about this in the coming months.