Monday, 3 February 2014

It's Like Game of Thrones Without the Sex and Violence...

It's a good time to be a fantasy author. The Hobbit and Game of Thrones are riding high. For a broader conception of fantasy, one could also draw on the success of Harry Potter and (*shudder*) Twilight, but The Hobbit and Game of Thrones are much closer to what I'm doing.

I've been trying to work out how best to 'pitch' The Second Realm to potential readers. It's something I've struggled to do for a long time, because it's quite a difficult story to summarise - 'There's this world that's a bit like a post-apocalyptic version of ours, but the apocalypse was it crashing into fairyland, and...' It takes quite a long time to get to the characters, the real meat of the story.

And you don't get a long time to sell someone on your work, usually only a sentence or two. It would be great if I could say 'You like Game of Thrones? Well, you'll like my books!', but that's a long way from guaranteed. And if I say, 'Well, it's like Game of Thrones, but with less sex and violence', people say things like 'What does that leave?' (In truth, The Second Realm is like Game of Thrones but with no sex and far less violence).

Part of the problem is that fantasy, even if we limit ourselves to 'secondary-world' fantasy (fantasy not set at least partly in 'the real world'), is a very broad genre. It stretches from the Sword-and-Sorcery pulp of Conan the Barbarian and Fritz Leiber's Swords of Lankhmar to classic epics like Lord of the Rings and Michael Scott Rohan's The Winter of the World, to the character-driven political stories of Game of Thrones or Robin Hobb's Six Duchies and Rain Wild books, all the way out to contemporary deconstructionist works like Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles and Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards.

And most people have only heard of three things on that list - Conan, LotR and Game of Thrones. You can be a fantasy author and be writing stories which are nothing like what most people think fantasy involves. Indeed, arguably, since the tropes in Conan, LotR and Game of Thrones are somewhat played-out (no criticism intended to their respective authors), a good fantasy author should be trying to get away from those classics.

But that does make it very difficult to pitch your project. I need to get a pitch out of this summary of The Second Realm:

Set in a world somewhat like a post-apocalyptic version of ours, where technology has fallen back to medieval levels, this is the story of a group of elite warriors, augmented with magical superpowers, who must work together to protect 'ordinary' humans from both terrifying supernatural invaders and their own superpowered brethren, not all of whom see the business of 'saving mankind' in the same terms.

Actually, in some ways, I think the closest analogy from a storytelling perspective would be a superhero comic. Probably the X-men. I quite like the idea of telling people that I'm writing 'X-men: Middle Earth'.

If that sounds like your thing, by the way, The Second Realm starts here and is also available at Smashwords, formatted for all major ebook platforms. I hope to have print collections available later this year (he says, for the third year in a row...), but for now it's all free. Enjoy!

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