“Miracle-powered adventure fiction?” by IS
I apologise to all readers for the non-appearance of the blog on the past three Fridays. This was partly caused by holiday, and partly by a technical problem on the site: now thankfully fixed I think by the lovely Studio Renton. Particular apologies to my guest poster below!
A little while ago (here) Ian Storer wrote about writing time travel fiction. In Part 2 of his contribution, he tells us about his writing genre – fantasy, folk-tale and adventure all mixed up – and its connection to the medieval world-view.
To be honest, I don’t think of what I’m doing as genre fiction (either fantasy or sci-fi) and though it is ‘fantasy’ in that it contains fantastical events and what could possibly be classed as ‘magic,’ it certainly isn’t ‘fantasy’ in the classic Tolkienesque sense of an alternative world, as it is squarely set in the real world and accurately researched historical contexts. If I was being pretentious I’d probably say that I’m writing Mi-Fi not Sci-Fi – though if I do, I’ve probably just invented the sub-genre of miracle-powered adventure fiction – but I’d better not say too much at this stage!
A big part of my thinking taps into the Medieval Christian world-view which saw no divide between the natural and the supernatural (scientific/religious) but between the source of the powers which worked within a single “supernatural” reality – a reality in which even the natural bits are imbued with metaphysical power. To quote Ravenna Friere (who herself is quoting Anselm) in one of my unpublished stories:
‘Natural, supernatural – it’s really all the same. Everyone knew that once. I mean, it’s a miracle that a tiny acorn can turn into a giant oak tree. Scientists can tell you how in this age, whereas once scholars could not – but it is still miraculous, yes? …this is not magic – nor is it science: magic is like hot-wiring a car to get it started. What we are about to do is use the key.’
The medieval observer wouldn’t be arguing a divide between science and religion, or the natural and the supernatural but would have questioned the source of the power – the magical and the miraculous – the evil and holy. In their view – and in my stories – the super natural blatantly exists and every molecule of reality is vibrating with it. A medieval hearer would have experienced the story and shrugged at the question of genre as, to them, physically impossible stuff was totally plausible in the world God had made. But I’d better stop there or I’ll stray into ‘spoiler alert’ territory as that’s all a long way off.
And the Fairy-Tale Aspect?
I suppose there’s a part of me that’s always liked the fantastical (and I secretly love folk-tales) and I fell into pushing the non-real element in my stories to an extreme I hadn’t anticipated. In a way this is cross-genre stuff which you should just take as a good story – like the Indiana Jones films, for example, which are clearly set in an historical reality, but have a massive fantasy/supernatural element. They’re just a ripping adventure like Jules Verne and HG Wells.
I’m also quite a fan of the US drama ‘Person of Interest,’ which along with its incredible wit and clever writing managed to morph from one seemingly realistic genre (“cop show”) to something entirely different over the various series, ending with a full-on thought provoking dystopian science fiction story: and I must admit that this genre-destroying approach has directly influenced the six ‘episodes’ of the Unnatural History Museum as they have progressed.
So I won’t hold my hand up and admit that I’m writing either fantasy or science fiction (even though that will most likely give all book-sellers a headache) and I’m not technically writing historical fiction either; my books will most likely be placed into the Young Adult Literature category, which seems to be a bit of a corral for any story set in the real world where unreal things happen! But I shouldn’t really cast aspersions on either sci-fi or fantasy (whether it contains magic or not) as my main aim is to spin an entertaining yarn and that often involves a few legends, ghosts and dragons.
As G.K. Chesterton said (often attributed to Neil Gaiman – and paraphrased here): The real job of fantasy is not to tell us that dragons are real, but to show us that that we can rise up and face the real monsters of our own world.
(PPI Blogger adds: Ian writes under the name of Ian Roberts (or RobertS?), and this link https://www.amazon.co.uk/kindle-dbs/author/ref=dbs_P_W_auth?_encoding=UTF8&author=Ian%20RobertS&searchAlias=digital-text&asin=B07B9FQNYW will take you to his Amazon page for the stories available so far (my reviews of two of them are also on Amazon.) My favourite quote:
“‘What’s that?’ she said hesitantly. Ravenna glanced up at her with annoyance. ‘What does it look like Wells, it is a tranquiliser gun.’”)
Ian also blogs here: https://scipio6.wixsite.com/the-wardrobe-door/blog/another-sighting