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What? No dragons?


I wanted to write today about the thorny issue of genre and pigeonholing( or should that be dragonholing?) Writing as someone who struggled to define my book by genre, it can be frustrating when people have preconceptions about what your book is going to be like. I have lost count of the people who, on hearing my book was classified in the 'Fantasy' genre immediately said "Oh I never read all that stuff about dragons and wizards and other nonsense!" On the other hand, there were also those who were disappointed and determined not to read the book BECAUSE it didn't contain a goodly sprinkling of dragons, griffins, flying beasts, wands and female sidekicks in chain-mail bikinis... My book Flammeus is defined as low fantasy. This means that it takes place in an author invented time and place but contains no elements of what is known as high fantasy - think elves, ogres, phoenixes, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, magical elements and so on. In the end, fantasy just means imagination. Where a historical novel might draw its inspiration from social systems, art, music and politics that have already been imagined and made real in life, a fantasy involves an author putting together a world with all of those parts in it by using their imagination. Often the things in a fantasy world are inspired by things in our own world, or by things from the past or from other cultures. My book Flammeus is an example of this. Many of the things in Flammeus are things which have existed or do exist in the real world but which I have drawn together in unlikely ways. My studies in anthropology and psychology have meant that I take a keen interest in the ways in which humans choose to run their worlds, and why they make the choices they make. It can be disappointing when people make snap judgements about whether they will enjoy your book based on their own preconceptions about genre. There are many books now regarded as classics which might fall under the 'Fantasy' genre heading were they to be written today- Lost Horizon by James Hilton, The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle and She by Rider Haggard are just a few. Of course, we all have our preferences in reading; some people prefer non-fiction to fiction, crime to romance or utopia to dystopia. Others prefer science fiction with its view to the future while others prefer historical adventures with their nod to the past. But ultimately, all works of fiction are works of fantasy, imagination and creativity whether its inventing a whole new world, or inventing a whole new character or a whole new plot twist. Enjoy the creativity of the books you read, whatever their purported genre. The human mind is endlessly creative and innovative and there are so many wonderful writers putting down their creativity and imaginative thought. And perhaps have a little scribble yourself... it doesn't have to be a full length novel; it might be the description of your favourite day, or a list of memories about an old friend or even an imaginary dragon!

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