World Building, Renewed Interest, 9 Novelists to write 9 Novels

If you were thinking about signing up for a class in
Science Fiction /Fantasy writing this fall, do it next

The class was officially canceled on Tuesday, as it had only five members, but will be re-instated next week on Wednesday because of renewed interest. We now have nine people–and room for many, many more. If you are a fantasy writer or a science fiction writer in town and want to be a part of a novel-writing push, this is your chance.

Sign up with Krista Mroz at Parks and Recreation (phone  633-8505) and join us for pushing out that novel. We’re now online too at Cold Fantasy, a google Group of the writers in the class. With nine other people churning out a novel–and they have day jobs–you can do it too!

Rocketfuel Blasts Off, 10 and Rising

The fantasy writers of tomorrow are sitting in a high school French Library looking at photographs on a table. Their task is to first pick a photo that appeals to them out of the twenty or thirty scattered there. Then, they have to tell who this person is, what’s happening in the picture, and what that person wants. After writing for fifteen minutes, I tell them to switch gears. I tell them to keep the same person they’ve written about but change the setting to a science fiction or fantasy one, give them a new situation. Keep the real person, though…

Rocketfuel started with six students and now has nine students and next week will have ten, and we meet at FH Collins High School to work on Fantasy and Science Fiction writing. So far, it’s green lights all the way! Snacks seem to be the fuel for this writing –and there’s a lot of good writing going on. And enough enthusiasm to make an hour and a half zoom by. They are a great group.

Thanks to all those who spread the word–and if you are still thinking of signing up, or telling your son or daughter about Rocketfuel, have them meet us on Wednesdays at FH Collins Library at 3:30. We’ll get them on board.

The Fantasy of Beringia, except it’s true

Woolly Rhinoceros
Woolly Rhinoceros

I work at the Beringia Centre, where we preserve Yukon history from 14,000-10,000 years ago. The great land mass of Beringia, situated in what is now the Bering Strait, connecting Siberia and Alaska, was our Atlantis–land that flourished for awhile and then sunk beneath the sea.

While it was here, it was a huge grassland bordered by glaciers and mountains, a refuge untouched by the Ice Age going on in northern North America, a place where plants and animals evolved and lived. And the animals, like the Woolly Rhino to the left, looked like something out of an ancient bestiary.

I think Beringia is a fantasy setting untapped. I would love to get a group of science fiction and fantasy writers to choose Beringia as a setting—scimitar cats, woolly mammoths, hunters crossing the land bridge, giant sloths and beavers, and the magic of the Gwich’in and T’lingit storytelling to go with it. It’s our living fantasy setting, or was.

Everything there is true, and the facts and science could aid a group of writers in developing storylines based on the science and setting of Beringia.

Perhaps one of our assignments in my after school sci-fi/fantasy writing program will be to go to the Beringia Centre and imagine it as a fantasy/sci-fi setting—research the science–develop a story. True, fantasy writers like to come up with settings that utilize wizards, dwarves, dragons, but these are northern European settings, northern European mythology, and Canadian writers have a treasure sitting beneath them.

We don’t have to live by Elves Alone.

Perhaps Beringia will inspire new writers to come up with their own mythology and characters based on this place–and break the European mold. Eh, it’s just an idea. Come visit and see the Fantasy that was really true. I dare Europe to find the bones of a dragon!

New Online Market: Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Hey, here’s a new online, professional fantasy market. Here’s how they describe themselves and what they’re publishing in their own words:

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a new online magazine dedicated to publishing the best in “literary adventure fantasy.”

We love traditional adventure fantasy, including classics from the 1930s pulp era and the new wave of fantasy from the 1970s post-Tolkien boom. But we also love how the recent influence of literary writing on fantasy short fiction has expanded and advanced the genre, allowing writers the freedom to use literary devices such as tight points-of-view, round characters, unreliable narrators, discontinuous narratives, and many others. This sophisticated level of craft has made fantasy short fiction more powerful than ever before.

We want stories that combine the best of both these styles—adventure fantasy plots in vivid secondary worlds, but written with a literary flair. Beneath Ceaseless Skies will feature exciting stories set in awe-inspiring places that are told with all the skill and impact of modern literary-influenced fantasy.

That’s what we mean by “literary adventure fantasy.” It could also be called “modern traditional fantasy” or “literary swords and sorcery.” There are many current short fiction markets that specialize in literary-style fantasy, and a hardy few that still publish adventure fantasy, but there is no magazine focusing on stories that combine both. Until now.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies will publish two stories per issue, with a new issue every two weeks. We will also maintain an online forum to update submitting writers and to encourage reader discussion of all things fantasy. We will use modern internet technology to target readers of fantasy short fiction as well as fans of traditional-style fantasy.

Okay, I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover [art] but this is some nifty cover art by Mats Minnhagen [his website]. Here are the submissions guidelines. Good luck!

How Kung Fu Panda Gets Fantasy Writing Right

Brilliantly concevied and executed, Kung Fu Panda soars as a Fantasy compared to The Forbidden Kingdom. And essentially, they have the same plot.

Take a fan of martial arts and make him the only one who can stop the big villain in a martial arts film.

The post-modernism of films is actually a delight to see–how “fans” are being incorporated into the films they love as plot and character. I’m sure it’s done well other places (most notably Galaxy Quest which takes actors from a show and puts them in reality, but also has a place for fans of the show as heroes too) but KFP does it with style, owing, I think, in no small part to the casting of Jack Black who has played a fan before: School of Rock and Tenacious D come to mind as well as Be Kind Rewind. So naturally, he’s cast as an adoring fan of Kung Fu–and of the Five heroes that protect the city. When he’s picked as the next Dragon Warrior, he has to learn how to become a warrior. Here’s how I think they did it, the writers, and Black, to make it more believable, more fun, and a better overall handling of the same plot from The Forbidden Kingdom.

1. Po’s training is designed for Po. First this is a comedy, so the training is a parody of Martial Arts films, and a parody of the newbie getting quick-trained by the Master. But Jason’s training in TFK is just standard training with looks of disapproval and lots of complaining and then an unbelievable transformation… Po has to be trained (SPOILER!!) using food–his desire. His training reflects his personality–so in a way, we learn more about Po through his training. For Jason in TFK, his training has no reflection of either his masters or him, and it is merely a trudge to get him to the plot. For KFP, Po’s training furthers the plot and the Po we see after training is still Po–vulnerable, quirky, just better with movees that have little style but are fun to watch…

2. Both have to believe in themselves, but Po offers the more believable moments of doubt and overcoming that doubt.

3. Jackie Chan is in both of these movies playing a Monkey like person–strange. But KFP knows that they keep the dialogue to a minimum on Jackie. And Dustin Hoffman as Shifu is a much more layered character than Jackie Chan’s mentor in TFK. There is a troubled past, some disappointment, a reason he’s gruff, and the promise that he has a character arc too….

4. Other characters have arcs as well–Tigress, Oogway the Turtle, Tai Lung the villain–they all have their pasts, and how they are connected, and how they affect each other. Yes, the crane, viper and monkey and mantis have little to no growth, but by far KFP handles more rounded characters than TFK even tried to.

5. Though we are told that Po will save the day, we don’t know how–and we really never do until he does it. We can’t see that Tai Lung can be stopped, until we watch how it happens. This is brilliant as there is only a little foreshadowing, and most of the time we are discovering Po’s potential as he does.

6. Jason in TFK is a big fan of Martial Arts Films, and Po is the fan of the Five. In KFP, they play up the fandom aspect, making it a part of Po’s character, and why he has an inferiority complex to go with his Hero Worship. Jason rarely exhibits his fanboyness–he’s too busy being a stock character, and never realizing what makes him unique–cause no writer has written it for him. he has two or three jokes in the middle of his training related to his knowledge of a certain move. But the film could have capitalized on Jason’s worship and film knowledge, but after the opening sequence, Jason could have been any kid. With Po, we know his worship is what drives the film…he believes in these heroes, wants to be one of them, is devastated when they don’t like him, and runs when he is burdened with doing what his heroes could not do.

7. Po is likeable. Unlike Jason in TFK, there are no insurmountable character flaws in Po–he just has self-doubt, a low self-image, a bit overweight. But he wants to be better. He tries, he never gives up, and he is thwarted more than once from getting what he wants. He has a dad that loves him, but a future in fast food that many of us would identify with. Jason has that awful moment when he takes the thugs directly to the old man and lets them beat him up…. viewers never recover from that. At least, I didn’t. It was unnecessary.

So, further comparisons might be done on the two movies, but I was thrilled with Panda. And yeah, it was cartoon—but cartoons should never be able to do more with plot or character than live action. In fact, if they do, it really shows the shallowness and deficit of the live action. Cartoons can do more with style and camera shots–and making animals out of everyone–but plot and character aren’t necessarily strengthened with cartoon. So, KFP didn’t win over TFK because of animation—but because the writing was SO much better.