Tale as Old As Time: How Fantasy Has Changed

by Courtney Vice

We all remember our first fantasy experience. Whether you were binge-reading Tolkien nestled in between the bookshelves at your local library or was fascinated with the mythical world of Harry Potter when you first saw Daniel Radcliffe’s glasses clad face on the big screen, fantasy had a way of slipping a little magic and mystique into our lives without us even realizing. As someone who grew up wanting to be an elf-wizard-barbarian hybrid, I know just how much the fantasy genre can impact one’s life. However, what we rarely think about is how our own magic-less society affects fantasy.  Yes, humble Nord, you influenced these mythical worlds without even realizing it just as they influenced you. Continue reading

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Top Ten Deities in Fantasy Literature

*Disclaimer: this list is in no particular order.

  • tolkien-jrr-the-silmarillionEru Ilúvatar – Eru is the supreme deity in the Middle Earth mythos. Featured most prominently in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, Eru is the deity of Creation, the father of the Children (Elves and Men), and king over all lesser “deities” (Ainur).
  • Most interesting fact: Eru is an analogue for the Judeo-Christian God Yahweh.
  • Attributes: Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, and immutability.

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Science-Fantasy: CS Lewis’ Blending of Two Emerging Genres

Just over a quarter into the previous century, two literary genres were coming into their own: science-fiction and fantasy. Certainly, there were precursor stories to these genres written by the likes of H.G. Wells and George Macdonald, but they were not the “modern” forms we recognize today. Emerging as they were, we owe a great deal of gratitude to those early pioneers who popularized the genres in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Sci-fi authors like Asimov and fantasy writers like Tolkien had few prominent, contemporary sources to borrow from and as such utilized their fantastic and creative originality to pen into existence fabulous worlds of automata and elves. Another emerging author at the time was C.S. Lewis. Known today for his wildly popular Narnia series and his many theological writings, a great tragedy has befallen his legacy. Virtually no one remembers him for his foray into science fiction; or rather, science-fantasy.

Around the year 1936 (according to Christopher Tolkien), C.S. Lewis and his good friend J. R. R. Tolkien had a conversation. The conversation likely took place in one of the many meetings of the literary group The Inklings, of which Lewis and Tolkien were prominent and regular members. The Hobbit had been written, but as of yet was unpublished, and Narnia was not even yet dreamt of. Lewis said, “Tollers,” one of Tolkien’s nicknames, “there is too little of what we like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves,” (recorded in Letters of JRR Tolkien). And so, a challenge was created between the two men: could they each pen an engaging fiction that defended historical sentiment against the modernism movement while introducing deep theology via prose without sounding like arrogant propaganda? In a coin toss, it was decided that Lewis would write a space story and Tolkien a time travel story, both starting off scientific but discovering “myth.”*

At that time the term “science-fiction” did not exist due to the precious few stories within the genre, and its colloquial usage would not take off until the 1950s. It was very much out of the norm, then, for these gentlemen to pen such stories. Lewis penned three novels that could be read as standalone or part of a larger over-arching narrative. The Space Trilogy (or The Cosmic Trilogy) as it’s known in its omnibus form, consists of Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. These stories follow its protagonist Elwin Ransom Ph.D., who is argued by fans to be a fictionalized (albeit Protestant) Tolkien, to Mars and Venus and a technocratic Earth. Tolkien’s story, named The Lost Road, sadly was never finished. It was later merged into Middle Earth continuity. Lewis’s trilogy, then, is the only surviving testament to this hybridization of science-fiction and fantasy.

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The Space Trilogy starts off with a very scientific feel. Staying as spoiler-free as possible, Elwin very early in the story boards a spherical spaceship and takes off towards Mars. This part of the story describes in detail a very realistic depiction of space involving zero gravity and the view of the cosmos. Upon landing on Mars, however, the planet seems very fantastic. Although clearly an alien world, it more closely resembles a fantasy realm of talking animals and complex mythology. The longer one spends in Lewis’s Malacandra (the native name for Mars) the more it seems like a fantasy world. Lewis leads us onto a planet steeped in an ancient lore of spiritual entities and enchanting creatures without ever losing that scientific, alien feel. For example, in his narrative there are angelic, spiritual beings called Eldila. They have an enchanting feel primarily to them like that of the classical faerie, yet Lewis goes on to attribute scientific theories to them. These creatures are higher-dimensional beings, and as such would not see space and time the same way we do. Upon meeting an alien, whose name is Augrey, Elwin learns that to the Eldila the material world is like a mist that they can flit through; that outer space to them is a physical plain, and our worlds are like moving cities therein. In lore, it is called the Field of Arbol, upon which the Eldila walk to and from the various planets in our solar system. Thus, Lewis has combined scientific philosophy, theology, and fantasy in one creature.

In the next story, Elwin goes to Venus (Perelandra). This story, even more than the previous one, emphasizes fantasy. Perelandra is a world of an emerald colored ocean with mountain-high waves and an unbroken golden roof of clouds; riding the waves like driftwood caught in a current are numerous archipelagos of floating islands. On these islands are miniature dragons, fish that obey human commands, and green, perfect human beings. Here, Elwin is tasked with stopping an evil Eldil from causing sin to enter this unfallen world. Although the bulk of the story is fantasy, a section towards the end plays with mind-bending, higher-dimensional ideas about time, space, and our place therein that rivals the likes of Interstellar and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I want to avoid spoilers, so here are the page numbers for anyone interested: Perelandra pp. 183-188, especially the long paragraph starting on page 187.

In the last installment, That Hideous Strength, the story returns to Earth, but it is an Earth that is becoming increasingly technocratic. However, this story is not without its share of myth. The Eldila from other planets invade Earth to wage war on Earth’s corrupted and evil Eldila, while the ancient mage Merlin awakens to fulfill an old Arthurian prophecy. It is here that the over-arching narrative comes to a crashing and satisfying close blending scientific doom, mythology, and theology in one. As an aside, it seems that Tolkien’s The Lost Road and Lewis’s Space Trilogy were to be connected. In Tolkien’s story, which also features a protagonist named Elwin, the plot surrounds Numenor and his “True West” or the Middle Earth Atlantis. In That Hideous Strength Elwin Ransom speaks of Numinor (Lewis’s misspelling) nine times, and in an introduction to the book Lewis writes, “Those who would like to learn further about Numinor and the True West must (alas!) await the publication of much that still exists only in the MSS. of my friend, Professor J. R. R. Tolkien.” This has led many to theorize that Lewis’s tale directly ties into Middle Earth Lore; considering Tolkien’s stingy, perfectionist control over his deep mythology I tend to agree as he would not have let it happen otherwise (I can already hear the Tolkien purists screaming at their computer screens).

Anyone who reads this trilogy cannot deny the intricate complexity and masterful penmanship of Lewis. I cannot do it justice in words, nor can I fully aid the reader in realizing how perfect the blend of science-fiction and fantasy are. There simply is no way to portray it without giving pages of quotation spoiling the narratives. Instead, I implore the reader to pick up a copy of the trilogy and experience it for themselves. Fans of science-fiction, fantasy, and philosophy will be thrilled by a grand hybrid of all three and will gain an appreciation for the pioneering impact Lewis made in popularizing fantasy and sci-fi by interweaving the two.

*It is important to note that Lewis and Tolkien did not consider myth to mean, “something false to explain phenomena” nor did they view it as meaning something untrue, or a lie. Tolkien and Lewis believed myth to be stories which contained truth in them, leading to the True Myth, the myth that actually occurred, of Christ.

Written by Tripp Bond

Review – The Stars Were Right – KM Alexander

Alexander, KM - The Stars Were Right.jpgK.M. Alexander’s The Stars Were Right is a story about people getting murdered and other people trying to figure out why.

After three weeks on trail, caravan master Waldo Bell returns to the fantasy city of Lovat. With nothing on his mind but a shower and dinner, he collects his payment and sets out to do his errands. However, a grisly spree of murders begins the same day and Waldo finds himself a prime suspect. Continue reading

Review – The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

gaiman-neil-the-ocean-at-the-end-of-the-laneLet me begin with an “I love Neil Gaiman.” I want to be completely honest about the potential bias (though I don’t think it exists here). Gaiman’s writing is everything I love when reading. Now, let’s move on.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a story of childhood reminiscence. Our unnamed protagonist and narrator finds himself in his childhood hometown for a funeral. In an attempt to get some peace of mind and fresh air, he drives himself to the neighborhood where his childhood home no longer exists but Hempstock Farm, at the end of the lane, still does.

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19 Free Fantasy Reads

Just in time for the Christmas break we’ve brought you another list of selected fantasy reads, courtesy of Inkitt.

This bumper list of 19 titles was compiled by Eleanna as a selection of the fantasy books available. So dig in to the below titles and let us know your thoughts!

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1. Token Huntress, a Fantasy/Romance novel by Kia Carrington-Russell

The sun’s light dimmed many centuries before; now, in the year of 2341, rampant vampires stalk their victims in a half-lit world. Humanity has been overtaken by a new society: one comprised of vampires, the supernatural beings that hunt them, and the remaining humans they fight over.

2. Secrets on the Walls,  a Fantasy/Adventure novel by Lauren Massuda

Follow the thrilling tale of two sisters plunged into a world within a world, as they delve deeper into their fantasy to uncover the truth.

3. The Outlander War: Book Three of the Forever Avalon Series, a Fantasy/Adventure novel by Mark Piggott

An island frozen in space and time, forgotten lands of old, the threat of extinction and one man to save them all. Join the adventure in the gripping finale to The Forever Avalon series.

4. Blackrock, a Fantasy/Thriller novel by sammi85

Dragged into a world of witchery and ancient curses, Kasey suddenly has more than her school plans to worry about. Embark on this fantasy thriller and you might uncover more than you bargained for.

5. Escape From The Witch Hunters, a Fantasy/Romance novel by Elizabeth Pau

Who can you turn to when all that you know is a faded memory? Will Evelyn escape the imminent threat and be safe in the charger of her rescuer or are things much more sinister and the enemies much closer than she thought?

6. Second to the right,  a Fantasy/Adventure novel by Zach Neuman

Some things never change, some men never die and some boys never grow up. Prepare yourself for the true origin of Peter Pan.

7. Book One: Knight’s Festival, a Fantasy/Adventure novel by Katherine Baskerville

Outcast and betrayed, will our heroine overcome impossible feats and regain her honour? The fantasy adventure that will make you beg for more.

8. Destiny – Book One in The Bomcard Trilogy, a Fantasy/Action novel by Anthony La Riccia

What happens when you discover you’re not only from another world but must also return to it and defeat a great evil before your world gets involved? Ask Lucas, who must save two worlds from a great evil.

9. George and  The Dragon, a Fantasy/Adventure novel by P Chadwick

Set in medieval England, this is a tale of lords and ladies, knights and dragons, and an evil fairy queen. 

10. The Knowing Ones, a Fantasy/Romance novel by Lisa Aldridge

At 17 she faked her own death to escape an arranged marriage. She found Marko and The Knowing Ones found her. Adriana has an unusual ability: She has the power to stop the curse or make it worse!

11. Mark of The Sorcerer, a Fantasy/Adventure novel by Mason Garcia

On a demon-infested Earth, sorcerers stand as humanity’s only defence. With war looming on the horizon, Alastair and his companions must make their choices and face their destinies.

12. Newborn City Series: Affinity for Pain, a Fantasy/Romance novel by R.E. Johnson

Confused and hunted, an unlikely pair of killers must unite in a manner much more intimate than they know if they’re to survive in a world of brutality. Only together can they prevail.

13. Satellite, a Fantasy/Adventure novel by Lee Davidson

The captivating first entry in a trilogy for young and old alike, Grant Bradley’s journey to becoming a guardian angel is rife with unrequited love, shocking twists, and a fascinating new world.

14. The 12 Placebos, a Fantasy/Mystery novel by Maolsheachlann Mac Diarmada

Follow the records of a drunk Londoner through a fantastical tale of love mystery and indulgence.

15. Elemental, a Fantasy/Drama novel by Ashheart15

A life that’s going nowhere, unlimited power but no way to use it; Sebastian must embark on a journey to understand the true meaning of his life but he can’t do it alone.

16. Velvet Redemption, a Fantasy/Action novel by C.M. Lanning

His girlfriend’s blood on his hands, a failed suicide attempt on his head and a deal with a demon. Justin Pierce must embark a warpath to redemption and nothing will stand in his way.

17. The Speaker, a Fantasy novel by Sandra Leigh

The epic adventure of a Native American girl with the ability to converse with animals, yet something much more powerful awaits her off the reservation, something she will have to find herself.

18. The Trouble With Super, a Fantasy novel by KeithBarrett

Three underachievers with super-human abilities. One’s drowning in work, another’s making a quick score and the last is morbidly obese. They must fight the age-long struggle of simply being happy.

19. The Rainbow Dancer, a Fantasy novel for children by Allan Hirsch

Jump down the rabbit hole and follow Asia on her journey through something much larger than a child’s imagination.