I Need “Real Life” In My Fantasy

This topic’s occurred to me a few times, particularly as I enrolled in the Bookcase Club subscription service for the “Strange Worlds” science fiction and fantasy box. For $15/month, Bookcase Club mails you two books in a genre you select, along with a journal (sometimes even fancy ones like Wreck This Journal). I will definitely do a post about what books I receive when they come in the mail next week. I thought it was one of the best priced book sub services, as the books price out to $6-$7 a copy, which is about what I would pay at my local bookstore.

But I do dread getting one particular thing in my box that may make the subscription less than stellar for me – high fantasy. Or epic fantasy. Or really, any fantasy that takes place in a distant, made-up, totally fabricated world that makes me learn the constitution of UnpronouncableLand before I can even get into the plot. Or the magic system. Oh, the dreaded magic system.

But Michelle! You’re a fantasy author! How can you say that?

Because I like Narnia. I like Harry Potter. I like Once Upon A Time. If we’re going with urban fantasy, I like Lost Girl and I’m intrigued by the premise of The Mortal Instruments. All of these fantasy stories use Earth characters, even if they aren’t necessarily normal or human. And most sci-fi takes place in a far flung future in which Earth exists, but is perhaps not the focus of the story. Even if it’s not explicitly stated, you can assume it’s there.

Game of Thrones (TV) is the only fully fictional fantasy world I enjoy. And it gets away with that because there is little to no magic in the series, especially in early seasons. As far as I remember, there are no elves, dwarves, trolls, etc. Most of GOT is based on Earth history, so GOT world has a sense of familiarity about it. Most importantly, the characters behave just as bawdily as real humans, instead of the weird sense of Arthurian propriety that hovers over most high fantasy. You can almost conceive that Westeros is an alternate history more than a completely new universe. Aside from the White Walkers, there’s not much that couldn’t have happened in our own history (dragons don’t count for me, as dinosaurs did exist *g*).

On the other hand, I find Lord of The Rings was far too dense and removed from reality, despite being Middle Earth. I could never get into Eragon. I never liked Redwall. I couldn’t care less about high fantasy games (I’m a Fallout girl much more than a Skyrim girl). Even when tropes are subverted, when new species are introduced, etc, I look at such books with a sense of exhaustion. I know, it’s not fair of me. I know there are probably original cool books out there that don’t involve elves and wizards and have totally pronounceable kingdoms. Maybe they’re very down to Earth and don’t even have magic – or maybe the magic is proper and makes sense instead of being there for no reason. I know. But I am tired.

Perhaps this is a sign of my waning intelligence. It seems as though I don’t want books that challenge me to keep up. Often, these are the books that are 800 pages long, and I feel they’d be half that length if the world didn’t need to be so explained. But I read postmodernism – S, House of Leaves, Infinite Jest. I’m interested in dense, challenging works. I am not interested in struggling to process or care about a world that is entirely fabricated, and that ultimately has no relatable stakes because of that. I’m often left with the question – why should I care? – when the story seems to be taking place a million miles away in a parallel dimension that never happened. Perhaps it’s the fact that I can’t suspend my disbelief that the story could be happening somewhere, in some time? I don’t know. It’s quite hard to articulate my disinterest, and it’s certainly not meant to be a bash on people who write or read this genre. I envy you, actually, and I’m struggling to figure out why I’m not one of you. I definitely don’t like pure realism, so why shouldn’t I like pure fantasy?

I am a genre bending sort of person, and I don’t like entrenching myself into any genre all the way. I can’t handle full on literary fiction, or full on historical, or full on romance. But if those genres are crossed in some way – if it’s literary fiction with a sci-fi bent, or a time travel romance, or a historical novel that steals from the thriller handbook – I’m intrigued. I think epic fantasy is what we automatically envision when we see the fantasy label, and maybe being that deep into one category is not to my taste. If you can blend a noir or a thriller or an action story with fantasy elements, like many urban/modern Earth fantasies do, you’re much more likely to have my attention.

Are you guys as picky about this as I am? Are there some subgenres you feel you should like but they fail to interest you?

Open Call for #BetaReaders! (Gods, golden guns, and diversity – sound like fun?)

I’m well-rested from my vacation week, and I seized that free time to finish Draft Six of Paradisa. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be polishing it, and then October means another beta round! Interested in becoming a beta? Keep reading ;)

What’s it about? Paradisa is a 90,000 word modern fantasy centered around mythological characters. In the realm of Paradisa, all deities from world’s religions, past and present, begrudgingly cohabitate. Despite their personal disagreements, most residents of Paradisa share a common goal of protecting and serving humanity. But now, this truce strains under the weight of a growing new evil – a monstrous entity and underground alliance which threatens both human and heavenly realms.

When Connor Bishara – an ex-SEAL whose life was ruined by DADT – has a permanently damaging encounter with this evil, he is left only two choices: join the fight and be cleansed of the damage, or run from the darkness until it kills him. Luckily for Connor, he has the help of a variety of allies, including the archangel Raphael, Greek gods Hephaestus and Aphrodite, and his college-aged sister Clara. With their combined strength, they will defend gods and men from the encroaching dusk…or watch helplessly as evil conquers a mission as old as time.

What is it like? In spirit, it can be compared to modern adventure fantasies like Artemis Fowl, Supernatural, Once Upon A Time, or even Doctor Who . This is not “urban” fantasy like Lost Girl or The Mortal Instruments nor is it “high” fantasy like Game of Thrones. I promise that unpronounceable names and leather clad werewolves are absent.

What does a beta do? Starting in early October, you will have 30 days to read the book and answer some survey questions. This is a content review only – not proofreading, copyediting, or line editing. You may provide commentary or margin notes, but that’s optional.

Who can apply? Anyone interested in the book who can return feedback by early November. I hope for a mix of both writers and casual readers, as well as a good spread of demographics in gender, age, and race. I would particularly appreciate the feedback of any LGBT, military, and/or Middle Eastern readers, as my protagonist is all of these things.

What format will the book be in? Any electronic form you request.

How do we sign up?. Email me at michelleiannantuono (at) gmail.com, or comment on this post before September 25th. Please provide your name, your email, and why you’re interested. And if we haven’t met, a little about yourself!

I wanted to beta, but you declined me :( Sorry, friend! I’m aiming for a diverse selection of 7-10 readers, so perhaps I already found someone similar to you. Or perhaps I chose someone who knew me less personally, due to their less obvious bias. Most likely, I’m picking on a somewhat first-come-first-serve basis, and there may be no slots left. I’ll be sure to keep you in mind for next time.

What did I get in return? My absolute willingness to beta a novel-length work of your own, at any time in the future. I also hope to provide a small token of my affection. If you live near me, maybe I’ll take you out to lunch. If you live far away, maybe an Amazon gift card. I know what I’m asking of you is a huge favor, so the best I can do is return the favor sometime for you.

Feel free to share, reblog, or link your friends to this post if you think they may be interested. I hope to reply to all interested parties as quickly as possible. Thanks guys!