Sean Williams

Hard fantasy?

posted on 4 May 2006 at 12:42 pm

There seems to be no clear-cut definition of the term “Hard Fantasy”. It could be the sort of fantasy that lies at the core of the genre (Tolkienesque, heroic, whatever) or it could be magical fantasy set in the present day. I’ve seen both opinions on the web, and more besides.

I’m wondering about this mainly because the term was recently applied in a review to The Crooked Letter and I don’t really know what it means. It makes me think of Hard SF, mainly, and science. And in that context, I guess it does kinda fit.

Two recent articles in New Scientist touched on themes occurring in the Books of the Change/Cataclysm. The first discusses the notion of multiple worlds and predatory quantum states: “parallel universes proposed by some quantum theorists may not actually be parallel but could interact–and with disastrous consequences.” This is not so different from the Realms of my fictional fantasy universe and the way they absorb, combine with, or destroy each other by a process of sometimes destructive interference. Spookily similar in fact.

The second article was the feature of a recent issue and discussed Stephen Hawking’s statements about the way we can write the history of the universe from the present backwards rather than starting from first principles and working forwards: “Backwards causality,” he says, “is an angel’s-eye view from outside the universe.” This reminds me of the man’kin and their strange way of viewing the world, and also the way the Sisters of the Flame retrofit the world of Sal and Shilly to fit the decision made by the twins at the end of The Crooked Letter.

What does this mean? I dunno. Not that we need another subcategory of fantasy like New Weird or anything. More likely that all the science reading I do informs the fantasy I write, giving it a different feel to a lot of what’s out there. Me, I think that’s a pretty good thing, but some fantasy readers might disagree.

In the meantime, The Crooked Letter has five stars from three reviews over at Amazon.com. I’m obviously excited about that. If you have an opinion on that subject and want to make it known, click here. I’m also plogging via Amazon Connect, although, as here, I remain stuck most of the time for things to say. 🙂