The Shattered Empire trailer and revolutions in the fantasy genre

First of all, Seedlings is today’s featured new release at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, so come on over to read an exclusive excerpt.

The Speculative Fiction Showcase features new releases, author interviews, guest posts, a weekly link round-up and much more, so visit often.

However, this is not the only news I have to share today, for the Shattered Empire series has also acquired a book trailer. I made it with Stupeflix Studios, using some stock art of space imagery.

You can see the result below:

The Shattered Empire series tells the story of a galactic revolution through the eyes of those who fought it.

Now I’ve always been a sucker for stories about revolutions, preferably in space, as I explain in this post. Such stories were hard to find for a while, but lately the topic of rebellions and revolutions seems to be seeping back into the zeitgeist, since there have been a couple of blog posts about the subject of late.

At iO9, Esther Inglis-Arkell points out how many fictional YA dystopias ignore the lessons of real life revolutions. In response, I wrote this lengthy post, in which I grapple some more with my fascination for such stories.

Now Canadian fantasy writer C.P.D. Harris has taken up the thread and offers his thoughts on revolutions and rebellions in the fantasy genre.

He makes a couple of interesting points, starting with the fact that stories of revolutions are rare in the fantasy genre – unlike SF, where they are fairly common, at least at certain times. C.P.D. Harris believes that the reason for this might be that revolutions are linked to urbanisation and epic fantasy usually eschews urbanisation. Though I suspect that the fact that the epic fantasy genre tends to presuppose a feudal system, a system which would be destroyed by a large scale revolution, has something to do with that as well. Hence you get the one true king overthrowing the dark lord only to take the throne for himself and rule just as absolutely as his predecessor, but with less random arrests, executions and massacres. No one ever considers installing a constitutional monarchy in a fantasy novel (unless the book was written by Simon Green, who has a constitutional monarchy with regular elections in his Hawk & Fisher novels, much to the fascination of his protagonists who come from a traditional feudal system) let alone a republic.

In fact, I suspect that reason that revolutions are so rare in epic fantasy is because a revolution would irrevocably break the furniture of the genre.

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4 Responses to The Shattered Empire trailer and revolutions in the fantasy genre

  1. Daniela says:

    Hm, I always wanted to write fantasy that either used a system similar to Republican Rome or an electoral ruler like with the German-Roman Emperor. Guess I shoudl get around to it one of these days :-), just so that I can break the furniture. Or, ohhh, Spartacus or the German Peasants’ War in a fantasy setting, now that would be cool :-D.

    • Cora says:

      Given how much variety there was/is in real world government systems, even in a classic feudalist system like the German Roman Empire, I’m always surprised how fantasy always sticks to the same old traditional absolutist/feudalist system. For the record, I’d love to see a fantasy or SF novel with an electoral ruler. The only example I can think of are the Star Wars prequels of all things, where Naboo has an elected queen who for some reason is always a teenaged girl. Maybe they took Herbert Grönemeyer’s “Kinder an die Macht” a bit too seriously.

      As for using history as a model for fantasy or SF, writers usually swarm all over the same handful of historical events and eras. Hence, George R.R. Martin’s fantasy retelling of the Wars of the Roses has so many people wondering what happens next (maybe they should take a look at the history books). Of course, the fact that everybody always uses the same few historical eras makes other events and eras easy pickings. The peasants’ war or Spartacus would be really cool BTW.

      Meanwhile, I’m writing an SF story based on the “Jubelperser” incident at the state visit of the shah of Persia in 1967. Because it’s simply such an “I can’t believe this really happened” incident to steal.

      • Daniela says:

        *Nod* It’s not only a traditional absolutist feudal system but often also a very simplified version of it. One only needs to look at Louis XIV, Frederic the Great, Katharina the Great and Maria Theresia. Four absolutistic rulers, very different systems and approaches. And they all had to deal with the different estates.

        History offers such much material. I often get the feeling that most fantasy authors also only look to British history (and hello, what about the Scottish system during Tudor times? Maria Stuart had her problems with the clan-lords.) and ignore continental Europe.
        I have a strong penchant for the Hapsburgs who as a family offer a lot of material for stories :-D. Not to mention Greece or Rome. I just love Rome :D. Or the Hanse. But the electoral ruler is really a good idea. Or the situation in Imperial Rome where an Emperor adopted his heir or the Emperor was put into place by the army. So many options :-).

        It would also be interesting have a fantasy world at the beginning of industrialization. Not steampunk but something that looks at the changes that technology brings to society. The strengthening of the people.
        Fantasy also doesn’t focus much on artisans and craftsmen (smith is the only exception that comes to my mind) or on townspeople or traveling traders and explorers and scientists.

        But it’s not only Europe. I recently saw a documentary about the Chinese Wall and that one of the reasons behind it was the refusal to trade which then led to people invading and taking the food they would have traded for my force. Of course I also find the whole concept of the Forbidden City totally fascinating from a fantasy-writer pov.

        Well, I’m currently deep in a German Urban Fantasy project (in the Black Forest), but my plan for next year includes a High fantasy-novel and I’m already collecting ideas. I will definitely keep the ideas of different political systems in mind… And now I just had a light-bulb moment and need to take some notes :-D.

        • Cora says:

          Well, I’m always happy to serve. Sorry about the belated approval BTW, but your comment ended up in the spam folder for some reason.

          I agree that most epic/high fantasy writers (and SF writers, cause particularly space opera is often based on history as well, see all those Galactic Roman Empires or Napoleonic Wars in space) seem to draw mainly from British (well, English) history and only from a handful of eras, too. After all, it’s pretty obvious that George R.R Martin is mainly drawing on the Wars of the Roses for A Song of Ice and Fire with a couple of other things mixed in, and yet a lot of people fail to notice, because they’re not familiar with that period of history and/or haven’t read Shakespeare. In fact, Martin is also one of the fairly few epic fantasy writers who use a feudalist system. Most epic fantasy is based on an absolutist system, because feudalism was actually rather complicated. I have read fantasy (and even SF) that has something like the Scottish clan system, but that was written by British authors.

          You sometimes do get Greek or Roman based fantasy as well as fantasy takes on Czarist Russia. There are a couple of Arabian/Middle Eastern inspired works. Asian based fantasy and SF is also becoming more popular, though it’s usually very superficial (and monolithical), unless written by Asian authors. As for the Hanse, the Holy Roman Empire, the Thirty Years War, the city states in Renaissance Italy, the French wars of religion, the Spanish Inquisition, the Dutch rebellion against the Spanish rule, Prussia under Friedrich the Great, etc… – forget about it. Too obscure on the one hand and not exotic enough on the other.

          In fact, I think a large part of the problem is that much high/epic fantasy is not even inspired by actual history, but by the same few popular works of historical fiction such as Patrick O’Brien, C.S. Forrester, Dorothy Dunnett, Georgette Heyer, Josephine Tey, etc… Nothing wrong with that, but if everybody is channelling O’Brien or Dunnett, it quickly becomes boring.

          Another problem is that a lot of particularly American authors lack any sort of knowledge what life in medieval towns or castles really was like. Thus you get howlers like the Regency romance where the Duke of whatever races his carriage drawn by a team of eight horses through the streets of York. I pity the poor horses, but not the Duke or the author.

          I also hear you on the lack of craftsmen and artisans other than smiths, or townspeople, merchants, explorers, monks (a lot of faux medieval fantasy underestimates the importance of religion), etc…

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