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Twenty Epics Paperback – June 25, 2006
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From the Publisher
In the spring of 2004, the Minneapolis publishing cooperative known as the Ratbastards published a slim blue volume called Rabid Transit #3: Petting Zoo. In it, among other things, was a story, or an article, or a monograph, entitled "How to Write an Epic Fantasy," by a Canadian writer named David Lomax.
On the surface it was innocent enough, presenting itself as advice, particular advice, perhaps from one writer to another, on the crafting of a particular story. But when read by a sufficiently suggestible reader, it accomplished a curious trick. Through a kind of deja vu it managed to evoke, in only a handful of pages, the whole of the larger work, a work that had existed nowhere outside the imagination of Mr. Lomax... but that now existed also, albeit in a distinct and independent form, in the imagination of the reader. "How to Write an Epic Fantasy" was larger on the inside than on the outside.
This accomplishment posed an obvious question.
Because we used to like epics. We used to invest untold hours in those big fat fantasy series, those brick-thick novels full of unpronounceable naming schemes, gender-segregated magic systems, color-coded conceptions of absolute good and absolute evil. But somewhere along the way, they lost their charm. When it takes ten or twenty years for a writer to finish a series, writing the same book over and over again, dragging on and on, piling up the foreshadowing, wearing out characters' boots to no good purpose, writing stories that just don't end -- they rob the stories of any real passion or power or epic grandeur.
And that's what it's really about. It's not about the pewter tankards, the saucy wenches, the rough woolen cloaks; it's not about the vengeful gods, the cryptic wizards, the farm boys with inexplicably great destinies; it's not about the magic rings and rune-swords and jeweled coronets, the greaves and pauldrons and destriers. It's about grandeur.
There's a place in our hearts that used to be stirred by tales of heroism and discovery, creation and destruction, sin and redemption and catastrophe, love and high adventure. The question posed by "How to Write an Epic Fantasy" is: What does it take to reach that place?"
We've collected our authors' answers here.
- Publisher : Lulu.com; null edition (June 25, 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 390 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1847280668
- ISBN-13 : 978-1847280664
- Item Weight : 1.27 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.88 x 9 inches
- Customer Reviews:
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It's difficult to pick favorites from this collection. However, "The Creation of Birds" by Christopher Barzak, is a powerful read. From the wonder that the opening paragraphs create to the awesome and touching conclusion, this story does not waste one single word. And Sandra McDonald's "Life Sentence" is the story that Richard Matheson might have written if he'd been writing for the love of writing, rather than writing for a living.
The production quality is excellent. The card stock cover is sufficiently heavy, the paper looks and feels great, and the text is crisp and reads easily.
Congratulations on the nomination!
We heard the well known Tim Pratt read from "Cup and Blood," a story which combines elements of the Holy Grail (and the DA VINCI CODE as well) with the vampiric undertones that have always accompanied the Grail matter (with that "drink of my blood" refrain it's a natural). Pratt reads beautifully, so involved with his own voice that sweat pours off the top of his head as he introduces new complications to the world's oldest story. I wound up having a great deal of respect for this imaginative thrillmaker. Groppi read from Meghan McCarron's THE RIDER, in which the psychotic memories of a young American woman are revealed (in an ambiguous way, which left one unnervingly not sure what was "real," what "induced") to be actual experiences of her years in a hellbound death and sex camp in some other dimension, where, like on LOST with the Others, little children are especially prized. I can still hear Nell's cry, "No, No, I won't any more, No, Please no, No, Not the Rider!" It is strong meat, comparable to actress Meg Tilly's new novel GEMMA in which a young girl is kidnapped, molested and defiled by an older criminal man. I had the feeling also that Groppi, herself no writer, wanted perhaps to showcase at least one of the fine female writers whose work appears in TWENTY EPICS.
When Marcus Ewert read his piece, the atmosphere lightened considerably. Ewert, best known in the Bay Area for his ongoing memoirs of life as a "Beat Boy," the former boyfriend of Ginsberg and William Burroughs, is also a terrific fiction writer and his story "Choose Your Own Epic Adventure" manages to satirize the entire enterprise, and to be true to it at the same time, playing the reader like a guitar (or zither) by remaking those pop children's books of "Choose Your Own Adventure" to fit the sometimes grisly mold of the epic sword and sorcery fantasy. It's so clever I can't really describe it, but think of a combination of Julio Cortazar and Dr. Seuss and you will have arrived in the right neighborhood. His reading invited audience participation. "If you choose to have a flesh-and-blood child, go to Section 19. If you feel you're not up to the challenge, and would prefer a spell-bairn instead, go to Section 28." We all shouted out whatever was the most outlandish, and then Ewert "obeyed us," a gleeful grin on his freckled face.
But most of the others are gratuitous literary experimentation, more suited to a literary magazine like Lady Chruchill's Rosebud Wristlet than to an anthology of epics. Six of the twenty stories are in present tense, and two are even in the second person. Two of them are written entirely in the format of letters. One is only two half-pages long--hardly enough time to establish a setting, let alone tell any epic story. One is written with each line numbered, like Bible verses; another is written in alternating columns like a hopscotch board; and one is a poem and not a story at all.
These fancy literary devices all distract the reader from the story, which is supposed to be the heart of any epic. The anthology editors wanted these epics to leave the reader "feeling not discontent and exhausted." Sadly, discontent and bored is exactly what half of these stories leave this reader feeling.