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Badge for completing A to Z Blog challenge
A to Z. This was my second year doing this, and obviously I enjoyed it enough in 2011 to return. (It wasn’t just that I’m an indexer and alphabetizing appeals to my sense of order, honestly!)

I did things differently this year — I chose a theme, I wrote some of the posts ahead of time, and I tried to comment on a lot more blogs. Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Roger Zelazny largest body of work is The Chronicles of Amber. Amber has everything you could want in an epic fantasy — magic, swordplay, internecine rivalry, missing persons. . . . I hate to call it epic, though, as our world figures into the storyline (albeit as a shadow of the true worlds). Is it portal fantasy, with the Pattern acting as a portal? Or epic? Or something else?

(For the record, my favorite work by Zelazny is Doorways in the Sand. I’m a sucker for a book where one of the major plot points is chirality!)

For something that’s more clearly epic, I turn to Zette — Lazette Gifford, who has been working on a new epic fantasy and blogging about it this year — on her world-building, outlining, and writing. I think it should be lots of fun when it’s done: Project Water, Stone, Light. (Her most recent post on this project is about finishing the first book, not liking where it ends, and be ready to expand to a second book.) I particularly like the legend she posted on January 7. It begins:

A thousand years ago. . . .

. . . And over the high pass, though the place even then called The Barbarian Gate, came ten thousand invaders, and ten times as many following, intent on conquering the wide green lands of Tygen. The king and the army stood their ground at the headwaters of the Habur River, knowing they could not win against such odds as came at them from the cold northern lands.

The messengers sent by the barbarian king laughed to see them so unsettled. The king grew enraged and the four Prelates of the temples grew angry. The Prelates lifted their magic and created out of the messengers dog-like things, and those went yipping back to their master.

And this brings me to the end of my A to Z of epic fantasy. I’ll be posting a reflection post on May 7, and I’ll keep talking about epic fantasy — I read and write it, so that’s only to be expected. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog challenge.


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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I had real trouble with this one. I couldn’t come up with any Y words that directly said “epic fantasy.” I played with ideas, like using a list including words like yataghan and yogurt to talk about how specificity aids in bringing a world to life, or using Yahtzee in the title and segueing into the use of games in fiction, or talking about Yog-Sothoth (although Lovecraft is most definitely not epic fantasy), or saying something like “Y is for fantasy spelled backward” (though I couldn’t figure out where to go from there). Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Xanadu is not, properly speaking, epic fantasy. Xanadu is the Mongolian name for the summer capital of the Yuan Dynasty, Shangdu. However, the name has passed into Western culture filled with overtones of a more magical place. From its first descriptions by Marco Polo to the famous poem “Kubla Khan” by Coleridge to its use in music, movies, and astronomy, the word and the place have captured our collective imaginations. Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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World-building is an important exercise, even outside of speculative fiction. Authors need to decide where to set their story, and if they use a fictional town or city, it still has to feel real. Still, for me, I find more work goes into the world-building when the first step is “decide what world I want to use.” (This is true for both fantasy and science-fiction, of course.) Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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That’s Boris Vallejo, illustrator extraordinaire, in case there was any doubt. He’s done other work — at least one Star Trek tie-in novel cover, and National Lampoon’s European Vacation poster, for example — but one of his illustrations of a scantily clad (or unclad) woman or man, muscles clearly defined, often with the background vanishing into clouds, is instantly recognizable. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but two of mine would be Icarus and Golden Wings.

I was fortunate to see him as the artist guest of honor last year at Renovation SF (though I missed the opportunity to see him at Philcon!). Definitely a highlight!

How about you? Do you like his work? Have a favorite painting? Or find some other style more appealing?

(Yes, there are other artists I like as well. But I needed a V post, and my husband suggested this one.)


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

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Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Unicorns — and other magical beasts — are hallmarks of fantasy. They do not, often cannot, exist within our world, so their mere presence tells us that we are elsewhere and elsewhen, even if we see no overt magic. Unicorns are traditionally precious, pure, and innocent, and only attracted to others who share these virtues. In Harry Potter, their blood can be used to extend life. In The Last Unicorn, they are hunted and trapped because of what they are (and a unicorn is the main character of the book — you have to love that!). I think the most unusual treatment I’ve seen of unicorns is in Alethea Kontis’s short story, “The Unicorn Hunter.”

Do you like unicorns? What’s your favorite magical creature? What’s the most unusual way you’ve seen a magical creature used?


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

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Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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If you love the Tales of 1,001 Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights), you must read the books of the Crescent Moons Kingdom, by Saladin Ahmed. So far, only the first book is out — but that means you don’t have to work hard to catch up. You just have to exercise patience waiting for the next one. This is epic fantasy with a medieval Middle East bent, rather than the medieval European bent that is so common — khalifs, ghuls, djenn, and the pleasures of cardamom tea.

The main character is the last real ghul hunter, more than ready to retire, called on “one last adventure.” His assistant is a holy warrior, who is often appalled at his teacher’s behavior and amazed that his prayers are listened to. Oh, there’s also a teenage girl who shape-shifts into a lion and who has been ostracized by her people. And a Robin Hood-esque character called the Falcon Prince.

Lots of fun, lots of excitement, and lots of danger!


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

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Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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First, I’d like to apologize for being late with this post. S was supposed to be up on Saturday, but life’s been a bit rocky for me lately. I’ll try to get the rest of the posts up on time. Too close to the end to give up now. Now, on to the actual post:

The scope of a story is what makes it epic. It’s larger than life — in stakes, in distance, in time. (Or in the number of characters or books, but that’s not necessary.) As a friend of mine said on my “G is for good vs. evil” post (over on my LJ, which my blog cross-posts to), there are epic stories that are not fantasy (or SF), such as North and South by John Jakes. Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Even if I didn’t already love Elizabeth Bear’s writing (see my review of Carnival last year), I would have wanted to pick up the book as soon as I saw her basic description on The Big Idea on Scalzi’s blog:

[I]t seemed to me that the obvious solution was to invent a different sun. Or maybe a whole slew of different suns.
So I did. Everybody gets their own sun! Or suns. And a set of skies to go with them.

How cool is that?! Not just suns, but moons, too. Then you add in descendants of Genghis Khan, or that world’s equivalent (Mongke Khagan) — you want to go find this book already, don’t you?

Picking up the book, I found it every bit as gripping as I’d hoped. Temur is on a battlefield, surrounded by the dead, both men and horses. His throat was cut, and he should by all rights be dead, but instead he lives, crossing the battlefield and looking for safety, somewhere where the very fact of his existence isn’t going to bring death to those around him. And the pace, excitement, and tension pick up from there.

Digression for those who read my post on Orullian — when Bear changed viewpoints, she didn’t lose me. I don’t know whether this is because she named somebody fairly quickly (from the first such scene — “Mukhtar ai-Idoj, al Sepehr of the Rock, crouched atop the lowest and broadest of them, his back to the familiar east-setting sun of the Uthman Caliphate.”), because I was already predisposed to trust her as an author, or because of a combination of the two. I think primarily it’s because she’s good with point-of-view; the first trilogy I read by her (the Jenny Casey books) mixed first-person and third-person point-of-view flawlessly.

(And do you notice how she worked part of what makes this not our familiar world into that sentence? “The familiar east-setting sun of the Uthman Caliphate” first of all puts the sun’s direction opposite to our own and underlines the fact that it is so only for this country; others have their own rules for the sun, some of which she delineates right afterward.)

Definitely recommended!


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Quests are as much a part of epic fantasy as prophecies are. It can be a quest to retrieve the one weapon that will destroy the Evil One forever, a quest to return magic to the world, a quest to find why you were spared, or even a quest to destroy an evil artifact.

It’s no mistake that quest looks like question; they come from a common root, the Latin word for “ask, seek.” In both, someone is often seeking knowledge (although some questioners seek only confirmation of what they already know, and some quests seek destruction, this is a general guideline), but while a question is an act of asking, a quest is an act of answering.

Do you have a favorite quest in fiction?


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

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Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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(Just for the record, I had this post planned before S.L. Hennessy posted about precognition and knowing the future with her N is for Next post.)

Prophecies are always popping up, from the Delphic Oracle to an entire roomful of them at the Ministry of Magic. Wherever there are prophecies, there are people working toward making them come to fruition, and others working just as hard to prevent them (only to bring them about by their efforts, usually). Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Peter Orullian started his epic trilogy, Vault of Heaven, with The Unremembered. I actually had a hard time getting into this book. It’s the first book I can remember where I wish I had skipped the prologue. Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, startled me when I read it. It did several things that I’d been told you couldn’t do in a book if you wanted to get published: only one POV in an epic fantasy — and first person at that, a story that is either told primarily in flashback or has a frame story (depending on how you look at it), a main character who is good at everything — magic, music, and swordwork. Kvothe (the main character) does have a temper, though, and more than a bit of pride, so even when you see him about to make a mistake, you understand and you keep reading, to find out both the repercussions of his actions and the way he copes with them.

It’s a completely engaging read. When I first checked it out of the library, I showed it to my son, who promptly sat down and began reading — not least because he wanted to learn what the name of the wind is. I’ll admit to not having picked up the following book yet (Wise Man’s Fear), but I have no doubt I will enjoy it when I do.


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

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Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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What else?

Magic can be big and flashy or small and quiet. It can follow such clearcut rules it’s almost a science, or you can leave the book wondering what exactly it’s good for. (Years on, I’m still trying to guess what Radagast the Brown might do, as well as what other colors of wizards there might be in Middle Earth.)

Brandon Sanderson talks a lot about how he thinks about magic systems. His first law is an attempt to avoid deus ex machina situations, while his second discusses the relationship between abilities and limitations. His posts are definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in creating your own magic systems.

When you’re reading, do you like high magic or low magic worlds? Ones where the magic has rules or is mysterious?


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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I couldn’t write a month of posts on epic fantasy and not touch on the most famous one, the one thst launched fantasy as a separate genre, now could I? Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Just wanted to post a quick note apologizing for my lack of commenting on other A to Z blog participants. I’m a procrastinator (I’d say a terrible procrastinator, but the truth is I’m quite good at it!), and I’m going through piles of receipts as I work through our taxes. I’m sorry; I’ll be back to blog-hopping by Monday.

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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On a writers’ board I frequent, another poster recently opined that if a book doesn’t have knights, swords, and horses, he (I think the poster was male, although I could be wrong) doesn’t consider it epic fantasy. Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Hero’s journey, that is. You’ve probably already been exposed to the idea (or monomyth) of the hero’s journey, as put forward by Joseph Campbell: person in the normal world receives a call to action, refuses it, is called again, and goes on a journey whereon he meets enemies and allies and faces challenges. After facing an ordeal, the hero claims the treasure, takes the road back home, arrives home changed (resurrected) and gives of the wisdom or treasure he has received to others. (Yes, this is an overly simplified version. There are many resources to learn more about this journey — I like The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.) Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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Many stories talk about what we get from our families. In epic fantasy, stories can hinge on things that characters have inherited — swords (Shannara), rings (LotR), a way with the Force, the ability to do magic (unless one is a Mudblood, of course). Or inheritances can be more subtle, helping characters face their challenges — Harry Potter, for example, has inherited both his father’s skill with a broomstick and his father’s invisibility cloak.

Inheritance is a way of making the present story the culmination of effects in the past, creating continuity, and increasing the scope of a tale. Of course, it’s not what the characters have, but what they do with what they have that matters. The person who leaves his grandfather’s sword hanging on the wall over the fireplace doesn’t make a good story.

What story has touched you with an heirloom or inheritance, something the main character has received from the past? What was special about it?


This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

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Originally published at Erin M. Hartshorn. You can comment here or there.

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