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So, lately I've been reading a lot more semi-historical fantasy. Things like Juliet Marillier's Wolfskin/Foxmask (i.e., romantic fantasy with Vikings) and Sevenwaters (i.e. romantic fantasy with threads of Celtic myth) books, Jacqueline Carey's Terre d'Ange novels, Robin McKinley's work, and the like, all of which take place in some generally unspecified pre-industrial revolution time period where people still ride horses and have carriages and/or carts and cities are made of stone and surrounded by walls and most people are agrarian and magic is real. Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Avalon" books certainly fit into this as well, as do any number of other fairytale and myth retellings that I may or may not be familiar with.

These books tend to follow similar storylines - female heroine with some sort of magic leaves the comfort of her totally-ordinary-except-not-and-probably-somewhat-"enlightened"-family to go on some sort of quest that is at least semi- at-odds with what her family thinks they want for themselves and for her and along the way, said female heroine falls in love with an unlikely male figure who helps her save the day in some way while she helps him become a better man. It is genre fiction, as is much of what I read in other areas (urban fantasy, anyone). There is - arguably - a subtle feminist subtext, even while the tropes are troubling. These are often books where I can find messages that I value highly inermingled with things that in less engrossing stories would make me want to throw them across the room (again, seeing parallels with urban fantasy here...).

Sex may or may not be explicit in these stories. Certainly, it is in Carey's work and it is sometimes almost shockingly explicit in Marrillier's, at least in light of the fact that the Sevenwaters series is in the YA section of my local library. Don't get me wrong - I am *not* complaining on my own behalf and I would like to think that I'd be comfortable with my future 12-year old reading sex as it is described there - as something good and powerful and not to be feared. Pre-marital sex happens, as does passionate love, in ways that were definitely not part of the YA cannon when I was a lass.

I've been thinking about this lately in part because I've been wondering what the attraction of these stories is to me. I suppose part of it is the same thing that attracts me to smutty paranormal books - they are entertaining and the worlds are enchanting, literally and figuratively. Some works are better than others, to be sure - I just finished McKinley's <i>Rose Daughter</i> which was nice, but not particularly gripping to me, whereas I practically inhaled her other Beauty and the Beast retelling, <i>Beauty</i> earlier this year. <i>Deerskin</i> left me cold, whereas I inhaled <i>Outlaws of Sherwood</i> and am madly in love with <i>Chalice</i>. I could go on... Lest anyone newish here wonder what the point is here, I was a writing major with a minor in film studies and pop-culture analysis is so ingrained it is harder for me not to think about these things than to blather on about them incessently.

So, now I'm wondering if I can take this genre and make it my own somehow. I have the inkling of a more modern version with the same sort of natural magic appearing for the main charater in unexpected ways, drawing most likely from my own ocassional feelings about where I work and how aspects can feel almost magical. I also think I could probably have such a caracter be a lot less of a MarySue than my vampire proto feels sometimes.
 
Things to ponder.

June 2012

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