Tag Archives: Mark Charan Newton

MIND MELD: Monarchies in Fantasy

UPDATED to include a response from Delia Sherman

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Very often, in secondary world fantasy novels, the default political setup is to have a Monarch of some sort, often one that acts in a seemingly autocratic manner. Many times, this Monarch rules by some sort of divine right or providence.

Q: Why are kingdoms with monarchs the default political setup in many secondary fantasy world novels? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such political structures? What are some exceptions to this?
Mark Charan Newton
Mark Charon Newton is the author of the Legends of the Red Sun series. He is also a Whisky addict. Find out more about him at Markcnewton.com

When people create worlds, we only really have our own world for reference, or from which to glean conscious and subconscious influences. Kingdoms, empires, monarchs – that’s all human history has pretty much known. Even today, we’re under the illusion we have democracy, but it’s much more wishy-washy than true ancient Athenian democracy, where power was genuinely more equally distributed, and more citizens played a role in the functioning of society. Today our monarchs and empires now are largely trade-based hegemonies, imperial campaigns given the spin of delivering peace through drone bombings. We are now subject to political and financial kings and queens (well, strictly speaking, in the UK we’re still subjects to the queen, but hey).

So in one sense, that’s life. That’s all we’ve ever known.

Emphasizing this point, many fantasy writers tend to look towards history, consciously or otherwise, for inspiration. Given that, aside from moments in the ancient world, there are very few examples where there are not kingdoms and empires, it’s inevitable.

There’s a wonderful season of Shakespeare on the BBC at the moment, which is hammering the point that I think still lingers today, and that’s a fascination with those who hold ultimate power. The pressures. The mental state. The sheer audacity to rule. Holding a position of god on earth. It is the biggest stage in a nation. So what does that do to an individual? What does that do to their mind? Can they ever be truly human? Such questions continue to inspire fantasy writers today. We’re very much interested in that big stage and what it means when ordinary people connect with it in some way.

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MIND MELD: Recent SF/F/H Book Covers That Blow Us Away

We turn our attention to book cover art this week. A good cover can mean more sales for a book…but what makes a good cover? We asked this week’s panelists this question:

Q: It’s generally well accepted that a book cover’s primary responsibility is to sell the book. But artistically speaking, what makes a successful sf/f/h book cover? Which recent sf/f/h books had a cover that blew you away?

Here’s what they said…

Dave Seeley
Dave Seeley was an award winning architect before punting and becoming an illustrator. Happy mucking about with both computers and oil paint, Dave’s SF work is heavily influenced by sci-fi film noir. Dave’s recent client’s include Baen Books, Tor, Random House, Lucasfilm, Harlequin-Gold Eagle, Solaris, Harper Collins, Pyr, Midway Games and Vivendi Universal. See his work, clients, and ramblings at www.daveseeley.com.

OK… honestly, I don’t see that many book covers because I’m reading tons of sf and f book manuscripts to then DO their covers…. so when I take a break, I don’t typically head off to the bookstore…. BUT, by way of homework for Mind Meld, this morning I stopped into my local Borders, and spent some time taking a look. In the end, I learned that I should do this more often, just to stay in touch with my market. First off, clearly I need to be doing more hot-babe-w-weapon +/- tattoo images, because clearly that’s half the market nowadays. (pic one)… Now I like those jackets as much as the next id-controlled red-blooded male…but if that is the context, then things that are NOT-context tend to stand out in my quest for “blew you away.” Also, I’ve learned to be leery of my id’s attraction to cover art, in that sometimes there’s a “honeymoon period.” ;-) Anyway… I decided to go hunt in the wild for these, and not just open my latest Spectrum, because a) I didn’t want to be filtered through the Spectrum judge panel, and b) I think that book design and type solution are critical to what makes a successful book cover…. and Spectrum doesn’t show me that. I even diligently wrote down all the designers names so I could credit them, and then promptly left it on the last shelf for the Border’s custodial staff, while snapping iPhone pics. I think that type/cover design is like parenting, where it can nurture, showcase and enhance the art if attended to diligently with an insightful light touch, and so easily frak it up otherwise.

So anyway…Here’s what I came up with…

Two, right off the bat by Greg Manchess. He does exceptionally good figure work (full figured?) with a perfectly spartan but juicy brushwork and fairly unfettered backgrounds…everything I do NOT do…hmmm.. Next up came Scott Fischer’s Titans of Chaos, with a beautifully rendered heroine in a levitation trance…. really exploring the boundaries of her image crop in an unconventional way. I also love Scott’s whimsical ornamentation and color use…

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MIND MELD: SF/F Books That Would Make A Great TV Series

SF/F fans love to talk about their favorite books being adapted for film. But what about television? Are there books better suited for a television series? We asked this week’s panelists (inspired by a suggestion from James Wallace Harris)…

Q: What SF/F book would make a great television series? How would you adapt it for the small screen?

Here’s what they said…

Nancy Kress
Nancy Kress is the author of over 20 books of SF, fantasy, and writing advice. Her latest is Steal Across the Sky. Her fiction has won three Nebulas, a Hugo, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

My choice for a TV miniseries would be More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon. Since the book is already divided into three distinct sections, it could be presented as three two-hour episodes. It focuses on character rather than on special effects, which is good for the small screen. Finally — it’s a wonderful story.

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SF Tidbits for 9/8/09

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SF Tidbits for 8/9/09

TIP: Follow SF Signal on Twitter and Facebook for additional tidbits not posted here!