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Modern Fantasy

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Initial post: 19 May 2013 02:13:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 May 2013 03:23:11 BDT
Brian says:
I believe modern language in fantasy has made the genre accessible to a new generation of readers. Some purists hate it. What about you?

Posted on 19 May 2013 11:29:02 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 May 2013 11:31:18 BDT
By modern language, do you mean simpler language?

<<As publishers and booksellers try to reach broader audiences and, consequently, generate larger sales, there is a trend toward rewriting other classics into simpler language that supposedly appeals to larger audiences. In a Knight-Ridder article, "Publishers Take Hatchet to Potter's Classic 'Peter Rabbit'," Peter Slevin reports changes in a new series of Beatrix Potter's works, including Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, Tom Kitten, and Jemima Puddle-Duck. Slevin compares both the illustrations (Potter's illustrations were replaced with photographs of stuffed animals) and the text. For example, the first paragraph for The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin as originally written by Potter reads: "This is a Tale about a tail-a tail that belonged to a little red squirrel, and his name was Nutkin." In the updated version, this paragraph reads: "This is the story of a red squirrel called Nutkin, and what happened to his tail." Slevin quotes Pat Roth, a spokesman for Ladybird Books, as stating the reasons for the changes, "We're looking to the market. It's broadening of the audience. . . . That's what business is all about">>

The "broadening of the audience" is important in business, but is it as important to writers? My children's books, which fall into the fantasy category, can be read and enjoyed by adults as well as children, which broadens the audience without simplifying the language. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Posted on 19 May 2013 14:31:47 BDT
Brian says:
Interesting. But I meant modern English as spoken today, opposed to the more formal as you see in traditional fantasy.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 May 2013 14:41:21 BDT
I think, Brian, that it depends on the fantasy.

I don't read Urban Fantasy, but if I did, then I would expect to find modern vernacular. If, however, I am reading a fantasy book which is, at least to some extent, based on historical periods (medieval, ancient) or non-'Western' culture, then I do not like to read modern vernacular. I want the dialogue to reflect what the world I am reading about conjures up.

Of course, as we don't really know how people in historical periods spoke, we can only judge these things according to our own knowledge, belief or understanding; and so others might not find the use of modern vernacular in a Medieval fantasy jarring.

Posted on 19 May 2013 15:56:12 BDT
DarrenHF says:
The setting of fantasy tropes within modern context will certainly appeal to some who find the whole elf and orc set up too 'silly'.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 May 2013 16:09:23 BDT
I think consistency throughout a novel is important. Mr. A. Leon Spaceman is from the planet Oracle, and converses in English in its most formal form. All his words are without contractions. He speaks the way a computer might speak, word by word.

I agree with Marcus, if the period was medieval, introducing modern language would jolt me right out of the story and back into my own reality. If the story was written completely in modern language, narrative as well as dialogue, and the images conjured up were not meant to be medieval then I would go along with it. It's all to do with reader expectations.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 May 2013 16:12:18 BDT
>>If the story was written completely in modern language, narrative as well as dialogue<<

I think that's a valuable add-on, Shelagh - if the narrative is written in modern language, as well, then the use of modern language in dialogue is easier to bear. But if the story is based on, say, a Medieval setting, then I would find it difficult to suspend my disbelief. The style should reflect the intention.

Posted on 19 May 2013 18:24:55 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 May 2013 19:16:27 BDT
M. Jolliff says:
Having two of my favourite books set in the medieval period Parsival, or a Knight's Tale and Ash: A Secret History but using modern vernacular I would have to say that consistency, and appropriateness to the tale are all that counts. One could cite The Coming of the King as an example of where insistence upon authenticity of style gets in the way of the telling.

And, thinking about The Faerie Queene (Penguin Classics) was written in the vernacular of the day.

Posted on 20 May 2013 21:59:43 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 May 2013 22:01:27 BDT
I think that I like the language to fit the characters in fantasy and it depends massively on the setting. To me, the preconception that a lot of it should have a medieval setting merely springs from its origins which lie in the Victorians' hankering for the age of chivalry and that arts and craftian rather rose-tinted view of days past: Progress, factories and technology = bad, simplicity, the old ways, minus technology and satanic mills = good.

I read quite a bit of fantasy and I write it sorry but thought I should fess that early. Personally, I agree with Marcus that the dialogue should match the setting, but it should also match the character to make them truly convincing.



Posted on 13 Aug 2013 03:11:28 BDT
S. Mudambi says:
I think it mostly depends on how good the characterization and plot are. If these are of high quality, then as long as the language is consistent, it can carry the tale. I just read a fantasy that just came out - The Empire of the Zon - set in a parallel world, but where the language was not an issue at all.
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Discussion in:  fiction discussion forum
Participants:  7
Total posts:  10
Initial post:  19 May 2013
Latest post:  13 Aug 2013

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