Tag: rural fantasy


SFX Book Club Feature

If you buy SFX Magazine this month you will notice that there is a book club feature written by someone called “Mark Charon Newton” with the interesting and much cooler “o” spelling of Charan.

I don’t know who this chap is, but his write-up on Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock makes me want to read the book.

I mention the term Rural Fantasy in the article. Now it’s in print, the sub-genre is officially real.


The Rural Fantasy Reading List

In response to the debate generated by the previous post on Rural Fantasy, which was reposted on io9.com, I’ve compiled a starter list of Rural Fantasies (both adult and children titles), for anyone interested in reading more – and it’s worth adding that this isn’t a comment on quality either. I’ll edit this post continually, adding more titles, so do pop further suggestions in the comments section. (I want to keep it to books that don’t merely use the rural setting as a backdrop, but actually engage with it in some way.)

Richard Adams – Watership Down
Piers Anthony – Xanth novels (warning: horrific gender politics)
James Baylock – The Elfin Ship
Lois McMaster Bujold – The Sharing Knife books
Orson Scott Card – The Tales of Alvin Maker
G.K. Chesterton – The Flying Inn
John Connolly – The Book of Lost Things
John Crowley – Little, Big
Stephen Donaldson – The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever
Lord Dunsany – The King of Elfland’s Daughter
Neil Gaiman – Stardust
Alan Garner – The Owl Service
Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows
Barbara Hambly – Dragonsbane
Robin Hobb – The Farseer series
Robert Holdstock – Mythago Wood (and the rest of the Rhyope series)
William Horwood – The Duncton Chronicles
Brian Jacques – Redwall series
Guy Gavriel Kay – Ysabel
Paul Kearney – A Different Kingdom
Greg Keyes – The Briar King
Stephen King & Peter Straub – The Talisman
Ursula Le Guin – Always Coming Home
Charles de Lint – Someplace to be Flying, The Little Country, Over Sea Under Stone
Jeremy Love – Bayou (graphic novel)
Patricia A. McKilliip – The Forgotten Beasts Of Eld, The Changeling Sea
Arthur Machen – The Great God Pan
Hope Mirlees – Lud-in-the-Mist
William Morris – Well at the World’s End
Garth Nix – The Abhorsen Trilogy
Flannery O’Connor – A Good Man is Hard to Find
Nnedi Okorafor – Zahrah the Windseeker
Terry Pratchett – Lancre sub-series of Discworld
Spider Robinson – Time Pressure
Mary Stewart – The Crystal Cave
Thomas Burnett Swann – The Forest of Forever
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit, Tales from the Perilous Realm, Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham
Manly Wade Wellman – The “Silver John” books
Sean Williams – Books of the Change
Terri Windling – The Wood Wife

Note: a lot of horror novels cross the threshold, particularly books by Stephen King, which are set in rural locations, but I’ve kept them out of the list for the time being. There’s just the one King novel on there for now.


Rural Fantasy

Enough of this Urban Fantasy malarkey, because I’m now interested in Rural Fantasy.

I’ve written a Book Club feature for SFX Magazine, on Mythago Wood, by Robert Holdstock. It’s probably no surprise to long-time followers of this blog that I’ve chosen that book to write about. I hope I’ve done Mythago Wood justice, and that I’ve served Robert, who sadly died not that long ago, as well as he deserves. I think I sufficiently explored the numerous themes within, pleasing the many fans of this novel, whilst also exciting any potential new readers. As an aside, before he passed away, I was lucky enough to have exchanged a few emails with him, and I browsed through these hoping to glean something for the article (unsuccessfully) but found the experience of reading the emails of someone no longer with us remarkably poignant. The digital age preserves everything.

I’ll give no detail here on what I’ve written for the article, but if you’ve read and admired the book, why not pop along to the SFX forum page, and leave a comment, since I believe they use some of the forum comments to feature alongside the print edition.

So then.

Where are the great Rural Fantasy novels?

I’d love to compile a list of Rural Fantasies – stories which depend upon and inherently involve the natural environment, rather than those which merely use it as a casual backdrop, scenery through which the characters stroll. And also, I’d be more interested in narratives that veer away from folk tales as such, because I can easily see how, for example, the Brothers Grimm have left their mark upon literature.

In the contemporary genre form, I guess Rural Fantasy novels are rarer by far than Urban Fantasy because city populations are obviously denser, therefore (a) there are more people to tell stories about, more human interactions to inspire thought, and (b) statistically, a lot more writers grow up with bricks and concrete around them, and their relation to that environment is more easy to explore – leaving nature a relatively wild and untamed part of the genre.

Or maybe that’s all complete nonsense and it’s simply down to Buffy.

Discussions of genre origins often descend rapidly into argument, so I’m not interested in where one species peeled off from another, particularly considering the difficulty when throwing folk tales back into this particular mix. That said, I suppose modern Rural Fantasy could possibly be traced to the Romantic thinkers, with their rebellion against the scientific rationalisation of nature (and of urban encroachment) combining with the growth and development of the fantasy genre. Fantasists such as William Morris, who in so many aspects of his life embraced rural and environmental concerns, was perhaps a founding father. (It’s also worth stating that he was one of the earliest environmental thinkers, period.)

This sort of thing is much clearer in the writings of Lord Dunsany, and anyone who’s read The King of Elfland’s Daughter, or many of his short stories, can easily see how the natural world supplies the material from which he builds his prose. Even Tolkien had a love affair for the natural world, which is well-documented.

Of more contemporary writers, I can only really think of Robert Holdstock, but after that, I’m struggling to recall names and books. So, feel free to drop suggestions of Rural Fantasy novels or writers in the comments section, and fuel my next book spending spree.

And it occurs to me that, at some point in the future, I really need to write a Rural Fantasy novel – even though most of my output has been about cities, I feel more comfortable with my head in greener places.