Friday, August 12, 2011

Mammoth Book of Fantasy (Cont.): The Platypus Reads Part CXXV

The Phantasma of Q--- by Lisa Goldstein


This piece has a bit of a steam-punk flair mixed with the "lost world" fantasy that we saw with A. Merritt's "The Moon Pool."  It also has a touch of the "turn-about" mystery we see in Tanith Lee's "A Hero at the Gates."  All of this is in keeping with the trend of the last few stories in the collection toward an increase mixing of genres and techniques.

It makes sense that fantasy writing becomes more complex the closer you get to the present.  Think about it.  When Dunsany created his unique voice, or when Robert E. Howard got Sword and Sorcery up and running, the novelty of their creation was enough to hold the audience's attention.  Once they had done their thing, however, there was only so much of a spin subsequent writers could put on it before everything in that genre or mode came to sound like a pastiche.  As genres and modes proliferated, so did the number of authors writing in them until all the major possibilities were explored.  The only option for aspiring new writers of fantasy then became mixing genres modes to create new permutations that sound fresh and original.

All this means, however, that the genre is running the risk of exhausting itself (or has already has).  This matches my own experience, where the more contemporary the fantasy gets, the less I find it enjoyable or well-crafted.  All this serves as an introduction to the second to last story in the collection.

Audience by Jack Womack

I can only call this a work of surrealist fantasy.  I might call it fantasy of the absurd, but the overall tone is too somber for that.  There are some works whose meaning can't be ferreted out by traditional means.  You either "get it," or you don't.  I don't get "Audience.

One more to go. 

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