Dissecting Dragons
Episode 229: A Tale for Bards - Why Historical Fantasy Works

Episode 229: A Tale for Bards - Why Historical Fantasy Works

July 3, 2020

This week the dragons take a look at a specific genre mash-up which is increasing in popularity - Historical Fantasy. Unlike epic fantasy inspired by historical events, eg Game of Thrones, Historical Fantasy adds speculative elements to documented history and while it may feature invented characters, the unfolding of history remains fairly constant. Done well this sub-genre of both historical fiction and fantasy can provide an immersive reading experience, with a satisfyingly well built world, fascinating real historical events and speculative elements which can add to the escapism of the reading experience or even provide extra nuance or lighter moments. Under the microscope this week - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell by Suzanna Clarke, The Diviners - Libba Bray, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 228: Identity Crisis - The Quest for Self Knowledge in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 228: Identity Crisis - The Quest for Self Knowledge in Speculative Fiction

June 26, 2020

One quest all of will at some point take part in, is the quest for our own identities. Whether this is something consciously undertaken or subconsciously sought, the narrative of who we are as individuals is a human quest. It's not then surprising that a lot of fiction reflects this; the classic hero's journey is, at its core, the search for identity, for a place in the world. This week the dragons delve into just why this is such an appealing aspect to add to a narrative. What exactly is identity in narrative terms? How does it put pressure on a plot? And what are some of the best ways this trope is used? On the slab this week - Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pearce, The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 227: Fighting Fire with Fire - When Good Guys Dabble with Dark Arts

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 227: Fighting Fire with Fire - When Good Guys Dabble with Dark Arts

June 19, 2020

A trope which regularly crops up in speculative fiction is that of the hero or protagonist being forced to confront the temptation to use power which has been designated as 'bad'. Whether the author likes to test their main character to destruction or whether it's the reader enjoying watching a protagonist examine their own morality and how flexible or rigid their sense of ethics is, the trope appears in everything from children's fiction to sci-fi to horror to epic fantasy. This week the dragons delve into why it's so appealing to have the good guy flirt with bad magic. How does this enrich a story? Where can it go wrong? And can power ever be described as truly good or bad? 

On the slab this week - Star Wars, The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis, The Untamed, The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 226: Continuity Error - Retconning and Misremembering in Speculative Fiction.

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 226: Continuity Error - Retconning and Misremembering in Speculative Fiction.

June 12, 2020

Those who regularly obit the SFF sphere will be familiar the phenomenon of 'retconning'. In part this is due to SFF marketplaces having space for long series and expanded universes, not to mention spin offs, reboots and reprises. It can be annoying to fans to have a piece of long established canon ignored or painted over by new story developments whether it is intentional or not. And this is before you consider multiple authors all writing in a single sprawling shared universe or a single author who has written a fifteen book series, simply not checking or misremembering facts. So how does this affect the reader experience and what can you as a writer do about it where your own work is concerned? This week the dragons take a look at several examples of retconning and misremembering, and where they feel the authors got away with it - or not! Under the microscope this week: Star Trek, Acorna the Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey, Star Wars and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 225: Innocence and Experience - Inadequate Narrators in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 225: Innocence and Experience - Inadequate Narrators in Speculative Fiction

June 5, 2020

In a past episode, Jules and Madeleine went into detail about 'unreliable narrators'. If the effect you want to create in your reader is to make them constantly question the narrative, causing conflict between the reader and the narrator in order to create tension, then an unreliable narrator can be a great choice. However there are other kinds of narrator which can be used similarly but to create more nuanced effects in your reader. This week the dragons look at the 'inadequate narrator'. More details in the episode obviously but children, animals and non humans are all examples of inadequate narrators. What sort of narratives are these characters best for and what are the advantages of using them? On the slab this week Jojo Rabbit, Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian, The Rosie Project by Graham Simsion and many more.

(NB - Jules and Madeline both refer to 'The Mysterious Case of the Dog in the Night-time'. Obviously they mean 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' by Mark Haddon - apologies for the error!)

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 224: The Magic of the Craft - Artists Engineers and Creatives in  Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 224: The Magic of the Craft - Artists Engineers and Creatives in Speculative Fiction

May 29, 2020

Speculative fiction is rife with magical objects - rings, crowns, swords and far stranger items - the presence of which shape the narrative as the object is lost, stolen, regained and destroyed. However, while archetype such as the bard or minstrel show up regularly, slightly less attention is paid to magic wielders in SFF whose power is expressed through creating something. This week the dragons delve into the world of the magical creative from the dwarves of Nordic mythology to the artist characters that see the future. What is it about the process of creating that so fascinates us? How can these characters be used to create an unusual magic system? On the slab this week - Heroes, L J Smiths Dark Visions series, Tamora Pearce's Circle of Magic and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 223: Jump on the Train, or get off the Tracks - Pacing, Prologues & Bridging Distance in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 223: Jump on the Train, or get off the Tracks - Pacing, Prologues & Bridging Distance in Speculative Fiction

May 22, 2020

One of the trickier aspects of getting a book to hang together is getting the pace of the narrative right. Not only does the required pace vary based on story, it also varies based on genre and reader expectations. This week the dragons unravel how to pace a novel, looking at pacing related to structure, genre and style; cheats and tricks for various genres; how sentence structure can help manage pacing; and when to prologue or use bridging distance. Join Jules and Madeleine for a writing focused episode, as they look at some of their favourite examples of books which got the pacing right.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 222: Getting the Band Back Together - Subverting Tropes in Fantasy Teams

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 222: Getting the Band Back Together - Subverting Tropes in Fantasy Teams

May 15, 2020

What fantasy fan doesn't love a good quest narrative, especially one which features a broad cast of unlikely heroes, thrown together by events and a common goal? In fact, such narratives are not confined to High or Epic fantasy, but can be found in everything from low, dark or urban fantasy, to space opera to military sci-fi to historical fiction. The week the dragons delve into the appeal of this kind of story and the 'band of brothers' cast which usually accompanies it. How can modern SFF writers bend and subvert tropes and archetypes to tell a more diverse and engaging story? Do you even need a fantasy team for your tale at all? And what are the origins of this type of narrative? On the slab this week; Classical mythology, Lord of the Rings, The Kings of teh Wyld by Nicholas Eames and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 221: A Knight to Remember - Courtly Love, Chivalry and Noble Warriors in Speculative Fiction

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 221: A Knight to Remember - Courtly Love, Chivalry and Noble Warriors in Speculative Fiction

May 8, 2020

The concept of 'knight' has become it's own sub-category within the warrior archetype. Influenced by Medieval history, romantic poetry and British mythology, many authors find the addition of a noble warrior - who adheres to a code of conduct and courtly behaviour - to be an essential addition to High and Epic fantasy. Even authors who subvert this trope, are benefiting from a long association where knights are the good guys. It's one of the more successful pieces of Medieval propaganda! This week the dragons delve into why this archetype is so popular? Where did it really come from? How accurate is the idea of a 'knight in shining armour astride a white charger'? And what do the terms 'courtly love' and 'chivalry' really mean? Buckle on your cuiress for an episode with a sting in its tale. On the slab this week: Tamora Pearce - The Song of the Lioness, George R R Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire, The Knight's Tale - Geoffrey Chaucer, Le Morte d'Artur - Mallory, and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 220: The Greatest Liars - What Actors can Teach Writers about Creating Characters

Dissecting Dragons: Episode 220: The Greatest Liars - What Actors can Teach Writers about Creating Characters

May 1, 2020

Acting and writing have a surprising amount in common, especially when it comes to developing techniques to create character. Both of these creative disciplines draw on similar sources such as personal experience and observation. So what can an actor teach a writer about how to use those sources? How does the ability to 'substitute' breath life into characters in action? And what exercises can the writer try to make best use of these techniques to create deep characterisation? This week the dragons delve into the topic of how to create characters, drawing on their own experience in writing as well as performances on stage and screen.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic