Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Fantasy, humour, and GOBLINS
I'm pleased to introduce a post by fantasy author Daniel Beazley who's recently released a great book called Goblins Know Best. Those of you familiar with this blog may recognise Anton Kokarev's cover art!
The fantasy and humour recipe
I want to share with you my thoughts on why I mix fantasy with a bit of humour. There are many great fantasy tales out there and I’m sure you could all reel off at least five of your favourite works now without even pausing for breath, but have a quick think and tell me your five favourite fantasy funnies. That’s a little bit more difficult isn’t it?
I’ve written creatively on and off since 1996 and when I used to sit down to write I dreamt of epic adventures spanning well over six figures in word count. Seriously gritty stuff that dealt with all manner of diabolical plans to take over the world or destroy it, and the hero’s journey to put things right and save the day. I mean who wouldn’t want to write the next tale about a lord and his set of rings? I would scribble away, consuming page after page thinking “this is original” and it was, but originality alone just won’t cut the mustard. I think that showed because when I used to get around the 35-40 % mark I became bored and my mind had already raced onto the next great idea. Clearly not something that’s conducive to writing an intriguing book.
My outlook on writing changed significantly after reading some of Terry Pratchett’s work. I finally realised that not all fantasy has to be deadly serious and full of world shattering events. I was reading great books which had a definite element of nonsense about them and that made me chuckle at regular intervals. This really appealed to me as I love to have a laugh and have been called a “sarcastic git” on more than one occasion. It made me consider my own writing and its content, and I decided that I wasn’t particularly happy with it anymore. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy reading the more serious stuff, in fact I almost enjoy it even more now in some kind of bizarre way (probably because I’m not tarnishing it with my own prattle anymore).
It was about this time that an idea formulated in my mind and I thought, why not write about an unlikely pair and make it funny at the same time. And so a satirical goblin and orc partnership was born, where chef teamed up with warrior and misadventure and chaos followed in their wake. Bogrot and Gorag only began life as an entry into a short story competition but I loved them so much that I continued to write about them and before long I had a novel in my hands, the rest is history. I found out in December 2012 that my short story submission was one of the winners and will be included in the Fantasy Faction Anthology 2012, and my own novel was released in January 2013. It’s been a crazy couple of months but has also been really rewarding and motivating. When you hear that someone has enjoyed your book so much that they walk around quoting bits to others, it really makes everything feel worthwhile.
I’d like to share with you a short extract from my book but before I do I want to sum up the above four paragraphs by saying this: after 16 years I have finally realised how important it is to write in your own voice and not to try and imitate someone else’s. So, if like me you are indeed a ‘sarcastic git’, then write like one, I think you’ll find the end result so much better.
Forty large ticks of the clock later, we’d managed to amass a generous wagon full of the disgusting creatures, and I decided we had enough. They’d given up trying to escape following the good thrashing some of them had received, and simply lay about, wallowing in their own putridness. Gorag turned and, launching his slug-flipper into the murky depths of the marsh, hopped up onto the wagon.
“I’s is gonna ride out of ‘ere,” he declared.
“I don’t blame you,” I said, manoeuvring the wagon around before giving Mona a firm crack of the whip.
“Ouch! You don’t have to do that, you know. Not only does it hurt, but such a barbaric incentive is completely outdated and unnecessary.”
“What’s going on here?” came a softly spoken female voice.
The three of us turned our heads in unison as a figure garbed in a drab, grey shawl materialised out of the mist.
“Would those be my slugs you’ve got in the back of that cart?”
“Err, Purity Pest Control at your service,” I replied, bowing as low as I could manage without falling out of the wagon seat. “No pest too big, no problem too small.”
The woman looked on, seemingly trying to gauge the truth of my claim. Gorag’s long intake of air and vacant stare into the sky suggested he was about to say something stupid and I’d long since given up all hope of expecting anything else. Concerned he would give the whole façade away, I gave him a bony elbow to the ribs. Unfortunately this was noted with a wry smile by the woman.
“It seems to me your employees don’t share your quick wit or sharp intellect, young goblin,” she said, brushing a long, wet lock of golden hair from where it had clung to her smooth cheek.
“You’re n-n-n-not th-th-the Water Witch, are you?” Mona stammered.
“I’m Sessiana yes, though I’m not particularly fond of the name ‘Water Witch’ to be honest, besides which, it’s ridiculous. I don’t draw any of my power from the water.”
Mona gulped loudly and Gorag took a step back. The ensuing cry as he slipped on some slime was cut short by the chaos that ensued as he landed amongst the group of slugs in the back of the wagon. The fact that a number of them were crushed with gruesome effect did not overly concern me. I was simply glad of the cushioning properties of their mucus coated bodies that, without doubt, had prevented Gorag’s bulk from destroying the wagon.
Sessiana rose onto her toes, craning her neck and looking on with concern as Gorag struggled to clamber up out of the slime-infested mess.
“Don’t worry about him, it’s his first day on the job. I can assure you we’re a very professional outfit,” I said, trying to detract her attention from the bouncing wagon and its contents.
“I’m not worried about him, I’m worried about my little babies in the back,” she replied.
“Right,” I said, hesitantly. “So these are your slugs, are they?”
“They most certainly are which does beg the question as to where you think you’re going with them?”
I could see that it was pointless trying to pull the wool over her eyes any longer; she was far too astute for that to work. She didn’t actually look like I had imagined she would either. Where I expected a withered old crone, instead there was a pretty young woman in front of me. It almost took all of my magik-instilled apprehension away – almost.
“I’ll be honest with you, Sessiana. These slugs are eating their way through this whole patch of Dwarf Cabbages that belong to an acquaintance of mine. I was asked to come down here and try to remove some of them.”
Sessiana studied me for a while, chewing on a long fingernail.
“That’s a lie; well, part of it is anyway.”
Mona swung her head around and whispered at me, “Don’t tell her about the curry. Don’t mention the curries.”
“Shhhh,” I hissed back at her, still trying to keep my feet as Gorag continued to roll about in the back.
“They are kind of useful to me as well and I didn’t think anyone would miss a few slugs,” I shrugged.
“I’ll miss them!” she shouted angrily. “I make most of my potions from the Black Marsh Slugs.”
“Now that is interesting,” I said, leaning forward, my curiosity piqued. “What part of the slug do you think it is that produces the spicy heat and zingy flavour I’ve been using in my curries?”
“What?” she exclaimed.
Mona shivered and unloaded the steaming contents of her bowels. Gorag, having finally managed to stand up, decided that it was probably safer back amongst the slime and dived back into the group of slugs. I stayed where I was, feeling unusually dumbfounded and a tad exposed.