Literature of Horror, Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Course Blog for LMST345 Ringling College of Art

Amanda and Neil at RCAD 2013
The focus of this week's class is new urban fantasy, the type of fantasy that has evolved in the post-Tolkien period and especially the type of literary fantasy that has evolved since the 1970s. While many of the codes of fantasy became the foundation for endless sword and sorcery trilogies, tetraologies, septologies, etc., mythic fiction, archetypal storytelling, began to blend the fantastic with the mundane, the extraordinary with the ordinary. Writers of contemporary urban fantasy took some of their inspiration from such earlier writers of the fantastic such as James Branch Cabell and Charles G. Finney. Magic Realism which was an idea that emerged from the reading of Latin American Fiction was also an influence. Gabriel Garcia Marquez who is associated with bringing Magic Realilsm into epic form also brought this narrative approach into film. Magic Realism in film is now fairly widespread and is at the stylistic center of such films as Big Fish and Pan's Labyrynth.

Not entirely distinct, magic realism and contemporary fantasy, in part. overlap sharing a certain similarity of narrative effect. John Crowley's Little, Big together with John Barth's, Giles Goat Boy were two major contemporary novels to represent urban fantasy at an epic scale. The Canadian writer Charles de Lint has also created a body of work that reminds us that myth and archetypal experience can be important ways in which to experience and understand contemporary reality. Neil Gaiman, who has become one of our most popular living authors, has often represented traditional mythological perspectives in the context of everyday life. In his stories frequently there is a very thin membrane between reality and the lands of fairy and his protagonists are frequently crossing that borderline. 

This week we will look at the way Gaiman questions assumptions and deflates various forms of hierarchical thinking in his work. This week's featured novel is Neil Gaiman's Ananzi Boys, one of his best written stories. Alternatively, you could read his most recent short novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

As a featured film for this week, I suggest watching M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water.  Warning: This is a film many people famously dislike.

Here is a link to the assignment as described on the course syllabus.

Neil Gaiman NPR Interview

Another alternative work for this week is Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker  which is available for free from his web site. Here is a link to the pdf:


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