Crows and Ravens in Fantasy

Dragons are strongly associated with fantasy fiction, so much so that they have become a symbol for the genre. Given that these imaginary beasts only inhabit the realms of fantasy, fairy tale and legend, and thrill many a reader, this makes sense. However, I’d argue the humble crow or raven pops up in fantasy books and films just as often, even if it is sometimes in a more symbolic or background role.

Since I love crows, and recently changed the look of my blog to feature a crow rather prominently, I thought this might be a good excuse to take a closer look at these sometimes under-appreciated birds and their prevalence in speculative fiction. Continue reading

Why Auroras Are Like Magic

I recently ventured north of the Arctic Circle in the middle of winter. As you can probably tell from the title of this post, it wasn’t just because I wanted to frolic in the snow, ride husky sleds and marvel at the rare appearances of the sun (though I enjoyed doing all of these things), but because I wanted to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, which are more likely to be spied during the darkness of long winter nights.

Incredible videos like this one – a time-lapse of images taken from the International Space Station – had whet my appetite for auroras: Continue reading

Poisons, Antidotes and Remedies in Fantasy

The dramatic regicide-by-poison in Game of Thrones may have placed them centre-stage, but poisons have always been rife in the fantasy and science fiction genres, along with antidotes and remedies.

Poisoning may simply seem like a convenient (if dastardly) way to kill a character, but poisons and antidotes are used in a variety of ways to add twists, tension, and complexities to fantasy plots. Continue reading

The Most German Fairy Tales

Germany has long been considered a land of fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm collection of Märchen popularised the tales they collected here, and plenty of German villages, houses and forests look like they might have sprung straight out of a story book.

But having moved to Germany a little over a year ago, I’ve become more aware of the smaller ways in which the famous fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm reflect their cultural origins. For the first time, I can see evidence of the roots they sprung from in the world around me – roots I wouldn’t have noticed while in my Australian homeland. Continue reading

Two Year Blogiversary

So my blogiversary came and went in May and I completely forgot about it. I’ve been blogging for two years now, though it feels like I’ve been at it for longer… maybe it’s because my memories of pre-blogging days have gotten a bit faded at the edges, or because I’ve had a lot happen in the past two years (including moving to a new country!)… or just because I just have a terribly distorted concept of time.

Regardless, it has been 2 years, so as I usually do on my blogiversary (well, I did it last year, so I may as well make a tradition out of it), I’ve put together a list of the most popular posts on Thoughts on Fantasy from the past 12 months: Continue reading

What Are the Best-Selling Fantasy Books and Series of All Time?

The other day I came across this Wikipedia article listing best-selling books, and as I scrolled through the list (which is based on estimated number of copies sold), it struck me that many of the titles listed – including the top 4 – are fantasy novels. And I’m not just talking about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings… these two series undoubtedly dominate the top of the lists, but there are other fantasy books in the mix too.

So this got me to thinking, what are the most popular fantasy books and series of all time, in terms of book sales?  I thought I’d use the list to answer this question, compiling those fantasies that are estimated to have sold 50 million copies or more: Continue reading

10 Common Mistakes I See in Epic Fantasy Writing

I recently encountered a question on Quora asking what some “fatal flaws” or mistakes in fantasy novels are. I wrote a response to it, and it got me thinking about the things that most commonly make me give up on a fantasy book, rate it poorly, or even avoid reading it in the first place. This was a helpful exercise as I want to avoid these things in my own writing, and it struck me that if I expanded and extended my answer it might make for an interesting (perhaps even useful!) blog post. Continue reading

Writing for Fantasy Faction

I just wanted to do a short post this week to mention that I recently became a staff writer for Fantasy Faction, so in addition to keeping up this weekly Thoughts on Fantasy blog (or at least, I usually manage to keep it weekly!) I’ll be writing one or two articles a month for Fantasy FactionContinue reading

Judging a Book by Its Cover: 17 Typical Features of Fantasy Covers

If you’re wandering through a store or trawling through a website, it’s generally easy to recognise a fantasy novel. Most covers have features and styles that make them unmistakable.

In fact, fantasy and science fiction novels have a history of distinctive covers… and not necessarily in a positive way. Continue reading

What is Fantasy Fiction?

If you read a lot in the genre, recognising a book or film as “fantasy fiction” is probably something innate and automatic. However, if you’re not familiar with it, or if you’ve wondered where the lines are drawn, a definition might help to clarify things.

But how do you define something as slippery and changeable as a genre? Continue reading