10 Quotes from Science-Fiction and Fantasy

We can learn a lot from fantasy and sci-fi. Sometimes we need to hear a truth come from the mouth of the Other, or to see our situations mirrored in a fantasy world. So here are ten of my favorite quotes about life from fantasy and sci-fi books, TV shows, and movies.

Some journeys take us far from home. Some adventures lead us to our destiny.The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others. – The Wizard, The Wizard of Oz

Words are, in my not-so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. – Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Equality is the nullifier of individuality… Equality is the despot destroyer of self-worth. In a world of sameness, there can be no heroes. – The Watcher, “Earth X #3,” Marvel Comics

Who’s the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him? – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope

Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens. – Gimli, The Fellowship of the Ring

‘Impossible’ is a word that humans use far too often. – Seven of Nine, “Hope and Fear,” Star Trek: Voyager

You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are. – Aslan, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

We all have a destiny. Sometimes we do not see it, because we have been taught to believe that we are not important. – Delenn, “Comes the Inquisitor,” Babylon 5

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. … I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. – Puddleglum, The Silver Chair

What is one of your favorite sci-fi or fantasy quotes about real life? Please share!

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Creating Fantasy Creatures and Alien Species – Real Animals as Magical Races

In a previous post on this subject, I gave some tips for creating convincing and relatable creatures to populate a fantasy or sci-fi world. In this post, I will continue in that vein, but I will come at it from a slightly different view – that is, using animals as characters in your story.

This post is not about creating fantastic new monsters or magical animals, though I might do a post on that later. This is about using familiar, “real” animals as sentient characters or races. While the practice of having sentient, anthropomorphized animals in fantasy is not especially common – except perhaps in children’s books – it can be a valid fantasy storytelling element even in YA or adult fiction.

In my previous post about creating fantasy races, I emphasized two key points in creating believable creatures: elements that make them human, and elements that make them non-human. Both, I believe, are necessary to create convincing, well-rounded fantasy creatures.

The non-human element is probably obvious – you as a writer are seeking something different, something besides just another fantasy kingdom filled with humans. Whether they are Klingons or Elves, the “otherness” aspect is part of the point of fantasy.

But equally important is the human element. There must be some way for the human reader – if not the human characters – to relate to and understand this magical race of “other” in your story. Some common ground should be there – even if the point of your story is the search for that common ground. You can write about Klingons all day long, but always remember that your readers are human.

So how does this work if you want to imbue real animals with magic and use them as the “other,” the alien race? To illustrate how this can be done, I’ll use examples from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. (While both of these series might be considered YA or even children’s literature, they are stories that are complex and mature enough to be enjoyed by adults).

What are the qualities that make them non-human?

In my previous post about creating fantasy species, I discussed three main categories to consider: physical traits, emotions or mindset of the species, and the general culture.

In the Narnia books, there are plenty of non-human creatures – and some of the most non-human of all are the Talking Beasts. The badgers, bears, mice, and dogs that have human speech and mannerisms are perhaps more alien than the fauns and centaurs and gryphons. Though they live in harmony with humans, they are very much non-human.

The physical is the most obvious, of course. Even though some Talking Beasts can walk on their hind legs and wield tools (like the heroic mouse Reepicheep), they are very much animal in appearance and behavior. No cartoony animals in cute clothes in these stories. Each species still behaves according to their animal nature as far as attitude and mindset – the fiercely loyal dogs, jittery hyper squirrels, gentle and aloof deer.

While the humans fight wars, voice their opinions, and rage against Aslan in the name of free will and progress, the Talking Beasts don’t change. Their steadiness of behavior and belief sets them apart from every other sentient race in Narnia.

They love and respect the humans, but the Talking Beasts are quick to remind everyone that they are most definitely not human, and are not trying to be in any way. The Talking Beasts are proud of their Otherness. The magic of Narnia makes them more than mere animals, but they never will be human – and they want to keep it that way.

What are the qualities that make them human?

As I mentioned before, some human elements are needed in your magical animal race if you want your human readers to relate to them at all. Even if the “otherness” is part of the point of your story, having at least some common ground can help to emphasize all the elements that make them non-human.

In Philip Pullman’s books (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass), the Panserbjørne (Armored Bears or Ice Bears) are at first appearance very animalistic and “other.” These Bears tend to shun human contact, but they are master craftsmen and metal workers. Their physical dwellings and societal structure are more human than animal, with their castles, metal armor, and sense of honor.

The Ice Bears, though emphasized as different and “other,” experience the very human emotions of fear and shame, hatred and love. The Bears have a king and their own laws for their kingdom. Almost the opposite of the animals in Narnia, who live in their natural habitats in the wilderness, the Ice Bears depend on their created laws and their skill with tools to hold their society together.

While the Bears and the humans have reluctant contact at best, until the plot of the story forces them together, the two species have more in common than each one believes at first. The Bears are animals and the Bears are Other, but just like humans, they hate and love and will fight to preserve their world.

Animals as sentient races and important characters can be a valid storytelling element for YA and adult fantasy, I believe, as shown by these examples. Always key is the human element, and the non-human element.Whether it’s a sword-wielding mouse, an armored polar bear, or some other animal, choose your beast and go create some magic.

ABC Book Challenge

I borrowed this idea from The Magic Violinist, a great writer and blogger who is always giving me good ideas.

This challenge is to list books that I’ve read, one for every letter of the alphabet (skipping words like A and The in the titles, of course). My list is a little bit of everything – fantasy, children’s books, classics, non-fiction. So here goes!

AAleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse

BBeezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

CThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

DThe Devil’s Horse: Tales from the Kalevala by Keith Bosley

EEchoes of Mercy by Nancy Alcorn

FThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

GThe Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

HThe Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

IThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

JJust-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

KKirsten’s Surprise by Janet Shaw

L Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

MMara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

NNight Mare by Piers Anthony

OOnce Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman

PPiercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti

QQ-Squared by Peter David

RRebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

SThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

TThe Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter

UUltima Thule: Explorers and Natives in the Polar North by Jean Malaurie

VVoyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

WWisdom by Bonnie Watson

XX-Men: Empire’s End by Diane Duane

YYertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss

Z Zero: the Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

What about your reading list? Have you hit every letter yet? Please share!

My Superpower

I am entering this blog entry into a contest by Positive Writer called “You are a Writer.” Check out his blog for links to many other inspiring stories!

 

I’ve always loved stories—the more fantastical, the better. Alien planets, magical worlds, the supernatural living among us—I like it all.

I would wish, sometimes, that I could live in one of those stories. It’s not that I hated my life—I had a wonderful childhood, loving parents, all my basic needs met and a few luxuries on the side. A great environment to grow up in, but nothing special, or so I thought at the time.

I wanted to be special. To be the one who opened the wardrobe door and discovered Narnia. Or woke up in Oz and saved the day.

I wanted to fly with the hidden angel wings on my back. Or wield the magic sword. Or be the holder of the key to the secret land of the unicorns. I played games, and wrote stories, and read stories, and wished I was something special.

Why couldn’t I have a cool superpower like one of the X-Men? How come all the hidden trails in the woods always dead-ended at the edge of the highway instead of taking me to a magical fairy realm? No hole in the ground ever led to Wonderland, no ring I put on ever made me invisible. Nothing special.

Then suddenly one day, not so very long ago, I realized that I was wrong. All these years, daydreaming about things that didn’t exist, were not futile fancies or a waste of time. All this time, I’d been honing my magical talent, my special power.

I could tell stories. I could think of worlds and people that had never existed before, and never ever would if I didn’t think of them and give them life. I could create the places I longed to visit, the amazing creatures I longed to see, and share them with other people.

I’m a writer. That’s my superpower.

I have a mind, and a voice, and a pen. And I can use them to create magic or save the day.

You have a mind, and a voice, and a pen. What’s your superpower?

Overcoming Writer’s Block

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, I believe that writers can get stuck, frustrated with, disillusioned by, and tired of their writing projects. I believe this because I’ve experienced all of these things.

However, “writer’s block” to me sounds permanent and insurmountable. And it is most certainly neither of these. So whether you’re experiencing writer’s block, writer’s pause, frustration with your characters, or uninspired by your plot, there is a way out. Here are three tips that I use when I get stuck.

Go for a walk.

Or a run, or a swim, or vacuum your house. In other words, do something besides sitting there staring at the blank page. Physical movement helps—it gets blood flowing, and distracts you. And if you haven’t cleaned in a while, well, then you’re killing two birds with one stone. Double your productivity! But seriously, I do some of my best thinking while I’m doing physical tasks that require very little conscious thought, such as vacuuming or talking a long walk.

Recently I’ve been stuck on my current WIP (work in progress). Not blocked, just not sure how to proceed. I know the ending of the story, and a few key events that I want to have happen—I just didn’t know what the next few scenes needed to be. Going for several longs walks helped me to sort out ideas; sometimes I purposefully brainstormed, other times I just let my mind wander.  But it helped, and I now have a clearer picture of where I need to go.

Write a future scene, or one that won’t be in the book.

If you’re stuck like I was, knowing some of the future of the book but just not where to go next, then write a scene out of order. I do this periodically, whether I’m stuck or not, usually if I’m hit with an idea for scene or event.

But it’s also a good exercise to try to keep your mind on your characters and your WIP, while letting your mind get away from that part that’s got you stuck. Whether the scene is a complete scene or not, or ends up in the final draft of the book or not, doesn’t matter. Sometimes, it’s the very act of writing that will loosen things up and get your creative juices going again.

Read a book or watch a movie.

Sometimes I read a favorite scene from a book or watch a favorite movie to get myself inspired, and sometimes just for a plain distraction. This is not to say that you should just spend all of your allotted writing time reading or vegging in front of the TV, but viewing someone else’s creativity can help you with your own.

For me, my go-to things to watch when I get stuck or am feeling particularly uninspired are the Lord of the Rings movies or The Chronicles of Narnia. These are my favorites in both the book and the movie realms, and—especially with Narnia—some of my greatest sources of inspiration ever since childhood.

I don’t take ideas right out of these works, but to me, Tolkien and Lewis were some of the greatest fantasy storytellers ever, and simply witnessing their genius gets me excited. I do have to exercise some discipline, though. I don’t want to spend three nights watching movies I’ve seen before, and feeling very inspired, only to realize that I’m way behind on my writing goals because I’ve been watching movies instead of writing.

Discipline and temperance are key, but don’t be afraid to use someone else’s ideas to break loose that block in your own mind.

Does anyone else have any tried and true techniques for getting past those blocks, getting unstuck, or getting re-inspired? Please share!