The Fantasy Writer's Companion
by Tee Morris
Review by EJ McClure
Dragon Moon Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1896944159
Date: October, 2004 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Fantasy Writer's Companion carries on in the same cheerful, breezy vein as its predecessor, The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy. Topics range from practical guidelines for incorporating horror or mystery into your fantasy to world-building in Asian cultures. It won't substitute for the in-depth research you'll probably want to do if you decide to set a trilogy in a Japanese milieu, but it will spark your imagination and may help you steer clear of some of the outlying reefs and shoals. Some chapters include short bibliographies, while others come with lists of websites to mine for more useful nuggets. I have an entire bookshelf of medieval medical reference books and botanical compendiums; but frankly, the chapter on herbal remedies in the Companion covers just about everything you'd need to know to physic your ailing or battle-scarred characters.
The chapter on romance in fantasy includes brief but insightful interviews with Catherine Asaro, Angela Knight and Jacqueline Cary, all of whom have dealt successfully with the challenge of infusing a little sex into the sword-and-sorcery genre. Fantasy romance, paranormals and erotica also get a mention: the Companion is not a snob. Indeed, while literary fans have long decried the rise of gaming and media popularity, the Companion pragmatically includes a section on writing media and RPG tie-ins. Reading the Companion is like taking a '101' survey course of the fantasy genre from an energetic and amusing professor: you won't be able to pretend you have a PhD upon completion, but you'll get a lot of useful and entertaining tidbits of information that may whet your appetite for more.
The user-friendly trade paperback format makes it a handy reference for the fledgling fantasy author. The chapters on creating governments and social structures, alternative magic systems and Asian world-building may also appeal to the intermediate dungeon-master or role-player who wants to enrich their world and characters. The varied voices of the many writers who contributed enliven the narrative, but Tee Morris and Valerie Griswold-Ford deftly manage the task of keeping the necessary editorial consistency in this unexpected but welcome sequel to The (evidently not entirely) Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy.