Sean F. Gallagher — Mixed Genre: Mixed Metaphor, Mixed MetaGenre?

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming back a regular contributor to the EFW gang, Sean F. Gallagher. Sean is going to pick up the topic of genre cross-currents I kicked off last week. His debut novel Mysts of Mythos, in its final draft stage, spent some time with Inkshares but is now being developed independently. Check out his other contributions to EFW by clicking on his name above.

Bridge on the River Styx. A group of Greek soldiers, captured by the Persian army during the Battle of Thermopylae are brought to the shores of the famed river of death. The Persian general, grieving for his lost King wishes to cross the river with an army to force Hades to return his glorious ruler. Plucky hoplites use guile and wit to survive while plotting to destroy the bridge. Eventually they succeed and bring the bridge down, casting the remainder of the Persian army into the famed river in doing so.

Black Dragon Down. Members of the Imperial Sky Navy watch in horror as one of their airships is shot down behind rebel lines. They try to mount rescue efforts for the captain and crew who survived the crash only to have the rebels deploy potent anti-aircraft magics that bring down yet another airship. The situation for the surviving crew grows more desperate, but the Imperial Commander refuses to give up on them. He sends in crack teams of Paladins and Rangers, escorting a pair of Armored Personnel Oliphants, to hack their way through the rebel forces and bring their men to safety.

When Huzborg Met Sairahiniel. A young elf must travel across the empire for a promising career, but her parents insist she travel with someone rather than go it alone. Well meaning friends help them locate a young orc who is heading to the same city state for deployment in the imperial forces. At first things do not go well. Her elf sensibilities do not mesh well with the crass behavior and opinions of the orc. The trip though, is a long one, and fraught with difficulties. Both use their own particular skills and resources to get each other out of a few jams along the way. Disgruntled respect grows into friendship by the time the trip is done. Over a number of years they meet again a few times, rekindling their fragile friendship that eventually grows into much more.

The Maltese Griffin. Half-Elf detective Samwell Sparhelm and his partner Millard Bowman are hired by a mysterious woman, Lady Wimbly, to investigate a dwarf named Florin Thurheim. They think something is off about her story but accept because she offers a lot of gold. The next morning Sparhelm is called on by the city guard, who tell him that his partner has been found dead, along with a dwarf named Thurheim. The mystery deepens as Samwell receives a visit from a deformed halfling named Joe Chubb, who wants Sparhelm to track down a statue that has been shipped into town recently. Samwell suspects a connection between Chubb and “Lady Wimbly”. The plot thickens as the devious mastermind Lord “G” is brought into the mix. Eventually the plots are tied up, but Sparhelm is left without a partner, though a bit more wealthy, and a budding relationship with his partner’s widow.

I want to write one of these stories right now. Do you think I might run into some copyright issues? Ah well. They do sound kind of fun though, right? Anyone who wants to throw together a cover for one of those stories for me is highly encouraged to do so. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body when it comes to illustration. Sigh.

Growing up, my reading material was pretty much either pure Science Fiction or pure Fantasy. Stories like Foundation, Ringworld, and Dune matched others like Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, and Conan. As I grew older I got into a wider range of things, such as Horror like Cthulhu, and Historical Fiction like Clan of the Cave Bear.

It can be argued that my first exposure to cross genre work was Star Wars. Because of The Force there is a strong argument to be made that it is Space Fantasy, but I saw it when I was seven years old and always thought of it as sci-fi. The Force is magic I suppose but it’s presented in such a sci-fi setting that I don’t really see it as fantasy. Either way. Star Wars is movies and we’re talking about writing.

Princess Bride was probably the first truly cross genre novel that I ever read. I was captivated by the sword play but also the humor that Goldman represented the book with by lampooning the fictional author whose work he was supposedly editing. Neuromancer introduced me to another cross genre milieu. The mixture of Gibson’s eclectic prose with the technobabble of science fiction and the gritty feel of a punk society was electrifying.

Of course mixed genre writing has been around much longer than either of those books. One particular cross genre grouping, called Space Fantasy, has been around since the nineteen-forties with Heinlein’s Magic Inc., Hubbard’s Slaves of Sleep, and DeCamp’s Harold Shea stories.

Once I was introduced to this concept of mixed genre I looked for more like it. My searches led me to many fun discoveries, such as Weird Westerns. Here I found familiar authors such as Robert E Howard, and new ones like William S Burroughs with The Place of Dead Roads. Reading Burroughs led me to one of the weirdest books I ever read, The Naked Lunch. A pretty famous, and very very strange movie, starring Peter Weller, was made from it. Probably the most famous of this cross genre is Steven King’s Dark Tower saga.

Almost certainly though, my favorite cross genre is Comic Fantasy. Stories like Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels, Robert Asperin’s Myth Adventures series, and Terry Pratchett’s epic Discworld stories, tickle me pink. I love to laugh along with these. They are so easy to read and shine a bright light upon their source material skewering them with insightful points of view. In particular the Myth books bring the “Road To…” movies by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby to literary fantasy in hilarious fashion. Interestingly, even though this is my favorite cross-genre, you will not find much to laugh about in my own work. Sadly I don’t seem to have the silly side necessary to produce good humor even though I appreciate it quite a lot. Perhaps it can be something I develop along the way.

Inspired by my exposure to all of these works, along with another stand alone genre, Alternate History, I came up with my own cross genre story. Mysts of Mythos is an Alternate Historical Science Fantasy. The science in that is fairly silent, but it’s there.

What is an Alternate History Science Fantasy? The alternate history part is pretty straightforward. I’m writing a story that diverts from what we perceive to be our true history at a certain point, on a certain day. Up until that day history is as we know it. That day an event occurs which irrevocably alters the path of history. The science part comes in from the quantum mechanical concept of Many-worlds. The quick breakdown is that every possible alternate history and future is real and represents another “world/universe”, including worlds in which the laws of reality work differently. Therein lies the connection to fantasy.

“All of Myth and Legend are but visions through a mysty veil. One day those visions step through.”

My concept for Mysts of Mythos is that throughout history some humans have had the ability to see past the veil of worlds to see into other universes. They told stories of what they saw and those tales grew into the myths and legends of our world. On The Day of Mysts our world is connected to other worlds and the beings and creatures, that were the source of those myths, come through, bringing with them new laws of reality. This is the source of the fantasy and magic for the World of Mysts.



Sean Gallagher is the author of the upcoming novel, Mysts of Mythos, first book in a new series of historical fantasy. Raised in Syracuse, NY he moved to Oregon while still in high school and currently resides in Portland with his wife, Monica, and son, Rune. The Gallaghers are also the proud human friends of Blanca the dog and Thor the cat.

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3 Responses to Sean F. Gallagher — Mixed Genre: Mixed Metaphor, Mixed MetaGenre?

  1. PHS says:

    Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:
    I’ve enjoyed many of the books discussed in this post. Author Sean Gallagher discussed mixed metaphor and mixed genre over at epicfantasywriter. Reblogging on Archer’s Aim.

  2. John Robin says:

    Thanks so much for this, Sean! I’m on the lookout for new titles to add to my reading list, and you’ve just helped a lot. You illustrate an important point here: writing fantasy doesn’t mean loving and reading only fantasy. One of my biggest influences as a fantasy writer came from getting into the Star Trek TV shows. Creativity is everywhere, and I think we go so much further the broader we are, the more directions we see in.

  3. Sean F Gallagher says:

    Thanks, John. I think cross-genre reading is essential. I have gotten a lot out of hard science fiction, with Larry Niven’s Tales of Known Space stories, and Robert Heinlein with Starship Troopers and Moon is a Harsh Mistress, among others.

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