Six Degrees of Fantasy Separation: traversing a genre

Wyrd and Wonder 2020
You know the saying: no two people in the contacted world are more than six social connections apart (even when we’re in lockdown). I had way too much fun with bookish versions of this notion in SciFiMonth not to give it a Wyrd and Wonder spin!

First up, a nod to Kate over at Books Are My Favourite And Best, who has been running a bookish Six Degrees of Separation meme since 2016. She nominates a book each month and challenges participants to see what interesting books it takes them to in six free-form hops (a shared author, same publisher, the colour of the cover, where you read it – it’s very forgiving). I’m not actually joining the meme, but I want to give it due credit.

For Wyrd and Wonder, I set myself my own challenge to explore the evolution of fantasy as a genre, with my six connections created strictly creating through tropes and themes. 

Traversing a genre

Of course I got carried away. Having picked my start and end points for a journey from classic to modern fantasy, I found myself wondering ‘hey, what if I pick a book per decade that separates them’ as well as finding thematic links (because you know I like to arbitrarily make things more difficult for myself). The resulting chain is perhaps less the evolution of fantasy as a genre than of me as a fantasy reader…

The Lord of the Rings – J R R Tolkien (1954)

Where else would I start? A motley fellowship take a very long walk to throw a magical ring in a volcano and stop the Dark Lord of Mordor from enslaving their world. Small hands do great deeds because they must, while a prince with a fabled sword is little more than a (hot) distraction with a healing touch.

The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander (1964)

An impetuous Assistant Pigkeeper with no sense of his own limitations must win over a headstrong young woman and steal an ancient artefact from her controlling mentor if he is to find his missing pig and stop the Dark Lord of Annuvin from enslaving their world. Yes, she really is some pig.

The Tombs of Atuan – Ursula Le Guin (1970)

When a famous mage is caught trying to steal an ancient artefact from the stronghold of a dead god, he must win over a headstrong young woman with a controlling mentor if he is to see sunlight again. But Arha is bound by past lives to sacrifice him to the Nameless Ones…

Daggerspell – Katharine Kerr (1986)

A summer feud brings together a lord defined by his sense of honour, the best swordsman in the kingdom and a young woman with unexpected talents. They are bound by past lives to love and hate one another – but destiny is calling, if they can win free of their long-ago mistakes.

A Game of Thrones – George R R Martin (1996)

When the king summons a lord defined by his sense of honour to be his Hand, the dour Northerner discovers a conspiracy that threatens to tear the kingdoms apart. In the game of thrones, you win or you die – but even if Ned can force the fragile peace of the Seven Kingdoms to hold, there will be no reasoning with the enemies gathering beyond its borders…

Kushiel’s Dart – Jacqueline Carey (2001)

Phédre no Delaunay – a trained courtesan and spy – has a rare appetite for pain. When a conspiracy threatens to tear the kingdom apart, her unusual gifts may be the only defence against traitorous nobles and invading armies.

The Fifth Season – N K Jemisin (2015)

A social outcast reinvents herself after a terrible loss to survive a hateful society that would rather see her dead than free. When a vengeful man triggers the apocalypse, her unusual gifts may be the only defence as the world literally tries to tear itself apart

Fancy having a go with me?

Start from either The Lord of the Rings or from The Fifth Season and create your own six degrees exploring the breadth of fantasy as a genre. Post in the comments or on your own blog and tag back to this post so I can admire your efforts. Let’s see where our six degrees of separation take us…

Tip: if you’re struggling, don’t use sentences. If I’d just gone for Angry Robot style theme statements, this would have been way easier if less tongue in cheek (and I could have made the array of additional motif links explicit). Hey ho, live and learn! …well, probably just live in my case, this is the third time I’ve done this after all.