Breaking Barriers of Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Just writing the words “fantasy” and “science fiction” makes me happy. Not that I love everything that’s fantasy and sci-fi; I am extremely particular and selective about books and movies. But my very favorite stories tend to fall into one of those two categories. Growing up, the make-believe games that I played, and the books I’d create were usually highly fantastical, with no shortness of drama and adventure. It utterly shocked me when I first discovered that not everybody likes these genres (it still kinda does). I mean, who wouldn't like to believe that magic exists, or superheroes, or faeries, or worlds in galaxies far, far away? At least, how could anyone not want to hear stories about them?

I knew I did. And there just simply weren’t enough of those kinds of stories in existence to satisfy me. So what do you do when you can’t find the book you want on the shelf? You write it.*

When the initial concepts for The Mark of Fire Series first came to me, I knew it couldn’t be trapped in the borders of our little earthly reality—it was a fantasy story, the kind I would want to read myself. Over the years, I began to feel more like an archaeologist uncovering secrets than an author writing a novel. When a good idea came to me it seemed to click into place, like a hidden truth that had been right there all along, and I’d hastily scribble away as fast as I could in fear that my brilliant discovery would slip away like water through my fingers. 

For many years I would have almost categorized my story as “high fantasy”. But after a while, the romantic, deep thinker in me was not satisfied. High fantasy can feel so distant and aloof. So I rewrote it again with a more personal feel. When I read a book, I like to connect with the hero; I need to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel the world through their eyes. It was better now, much better, though I still wasn’t satisfied. I just knew something was missing. Through years of lots of revamping and gutting, that itching feeling kept plaguing me. I loved fantasy, so why wasn’t it good enough?

Slowly, it began to dawn on me—yes, I did love fantasy, but I also loved science fiction, the world of superheroes, planets, and space battles. And again like that archaeologist making a discovery, I realized that this was the spice that my series was missing. The Mark of Fire Series was, and always would be, first and foremost a fantasy, and I didn’t want to change that (especially seeing as I have no desire to write a purely science fiction story because I simply can’t abide the thought of one that doesn’t take place in the Star Wars universe). But why did that have to limit it? What invisible barriers kept an edge of sci-fi from my fantasy novel? None that I couldn’t tear down if I wanted to!

The final version of this series came together with amazing ease and speed when my mind settled on the notion that I could incorporate some of my favorite themes—history, fantasy, magic, superpowers, sci-fi, etc—into one story. It finally all fit together in my mind like pieces of a puzzle that had been scattered and at last reunited to form a whole new world. 

But don’t worry too much if you are a fantasy-lover; just like a cupcake is still a cupcake whether it’s chocolate, vanilla, or lemon, the quintessential elements of fantasy remain the basic recipe of The Mark of Fire Series, with a little sci-fi flavoring thrown in.

* Quote by Beverly Cleary: “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.”