Jane Austen and the Worlds of Fantasy
Many of you know that I write fantasy.
Before I’ve come to write delightful Jane Austen fantasy spin-offs, I’ve created worlds entirely my own.
One such is the arabesque ancient world in my first novel Dreams of the Compass Rose (soon to be re-issued in paper print), written as a “collage” of interconnected stories in the manner of The One Thousand and One Nights. The Compass Rose universe is an ancient milieu where places have no names, cities spring forth like bouquets in the desert, gods and dreams walk the scorching sands in the South, ice floats like mirror shards upon the Northern sea, islands that do not exist are found in the East, death chases a thief on the rooftops of a Western city, immortal love spans time, and directions are intertwined into one road we all travel…. You come to this place when you wonder, and sometimes, only when you dream.
And then there is my epic fantasy world without color in Lords of Rainbow (also soon to be re-issued) where color is a myth and racial memory, and the mysterious event remembered as the Fall of Rainbow is ancient history. The seven deities of each color of the long-gone rainbow are a part of human myth and lore, while a silver sun shines on a land of infinite shades of gray, reflects brilliantly upon sharp metallic surfaces or sinks in oblivion upon dull matte places, defining contours of both forest or intricate cityscape, and there is no true black or white, no absolutes…
Both of the above are examples of wildly imaginative otherworld fantasy, also called “high fantasy,” “epic fantasy,” “hard fantasy.” So many terms!
But what about something less exotic, less recognizable as “fantasy,” maybe less extravagant?
Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that Jane Austen has created not just seven popular novels but her own fantasy world.
What’s the definition of a fantasy world? Indeed, what’s the definition of fantasy?
Usually what comes to mind when we hear the word “fantasy” are supernatural elements such as magic, monsters, fairies, vampires, ghosts, and other fairytale impossibilities.
But what about something more subtle?
Imagine a world of our own but seen through a very special curtain — a filter of sorts. It is a kind of self-contained fixed universe sliced out of some period in history (n this case, Regency), without magic or monsters, or any other weird elements, but a place definitely with its own special rules.
In such a “microcosm world” true love always conquers, there are only happy endings, the relationships are the most important aspect of daily existence, the goal of every unattached young woman is to get married to a well-settled pleasant gentleman, and the goal of every man is to be enchanted and loved by an extraordinary lady. In this same world, family bonds are complex and a source of delight and aggravation, but never true tragedy.
Indeed, tragedy in the real sense does not happen in this world — neither death nor hunger, nor war nor murder (it may be mentioned in passing or vaguely take place off screen). The worst that can to come to pass is disinheritance, public shame, prolonged illness, or a broken heart.
In this world time passes swiftly and the boring routine aspects of daily life are gleaned over, and only the sparkling, marvelous, stunning, and memorable events are recorded in memory.
Likewise, in such a world, the wicked get their comeuppance, the proud are brought low by the steadfast, genuine and, brave, while loyalty is rewarded by all worldly goods.
In such a world, the greatest weapon is wit and the method of doing battle is verbal sparring. Conflicts are eventually resolved, the villains denounced, and justice triumphs.
Here, all sensory physical elements are natural and rustic, or genteel and pleasant, the bread is freshly baked (with no preservatives), the dinner rich and lusty (with no guilt over fatty foods), and the teas and wines sweet and spiced just right (with no worries of inebriation).
Oh, and did I mention the weather? it is delightful, with crystal-clean fresh air and rejuvenating rain and sunny skies and fields of country green — and not even a hint of global climate change to put a sickening damper (or a belch of industrial smoke) on our dreamy reverie. Even the docks and poor residences are painted in vague, soothing dark overtones…. And the music? Why, classical romantic piano, of course! Because, yes, this world has, in place of overt magic, a gentle soundtrack!
Thus, in a nutshell, it is an idyll.
And without any hesitation, I’d call this world the greatest feat of magical imaginary wonder, the purest fantasy imaginable — a world which so many of us secretly long for, despite its lack of modern conveniences such as plumbing, or medical advances to keep us healthy and alive.
Was Jane Austen a secret fantasy author?