Every great story requires interesting characters, an engrossing plot, evocative prose, an important theme… but epic fantasy also requires a memorable setting. A “secondary universe,” as J.R.R. Tolkien termed it, a world both like and unlike our own, with its own rich history and geography and customs, its own beauties and terrors. Tolkien himself was a worldbuilder without peer. It was not happenstance that when Lord of the Rings first achieved national popularity on the college campuses of America in the 1960s, the poster that appeared on tens of thousands of dorm rooms across the country featured neither a character portrait nor an action scene, but rather a map of Middle Earth.
The best fantasy carries us far from the fields we know, to worlds beyond the hill, worlds that, once visited, live on in our imaginations for the rest of our lives. They assume their own reality, these imaginary worlds. Millions of people have never visited Rome or Paris, yet they know the Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower by sight. Rivendell, the Shire, and the Mines of Moria are instantly recognizable in much the same way to countless readers around the world. The history of fantasy is rich with such imagined landscapes. Robert E. Howard gave us the Hyborian Age, Roger Zelazny showed us the way to Amber, Stephen R. Donaldson the Land, Terry Pratchett the Discworld. Jack Vance took us to the Dying Earth, Fritz Leiber to Lankhmar, Ursula K. Le Guin to Earthsea, Andre Norton to Witchworld. Oz, Neverland, Narnia, Wonderland, Zothique, Gormenghast, the list goes on and on and on…
These days, the world is more need of wonder than ever before. To that end, I am pleased to announce that I am sponsoring a new annual scholarship at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle. https://www.clarionwest.org/ An intensive six-week course for aspiring authors of science fiction and fantasy, Clarion West is one of the longest-running and most successful workshops in the world. Its instructors and graduates make up an honor roll of the best and the brightest in science fiction and fantasy. This summer the instructors will be Daniel Abraham, Ken MacLeod, Karen Lord, Yoon Ha Lee, Karen Joy Fowler, and Ellen Datlow. The deadline for applying is March 1.
Our new WORLDBUILDER SCHOLARSHIP will cover tuition, fees, and lodging for one student each year. The award will not be limited by age, race, sex, religion, skin color, place of origin, or field of study. The winner will be selected each year in a blind judging to an applicant who demonstrates both financial need and a talent for worldbuilding and the creation of secondary universes. For further details, query Clarion West at firstname.lastname@example.org
Clarion West offers a wide range of other scholarships and financial aid packages, but you can never have too many. I remember very well what it was like to be a writer starting out, struggling for sales, and counting every dime. It is my hope that the Worldbuilder Scholarship will help the next great fantasist on the long journey ahead. As Tolkien himself wrote, every journey begins with a single step.
Current Mood: creative