Alright, everyone! We’re back this week with another sub-genre to examine. This time, we’ll be looking at dying earth fantasy. This one’s fun if you like apocalyptic fiction with a dash of fantasy or science-fiction. Obviously, the focus here is on fantasy, but science-fiction also has a firm hold on this sub-genre, so that’s a nice crossover if you like both genres.
Defining Dying Earth Fantasy
Dying earth fantasy mainly has to do with the idea of a far-future, apocalyptic world where everything, including the natural laws governing the universe, fails or is failing. It all falls apart in these kinds of novels, and it comes as no surprise to find our heros and heroines struggling to survive in these tales. One important note here, though. Dying earth fantasy is not the same as apocalyptic fiction in that, rather than having some catastrophic disaster occur to cause the dystopian, apocalyptic world, dying earth fantasy has the earth’s depletion as the center driver for everything going wrong in the world. It is the result of long periods of disuse and abuse of a planet, not some unforseen catastrophe like a deadly virus or alien invasions.
Writing Dying Earth Fantasy
Whether you’re writing dying earth fantasy or science fiction, there are some common elements and themes you should consider and include when writing this sub-genre. It isn’t a feel-good type of genre at all, so given that, you have to provide the readers with another reason, some other value to gain, from reading your work. These elements are commonly used to do that and to make dying earth fantasy/sci-fi what it is.
With dying-earth fantasy, unlike other sub-genres, characterization doesn’t run extremely deep. The story’s focus is on the dying planet and the struggles faced because of it, not on any one or two characters. The timeline for these books can also end up being quite expansive, so characters can easily come and go, leaving readers with only a bare impression of them.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t spend time developing characters at all. Obviously, characterization and development is still important, but it won’t be your main focus, so if it’s a little more general than it would be with other sub-genres, that’s alright.
Plot and Timeline
Remember what I said about long stretches of time in the previous point? Well, it holds true with your plot and timeline both. Most dying earth fantasies will have broad plots that cover large amounts of time. We’re watching as a planet dies, so we don’t expect to find that the time is small. This is part of what separates this sub-genre from apocalyptic fantasy. A catastrophe can cause these same difficulties and more for characters in a much shorter span of time. It takes a lot longer for a planet to die.
Lofty Ideas or Social Implications
Okay, so this sub-genre is huge on this area. Dying earth fantasy almost wouldn’t be dying earth fantasy if it didn’t contain grand ideas and social implications. We’re talking messages about Earth’s future and the way we’re headed or reflection on our past and what it has done to our future. Really, anything within those realms goes, but dying earth fantasy isn’t itself without a theme on one of these areas. So if you’re looking to write this, you better believe you’re going to need a social impact topic that you’re passionate about and can relate to the story of how the world dies. Maybe the book is reflecting on several of those topics, even. But the book will have to reflect on and remark upon the human state and human history in order to extrapolate out to the grand ideas of our future and why it has become as it has. You’ve got a lot of room to work here though because dying earth fantasy usually happens so far in the future that you aren’t restricted to what we have now or what we know now. Whatever your choices in this area, your goal will be to make the reader think about life and human history as well as where it may lead.
I know, I know. We’re talking fantasy here, not sci-fi. But science often plays a role in even the fantasy stories, so we can’t really leave it out of the discussion. Usually, for this sub-genre, science isn’t really hard science. If you’re not a huge science nerd, this is good news. Pretty much, the tech and science that shows up in dying-earth fantasy is going to be forgotten technology or science that is a novelty or seems magical to those now discovering it. So for those of you who aren’t so fond of hard science, this genre is still accessible to you!
Hopefully this has helped you to understand more about how to write this sub-genre. If you’re the type that enjoys really provoking thought in your audience, particularly on social themes and issues, this sub-genre might be a good fit for you. Try your hand at it. You never know where you might end up! As always, if you have questions, feel free to comment below! The list of further reading is below, as usual.
Further Reading and Resources
**Disclaimer: I haven’t read any of these, and as such, I am unsure of the appropriateness for children. Please exercise good judgment and common sense before giving them to or recommending them for children.**
Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth
George R.R. Martin’s Songs of the Dying Earth
Wilbur Smith’s Dark is the Dying Sun
M. John Harrison’s Virconium