FAQs  |  Influences

Have you read Bulgakov's "the Master and Margarita". Do you like it? Has it influenced you at all? Yours, Mephistopheles

I loved it when I read it, yes; I've not reread it for many years, and I'm not the best person to say if something's influenced me or not. It's a good bet that it would have fed into the hodge-podge that produced Season of Mists, for example. And I wonder if the black cat in it wasn't related to some of the black cats I've written about. It's a marvellous book, and one I'd love to go back to.


I have a question:

What do you think the difference is between fantasy and fiction? Is there a difference?

As you can see, both of these are interrelated and form one major question. I am taking an Introduction to Creative Writing course at York University in Canada and they will not allow their students to write fantasy, only fiction.

I would really like to know the distinction.

Depends how you define your terms. In the broadest sense, there's no difference; it's like saying "you aren't allowed to write verses, only poems". I suppose if you want to narrow your terms and define fantasy as genre fantasy you might get something like "Fantasy: That branch of fiction dealing with magic, elves, quests for or to get rid of magical artefacts, not to mention witches, wizards and so forth," which would give you subject matter to leave out. Best bet is to set your fantasies in the here and now and then, if challenged, claim to be writing Magical Realism.

Then again, I can't think of a definition of "fiction" that isn't a variation on "stuff you make up", and fantasy is a branch of fiction. Personally, I think it's an enormously useful branch of fiction.

You might want to refer your professors to something like the Alberto Manguel anthology Black Water, a terrific collection of fine literary fantasies, and ask them to mark which stories would and wouldn't be allowed under their rules, to give you a guideline.

If I were teaching creative writing I'd want to encourage creativity. (Although I'd also want ot encourage people to play in unfamiliar sandboxes. Remember, just because you like reading a particular form of fiction doesn't mean that that's what you'll be best at writing. It's true. Write Historical Fiction. Write Funny. Write Scary. Write "Mainstream". Write.)