Guest Blogger: C. J. Brightley
Noblebright fantasy has at least one important character with noble, idealistic motives who does the right thing out of principle. The character is flawed, but his or her actions are generally defined by honesty, integrity, sacrifice, love, and kindness. The story upholds the goodness of the character; the character’s good qualities are not held up as naiveté, cluelessness, or stupidity, but rather shown to be worthwhile. Good characters can make a difference. Noblebright characters can learn and grow. They can deliberately choose to be kind when tempted to be unkind, they can choose generosity when it hurts, and they can influence their world and other characters for the better.
In a noblebright story, even villains are not without hope; their stories may have a redemptive ending, or they may have some kind of conversion experience (religious or not). It’s not guaranteed, of course, but in a noblebright story, it’s a possibility.
Noblebright fantasy is not utopian fiction. The world of a noblebright story is not perfect, and indeed can sometimes be quite dark. Actions have consequences, and even good characters can make terrible mistakes. But a noblebright story is generally hopeful in tone, even if there are plenty of bad, grim, dark things going on in the world.
Noblebright fantasy isn’t really new, of course; most classic fantasy inspired the reader to courage and virtue. The anti-hero as the main character, or even as an aspirational character, is a fairly recent development in modern fantasy. Although many classic fantasies were fairly noblebright, there wasn’t a name that identified this type of fantasy. It was just “fantasy.” Calling modern noblebright works “classic” to distinguish them from grimdark seems to imply a certain gravitas, age, or flavor that doesn’t necessarily fit all the noblebright works I’ve enjoyed. It also seems to imply that noblebright is a term that could only be applied to epic fantasy, which isn’t true. Fantasy of nearly any subgenre can be noblebright, from epic fantasy to steampunk to cyberpunk to weird western to magical realism. It’s a term meant to identify tone and substance rather than setting and scope.
There is substantial overlap between noblebright fantasy, clean fantasy, and Christian fantasy, but noblebright is not an exact match for any of those. Here is a more in-depth exploration of noblebright fantasy.
I believe that the media we consume changes us. Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. I want to tell those stories, not stories in which everything is easy and painless, but stories in which people choose to be kind and brave and generous in the face of terror or temptation.
Last year I put together a boxed set of noblebright fantasy novels, Light in the Darkness, with eleven other indie authors. We didn’t hit a bestseller list, but it was a great experience for all the authors involved. In fact, I enjoyed the experience so much that I started Spring Song Press to publish future boxed sets and anthologies. Luminous, our first boxed set under the new imprint, will be coming out in a few months. Submissions just closed on our first anthology, Still Waters.
Our next anthology is Fell Beasts and Fair. Submissions will run from August 1 to November 1. I’m looking for clean, noblebright fantasy works of 1,000–10,000 words that contain either classic or new interpretations of fantastic creatures. Submissions should be fully edited and ready for publication. Previously unpublished stories are strongly preferred.
Submissions for another anthology, Shards, will open November 1 and run through February 1. The theme may encompass shards of lives, shards of a broken heart, shards of broken pottery or glass, shards of myth and memory…be creative!
If this sounds like your kind of fantasy, please jump in! I recently founded Noblebright.org, a new website focusing on noblebright fantasy of all subgenres. Guest posts from either a writer or reader perspective are welcome. I’d love to hear from you!
Indie fantasy author C. J. Brightley [http://www.cjbrightley.com] loves deep, relatable characters who choose to do the right thing even when it’s hard (at least most of the time), twisty tales of adventure and derring-do, and imaginative worlds. C. J. writes both Christian fantasy and clean fantasy for the general market, especially noblebright fantasy, which is a conscious counterpoint to grimdark.