Noir, when translated from French, means ‘night.’ Noir, when translated from English, means ‘rain.’ A whole lot of rain.
As I stated in my first post, and my bio, and my twitter account, (@Texan_Chill) I’m a fantasy noir writer. The only problem with this is that very few even know what the hell I even mean. (Excuse the language and many parentheses. I’m ticked off.) Because of this, I decided to remedy your ignorance on the matter. Yes, I’m being condescending and an arrogant ass, but it just surprises me at the lack of knowledge on the newest genre in fantasy. Hell, even a respected author doesn’t even know the exact definition on “fantasy noir.” Now, I realize her source was bad as well, so once again, let’s remedy that. Let’s show the populace what “fantasy noir” truly means.
But you say, how am I sure that I even know what it means? Because I did my research.
See, fantasy noir isn’t a genre that just sprung up overnight. (Pun) It had to come from somewhere. And where would that be? I don’t know, maybe the genre it gets its name from? But that would make waaay too much sense.
The certain source the respected author read over said that, “Fantasy noir is a genre of decaying cities and morally gray characters.” I’m paraphrasing, but that in no way defines the genre to a T. That could define a whole host of stories, say The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Lies is not a fantasy noir story. Yes, it has a decaying city and morally gray characters, but once again, the source is wrong.
Enough ranting, time for me to tell you what the genre is exactly. It’s important to know that noir is a time of film, not a book. Because of this, one thing defines the genre: TONE. And rain. But that’s not very important. (Hah, sarcasm.) Film Noir stems from the genre of literature known as hardboiled. The cynic is the most common MC, as is 1st person being the preferred style. But not all adhere to this rule, take for instance The Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton. Another thing to add is that Noir, being in 1st person, has a tendency to have a very introspective protagonist. Very much into wool-gathering and an internal monologue. Along with this is the trait of a loner. Not always so, but very common.
One other thing that the noir genre takes criticism for is its nonlinear plotline. Yes, it’s confusing, but most of the time necessary. Flashbacks help the story, right? But you say, does that make any story that has flashbacks a noir story? No, it has to have most of the attributes along with a penchant for the criminal side of life. Yes, Lies has this and a nonlinear plotline, but not an introspective character. He’s very much an extrovert. And definitely not a cynic. At least not shown, unless when it comes to dating.
But remember, tone is the important thing about noir. Cities are important as well, but can’t you have a hardboiled cynic who introspects a lot walk into the raining countryside and still consider it a noir story? Yes. There are exceptions to the rules, but you have to have a majority of them to be a part of them. I realize some people will still be arguing with me, saying that Lies is a noir story and I shouldn’t be bashing this respectable author. I say that if you think that, then this post has failed to reach its purpose. Go watch a noir movie. Go watch Blade Runner or the Big Sleep. Go read Low Town by Daniel Polansky or Fade to Black by Francis Knight. Those are fantasy noir stories. Lies is its abbreviated namesake, a lie to be considered part of this growing genre I hope to become a part of.