Yesterday I sent you on over to Sam Sykes blog. Today I’m going to send you over to Pornokitsch and their review of Brandon Sanderson’s Way Of The Kings. Not for the review – although that is very good in itself – but for the insight into the issues with High Fantasy.
I have a real love for traditional fantasy but it’s often criticised these days for being out-of-touch and outdated. Instead New Weird and Post-George R R Martin gritty fantasy is the order of the day.
I often feel in the minority, because I honestly do believe Epic Fantasy could be… well, epic again. The problem is that I do agree with a lot of its detractors. High Fantasy needs a makeover.
It’s all too easy to write High Fantasy off as jingoistic. Elves and dwarves are written off as incredibly passé when all they’re just a shorthand. Yes, I do think that books where all the ’bad races’ are dark skinned is racism, intended or not. But an elf can be a metaphor for the upper classes, the intellectual… whatever the author wants. And if Fantasy is used as a format by which to compare and contrast our own world, those sorts of metaphors are very useful.
I see some writers who write races that act like elves, talk like elves, even look like elves, but are called some other name. This bugs the hell out of me. Thousands of years of folklore yet someone decides the name “just isn’t good enough”. Each to their own, I suppose.
One of the big problems Pornokitsch raised was with Destiny. Now I like destiny. It’s like super-foreshadowing. I said I see it as a contract between the author and the reader as if to let the reader know “it’ll all be OK in the end.” Now, as people wiser than me pointed out, there have been stories where that contract gets broken, but I argue that it can only be done by a skilled author. If you’re gonna break that contract with the reader, you better have something awesome to appease them with.
Pornokitsch said their issue wasn’t so much destiny but the fact that some villain slaves away to get where he is on merit alone (bad merit, but merit nonetheless) yet some farm boy wakes up some day, gets told they are the chosen one and gets a free pass to greatness.
That’s really got me thinking about prophecy and one of the reasons I love the way spontaneous debates just pop up on twitter.
Check out Pornokitsch’s review. There’s a lot of really interesting things there to consider for anyone who reads or especially writes fantasy. I’m going to be mulling over it for weeks.