2007.08.06 Fantasy - Really all that Bad?
How much did you make fun of them as a kid – the kids who gathered together to play a little D&D, Magic card games, talked about mythical beasts (like Ligers – bred for their skills in magic), had little figurines they had hand-painted so carefully, or carried on about the latest in, what was to me, the lamest thing around. They just seemed to be in their own world, incapable of having a legitimate conversation with others about normal, non-imaginary, real things. Whatever your tactic was in school, most people knew to stay clear of them, otherwise you would soon become among the victims of endless taunting and harassing. Little did I know that years later I would secretly come to thoroughly enjoy that f word they were all about… Fantasy.
I think it's fair to say there are different kinds of fantasy out there, and I'm not an expert on most of it (so you'll pardon me if I leave out a fairly glaring subset of it):
This involves all the stuff like Orcs, Dwarfs, Elves, Goblins, Trolls, Dragons, and for whatever reason… swords. These people can wield unreal powers, yet the best they can create is a piece of metal? They must not have hit any period of enlightenment to try to make anything better than that. Electricity? Magnets? You're talkin' crazy talk!
This is all the stuff like Star Wars, Star Trek and stuff like that. They're somewhat realistic about the powers of humans, but since they're galaxy hopping, they've come upon others with cooler powers. They've got technology beyond grasp, yet if those two series show us anything, they can't seem to dress any better than 1970. (some could argue that this is also called "Sci-Fi", but I feel that Sci-Fi falls into its own category.
This is the Marijuana of Fantasy – the stuff that most people start on, yet don't really realize they've just started enjoying fantasy. It's close enough to what we know to be true that the ideas and thoughts expressed here aren't too far out of reach. After enjoying this for a bit, they might take a little step further and try out some of the harder stuff, only to realize one day (and blog about it) that they're hooked. Harry Potter… I'm talkin' about you (I'm happy to discuss Book 7 with anybody who wants to, just contact me :).
That's right, I just dropped the H(P) bomb. Did I realize when I started reading a little innocent book like that, that I would open myself up to other stuff? If I knew what kind of a path I was aiming down, I might have dropped it and run quickly in the opposite direction. Hopefully nobody would have seen me holding the book, so maybe I could avoid the wedgies, wet willies and all other forms of torture. I was safe though, since… everyone was doing it. It's just a little wand work, it won't hurt anybody.
I read the first four Harry Potter books back to back to back to back faster than I've read any books in my life. It was a great story and something right within grasp. It was recommended that I read The Hobbit, since it's a classic tale. Filled with foreign names, places, and beings, I was intrigued, and wanted more, so I read The Lord of the Rings. I knew the movies were coming out, so I wanted to read it before I saw them, “So I'm more familiar with the characters and stuff like that.” No big deal, right? Wrong.
I was distracted for a good while there by Tom Clancy books (when's he ever going to come out with another book?), but eventually restarted. The Chronicles of Narnia were next. Quick easy reads, and a finished work - no wondering how it'll end up. Next was The Inheritance Trilogy (Eragon & Eldest, but still waiting on the third one). I was still in denial. Sure, I saw the signs – a mind enveloped by, and subtle dreaming of the possibilities in these imaginary worlds. Worse still was my desire to partake, yet denial of involvement. I could see the other people who liked these same things, and I was having flashbacks to my adolescence, “Must… fight… Fantasy…… Don't… want… wedgies… NOOOOOO!!!”
One of my professors at school talked about some books that were great. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I like to listen to audio books, so I figured I could take his tip and look into one of the books. I looked them up, went to check out the first one, and stopped. “What's that on the cover? A dude on a horse in funky armor and a lady decked out in funky garb? Crap, this must be a Fantasy book. That's okay… I'll just listen to it, and if I don't like it, I'll stop. It's supposed to be a well-developed story, so yeah… I'm reading it for the story.”
After I finished that book, I knew I was done for. I knew it didn't matter what happened in the book, since there were 12 books in the series, with countless people waiting anxiously for the final installment. I knew I was going to add myself to that throng. Captured, captivated, and thoroughly embarrassed… because it was Fantasy. At least I can say I never tormented those kids. I'm still eating crow now for talking smack about their hobbies (though I did, at one point, purchase a deck of Magic the Gathering to play with them, since I was all about games, but nobody wanted to take the time to teach me, and I eventually just gave away my cards).
I still don't get the whole Space Fantasy thing. I've seen all of the Star Wars movies, yet that's about the only interest I had in them. I couldn't tell you the name of most of the characters, or places. I just know that Darth Vader is Luke's father (sorry for spoiling the 3rd and 6th movies, but if you haven't seen them by now, you probably don't care.) I know of others who are all into it, but I just don't care that much and can't see myself getting into it all that soon.
So… I guess I'm open to more recommendations. I still have 8 more books to listen to in The Wheel of Time series (just finished The Dragon Reborn today), so it might be a bit before I get to those.