Hall of Fantasy
- The Spirit of Tolkien
- Types of Fantasy
- The Nine Magics
- I am Ian E.S. Adler
- The Bookshelf
- Hidden Gems
- Triad of Songs
- Riddle Mastery
- Heroes of Light
- Females in Fantasy
- The Role and Proper Usage of Magic Thingamajigs
- GRRM the Anti-Tolkien
- Rumors of the Wheel
- Race in Fantasy
- The Final Lesson
- Artist vs. the Art
- Fantasy Book Tiers
- The History (and Golden Age) of Fantasy
- How to make your own System of Magic
- Seas Uncharted
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Yes, I am stopping Monarchies of God by Paul Kearney, the series I began two days ago, as sadly my suspicions were more than borne out. After GRRM, I can smell the grimdark and this more than well-written Fantasy rewrite of the effects of Fall of Constantinople combined in dark union with the Spanish Inquisition and Christopher Columbus' 'discovery' of America reeks of that cynicism which I so utterly despise and is so aptly named the Treason of the Intellectuals.
Good riddance. (And yes, I am literally going to toss this filth into the recycle bin.)
I can hear you saying, "Ian, by your own admission you started to book two days ago. How can you say such things, make such strong accusations, so quickly?" My answer: research. Those two days prompted me to Google whether Monarchies of God is classified as grimdark, for I was uncertain seeing as it came out before A Song of Ice and Fire essentially created and lionized the sub-genre.
What did I find? Well, the Wikipedia page dedicated to it says "the series is noteworthy for its ruthlessness in dispatching major characters...[and] has also been criticized for its pessimism." Ring a Westerosi bell? Beyond this, many Fantasy websites and Reddit users classify it as a lighter form of GRRM while still unquestionably grimdark. Yet the last straw was an interview of Paul Kearney, namely a specific question asked and the author's answer:
Monday, February 22, 2021
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Friday, February 12, 2021
I have never made a post regarding Black History Month because, as I have often said, I avoid as many real-world matters as I can here on Stars Uncounted. However, for everything there is a first time so I will give my take regarding race in Fantasy literature. The short of it is that I agree with Ursula K. Le Guin, who has criticized what she describes as the general assumption in Fantasy that characters should be White and that the society should resemble the Middle Ages. Of course, the Fantastic has expanded quite a bit since she uttered those words, with cultures and settings that are far from always clearly Medieval, and yet the Whiteness of characters and a general European cultural flavor remains. Why is this so? Honestly, I am unsure. Maybe it is habit, maybe it is that White authors feel unqualified to base their created cultures off those not their own or fear being accused of cultural appropriation; maybe Black authors feel non-European based cultures would be of lesser interest to readers. I cannot say. I do, however, think it is a problem that the Fantasy genre must needs overcome. Knights and castles are nice, but they get old after a while; which is why I seek unique Fantasy these days.
Yet I can say that of one seeks quality Fantasy with non-White characters then I highly recommend The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin; and I say non-White instead of Black because the skin color of the characters is primarily described as red-brown. Better yet, the only White people in the Earthsea universe are from the Kargad Lands and are they are described (and typically act) as savages.
One also might be interested in the Vows and Honor Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey. While most of the characters are White, one of the series' two main protagonists is Tarma shena Tale'sedrin who is a black-golden skinned woman from the southern Dhorisha Plains. Not ideal, perhaps, but Tarma is one of my favorite characters in Fantasy literature period and, furthermore, Mercedes Lackey absolutely skewers sexism in the series.
There is in addition Moon-Flash and its sequel The Moon and the Face by Patricia A. McKillip. An anthropological Fantasy book for lack of a better term, though it is marked as sci-fi, McKillip is incapable of writing anything other than a lyrical masterpiece in which the words flow like a river off the page, though your soul, and back again. Which is not unlike the story as, for Kyreol and Terje, the strange becomes the familiar and the familiar strange as two separate worlds come together through dreams that stretch across the cosmos, the innate power of the Riverworld, and love.
These are the three that stick out in my mind insofar as having Colored main protagonists go. Doubtless I am forgetting others from my own bookshelf, but I seldom notice skin-color in Fantasy literature unless it carries a racial bearing that impacts the plotline of the book in question. For while it is true that Fantasy tends towards White main characters, those protagonists are never racist towards secondary characters where skin-color is concerned; thus any concern regarding race is always based on a purely cultural standpoint. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan is a perfect example of this for, while cultural prejudices exist aplenty (though rarely from the five core characters), skin-color is a non-issue.
Now I can hear you saying, "but what about Black Fantasy authors? The three series' mentioned above were written by White women." Simply put, I never pay attention to the author's race or gender when searching for or reading Fantasy. It simply does not enter into my calculations. As said Anne McCaffrey, "A good story is a good story no matter who wrote it," meaning, in this context, that when I am in a bookstore searching for new Fantasies I just pull out whatever looks interesting, read the back and/or inside cover, and if it passes muster I give it a try. As I have said in the past, to me the Art is far more important than the Artist. Not that there is anything wrong with searching for and filling your bookshelf with works written by Black authors, but it is not my style because, like with this blog, Fantasy is where I go to escape all real-world matters.
have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories,
and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept
the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used: a
tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no
warrant at all. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in
prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he
thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The
world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see
it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word,
and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the
Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter." – J.R.R. Tolkien
“Stories of the sort I am describing…they cool us…hence the uneasiness which they arouse in those who, for whatever reason, wish to keep us wholly imprisoned in the immediate conflict. That perhaps is why people are so ready with the charge of 'escape'. I never wholly understood it until my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, "What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and hostile to, the idea of escape?" and gave the obvious answer: jailers.” – C.S. Lewis
And if you want to move beyond literature? Well, I am no expert, but Avatar: The Last Airbender (and its sequel The Legend of Korra) is a flawless example of an exemplary Fantasy where none of the cultures are European-based and several protagonists are dark-skinned.
Monday, February 8, 2021
Monday, February 1, 2021
One thing I have noticed is that people seldom think about how literature affects anime and gaming, mostly because such references to them as appear in anime and games are to literary works which are no longer in the popular mainstream. As I have stated, I avoid Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy more or less like the plague; not because I do not respect them so much as that they are simply not taste. However, the two merge with anime and gaming enough to warrant acknowledgement.
Recently I watched Mystery at the Lighthouse,
the 13th episode of the original Pokémon anime (i.e. when Ash first
sets out in the Kanto Region), and was again struck by its quiet
majesty. In basic plot, omitting the ending so as to avoid spoilers, Ash
& co. are lost but soon arrive at a lighthouse on a foggy coast
where they meet its keeper, a Pokémon researcher named Bill who spends
his time studying rare Pokémon. Namely, he says, one so unique and that
no one had ever laid eyes on it; the last of its kind searching down the
aeons for a friend. A Pokémon he learned of when he heard a strange noise coming across the ocean one night, a
haunting, plaintive call echoing across the mist-shrouded sea, but that
was the last time he heard it's cry. Then, in a benevolent attempt to
lure the Pokémon, he broadcast a similar answering call across the ocean. Needless to say that before the episode's end the nameless Pokémon
makes an appearance, wading through fog and sea to the lighthouse, its
calls matching the fog horn. Of course, this was the very early days of Pokémon anime, so the writers made the mysterious Pokémon a super-sized Dragonite (it is not named so, but the outline is clear) instead of a truly unidentifiable legendary Pokémon
that would later be revealed and play a role many episodes down the
line, but knowing what it is does not take away from the
haunting power of Mystery at the Lighthouse. A fact the writers were well aware of as the episode is purely based off acclaimed sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury's The Fog Horn short story.
Having read and seen both, one will agree that Pokémon did an excellent job evoking the primal, lonely mood of The Fog Horn, particularly given that it was an anime for young children. Children like me who grew up never knowing the episode's origins because the relevant short story is no longer in the popular mainstream. I only found out by, being curious to learn more about the giant Dragonite if possible, looking up the episode on Bulbapedia and saw this in the Trivia section: "The plot of this episode was likely based on the short story The Fog Horn by Ray Bradbury, which also contributed to the creation of the Godzilla franchise. In the story, a sea monster who is the only one left of its kind, hears a fog horn that sounds similar to its own voice and it is attracted to it." (Yes, sadly I have heard of Godzilla and would like to keep my limited knowledge of it just that, limited, because my opinion monster movies and whatnot is low at best. It is interesting, though, is it not, that a franchise such as Godzilla which we all grow up hearing about whether we want to or not can maintain such mainstream fame while its progenitor, short story, is out of the limelight.)
Seeing as I have asked you, dear reader, to read a short story and watch a 30 minute Pokémon episode, I think it only fair that I stop for now. I will speak of the games tied to literary works in a later post; and no, when I say "tied to" I do not mean in the obvious way that, say, the game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is tied to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
"That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die." - H.P. Lovecraft