Howdy readers! LGG&F will be on a break for Thanksgiving, but don’t worry! We’ll be back December 2nd for the content you’re all here for. For now, though, let’s talk about the holidays.
Not too long ago, I ventured into my local Barnes and Noble in search of a specific book I’ve had my eye on for many days. You know, for an early Xmas gift to myself. Though I scoured the teen section high and low, I couldn’t find it and resigned myself to missing out on the fairy tale re-telling goodness I was going after. However, then a strange mood hit me: on that day, I was damned if I was going to leave the store empty-handed! So after looping around the aisle a couple times, I finally picked out another book and left the store feeling apprehensive, but intrigued.
As it’s November and media has dictated that we should already be waist deep in mistletoe and and various other Decemberween/Festivus/etc. accoutrements, I was immediately drawn to something with that sort of holiday feel to it. But unlike many, I… never had any attachment to the story of The Nutcracker. Sure, I know the story and Tchaikovsky’s music, but I never went to see the ballet in person. In fact, I can’t ever recall liking the old tale that much. Despite my indifference, with a promising endorsement from Marissa Meyer (author of Cinder) endorsed in sugar plum purple on the cover and the promise of much more than dancing rats and swordfights, I journeyed into the world of Claire Legrand’s Winterspell. At the end of it all, I truly felt like I had weathered a great battle, but not necessarily for the reasons Legrand was intending.
Spoilers beneath the cut, and trigger warnings for rape and sexual harassment.
Hello, and welcome back after the short break, readers! For our American audience, I hope you all had an enjoyable Fourth filled with family, friends, food, and maybe a good book. As I sat in one of the fields where we set off fireworks in my town, I hoped to pass the time with a book that the cover was eager to hail as a “sexy fairy tale” and “a bittersweet story about the tides that tug at the human heart”. By this point it’s no secret that I’m a fan of fairy tales, and especially re-tellings of the tried and true fables we’ve come to know over the centuries. So picking up Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon seemed like a no-brainer to me—plus, she’s a local author, and I wanted to support her. However, instead of a “sexy” twist to the story of The Little Mermaid, all I ended up getting was the same exact damned story with a couple more named characters, and I wanted to stop reading after the first twenty pages of the book. Spoilers to follow.
I’ve always been a fan of animation and CGI, so when I saw the trailer for Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart, I immediately wanted to see it. The English dub recently came out, and I’ve had a chance to watch it. Oddly enough this movie wasn’t anything like what I had expected. It’s not bad, per sé; rather, it was very overwhelming. There are a lot of directing and writing choices that are either clichéd or baffling. Someone (like myself) watching this film for the first time may not be able to follow the fast pace and references the movie makes without knowing the original source material. I thought the film was a standalone project, and was really disappointed by how generic the story was. When I researched the film further, I found the movie is more about the music than it is the story.
The movie is based off of the album by the French band Dionysus. The album, La Mécanique du Cœur, or “The mechanics of the heart”, started as a novel written by the lead singer of the band, Mathias Malzieu. Malzieu co-directed the film, while Dionysus composed the soundtrack for the film. It’s strange, since the film has a different ending from the novel/album, and I personally don’t understand why they changed it.
Despite being barely further in Dragon Age: Inquisition than I was when I wrote my last article, I felt it would have been strange to end the month with a post about another series. Instead of the video games, though, today I’m going to talk about one of the books. Indeed, many people may not even be aware that there are Dragon Age books. As of now, there are four—with various receptions from the fanbase—and I’ve only read one. The first one: The Stolen Throne. Always hungry for more information on the DA universe, I leapt at the chance to read this firsthand account of the events that lead up to the Battle of River Dane and how the groundwork was laid for the eventual liberation of Ferelden from Orlais. And I wasn’t disappointed. The book provided an interesting, compelling adventure through areas familiar from the first game (Dragon Age: Origins) while providing fantastic character arcs, but the more I thought on it, the more obvious it became that this novel, both early in the DA universe timeline and the franchise’s life, reflected some problematic elements present in Origins, and to an extent, the other two Dragon Age games.
The epic high fantasy genre has not historically been a sterling example of inclusiveness. The touchstone of the genre—the Lord of the Rings—has a gender ratio of 1 female character to every 4 male characters, with no mention at all of persons of other genders or sexualities. High fantasy staples such as Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, and Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series overwhelmingly feature straight male main characters and virtually none feature explicitly LGBTQ+ characters, even in minor roles. In the case of Lord of the Rings specifically, the social climate in which the books were written can be partly blamed for this: the series was written in the 1940’s and 50’s by a devoutly Christian English man. However, even in an era where more appropriate inclusiveness in fiction is becoming the norm, high fantasy is trailing behind.
The panther is female, that counts, right?
As I have mentioned before, I am a longtime fan and close follower of R.A. Salvatore’s twenty-six-part ongoing fantasy epic The Legend of Drizzt, part of the well-known Forgotten Realms franchise. Like many of its high fantasy brethren, The Legend of Drizzt is hardly a good example of inclusiveness in media. The main character and most of his supporting cast are male, the main character marries the only female character on the team, and the only matriarchal society is entirely, heinously evil. Though the first book of the series was published in 1988, the first explicitly homosexual character did not appear until the book Charon’s Claw, published in 2012. Even in that instance, the character’s previous lover was dead, mentioned rather briefly, and never actually appeared in the series. The only homosexual activity mentioned in any part of the series was some steamy girl-on-girl making out as part of a ritual for Lolth, an evil spider deity. Neither of those characters played a role in the series outside of this scene.
Historically speaking, humans have had a real knack for identifying superficial differences in people and separating them into categories based on those differences. This system is a very effective means of discrimination, because once it is clear that two groups are different, it becomes easier to make arguments (ridiculous though they may be) about which group is superior. Differences in religious belief have caused some of the more dramatic incidents of division and discrimination throughout the course of civilization—I’m looking at you, Crusades—but separating religions themselves into categories can have more subtle and long-term effects on culture.
Gettin’ real homogenous up in here.
With each new generation of believers, there is a slow evolution of “old” and “new” beliefs. Once-thriving religions, especially Pagan religions, are now either shunned into the realm of mythology or considered to be hokey counter-culture territory. This is a distinction we see mimicked in fantasy worlds. Even in alternate universes or histories where magic is plainly observable and actual deities occasionally turn up in unquestionable physical form, there is often a distinction between the “old” and “new” religion, and with that distinction comes a division of people: those who follow the old gods, and those who follow the new. This distinction typically comes with some indication of which religion is supposedly superior: in some narratives the old gods are benevolent and powerful, and the new gods are forcing them out of their rightful dominion, and in others the old gods are wicked and archaic, and the new religion eclipsing them changes the world for the better. Continue reading →