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.
Spoilers and more after the jump!
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.
Spoilers under the cut. Continue reading
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.
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.
Warning for quoted slurs after the jump.
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.
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
One of my all-time favorite books is becoming a movie and I am more than a little excited.
Dystopian futures featuring teenagers seem to be the new craze when it comes to young adult fiction and movies. I am extremely happy about this turn of events; the vampire romances were getting old. The Hunger Games is currently making a crapton of money, Divergent is also making a buttload of money, and now it’s The Maze Runner’s turn to have a go at box office gold. But how will it stack up next to these other successful dystopian movies?
I’m not going to lie;
when I was reading the Harry Potter books, I loved Snape. I even have a t-shirt that says, “I trusted Snape” on the front, and on the back it says, “Oh, the cleverness of me. *smirk*”. So yeah, I really liked Snape. I mean, I’m a self-identified Slytherin, so of course I did. But now that I’m older and consider myself a feminist (I knew nothing about feminism while reading Harry Potter), I decided to go back and look at Snape from a critical feminist lens. And now I wonder if I was too kind to Snape.
World-building is one of the most important and most difficult things that an author must do. In fantasy, world-building can be anything from elaborate Tolkien-esque building of an entire universe, to simply attempting to explain how magic works in your world, or explaining the culture or political structures of certain magical creatures. These sometimes seemingly minor details can add so much depth to storytelling.
However, many times I find world-building tends to be forgotten by authors who aren’t creating a whole new world. The idea that urban fantasy or modern fantasy doesn’t need as much world-building, because these magical characters live in our world, shows a lack of understanding of basic storytelling. TV shows and movies are the worst offenders when it comes to world-building, often relying some on special effects and fast-paced action scenes to tell a story, and as a result the viewer leaves entertained, maybe, but lacking insight into the world and characters they have just visited. Even books sometimes suffer from this. It’s been said by many authors that less than half of what you write or know about the world you created doesn’t end up in the actual book, because it would distract too much from the actual plot. Obviously, TV shows, books, and movies are not meant to act like history books; they are supposed to entertain, so sometimes the world-building gets put aside for action or romance. No matter how good an author is at balancing world-building and moving the plot forward, unanswered questions about how a universe works will always come up.
“This pairing in the show makes no sense. I mean in fanfiction authors would write novel-length fic developing their characters’ relationships, but the actual show just randomly hooks them with no development. It makes no sense.”
“Wow, this fanfic is amazing. The studio should hire this author to write for the actual show. It would be ten times better then.”
Chances are you’ve heard people say things like this, or maybe you’ve even said them yourself. I know I have.