Before watching Stranger Things, I found myself sitting down to enjoy The Shannara Chronicles. I knew nothing about the story going in, and Saika had yet to write her post on one of the books, so little did I know just how bad this story was going to be. I don’t mean that the story is bad in the sense that it’s irredeemable—I mean that it’s bad because it’s lazy. Despite being based on a subpar book series, I think that The Shannara Chronicles really had a lot of potential that it could have reached had more time and thought been dedicated to it. Unfortunately, while the show has a lot of things I love in stories—queer representation, enemies becoming friends, fantasy in general, and discussions of racism—all too often it felt as if the story was simply running through a checklist and didn’t actually know how to use any of its material.
Before my hiatus, I managed to play the latest and last DLC from Dragon Age: Inquisition (which is more like saying I sat in front of my computer reloading the downloads until I could purchase it on the day it released). “Trespasser” was advertised not only as answering one of the bigger questions that the ending of the main game lef, but also finally showing the player some of the political, and otherwise, ramifications of their inquisition. Was “Trespasser” everything the player-base was wishing for? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s exactly what I was wishing for.
Spoilers for Inquisition and “Trespasser” under the cut.
The Inheritance Cycle is one of those series that is just filled to the brim with bad idea after bad idea. While that was rather apparent when reading the first three books, it didn’t occur to me just how much the author had no idea what he was doing until the last book. Like other fantasy narratives, the mechanics in The Inheritance Cycle are based on numerous myths, fairytales, and folklores. But one of the many problems with The Inheritance Cycle, however, is that it has no restraint. It doesn’t know which myths to use and which ones not to. It also doesn’t help that, once again, the story relies on telling and not showing.
We can see this in numerous instances, from the morality between the good and bad guys to how magic works to the roles dragons play in the narrative. The Inheritance Cycle has many common fantasy tropes, but it doesn’t utilize those tropes to the best of its ability, or at all. Instead, they become pointless instances in the story that rise up out of nowhere and have no impact on anything. A perfect example of this is when the series introduced changelings in the fourth book, Inheritance.
Late to the party as usual, I recently started playing a little game called Dragon Age: Inquisition, a stellar endeavor in videogame storytelling, and a goddamn work of art as far as I’m concerned. Also, it has butts. In my play through I opted to romance Dorian, the gay necromancer from Tevinter, but I then learned to my delight that had I not opted to romance Dorian, he would have begun a background romance storyline with a massive, intimidating Qunari mercenary called the Iron Bull. I found this aspect of the story both hilarious and charming, but after discussing it with my lunchtime friend, Dillon from Goldburgers, he remarked blithely, “that is definitely some kind of bestiality.”
This statement perplexed me a bit. Sure, Qunari aren’t human and have some distinctly un-human features, but they’re far from the first or the most exotic humanoid fictional race to acceptably get it on with humans. Even people who have never seen Star Trek know that Captain James T. Kirk has banged no shortage of space babes. In virtually every high fantasy novel, some human or other gets into it with some elf or other. Why does no one think of these human/non-human relationships as bestiality? In the context of non-human but sentient races, what defines bestiality, and does the concept even apply? Which people may we acceptably bang and why may we bang those people and not others? These are the real questions.
Is “fearousal” the word for this? I feel like that’s the word for this.
One of the most important functions of fiction is that it can be used to provide greater insight on reality. By reframing a real social problem in an entirely new and unfamiliar context, that problem can be portrayed more objectively, divorced from the society that may normalize or excuse prejudices or social division. As writers have addressed before, allegory is a very common and a very positive element of fantasy, but even the noblest and most direct of allegories are not the same as visible and relatable minority representation in fantasy. Social research indicates that for minority groups, visibility in media is critical in creating a sense of importance and self-worth, something that metaphorical representation, however well-constructed, does not provide. Fortunately, there is no reason that a story cannot contain both an extended social metaphor and some trans wizards or dark-skinned fauns. Continue reading →