Fanfiction Fridays: Light in Oblivion by TheSlytherinRose

narcissa-malfoyOver the years, I’ve developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Harry Potter series, in no small part due to the fact that I think just about every character in it is a raging asshole. Despite this, I’ve always been drawn to villains. One antagonist that I’ve neglected in my fanfiction, though, is Narcissa. This is a shame, because without a doubt, the last book turned her into one of my favorite characters. Sadly, there’s nowhere near the number of fics about her as I had hoped, but that doesn’t mean that what’s there isn’t good.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon the multi-chaptered story Light in Oblivion by TheSlytherinRose. Although Light in Oblivion is nowhere near finished, it has not been abandoned, and it’s also a good enough story thus far that it definitely deserves a recommendation.

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In Brightest Day: Draco Malfoy

I’ve been avoiding this character profile for a while. You see, Draco Malfoy is one of those characters that splits the readership of Harry Potter so much that it becomes almost comical.

draco headshotOn one hand, there are fans of the books and series that hate Malfoy for the hell he put the trio through, both the petty and the borderline evil. Others feel sympathy for the poor Malfoy child. I’m a bit in between. You see, for the majority of the Harry Potter series, Draco Malfoy is a simple bully. And boy, is he a stereotypical bully.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Fate vs. Free Will

I have noticed something when watching television or movies and reading books or comics: we humans seem never to know if we would rather believe in free will or fate. If I had to pick I would say that we are more inclined to approve of free will, but fate still seems to be a hard and fast concept that we cling to, and it shows up in much of our pop culture.

It seems to mean that any time the concept of fate is really introduced into a story the author tends to quickly subvert fate with free will. Take, for example, Harry Potter. In book five when Harry learns that a prophecy predicted he would be the only one that could defeat Voldemort he was upset, until Dumbledore pointed out that after everything Voldemort put him through Harry would want to kill him anyway, regardless of what any prophecy says. Furthermore, Dumbledore stresses that Voldemort had had to choose between Harry and Neville (as the boy to potentially kill him) and if Voldemort had ignored the prophecy, then Voldemort’s choice would have ensured that the prophecy would never have come to pass. And finally, in book seven, Harry has to freely choose to sacrifice himself or else Harry might not have survived his encounter with Voldemort. Despite the strong sense of fate, the books make it clear that the characters’ choices, their free will, are what’s important and not some higher cosmic power.

In the TV show Heroes, a painter has the power to see the future and his prophecy tends to be accurate. However, the prophecies also tend to change. Isaac, the prophetic painter, predicts something vague enough that can be interpreted in numerous ways. The tag line in season one of Heroes for a while was “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World.” Isaac constantly draws pictures of serial killer Sylar killing Claire, an immortal cheerleader. Isaac’s pictures show a blonde cheerleader with her head sawed off. However, another character, Peter, saves Claire. So doesn’t Isaac’s prediction hold true? Kind of. Sylar mistakes another blonde cheerleader for Claire, so it could be argued that Isaac’s prediction holds true. However, the characters also have often traveled into the future where they see horrible dystopian-like realities, that are later stopped and changed, no matter what Isaac has predicted. In Heroes, the characters act like your fate is inevitable, unless it’s really bad and they decide to change it. The writers couldn’t seem to decide whether to follow fate or free will.

There are many other examples of course (Supernatural, Oedipus, Brave, Thor, Beowulf, Star Wars, Saiyuki, Doctor Who, Into the Woods, Dark Souls), but this theme of fate versus free will is something that consistently comes up in our pop culture. I think it’s because on some level humanity likes fate. We like the idea that God or some other higher power has a plan in which we play a part, maybe even a starring role. However, we find the notion of being bound to a fate, especially one we may not like, distasteful. We like have autonomy, but we also like the idea of being destined for something great or important.

What do you think? Are our lives governed by some kind of fate, free will, or is it a bit of both?

Tune in next week and get some religion.

Fanfiction Fridays: No Strings Attached by Out-Of-Control-Authoress

So what I bring you today is a series of epic proportions. No Strings Attached and its sequel, Blood Bound, is a crossover fic between Harry Potter and, no joke, Yu-Gi-Oh. Yes, you read that correctly. You’ll be even more surprised to hear that it doesn’t suck and that it has a unique twist in it to get the characters sent to Hogwarts, unlike all the other Yu-Gi-Oh and Harry Potter crossovers. Or just about anything that’s a Harry Potter crossover, for that matter.

Now, one thing I should mention that bothers me in a lot of crossover stories, and that this story does too, is that many authors don’t realize that there’s a time difference between Harry Potter and other stories. While I’m pretty sure the Yu-Gi-Oh series takes place in the early 2000s, The Philosopher’s Stone begins in the year 1991, meaning that Voldemort kind of dies before the turn of the century. I know that this is just reading into things way too much, but this is the reason that keeps me from reading too many crossovers. I get very particular about the year. I even raged during that one Fanfiction Follies about Ginny getting together with an original female character, because it takes place during her fifth year, which would be 1996, and the characters read Twilight, which came out in 2005.

It just really bugs me to no end.

Thankfully, though, Out-Of-Control-Authoress’s works are done well in enough other areas that I can forgive her story for this slight, especially considering that, as I’ve said, she wrote a Harry Potter/Yu-Gi-Oh crossover that doesn’t suck, which is certainly a near-impossible feat in and of itself.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Secret Keeper by ermalope

Personally, I’m not the biggest slash fan. Oh, I’ll read it. I’ll read the hell out of it. But there’s always something about a story that doesn’t involve slash that just pulls me in. Of course, seeing as this is fanfiction, finding one that’s slash free and well written presents a challenge in and of itself. This brings me to Secret Keeper by ermalope.

This particular fic features a budding friendship between, of all people, Severus Snape and James Potter. I’ve actually read a number of believable fics between these two—surprisingly slash fics, but I digress—but this one is probably my favorite.

During the first war with Voldemort, when the Potters go into hiding to protect their son, Dumbledore suspects that one of James’s friends has betrayed them. Furthermore, they need a secret keeper Voldemort would not suspect. Though James and Lily are adamant in choosing either Sirius or Peter, Dumbledore suggests—you guessed it!—Severus Snape.

This suggestion does not go over well.

And it’s nice to see that it takes both a while to convince the Potters and Snape that this is merely the safest option, and not that it is a ploy by Dumbledore for entertainment value. And while the fic is mostly very serious, ermalope does spice it up with some added bits of humor, especially in the dialogue.

Dumbledore finished his tea and said, “So, to business. Can you guess what this little side project of yours will entail?”

“Not telling anyone else that I’m the secret keeper of the Potters,” Severus muttered.

“Especially Voldemort.”

“I can’t even tell him? I would never have guessed,” Severus said in the same miserable monotone. Dumbledore smiled humourlessly.

Because the Potters were in such a rush to cast the Fidelus Charm, and because they cannot leave their home for their own safety, it falls to Severus to bring them supplies every week or so, a task he does not enjoy.

Potter’s eyes narrowed, but he stepped back to let Severus in. “What are you doing here?” he spat as he watched Severus materialize out of thin air.

“Believe me Potter, if I didn’t have to be -” he stopped, and said in a more silky voice, “I’d expect more gratitude from you. I am saving your life. Part of this duty requires me to ensure that you don’t starve, as much as it would satisfy me if you did.”

Potter’s eyes, which had been still narrowed in intense dislike, widened – now horrified. “Couldn’t someone else… Sirius, or Peter, or… anyone do that?”

“Of course, Potter, practically everyone was falling over themselves to offer, but I, personally, couldn’t refuse such an honour,” Severus sneered.

The friendship between the two is slow going. While James is the one to push for it more, Severus doesn’t forgive easily, and he has an understandably hard time letting go of all the horrible things James subjected him to while in school, which does halt any progress the two make in getting along significantly.

On top of all this, McGonagall doesn’t trust Snape, and she also enlists one of his students to follow him around and spy on him while he’s teaching at Hogwarts. Furthermore, once James gets back his invisibility cloak and starts going out, it creates more problems. The one scene where these two issues collide into each other in the latest chapter is quite memorable. Needless to say, Severus’s reaction to the Potters leaving their hiding place brings out a few laughs, especially because by the time that happens, he has grown to care for James just a little.

Severus almost toppled out of his desk chair. “Wha – Potter! How – WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”

“Look, Snape, I don’t like it any more than you do. But I had to contact you.”

“You could have just used a patronus, like EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ORDER!” Severus shouted.

“Where’s the fun in that, though?” James grinned, seating himself at a desk in the very front row.

“This isn’t a game, Potter!” Severus snarled.

James frowned at a potion stain in the middle of his desk, and then glanced up at Severus. “Look, I know. I do. I thought that a patronus showing up might be a tad disruptive in the middle of one of your classes, so I came here myself and waited for you to be free. We need your help.”

“What, did the Dark Lord show up at your doorstep?” snarled Severus.

“Not yet. But Dolohov did.”

Severus said nothing for a moment, but smiled lazily. “Ah. So. You’ve come to beg me to –” his smile vanished. “Hang on a second. Dolohov is right outside your house because you got yourself caught in a pub, and you react by leaving your hiding place to tell me about it?”

James raised one eyebrow. “It would appear that way, wouldn’t it?”

“How are you still alive, Potter?”

Eventually, during this conversation, the aforementioned student walks in.

Unfortunately, Severus didn’t get the chance to elaborate on those feelings, because they had been intruded upon. Charity Burbage had wandered into the classroom several moments ago and had been staring from one man to the other silently, eyes wide, for those past several moments.

They stared back. In that instant in which the back of his mind whirred for a solution to this dilemma, Severus somehow noticed how remarkably like a deer caught in the wand-light James Potter looked when he was startled.

After that instant, he came to his senses and snapped, “Can I help you, Miss Burbage?” as though she had interrupted an ordinary discussion between himself and another staff member.

“Uh –” she said. “I was just – I’m just a little early. For class.”

Severus stared at her. “Class starts in an hour and a half.”

It was Charity’s turn to blink. “Does it? I’ll go, then.” She all but ran from the room.

James smirked. “I’m a little early for class, Professor. Who was that?”

“Oh, no one,” Severus replied ferociously. “You know. Just one other person who has seen you! Not only that, she’s seen you with me! I’ll have to wipe her memory or something.”

James snorted. “And I bet you will.”

Severus continued, oblivious to James’s quip. “Dumbledore will never let me do that, of course. Maybe I should reason with him. What matters now is Dolohov.”

As of currently, Secret Keeper is fifteen chapters long, with over forty thousand words. It’s another story that hasn’t yet been completed, but neither is it abandoned. Ermalope has done an amazingly good job on this story thus far, and it is something that I look forward to reading whenever I see an update. Check it out here, and leave the author a comment or two if you like it.

Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Christ Figures

Believe it or not Jesus often comes to save many of your favorite geek characters. I have to assume at this point that Jesus was and still is a bit of nerd, because he seems to be featured much more often in nerd movies, books, TV shows, etc. Either that or nearly every nerd is a Christian, or maybe it’s because the Christ figure story is very compelling.

The story, for those of you who don’t know it, usually goes something like this, special baby is born, special baby grows up and faces horrible trials, dies selflessly to save everyone from whatever horrible thing they are facing, and then is resurrected and defeats evil for good.

Usually, there are other indicators denoting a Christ figure as well, such as some kind of Trinitarian aspect to the character, a descent into the literal or figural hell, and usually some connection to royalty or a very powerful father figure.

So let’s talk about some of my favorite Christ figures.

I know you’re all thinking it, so I’ll start with the first and most popular Christ figure.

“Because I’m Jesus.”

Aslan, from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, I sometimes feel is less a Christ figure and simply Christ, but that’s just me being silly. Basically if Jesus isn’t actually in your book, then whoever stands in for him is a Christ figure, and Aslan is one of the best. Chronicles of Narnia is an allegory; that’s what C.S. Lewis meant it to be, so Aslan is literally Jesus. He is the king of Narnia (meaning Everything), he selflessly sacrifices himself for Edmund (humanity), is tortured and killed for it, then rises from the dead to defeat the White Witch (Satan/evil). Furthermore, it is clear that Aslan has always existed, the same as Christ: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Jn.1:1)” Aslan describes something similar to the Witch in the movie saying, “Do not cite the Deep Magic to me, Witch. I was there when it was written.” There are so many parallels to be drawn between Aslan and Jesus, because C.S. Lewis intended it to be a pretty literal retelling of Christ’s story. Though the books have much to offer adults they were originally intended for children, and it shows. There is no way to confuse the message in Chronicles of Narnia, at least where Aslan is concerned.

J.R.R. Tolkien, a close friend of Lewis’s, wrote a little series that you may have heard of called The Lord of the Rings. If anyone has a market on Christ figures it’s Tolkien—he has a total of three Christ figures in one story. I should note here that Tolkien was very, very, very Catholic and it shows in his writing. Our three Christ figures in The Lord of the Rings are Frodo, Aragorn, and Gandalf. Gandalf is probably the most obvious, because he literally dies and is resurrected, and when he comes back he’s white, glowy, and impressive. Yeah, Tolkien pretty much hits you over the head with Gandalf, but I think he did that on purpose. The reader expects Gandalf to do something amazing and mystical because he is a wizard, so when Christ figure aspects start appearing with Frodo and Aragorn we’re pretty surprised, but it simply shows that grace/Christ/goodness can be found in the strangest of places. A ranger can be a king underneath, and a simple Hobbit can save the world.

Aragorn is a king that has been gone from his kingdom and is destined to return and bring harmony back to the land. If it sounds like the second coming of Christ, that’s because it’s supposed to. There is also a reference to a journey into hell when Aragorn journeys to find the Dead Men of Dunharrow.

Frodo is another Christ figure. He carries the ring to Mordor, which gets heavy throughout the journey. This parallels Christ carrying the sins of the world, as well as Christ carrying the cross to his crucifixion. The parallel between Christ and the cross and Frodo and the ring is made even more explicit by Sam helping to carry the ring and Frodo up to Mount Doom when the weight gets too heavy for him, in the same manner that Simon the Cyrenian helped Christ carry the cross. Frodo is also pierced in the side by the Witch-King on Weathertop, similar to Christ being stabbed with the spear while on the cross. Though Frodo does not literally die nor is reborn like Gandalf, he does appear to be dead when poisoned by Shelob and later wakes up in Mordor. And finally in the end Frodo goes to the Undying Lands (aka Heaven) with the elves, reflecting Christ’s bodily ascent into heaven.

The reason that I mentioned Tolkien being very Catholic is because these three characters combined show the three offices of Christ. This is something I believe I have seen other Christians talk about, but it seems more often emphasized by Catholics, but to any Protestant out there, feel free to correct me if this is untrue. The three offices of Christ are priest, prophet, and king, and these three characters represent that almost perfectly. Aragorn clearly fits the kingly role, while I would say Gandalf represents the prophet role by revealing truth to his companions, and finally Frodo by going through a similar trial of crucifixion symbolizes the priestly role.

Now if you’re sitting there reading this saying, “but Lady Geek Girl, none of these three figures seem to be perfect analogies for Christ.” Well, that’s because they aren’t. In fact Aslan is probably the only one on this list that fits nearly perfectly into the Christ role, again because Lewis was writing an allegory. Tolkien despised allegories, which is probably why he had three Christ figures instead of one. All three characters, Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn together, could make up a perfect Christ figure, but separately they do not because Tolkien did not want to do a strict allegory.

Okay, phew! That’s enough talk about Tolkien; let’s move on.

I always find it funny that so many Christian groups burned Harry Potter books and refused to let their kids read them because of the “evil witchcraft.” I further find it hilarious that everyone, even fans of Harry Potter, where shocked by the fact that Harry died to save everyone and then rose from the dead to finally defeat Voldemort. J.K. Rowling actually tried not to talk too much about the fact that she’s a Christian. In an interview with Max Wyman from the Vancouver Sun on October 26, 2000 when asked if she is a Christian, she said:

Yes, I am. Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.

I’ll admit, I didn’t see it coming. I thought that it would be appropriate if Harry died but I never thought she would actually kill him. But Harry of course is a Christ figure and rose again to fight another day. But Harry’s resurrection is actually not what makes me love Harry as a Christ figure. I love him because of all the Christ figures he comes closest to being a pacifist. Yes, Harry uses the Unforgivable curses in the books—again it’s not a perfect analogy—but after Harry rises from the dead he seems to have a more Christ-like perspective on things. For the first time he truly empathizes with Voldemort. When Harry fights him he already knows Voldemort’s wand won’t hurt him so Harry is pretty confident at this point, but I do think it’s important to note that Harry could have just killed Voldemort here, but he doesn’t. Voldemort kills himself in the books, because he can’t kill Harry once again and his own killing curse rebounds on him. Harry never kills him. He actually tries to appeal to Voldemort’s humanity. He calls him Tom and, yes, he does kind of mock his arrogance, but near the end of the battle Harry practically begs Voldemort to repent for what he’s done.

Harry Potter: “Yeah it did, you’re right. But before you try and kill me, I’d advise you to think about what you’ve done…. Think, and try for some remorse, Riddle….”

Voldemort: “What is this?”

Harry Potter: “It’s your one last chance, it’s all you’ve got left…. I’ve seen what you’ll be otherwise…. Be a man…. try…. Try for some remorse….”

This scene is amazing! How many other stories show something like this! Harry wants to save Voldemort. He wants him to be human again instead of the monster he has become. I always kind of wished that this would have worked, that Voldemort would have repented. To see that transformation would have been amazing, but alas it didn’t happen, but we still get a great Christ figure out of it.

Now let’s step away from British fantasy novels, which seem to hold the market on Christ figures, and move into some American comics.

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… no, it’s… Jesus…. But seriously if you don’t think Superman is a Christ figure then you are not reading his comics or watching his movies right. I mean dearest Jor-El basically spells it out for us when talking about humanity.

They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.

Jor-El here takes the form of God and seeing that humanity is good sends his only son to help guide them. This quote is repeated in Superman Returns, which continues the Christ figure narrative. When Lex Luthor creates a continent made out of Kryptonite that will wipe out a good portion of the United States, Superman selflessly sacrifices himself and nearly dies when he hurls the landmass into space. In the movie, he passes out while still in space and his body plummets to earth in a classic crucifixion pose.

Add to this Superman’s basic good moral compass and his unwillingness to kill and Jesus is pretty much spelled out for you. There is a reason Jesus wears a Superman shirt in the Godspell musical.

Superman, furthermore, in the comics and the movies, has his dual identity as Clark Kent and Superman, which people argue can be viewed as him being God and man at once. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I can see how it works. However DC Comics has in my opinion a much better Christ figure and analogy for this.

If you have read the graphic novel Kingdom Come, then you probably already know whom the next Christ figure is. The title alone should give you a clue at how heavily religious this graphic novel is. The story tells about the growing conflict between humans and the growing superhero population. Superman tries to mediate between the two groups but fails. In the end an all-out war between the heroes—those with and against Superman—happens, while the humans simultaneously decide to bomb where all the heroes are fighting. Someone has to stop the bomb and save the day, but this isn’t a job for Superman. It’s for Captain Marvel. Billy Batson is a boy magically given the gift to be the great Captain Marvel, but Billy and the Captain are the same person, but also separate. It’s hard to explain. Perhaps the easiest way to do so would be to say that he is God and man, two natures, together and distinct. Yep, just like Jesus and just like Billy. Superman could stop the bomb, but if he does the heroes will run rampant. If he doesn’t they die. Superman proclaims that he can’t choose because really Superman has never been a human person. He’s always a hero—a god.

But you, Billy… you’re both. More than anyone who ever existed, you know what it’s like to live in both worlds. Only you can weigh their worth equally.

In the end, Billy dies. Choosing to sacrifice himself so that both groups can live, and like Christ, by doing so he leaves behind an example to follow.

I asked him to choose between humans and superhumans. But he alone knew that was a false division and made the only choice that ever truly matters. He chose life in the hope that your world and our world could be one world once again.

Billy may be my favorite Christ figure because the message he leaves behind is so powerful and expressed so beautifully here. In the other stories the death and resurrection seem to have little effect on people. It works like magic and is used to defeat evil. Billy doesn’t rise from the dead but is arguably the better Christ figure because he chose life and he let that be his answer to Superman. His legacy is that we need to choose unity and life over death and destruction.

Christ, the real one, didn’t die on the cross for himself or even to defeat evil. He was leaving  an example, a legacy, to follow. And out of all the Christ figures I know of, Billy is the only one that comes closest to this.

“But wait,” you say, “this can’t be the end of the article. There are so many more Christ figures.” Yes, there are, and I would be happy to discuss these and others with you in the comments below.

You know I am kind of disappointed there are no women on this list. There are female characters kind of like this but they are less Christ-like and more… divine.

Next time on Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: The Divine Feminine

Tune in next time and find some religion!