Reflecting on my last post, I think it’s worth clarifying a point:
I want to reiterate how I don’t have anything against Game of Thrones. It’s a fine show, and judging it by what it’s attempting to do, I think it succeeds admirably. I also think that what it wants to do isn’t really anything I’m into. That’s a criticism of a sort, but it isn’t the same criticism I might level at Star Trek: Into Darkness, which I feel fails as a coherent story and even in terms of creating a consistent theme beyond it’s cool to watch people running and ships blowing up. (And even that isn’t necessarily a failure for other films, but feels a bit empty for Star Trek.)
I think my complaints about Game of Thrones aren’t even directed at the show, but at the culture that surrounds it, and that culture says that Game of Thrones is the definitive, absolute best that fantasy has to offer.
To which, I reply balderdash!
Perhaps I’ll throw in a tommyrot and humbug while I’m at it. Yes, I’m that worked up.
Game of Thrones isn’t the best of fantasy because there really is no such thing. It’s true the show and books defined fantasy for a new era, but it is only a specific brand of fantasy. To suggest that it’s the best is no more valid than suggesting fish are better pets than birds. It depends entirely on context and what you’re looking for.
It’s not easy to talk about this idea because we all have our preferences, and it’s easy to see those preferences as innately more worthwhile than the preferences of others. Yet there are so many of we humans with so many different cultures and sub-cultures that to pin anything down as “The Best” is all but impossible.
In the world of video games, I don’t play first person shooters. I’ve only played one Grand Theft Auto all the way through, and I haven’t played many Mario games either. I loved Fall of Cybertron and I absolutely adore Skylanders in a way that I feel no need to apologize for. These are my tastes, and I can sometimes justify why I prefer some to others, I can also admit that sometimes, I don’t really know why I prefer one game to another.
So it is with so many things. I can articulate why I’m not into Game of Thrones (as I previously did), and I can tell you that I’m not into epic fantasy in general (just don’t have the patience for it). I have nothing against The Lord of the Rings and acknowledge its power and influence over the very genre I dabble in, but it doesn’t change the fact that I find the books dull and the films only slightly amusing. It doesn’t stop me from giving credit where credit is due or make me think anyone is wrong for their love of those things.
It’s not always easy to not get judgmental. Or at the very least, to not sound judgmental when discussing these things. For instance, I’m convinced the only reason The Return of the King was able to finally win a Best Picture for fantasy was by being a bit melodramatic, overwrought, and (dare I say it) even a little boring. But I add a disclaimer that what I find melodramatic, others will find enthralling and boring is in the eye of the beholder.
I’ve never been a lore kind of fan. I’ve never cared about the landscape or the history of kingdom X except in regards to how it fits with advancing the story. I’d much rather dive into the action and just start having an adventure, and that’s no doubt why Edgar Rice Burroughs is my favorite writer. He isn’t as poetic a writer as Tolkien. Not by a longshot. But Edgar knows I don’t go all the way to Mars to read about the trees and to listen to the tharks singing about their ancestors. No, I’m there to watch John Carter have swordfights with giant white apes and hang out with that coolest of dudes, Tars Tarkas.
Perhaps that’s yet another reason I despise the “light” label. The assumption seems to be that I don’t write about scenery and spend 100’s of pages worldbuilding because I am just not as good a writer as those that do. And that is bull. It’s utter nonsense. I don’t do those things because I DON’T want to do do those things. I don’t find them especially interesting, and I believe that there are plenty of people who agree with me.
Yet even those people will often intentionally or unintentionally buy into that notion of Expositional Credibility (as I have just spontaneously named it). I’ve seen the “light read” label applied to me in very complimentary ways, but rarely have I heard anyone say that perhaps I use lean writing on purpose, that I choose to focus on story and characters above poetic prose, and that I choose to do this because it is a valid and worthwhile style.
Maybe it isn’t.
Art is only half of what an artist intends. The other half is how the audience receives it, and if the audience chooses to buy into the notion that one style of fantasy is innately superior to another, then arguing against it is probably a waste of time. But it’s worth mentioning, I believe, because I’d at least like my potential audience to approach it with that in mind. If they choose to reject that aspect, I certainly won’t argue, but it’d be nice to have a shot of convincing them so before they’d made up their mind.
I believe that this world is too large and complex, our needs so varied, our emotional hot buttons so personal. We don’t need to feel embarrassed about that. We don’t need to apologize for not embodying “maturity” as culture decides to label it. I’m not interested in writing a Game of Thrones style fantasy just to gain credibility, and I don’t mind if people see what I write as merely literary confectionery. But I know that I choose to write what I write and how I write with a great deal of deliberation. Heck, because I don’t write series yet, every book is a very deliberate choice in style and tone and narrative poetry, and those choices are all things I take very, very seriously.
I don’t write about ghost dinosaurs and robot detectives because I can’t think of anything better to write. I write about them because they are things I want to write about, and I think I’m pretty damned good at it too. And if you want to read about how much rainfall Middle Earth gets per year or about complicated pseudo-Medieval political machinations, that’s cool, too. But I’d much rather write about cursed cannibal witches and irresponsible raccoon gods. I won’t judge others for their tastes as long as they return the favor.
(Sorry if these last few posts have been a little too introspective, Action Force. Feel free to send me questions, comments, etc, at Hipstercthulhu@hotmail.com. Send me interesting questions, and I’d love to answer them.)
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,