Monday, March 31, 2014

Epic Characters


Probably the most gratifying thing about being a reader of fiction is when the characters take you by the hand and bring you into their world—into their fears, their struggles, their happiness, and their conflict. Characters that are likeable can make for a pleasurable read. Characters that are dull or trite can make for a tedious read. But characters that are epic make a memorable read.

Epic characters are unforgettable. They’re those fictitious entities that force you to believe that they actually exist, and that the world they inhabit—in all its weirdness and impossibilities—is true in every sense.

Characters can generally appear epic in two different ways. The first is when a character (or a story of characters) is fresh and groundbreaking in its time. For example, Tarzan and Conan are not deep, rounded characters, but they were new and exciting creations in their period. They became beloved and favored throughout generations—to the point of being adapted multiple times; and we all know who they are today.

The second aspect of the epic character is a character that stands out within a grand tale/story. The characters from The Lord of the Rings, like Frodo Baggins, Gandalf and Gollum, are probably the most substantial characters in fantasy literature. In more modern fantasy, Tyrion Lannister from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga is one of many characters from the series that stands out as unforgettable. Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle is memorable within a unique fantasy series.

Most of us would not hesitate to protect our best friend or loved one from harm. We rejoice when they succeed, and are heavy-hearted when they fail. People in general do not give much thought when they hear a disturbing story on the news about someone who has gone missing, or was wounded or killed in some terrible ordeal. Yes, our hearts may go out to them, but when those people are strangers to us, there is no great effect on our emotions, our minds or our lives. But when it’s someone that we know and love, then our whole world is shaken. Taking from that example—on a far, far lesser scale—we, as readers, respond to the characters that we encounter within the pages of an engrossing book in like manner. We may experience various emotions as we begin to love (or sometimes hate) those characters that set a story ablaze with their very presence.

Just think of the times when you read fantasy fiction and the characters stole your attention from the real world and pulled you into theirs; and, afterward, you are left thinking about them—even years later. It‘s those epic characters that draw you to want to read their story over and over. It’s those epic characters that brought life to a world that doesn’t even exist, except within your imagination (with the skill and aid of the author). It’s those epic characters that make you smile at the thought of them, knowing that they brought a moment of joy to your life.       

A reader can find delight in going on an adventure of mystery and magic with Harry Potter; or wandering the land of Narnia in hopes to encounter the wonderful presence of Aslan. And such characters will make you want to come back again—even as years have passed and you look to see the next generation cherishing the very tales that brought joy to you.

Possibly, every writer of fantasy creates a character that they feel is epic, but, in truth, a writer has no way of knowing how their creation will come to life within the imagination of the reader, for that’s where the process begins. No writer can dictate that their character is epic. It is the mass of readers, as a whole, that meets the character and says, “I will follow this character ‘til the end…and I will not forget them.”


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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Epic Worldbuilding



The best thing about Epic Fantasy is being able to journey into a new world. Through the eyes and minds of the characters, the reader is privileged to trek in a world of different beings and scenery; laws and principles; and be swept into a story of epic magnitude. However, this is not always as fun and exciting for the reader if the worldbuilding falls flat (along with weak characters). In many cases, it seems the author falls into the snare of being more in love with their worldbuilding than their characters, so as to have the volume of their world distracting the story.

With that said, there are many times where the world is pretty good, but the volume of the worldbuilding still seems to be louder than the story—or at least equal with the characters. I kind of equate this with music production. I listen to a lot of indie music, and there are cases where the music production is good, but not great. The band sounds really good, but the keyboard may be too loud, where the drums are not quite loud enough; or the guitar almost drowns out the vocals, or vice versa. It can be the same way in writing a story—where the worldbuilding seems to compete with character/story. In quality music production all the tracks are mixed perfectly together so that all the instruments and vocals come together as one masterful piece. It should be likewise in fantasy fiction.

Authors of Epic Fantasy spend a lot of time building their worlds, making every effort to convey what their imagination is producing. There are instances where an author’s world has many parts, aspects and creatures, yet they all don’t seem to tie together. It’s like a world where there is no gravity, and the author kind of grabs an idea that just floats by and throws it in the story for tension or because it sounds cool. It often bothers me when I’m reading a story and a monster just appears and attacks the characters. Such a monster was never mentioned before, yet we see that the characters know about it, because we’re in their head, and they’re disclosing the name of such a creature, but they’re not even equipped to fight it. But when the said character was strolling about, there was no hint of caution to be on the look out for such a creature—yet it’s supposed to be a known threat in their area. When the people in the bush of Africa go about, they are cautious of the wildlife around them, they know the potential of encountering a lion or some other wild beast. They don’t just walk about unprepared.

So an author has to set the gravity in their world, pulling everything (laws, magic, economics, creatures, lifestyle, etc.) into order, so that it works and makes sense within the realm. Everything has to be grounded and believable within that world. Most readers fear the info dump, where the author inundates the reader with facts about their created realm, instead of just letting the characters reveal the world as we follow them through it.

The master of epic fantasy worldbuilding would have to be J.R.R. Tolkien. The man spent years creating a myth and the world (Middle-earth) to contain that myth. With all the races and elements he created to inhabit Middle-earth, Tolkien doesn’t hit the reader with explanations of the otherworldly things of his world, but starts with something familiar—like unexpected guests for dinner in The Hobbit. As the story unfolds, we go deeper and deeper into a world rich with ancient histories and workings beyond our own world. Tolkien does the same with The Fellowship of the Ring, starting the story off with a birthday party. It’s good to start the reader with something familiar before slamming them with the otherworldly—almost like warming them up to the new world before turning up the fire (yet without slowing the pace).

Without worldbuilding there is no background and setting for the characters. The characters know the world they're in, and it is through them that the reader experiences that world. The use of multiple viewpoint characters is essential in epic works like the Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire. The worlds in these two series are massive in scale (more so with the Wheel of Time). Robert Jordan’s work of histories, magic systems, order of societies and mix of races drives the reader deep into a world perfectly illustrated and realized through his characters. George R.R. Martin’s use of multiple character point of views fleshes out just about every aspect of his world—with more to come. As the reader persists into the worlds of Jordan and Martin, they enter farther into a world that they’ve grown to love, continuing to discover things they never knew or realized. And the greatest aspect of this is when one re-reads the work and discovers something within the world that they failed to notice before.     
  
In The Kingkiller Chronicle, Patrick Rothfuss’ masterful ability to use the first-person point of view and bring the reader into a world concept not usually seen in the fantasy genre is a refreshing experience. Rothfuss’ use of an interesting character like Kvothe sheds light into a world where people seem to really exist—buying and selling; marrying; working; going to school; hanging out—and the reader is privileged to experience everyday life, as well as the extraordinary life, in the story.

The power to immerse readers into an epic story is through the vehicle of strong worldbuilding. The tracks of plot are laid down for the vehicle to move on, and the characters drive that vehicle—with the reader in the back seat—experiencing a journey that will be endured and perceived differently by each person who rides along. The skilled restraint of the author not to reveal his world all at once, with forced, gradual detail, is tough to harness. When the author allows the reader to experience his/her world by freeing the reader to use their own imagination, yet grounding the world to plausibility in all aspects, the event of reading such a story is unforgettable.


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Sunday, March 2, 2014

People of Color in Fantasy


For several years now there has been quite a bit of discussion, debate and ranting about the lack of people of color in the science fiction and fantasy genres. The greatest of these discussions is probably what was found in 2009 on Live Journal, under RaceFail ’09. RaceFail ’09 brought together a heap of blog postings and comments on the topic of race in SFF. It’s an important conversation to have, and it’s great that we’re having it; and I believe such talk will eventually produce more diversity in fantasy fiction.

Of course, the main argument here is that there’s an utter dominance of white characters in the fantasy genre. Inasmuch, the genre predominately consist of white writers. Why is that? That’s the question we should be focusing on. The creative force behind fantasy is mostly from white people. The premise in which modern fantasy stems from is of Norse and Western European mythology. The initial writers of fantasy were from white, western society. The white, western society published and sold such fiction. The white, western society purchased and supported fantasy fiction. The white, western society was inspired by the genre and wrote more of it—from their worldview. And so the cycle went on. I don’t understand the shock and disappointment of folks when they see the dominance of white characters and white writers in the fantasy genre. What did they expect?

Now, growing up I did not read much at all. My love for fantasy started with television and cinema. Cartoons like Bass & Rankin’s The Hobbit, The Last Unicorn, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Dungeons & Dragons and ThunderCats, were like the best things ever. Movies like The Dark Crystal, Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer (with Arnold Schwarzenegger), as well as Legend, were all epics to me that I watched over and over again. I started reading fantasy by the time I was in high school, and haven’t looked back since.

One key point that is brought up the most is the lack of non-white protagonists in fantasy—that readers of color have no characters to relate to. Personally speaking, this was never a problem for me growing up, because I didn’t really think about it. I was just entertained, and that’s what I really cared about—and that’s what I still care about; however, a good story is most important to me now. The cartoons and movies that I cited above still had characters of color (as supporting characters). Diana in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series was a black girl, and was skilled and quite the leader at times. Panthro in the ThunderCats series was basically the black character in that show (even though he was grayish-blue)—the voice of Panthro was performed by Earle Hyman, who played Cliff Huxtable’s (Bill Cosby’s) father on The Cosby Show. James Earl Jones played the villain in Conan the Barbarian. In Conan the Destroyer, Wilt Chamberlain and Grace Jones played supporting roles, and both of the Conan movies featured Mako Iwamatsu (a Japanese-American actor) who played Akiro the Wizard. In The Beastmaster, John Amos (in which I knew as James from the sitcom Good Times) had a supporting role. So I never felt like I didn’t see people of color in the fantasy that I watched growing up. Yet, of course, there were no people of color in leading roles in such programs or films then.

It wasn’t until later in my life, as I began to read fantasy fiction, that I started to think about the lack of people of color in fantasy, especially as the protagonist. But my first thought was not: “How come these fantasy writers are not writing about people of color?” It was more like: “How come people of color do not write fantasy?” I posted about this last April (see here). I don’t think people should be pointing fingers at white writers, telling them how non-diverse they are, or how racist they are because their made-up worlds only consist of white characters, or very few people of color. It’s okay to challenge them, but don’t degrade them or their work. I don’t believe people should tell others what they should do with their art. Writing/storytelling is an art; and if a white writer wants to tell their story where people of color are few to none, that’s their right, and they shouldn’t be criticized for taking that route. I bet there would be no fuss over a black writer writing fantasy with only black characters in it—with the setting based in pseudo-Africa.

My point is, people should not expect white writers to write non-white protagonists. The burden should not be on them, but on people of color who are writers, and who love the fantasy genre. Why is it that I can count on one hand the number of black writers writing mainstream epic fantasy—Charles R. Saunders, N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and David Anthony Durham—and I’m stretching on a couple of these. There are black writers that write other aspects of speculative fiction (Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, and Nalo Hopkinson,  just to name a few), but this blog focuses on fantasy fiction.

Apart from black writers, there seems to be only a few other non-white writers writing in the genre (on the mainstream level). Saladin Ahmed is an Arab-American fantasy writer who’s receiving acclaim for his first book in his Crescent Moon Kingdoms series. Ellen Oh is a Korean-American who’s having success with her YA Fantasy series The Dragon King Chronicles. Chinese-American author, Cindy Pon, has her books, Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix, seeing success in the YA Fantasy category as well. Over in India, Amish Tripathi is like a “literary pop star” due to the J.K. Rowling-like success he’s having in India for his Shiva Trilogy, which is based on Indian mythology. He’s considered to be the bestselling Indian author of all time.


There are books by white authors with protagonist of color. Irish author Col Buchanan’s Heart of the World series has a diverse world, where its protagonist, Ash, is a black man, in his sixties, who makes quite an interesting character in the series. The latest Wizards of the Coast book in The Sundering series, called The Reaver by Richard Lee Byers, features the  “mahogany brown” protagonist, Anton Marivaldi—he’s on the super-cool cover below. In Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s diverse Tales of Goldstone Wood saga, book 4, Starflower, describes the title character as having rich dark brown skin and glossy black hair. A novella in the same saga, Goddess Tithe, which was released late last year has an Asian protagonist, in which will carry on into the next full-length novel, Golden Daughter (due out in Autumn of this year). The Circle of Magic tetralogy by Tamora Pierce, as well as The Circle Opens quartet, have protagonists of color. Also, Ursula K. Le Guin’s YA Fantasy series, Annals of the Western Shore, feature protagonists of color. And Brent Week’s Lightbringer trilogy is based in a Mediterranean-like world, and the majority of the characters are of color, some even having kinky hair—and they’re not just side characters.



The above list is not exhaustive, but they’re books and authors that I’m familiar with in the mainstream. Other fantasy series, though they do not have main characters of color, include non-white characters in their worlds. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series have the Sea Folk (also known as Atha’an Miere), who have very dark skin, as well as other dark and olive-skinned peoples. Karen Hancock’s Legends of the Guardian-King books have the mahogany-skinned Esurhites. Hancock’s hero is blond-haired and blue-eyed, and his first love (his first wife) is a woman of “honey-colored” skin and dark eyes. Urulani is a strong, black warrior woman in Tracy Hickman’s Annals of Drakis trilogy who becomes very important to the protagonist, Drakis, giving the trilogy an ending I have yet to see in any other work of epic fantasy (Urulani is also featured on the cover of book 3 with Drakis). The wise wizard, Ogion, from Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books was a Gontishman, who had dark copper-brown skin.   

Returning to my point about people of color taking the burden, or responsibility, to write fantasy fiction; I’d like to mention that David Anthony Durham stated that he was one of those kids who didn’t really read until he discovered The Hobbit, Lloyd Alexander, and Ursula K. Le Guin. He said, “They were so much for me. They were my gateway into literature.” Durham wrote three historical literary novels prior to writing fantasy. “…but I got a hankering for fantasy,” he said, “because it seemed, in a way, dishonest to spend so much time being this literary writer without paying some tribute to the genre that got it all started for me.” I think Durham lays it out perfectly here. He’s an author of color who was influenced by fantasy fiction. He felt compelled to write in the genre that inspired him in the first place. People of color who love fantasy fiction and want to write should hone their skill, write a darn good story, and take the long road of sacrifice to get the best of their work published mainstream.

If you don’t see a story in fantasy that you can fall in love with, or that satisfies that itch that you’re looking for, then take up the responsibility to write it—and writing it exceptionally. Ellen Oh didn’t sit back and wait for a (white) author to write in a Korean-like setting, she took it upon herself. In an interview she says, “I chose ancient Korea for two specific reasons: the first was just practical—I couldn't find anything like a fantasy adventure story set in ancient Korea in libraries or bookstores; the second was more personal—ancient Korea was such a fascinating, turbulent time with kingdoms changing, collapsing, being taken over, dealing with amazing politics and endless intrigue.” She was inspired by the thought of a story that she wanted to see written, and she wrote it.

So before people start wagging the accusing finger of shame at white writers who write white characters, they should direct their discourse toward publishers. So if publishers are deliberately turning away works of fantasy fiction because the author and/or the protagonist are of color, and not based on the quality of the work, then shame on them, and they should be called out for it if it is proven true. Otherwise, there’s no real evidence that publishers are doing such things today, as you can see from the examples of authors and books mentioned above. However, there was the whole controversy that happened with Bloomsbury Publishing a few years ago where they “white-washed” the cover of Jaclyn Dolamore’s novel, Magic Under Glass, releasing the book with the image of a white girl on the cover when it was obvious that the protagonist was a girl of color. The same publisher had did the same thing with a non-fantasy YA book, Liar, just before that. The publisher did eventually correct their “mistake.” You can read about it here. Such a thing is disgraceful, and it’s good that the publisher was called out on it.

It’s great that readers and authors are having this discussion abroad. I believe publishers and agents are starting to hear it, and that the ground for more diverse characters, worlds, and stories in fantasy is beginning to be laid and ready for the planting. I’m optimistic that, in the coming years, the fantasy genre will become more varied in its content. Young literary agents are already saying that they are looking for more diverse and multicultural fantasy fiction. So this should be a glimmer of hope for readers and aspiring authors craving such things.

It’s nice to see publishers like Lee & Low Books, with their Tu Books imprint, focusing exclusively on diversity in genre fiction for young readers. It’s good to see the horde of blogs, forums and Twitter discussions out on the world-wide-web calling for such diversity. Once consumers (readers) begin to demand change from the supplier (publisher/author), then they’ll begin to see results. This is the beginning of a new evolution in the fantasy genre.


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Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Discussion About Muslim American Fantasy - VIDEO



Fantasy author Saladin Ahmed discussed Muslim American Fantasy at the Grand Rapids Community College library last November. It’s an interesting discussion that I’m sure most fantasy fans of the western world do not think about. Saladin reads a couple of stories that may or may not interest some of you, but it helps illustrate what he’s trying to convey. You can fast forward through his readings if you only care to hear him talk about the topic. See the video below…  



Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Problem with Fantasy Societies



Author Kameron Hurley wrote an interesting guest post on author Suzanne Mcleod’s blog about economy and society issues in fantasy. Most of the problematic points listed in the post are pretty spot-on and are worth addressing.

To see the post, click here.



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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Messages in Fantasy – Part 4



 

In my past three posts about Messages in Fantasy (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3), I discussed the works of three specific modern authors still living today. Now I feel it’s very relevant to mention the work of an author whose work is more classic. C.S. Lewis has made a profound impact in children’s fiction as well as the fantasy genre. Just like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia is a work of fantasy fiction that delighted many of today’s fantasy readers in their younger years.

 

Those who know C.S. Lewis’s background as a Christian apologist should not be surprised to hear of or notice the Christian theme throughout The Chronicles of Narnia series. Many children who read the books would probably not notice any Christian themes; and probably some adults as well, as, though there are very clear comparisons to the character of Aslan and Christ, the message is subtle in many ways—but may be noticeable to a Christian or someone with a knowledge of Christianity. Lewis does not plant any kind of evangelizing message in his series (at least nothing obvious), but he builds each book around a story which will include a hint of Christian elements. However, books like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Last Battle have the most apparent Christian message; with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe presenting the symbolism of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and The Last Battle showing an idea of the Judgment Day and heaven.

 

The essence of the entire series is Aslan the lion. Aslan is the messianic deity throughout The Chronicles of Narnia; who is the son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea and creator of Narnia. In the Bible, Christ is referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelations 5:5), which is one of the reasons why Lewis used the lion, Aslan (which means “lion” in Turkish), in his stories. The Bible also calls Christ the Lamb of God (John 1:29, Revelation chapters 5 & 6), and toward the conclusion of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan briefly appears in the form of a lamb.

 

The most obvious parallel between Aslan and Christ is in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when Aslan surrenders his life to the White Witch in place of Edmund (due to the boy’s treachery)this is symbolic of Christ laying down his life for the sins of mankind. Then the scene (known as the Stone Table scene or Stone Table sacrifice) occurs, which is depicted similarly to the scripture of Isaiah 53:7,8 which reads:

 

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.

In chapter 14 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the scene of Aslan’s “crucifixion” is written with the lion being scoffed at, bound and sheared, and placed onto the Stone Table to be killed; and while all that happened he did not open his mouth or speak a word.

At the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan tells Edmund and Lucy that they will not return to Narnia, because they are too old, and they should come close to their own world. Lucy responds with: "It isn't Narnia, you know. It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?" 

Aslan replies with: “But you shall meet me, dear one.”

Edmund asks: “Are — are you there too, Sir?”

And Aslan answers: “I am. But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

By the time the reader comes to the scene mentioned above (considering that they’re reading the series in order) they can conclude that Aslan is known as Jesus Christ in Edmund and Lucy’s world (which is our world).

In chapter 14 of The Last Battle (the final book in the series), the story reads much like parts of the book of Revelation in the Bible. There’s a scene where Aslan silently “judges” a great multitude of beings, very similar to Matthew 25:32 and Revelation 20:11-13. There is a new Narnia created, almost like what you would find in Revelation chapter 21 (the new Heaven and the new Earth). As you read the last two chapters of the book, there’s an evident depiction of heaven, where characters in the series who were long dead reappear, and other characters enter the new Narnia after being made worthy by Aslan. Now, even though there are similarities to the Bible, it all works within the story that C.S. Lewis is telling, and not at all preachy.

There are many subtle scenes throughout the series where Aslan has that Christ-like influence and relationship with the characters. He is loving and kind, yet also instructive and powerful; and it works within the nature of the character.

Lewis has clearly dismissed any responses suggesting that The Chronicles of Narnia are works of allegory. In a letter that he wrote in 1958 to a Mrs. Hook at Magdalen College in Oxford, discussing allegory in his writing, he said:

“By an allegory I mean a composition (whether pictorial or literary) in which immaterial realities are represented by feigned physical objects e.g. a pictured Cupid allegorically represents erotic love (which in reality is an experience, not an object occupying a given area of space) or, in Bunyan, a giant represents Despair.

“If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way on which Giant Despair represents Despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, ‘What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all.”

In Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, Lewis writes:

“Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about child-psychology, and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out ‘allegories’ to embody them.  This is all pure moonshine.  I couldn’t write that way at all.  Everything began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion.  At first there wasn’t even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord…

“The Lion began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood.  This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen.  Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.’  At first I had very little idea how the story would go.  But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it.  I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time.  Apart from that, I don’t know where the Lion came from or why He came.  But once He was there He pulled the whole story together, and soon He pulled the six other Narnian stories in after Him.”

Even though C.S. Lewis resisted any inclination that the Narnia stories were works of allegory, or that he made an effort to write a Christian story, he does not deny the Christian meanings therein. He felt that the books were more of an analogy than an allegory. Whether analogy or allegory, Lewis’s friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, thought that the Christian meanings in the Narnia books were too obvious (which was only one of Tolkien’s dislikes about the Narnia books).

In a letter that Lewis wrote to a ten-year-old girl in 1961 (read about it here and here), he summed up the meaning of his series saying:

“The whole Narnian story is about Christ. That is to say, I asked myself ‘Supposing that there really was a world like Narnia and supposing it had (like our world) gone wrong and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours), what might have happened?’ The stories are my answers. Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He would become a Talking Beast there, as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; (b) Christ is called ‘The Lion of Judah’ in the Bible; (c) I’d been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the work. The whole series works out like this.
The Magician’s Nephew  ---  tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe  ---  the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian  ---  restoration of the true religion after corruption.
The Horse and His Boy  ---  the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader  --- the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair   ---  the continuing war with the powers of darkness.
The Last
Battle  ---  the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgment.”
 
Again, one would have to either be a Christian or someone who has knowledge of Christianity to catch most of the meanings described above. The Narnia books do not preach, but tell delightful children’s stories for all to enjoy—as what has been proven through the decades.

In conclusion of this 4-part series on Messages in Fantasy, it is certain that books with a message can be good, but when the message is louder than the story it can ruin a work of art. The origin of fiction started with the means to convey a message and to entertain. Today, the means to entertain now overshadows the focus to teach or uplift the reader. There has to be a perfect balance between message and entertainment. A story filled with too much entertainment (action, violence, sex, twists) is like eating junk food—it eventually makes you sick. A story filled with too much message (philosophy, religion, politics) is like eating too much health food—you eventually get sick of it. The best books (in my opinion) are the ones where you can read and get your dose of entertainment with a seasoning of messaging—much like sitting and eating a balanced meal.


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Friday, January 10, 2014

Fantasy Authors Discuss the Genre & Writing - VIDEO



About a year ago or so, author Patrick Rothfuss used to host a monthly online video forum through Geek & Sundry called The Story Board. He and other authors would discuss different content in fantasy fiction. I used to watch these as Rothfuss announced their release each month, and I really enjoyed them. Unfortunately, it only lasted up to 8 episodes; but I suggest, when you have some time, watching all the episodes on YouTube (if you’ve never watched them before). It’s quite interesting seeing some of the big names in fantasy fiction discussing the genre in an open, candid conversation.

Below are two episodes that I really enjoyed—one is about Characters and the other is about Form & Function. Each episode is well over an hour long, so you’ll need to make time to watch them. If you haven’t seen them before—enjoy!