Monday, May 5, 2008

On Fantasy Writing.

Between Liddy & Ditz at present I am spending huge amounts of time just sitting round waiting. I am quite simply tired, tired enough to crawl into the back seat of the car last night while Liddy was at trials & cat nap.

Tingalpa was freezing. You could literally feel the cold air rising off the ground. The women are the last team on the ground & the club house is shut well before they are done so I can sit on one of the small stands & freeze like I did last week or wait in the car, which is what I chose to do this week. That equates to 2 hours of sitting. I am too tired to educate myself or use my time constructively so have fallen back on rereading an all time favourite book. I own a first edition of a book that has become a classic in the fantasy realm ~ Guy Gavriel Kay's The Finovar Tapestry.

Now this trilogy has remained a favourite for one simple reason; unlike many fantasy authors Kay actually knows his mythology. He has not randomly taken mythological symbols & dumped them hither & thither throughout his story. Nor has he conjured fantastical creatures just for the sake of yet another bizarre & unlikely phantom wafting through his fantasy world. Instead there is a beautiful & consistent logic to his work. Ok, if you know your Celtic mythology as well as I do, & believe me I do, certain things are glaringly obvious right from the beginning. I was pretty certain of the outcome of the sacrifice on the tree. I knew who & what the dog was & the warrior ~ & Jennifer. I knew what the cauldron could do & the names of the ravens. I was actively looking for people & symbols I expected to be there & my favourite character is one of the less likable, less obviously *good* characters; I like them complicated.

The other joy for me is that the writing is beautiful in the High Fantasy tradition. I get so tired of journalistc sounding writing, the whole *show, don't tell* thing so that the beauty of the language is discarded for something far more prosaic. Who makes these rules anyway?

However, & it is a very big however, what I want to know is where are all the Christian writers of fantasy? I know my Celtic mythology. It is, in essence, so very full of Christian symbolism that the first missionaries into Ireland had almost no trouble converting the Irish to Christianity. It was a seamless fit. I can point to image after image, symbol upon symbol & say here is the pattern; here is the pre~existing revelation of what is to come & be fulfilled in Christ.

I am so very tired of the rampant sexuality in fantasy. Please, if you know your mythology I am well aware of the sex driven rituals of Celtic mythology, amongst other mythologies. That is not my point. The foundation stone of fantasy writing has always been the violent, dramatic clash between the Light & the Dark ~ good verses evil, right against wrong. It is one reason I like fantasy so much & good fantasy makes these choices complicated & less than easy but in modern fantasy everyone seems to think sexual promiscuity is ok. Sexual purity is not seen as a positive thing, as a warfare of a different kind in the name of the Light. I find that incredibly bizarre. It makes me seriously doubt a character's integrity if they are casual sexually & I question how they can be a soldier in the army of the Light when they are so cavalier in this area. Why? Because the story immediately loses credibility for me. In real life sex is the one area everyone is incredibly vunerable in. When people are treated casually in this area they are hurt & damaged in fundamental ways. There are consequences. There are no STDs in fantasy. Good fantasy, strong fantasy, is grounded in reality. I wish someone would deal with, not me. I don't do sex in writing; I certainly don't do it well & I most certainly don't want to read about other people's private affairs~ pun intended.

I know, I know. I'm just hard to please. a lot of the more popluar recent fanasy has just left me cold. I disliked intensly, for example, Jordan's Wheel of Time. I thought it was just boring. Eddings, who started so well, just became repetative. So many modern wrters read & sound like the newspaper. Where are the beautiful writers? Where are those not afraid to use language in a truely poetical way? Why has beauty given way to action? Are we truely so impatient, so lacking in grace & finesse? It distresses me no end because if our art is indeed a reflection of our culture then we have become very ugly indeed.

Great fantasy is not about the whimisical, the strange, the exoctic, the impossible. It is about the big choices we each must make in the course of our lives, about lives lived above the small sum of ourselves, a bigger vision, a clearer understanding, about the nature of God & man's need for spirituality. This is why the Arthurian legend has such a hold on the imagination & why I return to the Finovar Tapestry again & again. God speaks to me through the *bright weavings* & rainbow flashes of the *first of all worlds* in what C.S. Lewis so aptly calls the shadowlands.


Constance said...

I must admit, I know absolutely nothing about fanstasy whatsoever. Now, ask me about Theodore Roosevelt or some historical question and I am your gal! Don't you love how God "wires us all up" differently? On Monday evenings, I used to be gone for about 4 hours with our ypungest. It was a 40 minute drive to our Worship Leader's house where Charlie has an hour long guitar lesson. Afterwords there was an all guys bible study. I actually came to enjoy the time because it was a great way to read, work on my own Bible Study, finsh baby afgahans, catch up on my cell phone with my folks or best friend. Sometimes I would go to the BOOKSTORE and browse throguh the books. I'd write down titles of things that looked interesting so I could check them out at the library later. Occasionallly, I would even buy a book. I hate idle time, I even bring my Christmas cards with me when I am runnning errands and such. I figure if I have to wait on a vehicle for service or a doctor, whatever, I can be productive at the same time. However, the nap thing sounds like a reat idea too!

MamaOlive said...

I'm no expert (on anything), but I think, yes, we are ugly. That's why everyone's favorite outfit is jeans and T shirt: you don't even have to worry about matching, much less looking good.
This was my first objection to the Florence Nightengale bio that I got for Taryn (I did let her read it) - it was poorly written. I know she's 9 and can't understand a lot of words, but even children can recognize beauty.

I like fantasy, but I've never got very far in exploring it, so I'll take your word for it. Have you read any of Howard Pyle/what do you think of him? Not quite fantasy in the modern sense, but I like him.

Anyway, it's bed time.

Ganeida said...

lol, MamaO, I like jeans & T~shirts but then I've never been very good at co~ordinating myself.

Don't know Pyle (I don't think, I'm not good at names.) Am off to look him up. I'm so fussy I actually don't read a lot of fantasy because unless it's very well done it just makes me crazy & very bad tempered. :D