METAL WORLD – Role-playing Game Review
 

Role-playing Game Review

 
Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence
 

Grey Sister

Review

 
Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #5: The First Five to Fall
 

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #5

The First Five to Fall

 

iPods in Narnia

Narnia Lampost (iPod case)Okay, so there weren’t iPods in Narnia…but there are in ancient Egypt. Sort of. If you read Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles.

A lot of fantasy writers find it tricky to balance the more fantastical elements of their world with the myriad of cool, real-world gadgets their characters can access these days. Riordan is one of the best when it comes to doing this well at a middle grade level. He manages to weave iPods, ESPN, Adele, even YouTube, in amongst swords, spirit dreams, cat-goddesses and shabti (ancient clay librarians). And he does it so well that every time I hear Adele on the radio, I automatically think of Sadie Kane, who is one of the most hilarious MG characters I’ve ever read!

While urban fantasy brings the supernatural into our world, it doesn’t usually spend time going the other direction…what if our world and our technology crashed into the supernatural? We fantasy writers and readers sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that adding a cell phone will somehow dilute the sheer awesomeness of our characters’ magical sword or inevitable doomsday prophecy. For some reason, our imaginations don’t like to mix the ultra-modern and the magical. I think we’re missing out!

Think of all the fun we can have with “new” technology and gadgets stuck in an “epic fantasy” world. Would Harry and the gang have found the horcruxes faster with Google Maps? What songs would Frodo have on his “Trek to Mordor” iPod mix? If we give ourselves the flexibility to bend a few of our purist fantasy notions, the possibilities are not only fun to imagine and write, they’re more relatable to young or first-time readers!

Walking to Mordor

This observation goes hand-in-hand with the above in terms of pushing genre boundaries while keeping stories accessible. In fantasy, our wise, noble magic wielders can face down evil without batting an eye, and our magical creatures can kick a were-vamp dragon’s ass. What could possibly be missing? Um, would the puny human characters please step forward?

Sometimes fantasy books are so wrapped up in the worldbuilding and magic systems—even though we love them!—that they forget to develop their non-magical cast too. Yet, this is SO important to creating a powerful, engaging book. No matter the story, the main characters likely interact with non-magical folk on a regular basis, and those non-magical people can influence readers’ views of the MC. We’ve all read books that skew boring because their non-magical secondary characters become simple one-dimensional cut-outs.

Remember, unless they’re getting Wi-Fi now on Mars, we’re all humans. We can relate to non-magical characters in an immensely personal way. We’ve never known anyone who can actually shapeshift, command the elements or shoot death rays from their fingertips. But we do know people who have stood firm against incredible odds, who have made remarkable sacrifices for friends or have been too afraid to act when they must. That’s the intimate reality that non-magical characters can share with readers.

Karrin Murphy by JonathanWykeSome of my favorite moments in fantasy are those scenes where a non-magical character is wiser or braver than the magical “power character.” Think of Sam in LOTR, Karrin Murphy in the Dresden Files, or even Meg from A Wrinkle in Time. You guys know I’m a huge Robert Jordan fan, and he creates endearing, hard-scrabble soldiers who don’t have any magical ability what-so-ever. Even though they’re stuck in a cast of incredibly gifted characters and should be way out of their league, they deliver some of the more touching, poignant and uplifting moments in the series. For those familiar with Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon books, Alan and Mae are also strong characters without innate magical abilities who can hold their own with their gifted siblings.

These two elements—the wonder of the fantasy/real world mash-up, and the extended cast of fight-the-good-fight non-magical characters—keep me returning to fantasy again and again!

Editor’s Note RE: Title Image – Yes I know Galadriel isn’t from Narnia, but I couldn’t find a pic of Aslan taking a selfie. 😛

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One Comment

  1. Although old enough to be the kids’ grandmother, I love all Riordan’s mythology series.

    One of the things that amuses me about the series SUPERNATURAL is the use of technology by humans and supernatural creatures alike. Angels use cell phones, and Crowley the King of Hell complains to another character when he’s summoned with a blood rite when a phone call would have worked perfectly well.

    If someone could really figure out how to prove phone service to Heaven and Hell they’d make a fortune.

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