May 19, 2019, 05:42:59 PM

Author Topic: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?  (Read 917 times)

Offline Yora

Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« on: May 10, 2018, 03:40:05 PM »
When I look at all the stories I really like, almost all of them are at least somewhat grim and bleak, though often with a bit of hope at the end (that often feels somewhat out of place at that point). Yet I am not at all a grim or bleak person and see myself as unusually cheery and optimistic compared to other people. Something doesn't seem to fit together there. But probably, it actually does. Somehow.

Why is it that stories that seem relevant and meaningful tend to fall into a somewhat bleak category? Where is the space for fun in these works? Or is there actually space for both?

No really specific question here, but the relationship between fun and meaning strikes me as an odd one, that probably holds some very useful insight for writers.
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Offline Not Lu

Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2018, 05:22:18 PM »
I've read books that are somewhat dark or cover a dark subject, but the character(s) are making the best of life in a sub-optimal world. Their desire to live their life in spite of bleak circumstances gives hope to a seemingly hopeless situation. The characters in those types of books still have fun. And them having fun gives a nice juxtaposition between the person and the world.

Side note: I'm not much of a grim dark reader because I want some fun or hope when I read.

Offline Eclipse

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Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2018, 07:18:37 PM »
Grim dark as part of balanced reading lifestyle is okay in a short dose, too much can be a bad thing.

Please read five Terry Prachett novels a month along with a Grim Dark novel and you should be fine.

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Offline Dark Squiggle

Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2018, 07:35:10 PM »
Fun can be deep and meaningful. Terry Pratchett is proof of it. I think the reason people associate dark with meaningful is because dark stories (I'm thinking G. Orwell) make good cautionary tales, and because it is the only redeeming factor they have. A fun story doesn't have to be meaningful, or even very clever for people to love it, while a "dark" one does. Harry Potter is a perfect example of this.
I would pick fun over meaningful any day. I was given Zen and the art of Motorcycle Repair as a meaningful book that might help me in life, and it sent me into a months-long depression, part of which time I thought I was insane. Not worth it.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2018, 07:39:52 PM »
For my part, "fun" can be hard to nail down in concrete terms, but I believe that most things that are fun occur in the story's present, usually with action, sometimes with drama. I think most things that are meaningful have to do with the outcome, looking back, or the risks, looking forward. Indiana Jones is fun as hell, but I have to struggle to discern much meaning. Star Wars (original movies) had a fair amount of both fun and meaning, the latest film have some fun but little to no meaning, from my point of view.
I think the film Willow had a good amount of both: it was fun watching the sorceress turning the army to pigs, and the old wizard's trick question about the finger was as well. And there's meaning there, too. So yeah, it can be done, although rarely in equal measure.
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2018, 10:47:46 PM »
It can. My problem with a lot of grimdark stuff is a lack of humour. Humour needs to be an element of a book or story to relieve some of the bleakness. I find this with Joe Abercrombie. He writes some heavy, dark stuff, but he often leavens it with humour, dark humour admittedly, but humour nonetheless. I loved reading about his Northmen in his first trilogy, because they were often so damned funny.
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Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2018, 12:23:13 AM »
That is the essence of Discworld. Clever, original humour gently exposing many of the best and worst facets of the human race.
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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2018, 01:59:26 AM »
Humor is very often cutting social satire, forcing us to confront the deepest contradictions of life. So perhaps it's the other stuff that doesn't often have meaning...

Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2018, 04:43:02 AM »
Hmmh, I remembered a quote from Westworld (the tv series), on how trauma plays a greater role in creating character than does happy, fleeting experiences in life. I guess it's something around that.

Offline cupiscent

Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2018, 04:50:39 AM »
I was coming in to point at Prachett as well. The very posterboy for "fun yet deep and meaningful". I'd probably also put Max Gladstone in that fun-but-thinky category, though he's more a rollicking fun adventure than quite as gleefully silly as Pratchett.

In general, I'm with you, Yora; I like a lot of "black" stuff, though I am myself a pretty cheerful person. But I want the media I consume to be intelligent, and I don't know that it's possible to be intelligent in the current world climate and not contain a hefty dose of cynicism. But cynicism(/realism) and fun are not mutually exclusive.

Offline Skip

Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2018, 04:58:11 AM »
Humor is too often merely social satire. It's one of the reasons why I don't read much Pratchett. There are more kinds of humor than just making fun of stuff.

Grimdark lacks a sense of fun (except mockery). It also generally lacks a clear moral sense. What little I've read is constructed on the premise that the world is intrinsically a dark place, so the behavior that follows is therefore explained and even justified. The premise is flawed, unless you make your entire world one-dimensional (I've read a couple of those). Grimdark is too monotone. Grim. Dark. Yeah, I get it. Not much more interesting than the world is all epic and heroic.

Give me worlds that are beautiful and complex and broken and evil and noble. And fun. Don't forget fun.

Offline Yora

Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2018, 06:14:43 AM »
I was thinking about my favorite adventure stories and what I would consider the fun parts. And somehow it comes pretty much down to scenes of spectacle and mayhem in which there are no real stakes for the heroes. And with a few rare exceptions, lots of faceless enemy minions are getting beaten up and killed.
I find this more than a bit troubling.
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Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2018, 04:41:52 AM »
I think the definition of fun and what we wanted from them could be quite confusing. I've gone back to read a true YA series (which I haven't really done in almost 2 years), and the change of atmosphere to something less dark and serious (with some sprinkle of romance) is quite refreshing. In the end we often read to relieve ourselves of the stress from day-to-day life, afterall.

Online Peat

Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2018, 02:03:19 PM »
I think there's a cultural bias towards assuming pain = deep and meaningful, as espoused best in this quote from Le Guin:

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.”

But beyond that... meaning is where you find it and what you assign it to.

The Eddings wrote fun fantasy designed to sell. Yet I think there's some worthwhile insights in their works into dealing with privilege and responsibility, confronting bigotry, family, and growing up into a generally decent person. And probably some other things too. Eddings said you could write an essay on the theological differences between Eriond and Aphrael (deities in different series).

Feist has some interesting thoughts on good and evil. Gemmell writes as well about courage as anyone I've read.

And so on.

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Can Fun be deep and meaningful?
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2018, 05:40:38 PM »
In my own work, I try to balance fun and depth. I think it can be done. A fun book doesn't have to be shallow.

To use an example, everyone's familiar with, the Harry Potter books are a lot of fun to read, but they also have quite a bit of depth and complexity. You could easily write an essay on the political subtexts in the books, for example.