Discourse: on writing fantasy

So, dear readers, as most of you know, Fabula Nox is often in the business of writing fiction in fantasy setting. We have some characters, we have a world, we have situations and give you snippets into that world every now and then. I have recently been thinking of the writing itself, the process behind it and whether or not good fantasy is interesting anymore or has anything meaningful to say.

First things first, the process. It’s difficult to describe, even. There’s a rush of images, places and people in my head, all through the eyes of the main character. In the eye of imagination then I need to find the mirror to see whose eyes I’m looking through. That’s how a main character is born. Sometimes, it’s a bird’s eye overview. Sometimes it comes in dreams after which you scramble to note everything down lest you forget! After you have several rushes like these, you may begin to write, give it structure and plan. You start thinking this will be a 2-part affair, then it becomes 5 parts, because images in your head rush by faster than the amount of words can contain. But you stop worrying about it and stay happy, because you have material to publish every week. I often take a break from fantasy, until I start having good amount of ideas again, for writing against yourself and pushing it out is one of the worst experiences I had and (not kidding) it CAN have very real physical side effects if you do it for a long time.

So that is the process, I go through it often enough and I am usually not happy enough with the outcome to keep trying. Which is the point, anyway. However, more often recently, I have been wrestling with myself whether this has any meaning or interest anymore. Fantasy is a theme that sometimes it feels everything has been written about it already. From high fantasy of Lord of the Rings, to the grime and darkness of The Witcher, to conniving political drama of Game of Thrones (it’s actually Song of Ice and Fire, but the other one is shorter) – it’s all been done before. All possible characters have already gone through all possible routes of hero’s journey (Joseph Campbell, Hero with a thousand faces, everybody) and emerged intact or did not emerge at all, gone through changes in their lives, views and souls and, really, what’s there left to tell? All you can do is to alter and (hopefully!) improve on it.

This leads to another question I have no answer for: whether there’s anything meaningful left to say through fantasy? I don’t believe in moralising against dangers of technology through the use and abuse of magic, nor do I feel there’s any point in giving lectures on race divisions or such. If you haven’t figured out that race doesn’t matter and we all live on this planet regardless of our genome, you have bigger issues with yourself than meaning and place of fantasy writing. What I DO believe in is the true moral ambiguity that permeates our own world and in all actions we take. Perhaps we consider ourselves good and charitable people most of the time, but given another situation, we can act chaotically and even a little naughty when there’s an outcome potentially beneficial to us. These changes in our demeanour on the flip of a situation – I don’t consider them bad, they are just adaptations we all go through to survive in our increasingly complex social structure and THAT is fine. I feel the age of such fantasy writing is only now dawning on a grander scale than before and I am, for one, happy about it.

It’s always good to put a mirror onto things we do as individuals and as a whole society and stories for generations have been a way to do so. Morally ambiguous world of ours, for all its faults, has merits too and it’s certainly worth writing about, in all forms and settings.

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