It's a beautiful morning in Canterlot, but Octavia Philharmonica is having trouble practicing. After her previous betrayal of one of her best and closest friends, she has been unable to move on, and her resulting emotional turmoil is disrupting her music. A mysterious friend drops by to help her redeem herself, but Octavia is unwilling to even consider that she could change. Will Octavia's friend be able to get through to her? And just who is she, anyway? Lunaverse story.
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MondayRainbow Rocks4 comments · 60 views
1w, 5dAntifantasy4 comments · 72 views
I try to keep a pretty open mind when I'm reading, and I do like to read a lot--at the last sci-fi convention I went to I wound up with over 30 new books--but there's one subset of the fantasy genre that consistently fails to work for me.
I call it antifantasy, although I'm sure it has a more technical name somewhere. It's the fantasy equivalent of cyberpunk, except it lost a lot of the heart that cyberpunk had. Antifantasy stories are stories about how fantasy sucks. How magic is just a cheap shortcut that can't compare to building with your own hands. How superpowers can't help you solve any of the real problems in the world, like famine, bigotry, or the destruction of the world's ecosystems. How the dwarves are drunkards and the elves are vain and the vampires and werewolves are just pathetic sad-sacks begging to be put out of their misery.
I don't understand these stories. If I'm picking up a fantasy story, I think it can be assumed that I like fantasy tropes. Why would I want to read 300 pages about how much fantasy is just cheap escapism for folks who can't handle the real world? Who, exactly, is the audience?
The thing that brought this to mind was I stumbled across another review of "The Magicians", by Lev Grossman. Now, I've seen a lot of reviews for this book, and they're almost unanimously positive. And they all have pretty much the same summary: "The Magicians is about a guy who feels that his life lacks meaning, so he goes to magic school. And at first he's happy thinking that he'll become a great wizard who performs amazing heroics and saves the world. But then he realizes that wanting to be a great wizard is a pathetic, childish fantasy, and that the right thing to do is to give up on his dreams of being a hero and get used to dragging himself to a boring job he hates for the rest of his life. In the end, he learns that a real 'hero' is a happy, content cog in the machine. Only the vainglorious and the immature dream of anything more." And so the result is that every positive, glowing review of this book that I read makes me increasingly less inclined to read it.
I mean, why would I? I like a lot of tropes associated with magic schools. I like reading about how ordinary people adapt to obtaining new powers, how they learn to use them, what setbacks they have, how they resist temptations to misuse them (or don't). I like reading about people who were once weak gaining powers and becoming more capable of defending themselves and those they care about. I like seeing the nerdy characters geek out at learning magical spell theory, and the athletic characters screaming in exhilaration as they learn to ride broomsticks. Ultimately, I like reading about the nascent heroes who become folks like Gandalf, Harry Dresden, and Harry Potter. If I didn't like those things, I wouldn't read books set in those environments. So why would I pick up a book about how Gandalf and the Harries are just immature tossers, and so am I, for daring to be entertained by them? Why would I want a book which says that the real hero of Harry Potter was Vernon Dursley, because while everyone else was gallivanting about and waving wands at each other, he dutifully attended to his job and didn't dare let himself feel even a hint of wonder or imagination?
(Disclaimer: in case it's not obvious from the above paragraph, I have not read The Magicians. I'm just talking about the reviews of it that I read, since those reviews convinced me to never, ever get anywhere near this book. I suppose it's possible that all the reviews could be wrong. That said, unless someone I trust actually reads the book and tells me otherwise, I'm not going to pick it up. After all, there's loads of books out there with premises I don't dislike on principle).
There's other examples too, and by some otherwise really good authors. I'm usually a huge fan of Carrie Vaughn, for instance. Her Kitty Norville series is spectacular, as are her YA works "Steel" and "Voices of Dragons." She's even one of two authors for whom I get up early on the day her books come out so I can buy them before I go into work and read them over lunch. (The other is Jim Butcher, if anyone cares). But she wrote an antifantasy duology set in a superhero universe, and--in my opinion--it was almost unreadable. The first book is called "After the Golden Age", and the title's an apt description. The protagonist is the daughter of the world's two greatest superheroes, but the only tangible result of that is that she's taken hostage a lot. She's estranged from her family, because all the superpowers in the world can't mend real issues like familial rifts. Yes, in this story, the golden age is indeed over, superheroes have lost their luster, and our protagonist just tries to muddle through her days without dealing with any superheroes, villains, or powers of any kind. (Suffice to say I haven't picked up the sequel.)
"Hero", by Perry Moore, is another good example. The protagonist is the son of Batman (with a slightly different name to avoid copyright). But Batman was disgraced, because a mission went wrong and people died, and now he's a lowly factory worker who can only reminisce about the glory days and maim the occasional burglar. Meanwhile, the son also develops powers, but they won't help him deal with bigotry (he's gay), or redeem his family name, or anything else he really cares about. I got about 1/5 of the way into this one before giving up. Again, if I'm reading about superpowers, I want to read about superpowers being used for something, not about how superpowers are useless for anything that really matters. (I'm aware that this story was critically acclaimed and even won a Lambda award, but I just could not get into it.)
And, for a more recent example, Sofia Somatar's "Selkie Stories are for Losers." It's a story about selkies, which means that it's calling the reader a loser right in the title. Smooth. And the story is pretty much just about how awful selkies are, how they leave broken families and shattered lives behind them, and how anyone who would ever want to hear about selkies must be out of their mind. Just what I want to hear when I sit down to read a story about selkies.
(For those not up on your mythology: selkies are creatures that can change shape between a human and a seal body. They change shape by taking off or putting on their sealskin. Selkie stories usually feature a human stealing the skin and trapping the selkie in human form; the selkie then marries the human and raises a family with them, until one day they recover their skin. They then flee into the ocean, leaving the family behind. So yeah, out of the box they're pretty depressing, but interesting things can be done with them. They're not just for losers.)
If I had to describe antifantasy in one word, it would be 'tired.' Because these stories always feel that way. They are stories that seem weary and beaten down, laden with cynicism, bitterly contemptuous of the idea that magic and whimsey could possibly affect anything real. They're stories that laugh at the reader for daring to seek enjoyment from them. They laugh, and then they lean in close to the reader and murmur that, while elves and werewolves and Kryptonians are all fine fantasies for a child, the reader is now an adult and should know that real problems can't be solved with a magical wand. They chide the reader for trying to enjoy genre fiction, ignoring that they themselves are genre fiction, and sigh that all the innumerable fantasy stories are just petty escapism, useless for anything except as diversions for fools who don't care to deal with reality.
And, just speaking for myself, but when I go to read a genre story, I'd rather read one that doesn't insult me for it.
That's about all I've got. Has anyone read books like this? Anyone know if there's a real term for it besides antifantasy? Any ideas as to why someone might like these?
7w, 22hYou Can Call Me...18 comments · 80 views
I.e., the PhD thesis defense went well. :-)
8w, 5hRejected Video Game Titles1 comments · 61 views
Five Nights with Fluttershy
Rainbow Dash Six
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Sparkle Princess
Amnesia: A Machine for Pinkies
Luna: The Blue-ish Star
Dragon: The Bruce Cheerilee Story
17w, 4dAfterlife With Archie0 comments · 114 views
...continues to be awesome.
That is all.
(Oh, and really looking forward to the forthcoming "Betty: RIP" arc!)