Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

#Fantasy, Then And Now...

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Today, I'd like to talk about a changing trend I've noticed in fantasy fiction that I think is pretty interesting. Up front, I don't consider it a matter of "right" or "wrong" because it's fiction, so the only things it really makes sense to talk about are style and taste. Also, I'm only talking about "popular" or "mainstream" fantasy fiction, not underground, cult, or fan fiction, which has always been more diverse and complicated. Also, before people start sending me a pack of emails pointing out exceptions, yes, I know. There are always exceptions. I'm just talking about a general trend. ;-) But I'd love to hear if any of you have noticed something similar or if you think I'm just completely off base. :-)

In older fantasy fiction, older meaning early to mid 20th century, there tended to be clear "good guys" and "bad guys." A couple good examples of this were stories like Lord Of The Rings and the classic Superman and Batman comics and shows. The twists and turns in the plots of those stories mostly came from good guys turning out to be bad guys in disguise or vice versa. Or, at most, a good guy struggling against a dark or selfish impulse all the while knowing what the "right" thing to do was. Or a bad guy being redeemed by love or a kind act.

But, for the most part, there were always clearly delineated lines between good and bad/right and wrong. And everyone always knew which side they should be cheering for. Star Wars was another good example of this, and I think part of the reason the second, prequel, trilogy didn't "click" as well with the public is because it was made when the shift to the new trend was happening and George Lucus kind of tried to incorporate both styles, which just doesn't work at all.

The new trend, as I see it, is for fantasy fiction to try to more closely mirror real life in its characters' personalities and interactions. Instead of having two clearly delineated "sides," there are multiple viewpoints and who belongs where is flexible and dynamic. Instead of always knowing what is "right" and either choosing to do it or not do it, characters are more like real people in that they struggle to figure out what they should do based on biases, an incomplete set of facts, and a continuously shifting environment.

"Heroes" in this new type of fantasy are generally deeply flawed, sometimes even making a vice out of what would normally be a virtue by taking it to an unreasonable extreme. And "villains" are usually sympathetic on some level, with complex backgrounds and motivations that explain, if not justify, their behavior.

In the final analysis, there may not even be a "good" side and a "bad" side, but just a story about a bunch of people muddling through a series of situations not knowing what will happen next or if they're making good choices, but just trying to survive. And some of them do and some of them don't, and which is which seems to be largely based on chance and circumstance. And at the end, no one is where they expected to be, very few plans have come to fruition, and there isn't really a clear "winner" or an obvious, overarching goal that has been achieved. It's just a story about a bunch of people, their struggles, how they reacted to the situations they found themselves in, and what happened to them.

If there is a "right" side and a "wrong" side, they generally don't become clear until the end, and even then are debatable based on which character's point of view you find most sympathetic. The newer stories seem to try to highlight all the shades of gray that are to be found in life, and how temperament and life experience can color most situations even further. The point, generally speaking, seems to be that, in the final analysis, while there still may be those who are selfish or cruel, many of a person's choices are dictated by their circumstance, and most people just try to do the best that they can. Good examples of this kind of story are Game Of Thrones, American Gods, and The Walking Dead.

Personally, I think the shift is fascinating, and I'm interested to see where it goes. Since fiction, to one extent or another, is always a reflection of the author's experiences and perception of reality, if I'm correct about this trend then that would seem to suggest that we may be in the middle of a sea-change as a society. I'm not really sure what, exactly, it says about our culture, but I'd love to hear an analysis of it by the psychological community as well as historians, in case any of you have come across any discussion of this phenomenon in the professional literature and want to leave a link in the comments. I'd also love to hear what you think, so feel free to let me know in the comments. :-)


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