if magic, then modernity

Rawle Nyanzi has a good post on how 21st century social attitudes get imported into fantasy fiction with a medieval or ancient setting. Central quote (but read the whole thing):

Finally — and this is most important — the “if magic, then modernity” critique is often given in the form of a command, with the intention of bringing all creative work under its sway. Whether it is comic books, television, video games, or any other creative medium, all must conform to a template approved by the accusers — and any deviation is slammed as “hate.” Despite the accusers’ call for “diversity,” they want to make everything look, act, and feel exactly the same, with all the same assumptions and ideas. Imagination and possibility is to be replaced by fear and control. A hunger to rule over others consumes them and drives them to bully everyone they could into line. Even the realms of the fantastic have to fit the quotas set out in the five-year plan. Nothing less than total dominion will satisfy them.

In fantasy, the only thing one has to do is tell a story from the heart. Whatever form it takes, whatever themes it explores, one does not need permission from hypocritical scolds and mad hecklers to create. Just let the words flow.

The secret to navigating this is twofold. The writer can 1.) do whatever he wants, but only if 2.) it makes sense to the reader. Like, if you want to write a world of warrior women riding dragons into battle while the men stay home and are farmers and raise the children, you can do it. It just has to make sense to the reader. You can’t be preachy about it.

Like, in this example, Rod Walker can think of a few story-sensible logical explanations for this kind of world:

-Controlling a dragon requires a telepathic bond, and men who bond with dragons go murderously insane and have to be killed.

-Women who fail to bond with dragons go murderously insane and have to be killed.

-Women who fail to bond with dragons by the age of twenty-five are ordered to marry and have children instead.

-The dragon riders serve a stern goddess whose edicts demand that only women ride dragons into battle.

-Only women can bond with a dragon, but a male wizard must cast the bonding spell.

-The dragons themselves are actually the rulers of the society, and demand only female riders.

-Or (if you want to go darker with the story) the dragon will only accept a woman as a rider if the woman allows the dragon to consume her firstborn child.

So such a setting presents any number of possibilities for interesting stories. But the writer must always remember that “sermon” and “fiction” are two separate genres of literature.

Rod Walker pretty much did whatever he wanted in his book. 


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