Monday, 17 May 2010

Why I like Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Quick post to relax a bit during revision...

One of the things I've been asked a couple of times, by my English teacher, fiancé, etc, is why I enjoy the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre so much. While I am very much aware that Sci Fi and Fantasy are two different things, I'm lumping them both together here as a very specific type of the genre: anything involving big epic-y quests, silly costumes, names containing punctuation marks, made up words for everyday objects, etc. I'll just generally call it Fantasy, to save on typing.

So why do I enjoy Fantasy so much. In the spirit of keeping my brain in the mindset of revision, I'll make a list:

1) No Relationships.

For those who don't know me, one thing that I can possibly give away without revealing my secret identity is that I can't stand RomComs. Or soaps. Or romantic novels. Or anything that involves romantic plots born of misunderstandings and emotional drama. They drive me scatty and I find them intensely irritating to watch. The authors of fantasy epics seem to feel the same way, because the thing that stands out about most of these stories is the surprising lack of romantic emotional subplot. This is usually achieved by having the majority of characters either a) exclusively male b) basically asexual or c) surprisingly related.

Eragon is renowned for managing all three.

Relationships tend to be formed mostly via the process of elimination - once she's ruled out her brother, Chewbacca, two gay robots and the odd miscellaneous Ewok there's not many people Princess Leia really can decide to marry. Eowyn and Faramir probably deserve some kind of award for this, having decided after a few hours quick natter that they're probably the only single people of the same species left and should therefore probably get hitched. No misunderstandings, slammed doors, or tearful protestations of betrayal feature.

2) Predictability

It's not always the best thing in a story, but one reason that I turn to Fantasy like an old well-worn pair of jeans is the wonderful predictability of the plot. Sure it might have a few holes in it, and be fraying a little at the edges, but there's a sort of comfort value about a nice predictable plot line. The ugly people will be evil, and will probably die, while the pretty people will end up fulfilling their destiny, discovering their true selves and coping wonderfully well with events that in the real world would lead to several years trauma-therapy.

No hobbits were traumatised, despite murdering several orcs, being captured and almost eaten, and watching their beloved friend be viciously killed right in front of their eyes.

And this all leads onto the third point which is...

3) It's Endearing

There's a certain level of Bad that some films, and books, achieve which instead of being irritating and distracting comes out as totally and utterly endearing. The fact that the Fantasy authors seem to genuinely see nothing wrong with people walking away from blood-filled carnage feeling nothing but self-righteously victorious, or forming lifelong relationships based on a few minutes carrying out said blood-filled carnage. Its that slight look of 'oh dear this is so stupid' in Alec Guinesses eyes as he plays Obi-Wan Kenobi, the aliens created by people glueing old egg-cartons to their foreheads in old SciFi films, the fact that you can replace the names and skin colours of the characters in Eragon and end up with another, probably published, Fantasy book.
For me, this kind of picture sets off the reaction usually seen in normal people presented with small puppies. Lookattheliddleevilscifiguy! And he's called Ming the Merciless. Seriously :D

Of course all of these work best when the author is aware how godawfully silly the whole concept of their story is, which is why Flash Gordon was one of the best SciFi films ever made (apart from Star Wars, obviously). Or when the author, either on purpose or by fortuitous mistake, actually creates an amazing character in the midst of the Generic-Quest, which gives you something to enjoy focusing on while the rest of the story trundles on happily in it's beautiful cocoon of Generic-Fantasy.

4) Escapism

This is the big one, and probably the main reason I first got into Fantasy in the first place. It allows me to escape from the real world, which is full of problems and unexpected volcanoes and things. In Fantasy that doesn't happen, everything is ordered and organised. Unlike real life there are rules to how the universe works. Mysterious old men will be wizards, young eager farm boys with a tendency to stare into the middle distance will be heros, people who show you a picture of their kids before a battle will end up dead etc. You can run away to a world that is more exciting, more understandable and more fun to be in than this one, which quite appealing when you're twelve, and no less so as you get older.

I know I'm not the only person who sat up waiting for this on their eleventh birthday!

1 comment:

  1. Rather strangely I agree and disagree with every one of those. You definitely list all the features of what I term, with not a hint of distaste, generic-crappy-fantasy. The sort of thing where you don't have to think too hard and can immediately tell what's going to happen from the end of the first page/scene.

    But then there's also the 'good' stuff which is none of the above.