Category Archives: Fantasy

Posts that especially deal with Fantasy as a genre.

The Benefits of Escapism

Sometimes, the world really sucks. It’s beginning to feel like every time we start to heal and move on from one tragedy or disaster, another strikes. Last week I was dealing with flooding in our area, and the persistent threat of tornadoes, but all of that faded into the background with what happened in Orlando.

This is by no means a post rehashing the news, or remarking on the politics now surrounding it. I’m in dire need of a break from it all, just as I’m sure you all are, no matter your personal affiliations. It’s times like these that I really do marvel at the beauty of literature, music, and films to take one’s mind off of things. This is when I’m most in need of all guilty pleasures, no matter how small. Red wine and some cookie dough ice cream while watching Netflix? Yep, I’m there.

One of my personal favorite guilty pleasures is historical romance novels. For a bit of light reading full of lush clothing and descriptive language, it can be interesting enough to keep my attention and absorb me so that I forget the awfulness of the world around me. Plus, it has the benefit of being comfortingly predictable; as a reader, you know exactly where the story is heading. Love will triumph and the hero and heroine will ride off into the sunset together. It’s incredibly reassuring and serves its purpose wonderfully: escapism.

Everyone has their own form of escapism. Literature is a fantastic one, because you can honestly imagine yourself in the shoes of a heroine and lose yourself in a new world that you create in your mind. Geek culture is full of ways to indulge in escapism. Science fiction and fantasy novels can be brilliant, richly detailed escapism. The multitude of geek-central television shows we currently have, whether presently airing or available on Netflix (Firefly, anyone?) are a fantastic source of comfort right now. Plus with all of the great movies coming out this year, there has to be one or another that you can check out in the weeks to come.

The Nine Alignments of Firefly

Editor: There we go. Firefly, Good, and Evil, all in one image.

I’ve talked before about how I use the phrase “popcorn movie” as a positive phrase because there is something so deliciously wonderful about being able to absorb myself in a film for two hours, whether or not the movie is full of substance. Popcorn movies are perfect for times like these, when all we really want is to munch some popcorn in a dark theatre and “ooo” and “ahhh” over some really cool graphics and Good vs. Evil stories. Especially because popcorn movies, like historical romance novels, give us the sense that good/love can and will win.

So I say make sure to indulge in some escapism this weekend, in whatever awesomely geeky way you want. And then Monday, pick yourself back up and face the world and do your best to emulate the heroes in the fandom you indulged in and try to make sure that good will win, even in our presently sucky world. Whether by speaking out against hate, donating time, money, or blood, writing to your lawmakers or voting, or even reaching out to your friends and family and letting them know you love them. Use your geeky escapism to bolster your spirits and refresh yourself so that you can help tackle the problems we all face.

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For more on The Force Awakens…

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_AwakensI was not shy in saying that there was only so much about The Force Awakens that I was willing to say with having only seen it once. And I don’t necessarily have to – there’s a lot of great reviews out there, I’m sure. I mean, it sounds like a couple of people have seen it by now…

Including one who wrote up a list of 40 plot holes that ran on Huffington Post which is notorious by now. I was avoiding reading this list, since I didn’t want to taint my future viewings of the film, you know? I was happy to see that fans were putting out responses against it.

That is, until I saw that a Comparative Geeks contributor, Patrick Sponaugle, was using this list of 40 plot points as a jumping-off point to discuss the film as a whole. In, you know, 7 blog posts. Because episode 7! Maybe!

These posts are a pretty great read, and I feel pretty good about the 40 plot holes now as well. There’s really more of some movie tropes, a couple plot troubles, and a lot of misunderstanding. But don’t take my word for it – I recommend Patrick’s!

  1. A Disturbance in the Force (Awakens): Part 1

  2. A Disturbance in The Force (Awakens): Part 2 – Finding Fault with Rey

  3. A Disturbance in The Force (Awakens): Part 3 – Finding Fault with Finn

  4. A Disturbance in The Force (Awakens): Part 4 – Finding Fault with Kylo Ren

  5. A Disturbance in The Force (Awakens): Part 5 – Finding Fault With The First Order

  6. A Disturbance in The Force (Awakens): Part 6 – Finding Fault with Rebels and Smugglers

  7. A Disturbance in the Force (Awakens): Part 7 – You May Fire When Ready

Patrick’s next trick will likely be to get me excited for the next season of Game of Thrones… that might take some work…

First Impressions – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

From what we were seeing online, the Internet decided that there was to be no spoilers for Episode VII, Star Wars: The Force Awakens until after January 1. We decided to stick with that – but it means it’s time we can talk about it.

But first, I am fascinated by the self-imposed statute of limitations that was placed on this movie. So often with the Internet, it feels like we have people racing in to spoil things – or else just casually mentioning things then laughing and saying “spoiler warning” after the fact. But when people really respect something – both in advance, and after seeing it – they seem to really protect the spoilers. Stop themselves. It happened before with Bioshock Infinite, and it happened with Star Wars.

We got the chance to get to the theaters and see it once, and sadly probably won’t catch it a second time until it’s out to rent. And like us, lots of people got to see the movie over a period of time over the holidays. Tickets went on sale crazy in advance, so that’s just how that goes. But unlike us, I’m thinking a lot of people have gotten to see it multiple times by now – given it’s broken so many records and made so much money so far.

But that’s why I say first impression – because this is just some of my first thoughts, as I slog through all the hype, all the excitement and anticipation, and while I really want more viewings to form a more solid opinion.

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Science Fiction Today – War

War never changes. That’s the opening sentiment to Fallout 4, and it’s maybe an underlying concept in War-based Science Fiction. That we can take the way War functions now, and place it somewhere – somewhen – else.

In other words, War is like the scene in The Avengers, when Nick Fury agrees that War isn’t won by superheroes – it’s won by soldiers. And it’s not like the scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the book, the prologue), when the Prime Minister says they should have no problem with the Death Eaters because they have Magic – and they remind him of the problem, that the enemy does too.

In other words, in Science Fiction, the focus on War tends to still be on the experience of individual soldiers, fighting in scenarios we might recognize or understand of War. In Fantasy, you tend to get whole societies going to War – all the elves, all the dwarves, all the wizards, etc. Because they all have powers, or are just all that badass (they’re elves!). Or else you have peasants and such joining in, rising up, becoming heroes. But not your typical soldiers – they’re in Science Fiction.

I feel like a lot of the fighting over things like Science Fiction and the Hugo awards lately has a lot to do with wanting to continue this War-based, kinda-realistic-but-in-space sort of Science Fiction. That it is what Science Fiction is. That novels like Starship Troopers, while good, somehow defined the genre forever.

Okay, so I’ve defined War in Science Fiction separate from Fantasy, and said a piece about how it has existed in history. So for this Science Fiction Today post, I want to go on to look at how the realistic-War type stories can be important for looking at War in a different way from an actual real War, and then I want to talk about how Science Fiction can also step back from War entirely, look at the idea of War itself and take it apart and define it.

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Science Fiction Today – The World of Monsters

It’s probably playing Fallout 4, but I’ve been thinking about how many visions of the future, and fantasy stories for that matter, are full of monsters. Monsters in the wild, monsters in space, monsters we become.

Maybe the classic is the Final Fantasy series, with people living in their defended settlements, or just towns, and the countryside, forests, oceans, and everywhere else crawling with monsters. It’s a fact of life.

My first Final Fantasy game was VIII, which is particularly science fictiony. In it, the monsters amass on the moon and actually are brought over spilling into the world in an extreme way. But even before that, you have characters working as monster hunters, protection mercenary forces, and standing armies. All for fighting monsters.

In other stories, you see things like aliens, zombies, and even mutated humans. Heck, we just finished Jessica Jones the other day… Kilgrave is a monster!

But some of my thought is… why? Why do we so expect monsters in the future? Monster aliens, from Ender’s Game  to Doom. Conflicted misunderstood aliens to evil demonspawn. And transformations from mutants to zombies. Monsters in the environment from ones we might expect like wolves, to dragons and more. And that’s before you think of all the Lovecraftian stuff out there…

Is it that monsters make sense to us, that they’re an obvious evil? That they can avoid moral relativism? And then, if you want to make it a complicated story, you just add some moral relativism back in? Black and white, gray, where do monsters fall?

They can also represent our fear of the unknown, our fear of ourselves, our fear of the future. But there are oh, so many of them, when you start thinking of it. Are we that afraid?

Like I said, new way of looking at things. I ran into Super Mutants in Fallout 4, and it got me thinking. That’s after the giant mosquitos, giant scorpions, giant crabs…

Why monsters? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!