Talk Part 2

Posted: June 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

This is the accompanying post to part 2 of the video up on my Facebook page here: Once more, apologies for the occasional dip in sound quality, but I’m some way from having a proper documentary series at the moment (for which most of you are extremely grateful).

Wikipedia was revisited in this stage of the talk, as I began to define in Part 1:

Several characters of urban fantasy are shown to have self-esteem issues or tragic pasts. These matters often tie into the larger story or the development of the protagonist.

Without spoilering Misery’s Tear, I certainly found it something I’d be inclined to agree with.

I got to the name-dropping at this point:

Jim Butcher, and in particular his Dresden Files series, seemed a good foundation point. Though Harry Dresden is one of the last characters I’d ever accuse of having self-esteem issues, he undoubtedly has a tragic past.

Ben Aaronovich has produced the character Peter Grant in Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho. (and soon, Whispers Underground) Peter Grant again is not particularly hampered with self-esteem issues, but his past certainly has an element of tragedy, or more accurately lament, tied in with his father’s own story – a highly talented jazz musician who never quite managed to fulfil his potential. I certainly cite a theme whereby essentially the rigours and grind of city life are often somewhat crushing and equally, often formative, amongst the grittier protagonists increasingly forced to save the day.

Next Wikipedia spot:

Though stories may be set in contemporary times, this characteristic is not necessary for the fiction to be considered urban fantasy, as works of the genre may also take place in futuristic and historical settings, real or imagined.

I agreed with this from experience of what turned up in Misery’s Tear – noting Victorian/Edwardian eras are seemingly the periods of choice. I observed that  the ‘urban’ element, by definition, begins to apply more solidly from this era on. Of course, I’m only a part-time historian, so I’m sure someone will leap in and attempt to correct me!

Another quote!

Many urban fantasy novels geared toward adults are told via a first-person narrative.

Agreeing with Adrian, I revisited a statement that there isn’t much in the way of third-person omniscient writing within current fantasy trends. This is even more true of urban fantasy. The vast majority of books on that section of the shelf tend to be written from a first-person perspective. Or sometimes more than one. Again, backing up Adrian’s earlier point, it seems to just be the way we tend to absorb things these days.

I decided this wasn’t just a book thing. Novels are always a zeitgeist in some way or other –  always reflecting in some way what is going on in the real world at the time. They are some of the greatest historical documents we have, even when they’re not directly talking about a particular time. Social and political commentary in novels sometimes turns up as a subconscious matter, and sometimes intended, but a book written in the 1920s, even if it’s written about the future, will still likely tell you something about the 1920s, or at least be distinctly from that time, etc. etc.

At this point, I chose to digress slightly, talking about the increasing interactions the ‘real world’ have with the gaming world.

[Interlude: WARNING: May contain historical inaccuracies/time jumps]

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, both video gaming and tabletop gaming were relatively new to the world. Space Invaders became Pac Man, became Afterburner and Outrun, and eventually we got Zork. Dungeons and Dragons sprung up in the 70s, got advanced and eventually became a later edition. Fantasy was the 80s version we had before. Vampires, and then zombies – and then vampires again, resurfaced in popularity in the mainstream during all of this [and check out this amazing article on which explains it almost perfectly.]

As we went on, (we, that is, being the demanding consumer), began to want a bit more from our video gaming experience. While the timeless charms of our retro classics remain to this day, if you were to tell this generation of gamer that if they wander too far out of a relatively small gaming zone and are likely to be eaten by a Grue when actually they are stupidly encumbered with adventuring kit, then they are likely to want to frogmarch the programmers straight  to Yahtzee for a thorough and medicinal ‘reviewing’. MMOs are so massive, they even have it in their name.

So this inevitably bleeds over to gamers –D&D 4th Ed and Star Wars: Saga Edition reminded me a lot of what I’ve experienced of MMOs, in terms of rigid party character class roles necessary for success.

These days, a significant number of people play video games, casually or otherwise. It was a pleasant observation that those sat in the talk (and indeed most of my blog readers) are busy shaping my world right now  – along with anyone else who’s ever played a game and decided they wanted to write a novel about it, or even a serial adaptation. At the top of this tree, someone might even make a movie out of it. Doom, Silent Hill, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Super Mario Brothers – I’m looking at you. And Dungeons and Dragons was worth a mention for obvious reasons.

And that was my contribution to why geek is currently the new cool.

I have one final part of the talk to put up – look out for it this week(end)!


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