Monday, August 11, 2008

To Transform Literature

One of the areas of Fiction that I enjoy the most is the Transformation Genre.

And by that I usually mean Fantasy Transformation. Things like Werewolves, Vampires are the most common. Other more interesting transformations also bring about certain rather intiguiging thoughts. A werewolf has to contend with instincts, but how would a two-headed chimera work?

In a way, its the dissection of myths and the concepts behind them. On one hand I'm filling this little well of emotional angst with stories of alienated characters, lonely little half-breeds (half demons, half orcs, half whatever) and attempts to fit in. I find it interesting. I'm not sure if everyone shares similiar sentiments though.

It says something about me, and modern society to an extent, that we as a people seem to be humanizing our demons. In ages past the werewolf and vampire were considered the height of mortal evil. What was there not to know about Vampires and how they suck blood? The evils a beast-man might bring to his family and friends? What is happening is a look into the psychology of such monsters, to the point it becomes a little...unrealistic.

Humanisation of characters are an interesting thing. Just look at the recent Twilight phenomenon. A book about a vampire romance. Then we have the huge assortment of half-demon, full-demon, werewolf, were tiger, were bird literature. Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Inuyasha, Harry Potter even. All these contain evil characters or mythological figures with identifible characteristics. And what does this say?

Is humanity opening up to its monsters? Are we becoming, to an extent, so alien to the primal instincts, to our fears and inner demons, that we must humanize them? Or could it be the reverse? Are our so-called human characterstics becoming more like the demons and evil we once feared?

Three hundred years ago Good and Evil were two opposite sides, with a very large and clear line drawn between. Now we have so much grey, a metaphorical "no man's land", that our morals, lack of morals and self have in a way, merged.

Going back to the topic of transmortative literature, I find it interesting that a vampire can have human feelings. But what about vampire feelings? Does a werewolf really think like that?

An alien should have alien thoughts. An alien that rides a bike and walks about in shorts is, while amusing, not very alien like. To an extent, sterotypes and classifications exist for a reason. To defy the sterotype is one thing, to go to the extent it becomes ridiculous is another. I for one, highly doubt that a fire-demon who is a afraid of fire would have any use short of amusement.

By all means, be creative. But creativity is defined by walking new paths, by seeking new roads, not travelling the same one backwards. Show me the difference between a werewolf struggling with his instincts and a man in a wolf suit. Why do Vampires need to feed on blood?

The greatest merit, I feel, of transformative literature, is its ability to present different viewpoints, different characters. It questions our society: why do we react to this like this? Why do certain people behave like this? What would happen if...etc

Which brings me to my point: From a single sub-set of Fantasy, we already have a large number of potentially Philosophical questions. What defines humanity? What defines society?

I enjoy reading stories. Emotion and humor, plot and action are all part and parcel of a good story. Yet for a story to truely have worth, it should have a point.

To heal? To encourage? To uncover the writhing darkness of humanity? To present some new idea or perspective?

Just because the concept of a bat-winged, red-eyed, armored w/e a tail girl dressed in strangely form fitting yet invunerable armor is bloody cool, it should not form the basis of your tale.

Fantasy has always been for me, the exploration of new ideas. New horizons, not twisted reflections of the old lands.

Perhaps I'm being a little harsh, but after reading a large amount of fanfiction, stories and such, I felt the need to write something about it. Many a good idea hath been marred because the author failed to pay enough attention to his intent.

To blend a realistic character, one that can allow the reader to identify and understand him, along with using such a character almost like a tool to present ideas - this is the challenge of a good Fantasy writer. His stories must be human, yet more than human. They must be realistic, yet reach beyond the limits of reality as well.

Many a person has dubbed Fantasy a useless waste of time. I beg on the contrary. True Fantasy, in its highest form, is potentially the hardest and most thought-provoking literature that can exist.

So give us a Sci-fi or Fantasy book to analyze for literature already.


HJ (A rather sleepy, lit-overdosed fantasy fanatic)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

“Literature and Society in the Culture Wars” and those in eight high school classes at West Chicago High School and Downer’s Grove High School will read The Tempest along with a short selection of criticism on the play chosen to illustrate clashes between traditional and revisionist readings. Students from the high school and college courses will periodically visit each other’s classes and report back to their classmates.



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