How Historical Fiction Became a Source of Comfort These Last Few Weeks

gentlemanjack

Gentleman Jack (HBO)

Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope you’re all doing well and keeping relatively sane! I kind of pulled a disappearing act again, but March was uh…yeah. I had to go through some adjustments.

The past couple of weeks has been interesting. I’m forgetting what day it is, I’ve been crying non stop to The Weeknd’s new album, I’m in danger of overwatering my succulents, and I’ve been binging on….historical fiction.

Huh.

I mean, I love historical fiction and I always have, but it’s become this weird fixation since the quarantine began. Weird because contemporary romance is usually my go-to comfort genre; they’re the books I reach for when I’m stressed and need an immediate escape. So why historical fiction? Why now?

My tentative answer? Because I know how those stories end.

Well, okay, not entirely. I may not know how each and every storyline ends, or how a writer will re-interpret something that’s already written in stone. Historical fiction is still fiction, even ones that are based heavily on true events, and there’s at least some degree of surprise and unpredictability to them.

But I know the general picture of the world that serves as an endnote to these stories. And I know the world which will follow that ending. I’m living in it right now.

And that’s become an emotional anchor of sorts. A reassuring embrace of certainty when tomorrows come with looping anxieties and new fears pitching tent above old ones. Not so much in the way of “Look how terrible things were back then and see how rosy this looks in comparison,” but rather in the sense of recognizing that there were hurdles people faced in every era, in every corners of the world, and then looking at today and saying, “Despite everything, we’re still here.”

So I’m taking it day by day, moment to moment, but also keeping the past close in hand because they serve as reminders of hope and resilience. And “past” doesn’t have to mean 100-200 years ago. I can rewind 10 hours and remember that this morning I woke up, got out of bed, and pulled myself through the rest of the day.

So yes, I’m on a bit of a historical fic binge. I caught up on the last two seasons of Outlander, reread a few Mary Renault books, and rewatched The Handmaiden.

I’m also a couple of episodes into Gentleman Jack and Harlots and enjoying both. The former has been called the Lesbian Downton Abbey, if you’re into that (I’m very much into that). The latter is an 18th century drama set in a London brothel. So kind of like Game of Thrones–the sex and intrigue part, at least–but actually written and produced by women, and told from the perspective of the sex workers (also something I’m super into).

 

To Watch: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

portrait-of-a-lady-2

Okay, how many souls do I have to steal and sell to be able to watch this movie? I’m asking for a friend. Quite literally.

The film was released in North America on February, and I was chomping at the bits to run to the nearest theater. I’d heard things about it for months. Exquisite pining, unapologetic sapphic beauty, gazes that say everything words can’t. I was ready to throw myself onto my imaginary fainting couch and sob into a handkerchief. But I had also promised a friend we would watch it together in March when they’re in town. Fast forward a few weeks: the news of the virus became loud and worrying, so we waffled back and forth about the schedule and the possible risks, and then bam, the theaters closed, cities went into lockdown, and the decision was pretty much made for us. 

So no romantic movie and dinner, sadly. But good news! The film will be made released  exclusively for streaming on March 28th! Sweet, sweet joy! And it’s on…on Hulu. Which isn’t available in Canada. Oh.

I mean, I guess it’s fitting that I’ve been gazing longingly at a movie that’s centered around looking. (It’s coming out in VOD form sometime this month, though, and I’m super excited)

 

871822294f7f1eb7105c1e31dd9e8866_page-divider-clipart-line-dividers-clipart-superb-decorative-_1268-362

Have you been reaching for any specific genres lately?  Have you watched Portrait of the Lady on Fire? And if so, should I have an embroidered hankerchief ready to sob in??

What in the Worldbuilding: Sports in Sci-Fi and Fantasy (Where are they?)

quidditchpotter-733012.jpg

I’m so, so excited to unveil What in the Worldbuilding, a new blog post series where I’m going to be discussing all things worldbuilding in stories. Because I love stories and I love worldbuilding and I love rambling about them even more.

For the first couple of posts, I’ll be talking about some elements of worldbuilding that, in my opinion, don’t get enough screen/pagetime in SFF media (and see where my brain takes things from there).

And we’re starting with sports. Because this is something that’s always been a mystery to me: how is that these elaborate SFF worlds come with their own ecology and political landscape and four fictional languages with five dialects each, but so rarely feature their own sporting events?

 

Okay, First of all: Sports? Who Cares?

galavant4.JPG

*Slowly raises hand*

A quick “you didn’t ask for my life story but here it is anyway.” My parents are massive tennis fans and they introduced me into the sport very early, with my dad coaching in the early stages. Same thing with swimming (well, minus the coaching. My dad didn’t fare well in water and I actually ended up teaching him once I got my lifeguard license, which was a nice little pay-it-forward moment). There’s a meditative, cerebral quality to both that’s belied by their physical intensity and that lends to a deep attraction for me.

So I grew up tangled in this hopeless relationship with the two–fueled in part by the fact that I was good at them, but mostly by the fact that I just loved the hell out of them–and they’re as much a part of my identity as books. And crazy enough, I like seeing my real-life passions and experiences represented in media.

But passion isn’t required for one to understand the worldwide significance of sports. And to talk about what sports can bring to a SFF world, I think we need to look at their significance in our world.

 

Sports and Cultural History

Sports can tell us a lot about a culture and its history. Asian martial arts, for example, are rooted in eastern religion and philosophy. I won’t be talking about dancing in this WITW post (that’s for a later one), but it is widely considered to be a sport, and many of the modern forms we see today have their foundations in historical, traditional dances.

Everyone and their grandmother knows Canada bleeds hockey. But curling is just as strong of a national symbol here. Brought into the country by Scottish immigrants, it spread westward as the Canadian Pacific Railway extended its reach and more and more small towns began appearing on the map. So, for us, curling represents long winter months and fledgling communities coming together in solidarity and friendly competition.

The nuances are endless and the inclusion of them in a SFF world can make it so much richer.

 

Sports and Nationalism

Sports is one of the major drivers of national identity and what often unites entire countries together. The Olympics, for example, have become homegrounds for national pride and displays of physical prowess that somehow translates to the overall excellence of a nation. And if we look at the measures that some countries would take, and have taken, in order to stamp and seal their supremacy in these events, it becomes impossible to think of sports as mere forms of entertainment. Authoritarian regimes make use of sports to propagate their ideology in a more palatable way. And even with a democratic country like South Korea there’s an intense nationalistic fervor when it comes to sports, which I often found ugly (because it’s led to mass harassment of athletes) and at odds with the general image of the country .

So many politically-driven stories out there where juggernaut nations vie for power, and so few of them utilize sports as a form of diplomacy and a show of nationalistic strength. That seems strange to me. Whether we like it or not, sports will always be intertwined with politics–its reflection and extension–and I desperately want to see writers use that more.

 


Putting the political implications aside, here’s an undeniable truth:

 

Made-up Sports are Cool

And they become especially cool when they involve magic and future technologies and pieces of a fictional culture. I love brainstorming all the different sports that could exist in a world with a specific magic system (how, for example, Allomancy from Mistborn might translate to a competitive setting), and how they would evolve as the magic evolves.

Also, I’m attracted to the idea that punchy, flashy, dangerous forms of power can be used for more than mass weapons of war. That they can be transformed into something equally physical, but in a more positive and fun setting.

So let’s take a look at some examples of SFF sports in media. Starting with the most famous of them all…

 

Quidditch

My thoughts on J.K. Rowling most days is an intersection of “Oh god, what now” and “Please just stop,” but there’s no denying Harry Potter has become an indelible foundation for modern pop culture and a well of inspiration for many, many writers. Since its inception, magical schools have become a staple of fantasy.

So what surprises me is that the series hasn’t also ushered in a wave of magical sports in fantasy. I mean, Quidditch is such an important part of the HP world. As a bastardization of soccer–sorry, “football”–and other real world sports, it offers familiarity alongside high octane speed and the thrill of microviolence, with an unexpected sweetness to the idea of players protecting teammates from homicidal balls (aka bludgers). It’s brilliantly constructed.

And fans love it so much they turned it into an actual international sport.

56d9b68b2e5265b7008bb6b6-1920-1331.jpg

Credit: Scott Audette/Reuters

(Fun fact: I joined my university’s Quidditch club during undergrad and played for a couple of sessions before deciding that running around and inadvertently crashing into people with a stick between my legs was bound to send me to the hospital at some point.)

So why don’t we see more Quidditches in fictional worlds? If there’s room for intricate magic systems and made-up history that goes back thousands of years, surely there’s room for more inventive forms of sports that go beyond gladiatorial combat and racing.

Speaking of which….

 

Racing — Lots and Lots of Racing

Racing.png

Left to right: Death Rally (Tales from the Borderlands); Chocobo racing (Final Fantasy); Podracing (Star Wars)

Racing is probably the most common one you’ll find in these stories. And with a simple format that allows for such a wide breadth of customization, it’s not hard to see why. Swap a horse with a giant yellow bird, or a car with a small flying vehicle, and you have yourself a made-up sport that’s unique enough to engage and entertain but doesn’t require a lot of meticulous ground-up writing.

Alex White’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe is a somewhat recent sci-fi book that features racing. Via race cars, specifically, which might seem pretty mundane if you don’t count the fact that they require magic to operate.

 

The Gentleman Bastards

I’m going to be talking more about The Gentleman Bastards in future WITW posts because Lynch does a lot of small yet effective things with his worldbuilding that add an incredible amount of depth to the series.

And The Lies of Lock Lamora is the one example I can think of that features sports with regional and class distinction.

71gSqvBQRxL.jpg
Let’s take the Teeth Show, a gladiatorial sport unique to Camorr in which female fighters, and only female fighters, go head-to-head with leaping sharks. It’s a grisly, gaudy show of acrobatics and power, and while it’s enjoyed by the poor and rich and everyone in between, there’s a distinct middle to upper class flavour to it–aristocrats and merchants watching from their boats, sipping wine and conducting business while the fight plays out in the background. The luxury of partaking in violence without actually partaking in violence.

Then there’s Handball, which is a team sport played by the lower classes of southern Therin. There’s nothing showy or magical about handball (it’s pretty similar to our world’s version), and we never actually see any of the characters playing it, but what I love about it is that it comes with its own little history of origin and an allegory that may or may not be true but still serves as a valuable lesson for the audience (i.e. when it comes to revenge, either have a long memory or don’t procrastinate). That’s what makes it unique to this world.

The teeth show and handball serve three purposes: they add layers to the worldbuilding, they entertain the readers, and, perhaps most importantly, they tie in with the story that is being told, making it richer and more dynamic.

 


So why do sports get overlooked?

Let’s put on our speculation hats, shall we?

Possibility 1: SFF writers aren’t sports fans.

I’ll scribble in a big fat “REJECTED” for this one. The idea that geeks and sports don’t mesh is an outdated one, and I know for a fact that there are writers who are also sports fans. That being said, I’ve yet to meet another SFF nerd who also plays and watches tennis. But statistically speaking they have to be out there somewhere (and I will find you).

 

Possibility 2: SFF writers enjoy sports, but not enough to be comfortable and interested in writing about them.

…Maybe? At least, I’m sure it applies to some writers.

 

Possibility 3: Sports isn’t something people consciously associate with SFF stories

When we see “sci-fi and fantasy,” we immediately think space battles and gods and dragons and political intrigue and quests to save the world. Maybe sports just don’t cross people’s minds. And maybe people feel, especially with linear stories, there just isn’t room to showcase an activity that’s meant to be for recreation and competition. Not when there are life-or-death events brewing around every corner.

 

Possibility 4: Lack of a solid foundation for sports in SFF stories

I don’t know, maybe if Tolkien and Lewis and all those other classic SFF authors had included made-up sports in their stories, we’d see more of them today.

 

Possibility 5: A combination of multiple factors (including the ones above)

Probably a lazy answer but also probably the best of the bunch.

The thing is, I’m really not sure what deters writers from including sports in their worlds. It’s not like I can snap my fingers and pin the problem on societal hangups or prejudices. Sports is…sports. Innocuous (for the most part), exciting, and popular in the real world but not so much in fictional ones, evidently.

And I don’t know about you, but I would really like to see that changed.

 

flourish

What are your thoughts on all this? Also, sneak me your sport-centric SFF recommendations!

Top Ten Tuesday – Settings I Want to See More of in Fiction

TTT-NEW.png

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now being hosted by The Artsy Reader.

I’ve been telling myself that I’ll try out a TTT topic for over a year now, but I never actually took the plunge. But I saw posts for this week’s topic pop up in my inbox (at like 9 PM) and I just couldn’t resist. Because this is a topic I think about a lot.

So here’s a last minute list of settings that I’d like to see more of in fiction!

 


Underwater – Sea and Ocean

The incredible thing about these large bodies water is that they’re horror, fantasy, sci-fi all rolled into one. They inspire awe and fear and deep, deep curiosity, and really, they kind of do a lot the worldbuilding for you. Which is why it’s crazy that we don’t see more of them in stories. Especially underwater societies.

I do feel like we see them more in video games than we do in books: Bioshock, Sunless Sea: Zubmariner, Subnautica, and Soma, to name a few.

But these are several book examples (some not yet released), with two of them do featuring underwater societies.

ocean1.png

🐠 Low by Rick Remender (writer) & Greg Tocchini (artist): a jaw-droppingly gorgeous graphic novel with incredible worldbuilding and a protagonist who oozes optimism.

🐠 The Deep by Rivers Solomon (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes): Releasing this fall, and I’m unreasonably excited for it. It tackles slavery from an angle that I’ve never seen before.

🐠  The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah: A story about a submerged London starring a protagonist who’s a submersible racer.

 


Inside of a Whale

SUPER specific, I know. It’s also kind of related to “Underwater” but not really because there’s no written law that says whales can only exist in the ocean. There could be sky whales! Space whales! And dream whales are definitely a thing. They’d be like these massive islands you encounter during your romps through the dream world, with each one housing….well, something. Maybe the inside of each one would be a different level of the dream court. Maybe they’re all home to different dreamscapes (like a cetacean Inception). And maybe there’s this one super illusive whale that all dreamers have heard of but never seen, and the legend goes that it’ll lead you to the place you most desire. So kind of like Moby Dick, but trippier.

But why whales, you ask? No special reason other than that I just really, really, really love them and they’ve always been the subject of fascination for me, both scientifically and narratively. They’re immensely complex creatures and I find their existence constantly astounding and humbling. And it’s so very easy to imagine a myriad of worlds just sitting inside their stomachs.

sampo-jumisko-flying-whales-final.jpg

 


Sky Islands

Because I want to see more airships in stories and because ground islands are so yesterday. And it’d be cool to see all the different creative methods of transportation that take you from island to island (other than airships). Plus, there’s the added thrill of knowing that one small misstep out on the garden or balcony can lead to a deadly fall.

Some of my favourite examples include Bioshock Infinite and An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (and a fairly recent YA series that I can’t remember the name of).

sky.png

 


Ice and Snow

I adore stories set in ice and snow and I can’t quite figure out why. Maybe because I dislike summer and latching onto cold things is something my brain does in retaliation. Or maybe because all the icy bits make the warm and cozy bits stand out more.

Whatever the reason, I want more of them. Books I can easily point to and say, “Hey, that’s one for my Winter TBR!” (pretending for a moment that curated seasonal TBRs is a thing I actually do). And movies/shows and games that I can consume during the summer to stave off the heat.

snow.png

 


Forest Cities

I’ve dreamed of living in a forest city since reading/watching The Lord of the Rings, and that dream sort of became a (virtual) reality when I played Lord of the Rings Online and got to actually frolic through Lothlórien. And I talk a lot about packing everything up and going to live with the bears in some remote cabin in the woods, but like…I don’t think the postal service does book deliveries (or any deliveries) to the interior forests of British Columbia. Also, wildfires are a thing. So I guess I’ll just continue to live out my wood elf dream via fiction.

 

12992026535_36a266e9bf_o.jpg

 


God Realms

I feel like most stories nowadays that feature gods take place in the mortal world, and it’s either a mortal protagonist getting caught up in godly affairs or a god/demi-god protagonist getting caught up in mortal affairs. We don’t often see modern stories about gods set exclusively in the world of gods. And when we do get it, more often than not it’s set in the Underworld.

So I’d like to see more variety. More breadth. I want to see mind-bending, cloying opulence rubbing elbows with decaying violence. I want to see how each territory interacts with another. What are the diplomatic relations like? What are the rules of  each kingdom? (goddom?)

The biggest examples I can think of is the God of War franchise and maybe the Sandman series (I know the Endless aren’t technically gods but their powers are god-adjacent).

gods.png
And for stories that are set in underworlds, Lost Gods by Brom is phenomenally rich and beautiful and The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall offers a quiet but vivid world of gods and demons.

gods2.png

 


Very Specific and/or Non-Murdery Schools

I’m talking beyond assassin and wizard schools. Schools for automaton mechanics. Aspiring griffin trainers. Time traveling spies. Schools specifically made for demi-gods, because for some reason their powers manifest in unstable ways and they need to learn how to control that shit. Or schools for killer nuns, as we see in the Book of the Ancestor series.

9177lf8SYEL.jpg

But I’d really love it if the school featured mostly non-murdery activities. Like a traveling culinary school that roams the entire realm or galaxy, and its students learn about sustainable foods and methods on how to catch and cook some of the more challenging critters that exist in the world/universe.

 


Steampunked Asian Countries

So back in 2015, the universe gifted the world a masterpiece of an indie game called 80 Days. It’s basically a retelling of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days (mashed up with his other famous works)except more steampunk and fantastical. And I’ve always loved steampunk as a subgenre, but I never realized how much I need Asian steampunk in my life until then. Steam-powered caravans pulling merchandise through the Silk Road. Asian aesthetics translated through the eyes of gears and cogs. And I want more of it. Badly.

imperialinventor.jpg

 


Big Space Stations or Ships

Because they’re large enough to be their own little ecosystem of human and alien society, which is always interesting and fun, and because these stories usually feature found families and characters who would cross the depths of deep space and back for each other. The Mass Effect series and Becky Chambers’ books being notable examples.

space.png

 


Literally anywhere in the world that’s not the U.S.

Close your eyes and stick a pin anywhere in the world map, and if it’s not the U.S. then I want a story about it (unless we’re talking about Native American stories). Even if it’s out in the middle of the Pacific. Nothing against the U.S! It’s just that the market is so saturated with them and I just want to explore more countries that I’m not familiar with. Or countries that I am familiar with but have not been given enough spotlight in media. And let’s face it, there’s a LOT of them out there.

 

outside.png

 

flourish

If you have recommendations for any of these categories–books, games, movies, anime–please, please, please do send them my way!

Top 5 Wednesday – Characters That Embody the Hufflepuff House

Happy Wednesday! I know I said I’d be back to a semi-normal schedule last week, but I’ve been suffering from a case of “Oh god, my reviews and posts are flaming piles of garbage” and “WHAT ARE WORDS????” which has had the added benefit of wreaking havoc on my reading pace.

Fun, fun times.

But more on that in my wrap up post! Because today’s a Wednesday which means it’s time for another rendition of Top 5 Wednesday! Or as I like to call it, “Top 5 Characters/Books/Things That I Can Actually Remember That Day Day.”

Today’s topic is: Characters that Embody Your Hogwarts House

71500a5b002662e5bd47b1a4ca552689.jpg

So Pottermore says that Hufflepuffs value hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play.” And that sounds kind of vague. And bland. And…side-kick-y. Which is probably why I’d spent most of my childhood and teenagehood hating on the Hufflepuff House.

But I think, for me, the crux of Hufflepuffs is their value of deep emotional connections (humans and nature both) through love and passion and caring. So that’s the definition that I’ve based this list on.

Also, I’m pretty sure this is the first Harry Potter/Sorting House related post I’ve done (an absolute sacrilege, I’m sure, considering I mostly do fantasy-related posts), so allow me to take the time to rant about the sheer messed-upness of shoving pre-adolescent kids into groups based around personality and telling them “This is where you’re going to be for the next seven years of your life.” Because I’m pretty sure the Sorting Hat isn’t prophetic, so it can’t possibly predict the trajectory of someone’s character development from childhood to adulthood.

And I’m also pretty sure there’s an echo chamber thing going on. If a Gryffindor kid does remain a Gryffindor kid for the rest of their childhood, is it because they embody Gryffindor traits to their core, or is it because everything around them is telling them that this is who they are–they’re so brave and daring and wow, look at Harry Potter always being so brave and daring, don’t they want to be just like Harry Potter?–that they end up molding themselves according to that image?

I would love to see someone in the HP world do an extensive psychological study comparing the development of Hogwarts kids verses the development of kids from other magic schools. And then make an exposé documentary out of it–part of a series called “The Sinister Goings-On at Hogwarts.” Episode 139.

But I digress.

On with the show!

 

FitzChivalry Farseer – Realm of the Elderlings

519WCvb8SLL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

No character, absolutely no character, in any other book goes through the amount of shit that Fitz goes through in the course of this series. Every horrible, tragic thing you can imagine happening to a person? You can bet he experienced them. Got T-shirts and all.

And yet.

Yet somehow, he never loses his ability to love and care and to just feel with every inch of his being. And while that leaves him vulnerable to so much pain, it also leaves him open to many, many incredible and beautiful connections. Connections that have shaped him–that he has allowed to shape him. And while he can never direct it towards himself, the love he has for others in his life can overflow thousands of oceans.

It’s literally impossible for me to write about him without crying and I’ll always be okay with that.

(Fun fact: adding Fitz to the list was what made me go, “Okay, fine, online quizzes. You’re right. I’m a Hufflepuff.” Because he’s pretty much me in character form.)

 

Auri – The Kingkiller Chronicles

Auri is one of the most beautiful, broken, egoless characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. While there’s still so much we don’t know about her, I think we know the most important bits. That she’s a kind and gentle soul who keeps her loved ones close (though there are very few of those in her life). And that she cares and comforts Kvothe in the rare moments when he’s unguarded.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Auri’s novella) is through and through a Hufflepuff book.

 

Samwise Gamgee – The Lord of the Rings

seanastinhobbit_0

Way back when, my friend said to me after binge-watching the movies for the first time, “Sam did all the work!” While that’s completely uncharitable to Frodo because being the ringbearer is a different kind of burden–an insidious, mostly invisible one–Sam is a force of love and hope and loyalty that stood toe-to-toe with evil and won. For that he deserves at least half the credit.

It’s getting late (why I’m writing this at 3 AM I cannot tell you), so I’ll just leave you with Frodo’s own words: “Frodo wouldn’t have gotten far without Sam.”

 

Gon Freecss – Hunter x Hunter

Reel-Honey_Hunter-x-Hunter-759x500.jpeg

I make no secret my love for HxH and this guy right here is what makes this masterpiece work. “You are light” is what another character says of Gon at one point, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. While Gon gains some super neat powers later on in the series, his greatest power is and always was his unwavering optimism and loyalty and the belief that good will prevail in the end. This kid will believe in you until you begin to believe in yourself and that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

And we see how that’s so cruelly turned against him in the Chimera Ant arc, demonstrating how your strongest traits can easily become your greatest weakness.

 

Jesse Pinkman – Breaking Bad

fc3879e9ace9d180acb44e8bd94cf3f7.gif

Oh, Jesse. We first meet him as the drug dealer/meth cooker/comic relief punk that Walter White “enlists” to help make money for his family. Little did I know that he would become the heart and conscience of the series. Because Jesse cares. A lot. Too much, you could say, considering the line of work he’s in. For his friends. For the girls he dates. For the random people he meets out in the world. For, perhaps to his detriment, Walter White.

Jesse Pinkman is a character stuck in the wrong story and all I wanted was to pluck him out of this hellhole and into a sweet romantic road trip comedy.

 

flourish

And that’s it! These are obviously not set in stone (except for Fitz. He’s 1000% a Hufflepuff and you can fight me on that), so holler at me below if you disagree/agree with any of my choices and we can have a good ol’ debate! 😀

Top 5 Wednesday – Ideal Hypothetical Mash-ups

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This weeks theme is: Ideal Mash-Ups.

I was debating whether or not to participate in this one because I usually dislike blurbs that go, “Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games!” or “The love child of Game of Thrones and Twilight!” because I think they’re easy ways of saying something without really saying anything.

Then I started randomly mashing stories together in my head and ended up getting attached to a lot of the combinations. And now I’ve made myself sad because I would REALLY love to read some of these and it kills me that they don’t exist (yet). Or maybe they do. Yell at me in the comments if you know any books that are similar to the following (a few of these might seem ridiculous, but bear with me here):

1. Brooklyn 99 meets The Lord of the Rings

B99+LOTR

This popped into my head out of nowhere and now I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s not even a hypothetical mashup, really. I just want a comical fantasy series featuring the law enforcement of Shire and their cleanup of the various shenanigans the local Hobbits get into. Oh, and clever and insightful social commentary about Middle Earth culture would be nice too.

2. Band of Brothers meets Wind in the Willows

BandofBrothersWind

So basically a panoramic drama featuring two armies of animals at war, with heartpounding action and tearjerking character interactions. We’re long due for a new Redwall-esque series and reading The Builders by Daniel Polansky only fueled my appetite for gritty stories about anthropomorphic animals.

3. Sailor Moon meets Dark Souls 

SailorMoonDS

Don’t look at me like that. Yes, this is a mashup of two complete opposites. Sailor Moon is a bright, cheerful story about magical school girls and romance and friendship defeating all evils. And Dark Souls is, uh…not that. The land you traverse in the game is desolate and unforgiving; the enemies you face range from eerie yet captivating to HOLY SHIT GET ME OUTTA HERE; the allies you meet are lost between apathy and disorientation.

With anime, I guess the closest is Madoka Magica. But I want this story to be told in a secondary fantasy world. I want a group of girls who are chosen, by prophecy or fate or whatever, to wield great magical powers and protect the world from monsters, both within and without. I want the grimdark alongside the themes of hope and friendship.

4. Mass Effect meets Ocean’s Eleven

MEOceansEleven

I am dying for a fun scifi story about a heist set across a series of planets and galaxy not like our own. And if it also explores interesting, complex relationships between the heisters? Even better.

(Someone actually made a parody mashup poster of ME and Ocean’s Eleven, and it’s fantastic: https://pen-gwyn.deviantart.com/art/ME2-Shepard-s-Eleven-Poster-168557919)

5. America’s Got Talent meets Mad Max

GotTalentMax

An apocalyptic wasteland society that has an annual talent show of sorts in which the winner is awarded some mysterious, but highly coveted, prize. So a little like the Hunger Games, but with less murder and more interpretive dancing and magic tricks performed with your radioactive pet mongoose.

flourish

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go write some hobbit fanfic.

 

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Jokesters

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s topic is: favourite jokesters, pranksters, and funny characters.

This was a hard one. I had trouble remembering any comic-relief/jokey characters in books, let alone ones that I actually liked. The funny ones rarely stick in my mind compared to the broody, serious ones, unless their humour is some sort of well-crafted veneer hiding a mournful or sociopathic interior (which probably says a lot about me). So this is going to be a mishmash of books, film/tv, and comics.

1) Locke Lamora – The Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch

Locke Lamora
I mean, every one of the Gentleman Bastards can fit into this category–you’d have a hard time eking out a living in a decrepit crime-den like Camorr without some sense of humour–but Scott Lynch saves some of his funniest lines and scenes for the star of the show.

 

 


“Know something? I’d lay even odds that between the people following us and the people hunting us, we’ve become this city’s principle means of employment. Tal Verrar’s entire economy is now based on
fucking with us.”

 

 

2) Jalan Kendeth (The Red Queen’s War trilogy by Mark Lawrence)

The Prince of Fools
Jalan is who I imagine most of us would (realistically) be if we were thrown into a fantasy world full of monsters and magic–a big resounding “NOPE” and “Fuck this.” He’s the most unlikely hero, a self-professed “coward” who rarely taking things seriously. He’s also hilarious and one of the most entertaining narrators I’ve come across.

 


“Every fortune-teller I ever met was a faker. First thing you should do to a soothsayer is poke them in the eye and say, ‘Didn’t see that coming, did you?”

 

3) Sette Frummagem – Unsounded webcomic

Sette is the protagonist of Unsounded, an epic fantasy webcomic created by Ashley Cope. As the daughter of a crime lord, she’s already well versed in the art of lies, tricks, and thievery, and her antics drive her companion, Duane, absolutely insane. Cheeky, mouthy, and utterly hilarious, she’s become one of my all-time favourite female characters.

Sette 1

Comic by Ashley Cope

 

4) Jonathan Carnahan – The Mummy films

Okay, so pretty much everyone in the first two movies is hilarious, even the bad guys, but Evie’s bumbling brother Jonathan takes the cake. Primarily because of this scene:

 

5) Jim Halpert – The Office (U.S)

And, of course, the King of Pranks himself. Jim Halpert effectively has two job titles: Paper Salesman and Perpetual Nagging Thorn on Dwight Shrute’s Side. The pranks he pulls on his deskmate make for some of the best parts of The Office, and I could watch compilation videos of them all day.

Jim Halpert Dwight
flourishes

And there you have it! Feel free to tell me some of your favourites!

 

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Sci-Fi & Fantasy in Other Media

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme, currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s theme: favourite Sci-fi & Fantasy in other media.

I consume a lot of SFF media (especially video games and anime) and I wrung my brain out trying to pare the list down to five.

So here are the lucky winners:

 1. Dragon Age Series (Video Game)

Dragon Age Inquisition

Let’s start with my favourite video game series of all time.

Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise is not perfect by any means. There are many other games with tighter narratives and more dynamic gameplay. But there are two things that Dragon Age does better than any other game (including the Mass Effect series): character relationships and continuous worldbuilding. The combination of the fact that you can meet, befriend, and pursue relationships (romantic or otherwise) with these interesting, complex characters, and the sheer vastness of the history of Thedas–the knowledge that there is so much more of this world to uncover–makes for a series that is wholly consuming. I’ve probably sunk over 2000 hours into the three games and their DLCs, and every single one of them have been an absolute joy.

2. Hunter x Hunter (Anime)

Hunter x Hunter - Chimera Ant ArcAn adaptation of the manga created by Togashi Yoshihiro, Hunter x Hunter is, in my opinion, the best shounen manga/anime out there. Its cute, colourful artstyle belies a story that is extraordinarily complex and meditative of Eastern religions (most prominently Buddhism), while subverting classic shounen and hero’s journey tropes. The development of its character across 148 episodes is some of the best I’ve seen in any media, and the budding love and friendship between its two young protagonists brought me to tears more times than I could count. Its Chimera Ant arc, which spans around 70 episodes, is a masterpiece of storytelling and character building that everyone, regardless of whether or not you’re an anime fan, needs to experience.

3. The Witcher 3 (Video Game)

Geralt and YenThe Witcher 3 is the third and final entry in the game series adapted from/inspired by Andrzej Sapkowski’s highly successful Polish fantasy book series. It stars Geralt of Rivia–a “witcher” trained and mutated (via potions) from a young age for the sole purpose of fighting monsters that plague the world–and his ward/adopted daughter Ciri (not the woman pictured above).

There are many things that make TW3 a brilliant RPG. A fantastic cast of characters; a world that feels organic and populated (its cities actually feel like medieval cities–bustling and noisy and grimy); choices you make that actually lead to major, often unforetold, consequences. Most importantly, though? It’s got some of the best quests I’ve ever encountered in a game. You can star as the leading man in a play. You can help a troll pursue its dream of becoming a painter. You and your friends can get wasted and spend the night squeezing into dresses and making prank calls. These stories–small and large–range from funny to sweet to heartbreaking, and many of them have been forever etched into my brain.

Also, you can have sexytimes with your girlfriend on a stuffed unicorn. Enough said.

4. Pan’s Labyrinth (Film)

3-pans-labyrinth
Pan’s Labyrinth
is the film that introduced me to Guillermo del Toro and I think it remains, even with the release of The Shape of Water, his masterpiece. It’s everything that makes del Toro’s work so great combined and distilled into two hours of perfection.
A fairy tale unlike any other, Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark, dark story of childhood innocence and selflessness and courage pitted against the worst of human evil.

Beautiful, horrific, and heartwrenching–it became a major inspiration to me during my teenage years.

5. Lost (TV Show)

Lost poster
Bu-But the last season
–I know.

We still don’t know what the island–I know.

Character assassinations–Shhhh

I know.

I’m not blind to the many faults of Lost. But, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really care.

Beacuase Lost was years and years of my teenagehood. It was summers of rewatch-marathons. It was sitting down with my family every week concocting theories and staying up until 4 AM biting on nails. It was watching these broken characters find themselves and grow from stereotypes into more. No show before or after–Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones–has gripped me to a frenzy like Lost had. And you can’t wipe those memories away. In this case, the journey does triumph over destination.

I used to feel guilty whenever I had to defend the show to people violently proclaiming it as the worst in the history of television.

Well, fuck that.

Love what you love. And in the words of the McElroy brothers, don’t yuck someone’s yum.

~*~*~

And there you have it. Feel free to tell me some of your favourite SFF works and if any of the entries on my list correspond with yours! We can geek out together.

The Almost-But-Not-Quite: Alice Isn’t Dead (podcast), The Adventure Zone (podcast), Persona 5 (Video Game), The Last of Us (Video Game), Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Video Game), Magical Girl Madoka Magica (Anime), Cowboy Bebop (Anime), Penny Dreadful (TV Show), The Lord of the Rings (Film)