Top 5 Wednesday – Topics I’d Like to See Explored More in Fantasy

“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 a freebie so I ended up making my own prompt: topics I’d like to see explored more in fantasy.

 

1. MENTAL HEALTH

Senua

From Ninja Theory’s game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

I can’t believe we don’t see mental health explored in fantasy more often. The genre is prime ground for it, especially in high fantasy where things like disease, war, imposed prophecies, and tyrants are commonplace.

I’d like to see princesses cancelling afternoon tea parties at the last minute out of anxiety; captains giving smiles and encouragement to their soldiers during the day and then later breaking down in the privacy of their room; Chosen Ones sobbing and saying, “I can’t do this.”

I know some people say they read fantasy to escape such heavy topics, and that’s a totally fair point. But for me, there’s something about a fantasy setting that helps me face those issues without getting too triggered. And in the case of stories like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, where the protagonist’s dark thoughts are given physical form, there’s something unbelievably empowering about seeing someone face down their demons with a sword and a snarl.

 

2. PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS

inkheart

Mo and Meggie Folchart from Inkheart

I realize the “orphan protagonist” trope is a great way to add angst and loneliness to a character. But you can still get all that and more if the parent is alive, because a parent-child relationship is complex and, potentially, just as anxiety-inducing as being an orphan. You can explore all the ways that parents can be terrible and the ways they can be amazing and everything in between. And all in the complication of a fantasy setting.

“Uh but aren’t, like, 90% of your WIP protagonists orphans–?”

MOVING ON!

 

3. The Fallible Hero

This goes for pretty much all genres, but since fantasy is most often guilty of flaunting powerful, perfect protagonists, I’m adding it to the list.

Essentially, I want to see protagonists who fuck up. And I don’t mean characters who forget to pack their heirloom sword on the eve of a battle, or the ones who accidentally serve garlic bread to a vampire on a first date (there are so many conflicting vampire tropes out there–who knows which ones are actually true?) I want characters to make mistakes that have significant, lasting consequences for both character development and plot–characters who abuse their power, give into a villain’s temptation, or hurl cruel words to a loved one out of anger or jealousy.

Togashi Yoshihiro’s Hunter x Hunter does this brilliantly. It shows time and time again that being a powerful fantasy protagonist doesn’t make you immune to falling; it actually means you crash harder. And why wouldn’t you want to see that explored?

 

4. Intimate Friendships

Frodo and Sam

This is again something I would like to see in all genres, but with fantasy, there’s the added benefit of the phrase, “I will walk to hell and back for you,” being very literal. Romance in fantasy is nice, but nothing gets me going like depictions of friendships that stick a middle finger at our society’s rule book for platonic relationships (“Clasping hands at a perpendicular angle is a-okay for friends, but once you start interlacing those fingers, you’re moving into romantic territory, so watch out! And kissing is a definite no-no.”)

I could go into a rant about the arbitrary lines that society draws for various relationships and how they hinder emotional development and foster fear of intimacy. But I’ll abstain. Just please give us more Frodo and Sam, writers.

 

5. Protagonists With “Feminine” Occupations

I kind of mentioned this in my post about “Strong Female Protagonists.” Like, I love rogues–they’re my second favourite RPG class–but I’m a little tired of seeing female characters in high fantasy trotting about in assassin/thief gear. The same goes for the male characters. I want to read about men who are midwives or nurses and young girls in training to be ladies-in-waiting. Rowenna Miller’s Torn features a female protagonist who happens to be a seamstress, and it annoys me how that’s considered uncommon.

flourish

What are some things you would like to see more of in fantasy? And throw me recommendations for books that feature any of these 5 topics!

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)