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 – 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.

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