The Tolkien era of Fantasy had brought us villains who were evil for the sake of evil. Their motives were pretty much they wanted to destroy the world because they were evil and nothing more was really known about these antagonists. That was the point, they represented the force of evil more than being individual characters with motives. In a few stories this works, but now there is a call for more depth to the villains of the stories. Generally, now there are antagonists with motives and backstories, and just like reality these people tend to not see themselves as evil but as saviors.
History is rife with horrible rulers of both nations and organizations. Some of these people were like Sauron who simply wanted to dominate others without sympathy or empathy for anyone else. Others though were more like Darth Vader, horrible people who saw themselves as protectors or necessary such as Valad The Impaler.
How often do we do things that are wrong and justify it in our minds? Taking that line of thought further, how often do we glorify our ideological positions while demonizing the “other” side? Sure we may not be killing anyone or desiring to, but isn’t that a similar train of thought that these evil people in history and fiction acted on? I’m not saying everyone who dug in their heels and stood up for their convictions is akin to a villain, but just that it is easy to continue down the rabbit trail and become so blinded by ideology empathy no longer remains. This is especially common in political spheres from 2015 to present in America.
Certainly, there are things we all disagree with. That is okay, in fact it is necessary for anyone who has a spec of critical thinking and morality. With the advent of the internet it is becoming easier to live in an echo chamber and grow angrier at those who are outside of your thought circle. Hope is only found in those who agree with you and me, while despair and the end of the world comes in the form of those that dare think differently. To me, it looks like there is less nuance in our culture than there was even ten years ago. People are ready to sever ties with friends and even family because of differing viewpoints because their beliefs are “dangerous.” With this mentality, called Tribalism, which I addressed in previous blogs, it is only opening the door for a real evil to rise to power. As freedoms erode the people will cheer that person on because “their” person was in power, not the “other” side. Of course, the opposite group will do everything they can to oppose the person in power, but perhaps it won’t be enough. This is hypothetical, and not a subtle dig at the current president or any before him. I know that some already view him in this light, but that isn’t what I am referencing. In an environment where people are looking to be offended or read into their own bias, I feel that is necessary to state.
Fiction is meant to teach us. To help us ponder our own actions as well as the happenings within our own culture. Let us actually implement the lessons from history and fiction, lest we create a monstrous world we cannot undo.
Do you love Urban Fantasy but grew tired of the overused tropes of love triangles and angst-filled teens? You can download it on Amazon here.
Unlike most who read this, I went in completely blind. I never listened to the podcasts before reading this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect other than the subject material. I saw previews for the Amazon Prime series and decided to buy the book on a whim when I saw it in the bookstore.
This subject matter is something that has always fascinated me, especially once I had experiences of my own with the unknown. I chew up material like this constantly, in the form of TV shows like A Haunting. Therefore, many of the stories within the book were familiar to me. The tale of Robert the Doll is one example of the stories found within its pages. Lore tends to capitalize on paranormal stories that have been told from dozens of other sources before. Even those who don’t read or watch paranormal documentaries have probably heard at least half of the accounts. While the material is still interesting, the lack of personal stories that were uncommon was a bit of a disappointment to me. However, that wasn’t something completely unexpected, nor did it spoil the read for me.
Since the paranormal and supernatural are sensitive topics that some people not only disagree with, it angers them, I appreciate it when the channel in which the tales are told remain neutral and allow the audience to form their own opinions. I don’t like it when the author or narrator gives their opinion or tries to explain the event. I’m more than capable of doing that myself. This was something Aaron Mahnke did throughout the book which drove me nuts. Look, I know that not everyone who claims to have a paranormal experience, actually experienced what they believed took place. I’m more than capable of looking into things myself and seeing possibilities the claims might be debunked. Mahnke’s explanations and attempts at debunking some of the claims were distracting and annoying.
Overall I found the book interesting and entertaining. Despite the lack of new content, there were a handful of fresh tales that I hadn’t known about before. If you like reading about true stories of the paranormal I would recommend this book, despite its flaws. Overall, I give it a 3.5/5.
I have written about avoiding clichés, and even pointing out clichés that aren’t discussed often. Something else came to my attention recently. Most stories have clichés, in fact I cannot think of a single book, movie, or TV show that completely avoids clichés. Perhaps there is something out there that doesn’t utilize an overused trope in its story, but I do not believe I encountered one.
The issue is how often do clichés appear and how they are utilized. There are common threads that bind genres together, obviously, that is what makes them genres. Yet, when something like a magical weapon that must be found, or destroyed in order to destroy the big bad is used, we automatically think of Tolkien. In fact, that cliché is so overused in the fantasy genre that a story guilty of using this type of plot will be accused of being a Lord of the Rings rip-off. However, lesser-used clichés, like a character finding what he needs in the middle of the book will be less obnoxious and more forgivable.
Stories that have noticeably less clichés and strive to be their own tale, instead of a repackage of their inspiration are what authors strive for. In the search for originality, it is easy to loop back around into the territory of cliché once again. Us writers should always intend to avoid things that are over used, but sometimes it is inevitable. Just like in the real world, things repeat. It is simply important to know when and where to use them and to be careful.
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