The Human Connection

I enjoy fantasy. I love the visuals, that aesthetic and the escapism. But, most of all, the stories I love are those that show humanity at its best and worst. Fantasy allows a writer to extrapolate the real world to an extreme and explore the result.

Richard Morgan achieves this by setting his story, The Steel Remains, in a world where brutality is commonplace. The main characters don’t fight for their queen, country, empire, proletariat or anything else. Each has a deep trauma that drives their actions. Then take Master of Whitestorm by Janny Wurts. Magic plays a huge part in the story, but at its core it’s a tale of one man’s quest to make the world safe for himself and others. The fact that his quest is spawned from the entirely human desire for revenge, which, when sated, grows into obsession, makes it all the better.

Do you need a fantasy setting for that? Maybe not, but it makes it a lot more fun. So is it wish fulfilment then? I think so, to a degree. As I was growing up I found myself, time and again, failing to stand up for myself. Today I have a tendency towards confrontation and argument. Do I just want to feel like I’ve won something? It doesn’t really matter, but I think that’s the root of my attraction to heroic fantasy. The stories I enjoy the most revolve around someone standing up for something they believe in, regardless of the cost.

I think that’s one reason I dislike the stupid names that most fantasy authors feel the need to come up with. They detract from the humanity of the story and turn the characters into parodies. It takes a damned good author to make that work.