The Thoushallnots of Fantasy

Alas, alack, my computer is currently the digital equivalent of strapped to the gurney, saline IV in its USB slot, power cord smelling faintly of bitter almonds. So even though I am back in Kennebunkport, the distractions of campus and forge far removed, my interblags access is limited to Rickrolling myself in the shower.

I plan on cracking the chest of this dear laptop of mine as soon as I am back to the Shire (when I will again have access to a soldering iron) (which I’m told is the pasocon otaku‘s equivalent to the 10-blade). Anyone who wants to scrub in on the surgery, you’re more’n welcome to join me.

For the nonce, here’s something typed on my mother’s Vista laptop (which cannot recognize its own wireless card); flashdrived to girlfriend’s pintsize netbook (which has no wireless card at all); USBd to her iPhone; uploaded therefrom. If this isn’t the most perfect illustration of the Post-Gatesian Clusterfuck*, I can’t think what is.

But my glossolalia will not be denied! So expect more to come.


* WikiPedia article forthcoming.**



It is difficult to reconcile a Manifest approach to literature with an enjoyment of speculative fiction. This is particularly true when dealing with works of fantasy.

Science fiction might at least serve as a predictive utility, a place wherein creativity might be indulged, and, moreover, its ramafications explored. Fantasy is at best rearlooking, and useful as it brings new analysis to the past, or to situations reminiscent thereof, that they might then be applied to the present. At worst, and seemingly at its most ubiquitous, it is designed with special care to be as far removed from the everyday as can be imagined by the mind of man – thus having its purpose to be as useless to a reader with Manifest designs as can be accomplished.

As a reader of fantasies, I have rarely encountered a work which has much application to the world in which I live and the life that I lead. Occasionally do they distract; sometimes do they inspire; rarely do they offer much themselves.

As a writer of a work of fantasy, not the least as one whose sole audience might very well be himself, I have endeavored to produce that which I would like to have such an effect: in inspiration at least, and hopefully beyond, in direct influence upon my interactions with the world.

Towards this end I have established guidelines for myself in the writing of fantasy. As I seek to write that which I hope to find to read, these are also my desires from works of fantasy in general. In the manner of the Commandments, I shall put them in the negative; the positive space left behind can be the light in which Manifest authors can play

1. No Good, no Evil, no order, no chaos, no concrete manifestations of absolutes, nor any villain who is a villain in his own eyes

As we are beyond such things in the modern world, so too are we to go beyond them in our fantasies. Sauron, Voldemort, and every JRPG antagonist: VETO.

2. No prophecy, no destiny, no true prince plotting, nor like moral justification to come from fulfillment of some stated plot which we are guaranteed is of absolute Right

Since they bring the guiding hand of the author to their story in a way that no guiding hand visits our lives, we cannot rely on them. The Sword that was Broken, the Song of Ice and Fire, and Sybil Trelawney: VETO.

3. No deities, no immortals, no omnipotents, omniscients, nor any other characters with powers which are orders of magnitude in excess of that of mortal man

These are unlikely to accost us in our daily lives – and if they did, would obliterate the entirety of the Manifest philosophy (to say nothing of the Enlightenment). Thus Morgoth, Cthulhu, Randall Flagg, and all their pantheon: VETO.

4. No Deus Ex Machina, nor reliance on miracles, thaumaturgy, or other forms of supernatural Intercession

It cannot be counted on, it cannot be prepared for, and thus there is no purpose in reading for it. The Great Eagles, Dumbledore’s Train Station, all such sloppy writing: VETO.

5. No time travel, time manipulation, in any direction; unless they be the beginning of the plot, rather than an aid thereto

By providing characters the opportunity to correct their mistakes, the usefulness of our observing their actions is utterly negated. So time machines, time ships, and above all time-tuners: VETO

6. No clearly defined magical mechanic, nor systamatization of the rules of spellcraft and casting

For to introduce such things is to take a great and magical mystery and turn it into a simple computer game; to make of Life nothing more than a set-piece battle. Thus Expelliarmus, and all its sorts: VETO

7. No permanent definition of terms, including the abuse of capitolization, definite articles, genatives, and other absolute explicatives

For to reduce the complexity of the world to a series of proscribed actors and artifacts is to make so simple a story that it has no bearing upon the infinite complexity of the real world. Thus Glamdring the Foe-Hammer, The Sword of the Morning, the Sword of Truth, and every other high-rent Sword of Hitting +3: VETO

8. No use of an Epic Voice, no useless archaicism, nor ever a confusion of stylistic embellishment with substantive accomplishment

For a character must be adjudged Epic in their actions and accomplishments by the readers, not by the haughtiness of the words they use (nor the light which shines behind their heads as they speak). ANy other is a veneration, not of substance, but of Symbol, which is of little value. cf. “From Elfland to Poughkeepsie,” by Madeleine l’Engle – all other meaningless archaicism and desperate Epic-ness: VETO

9. No purposeless dogmatism, nor establishment of artificially restrictive taboo simply that they may be progressively flouted

It has taken enlightened humanity its entire lifespan to move beyond such simplicities. To take the power and freedom that our progress has earned us, and do nothing but yearn for the days of repression, is to use fantasy, not as new exploration, but as bland escapism, and the worst sort of surrogate activity. Thus Mudbloods, absolute primogeniture, bigotry, et al: VETO

10. No absolute racialism, or speciation dictating the nature of a person’s character or abilities

To call all of one race smart, and all of another magical, is as impractical as to cast such judgments upon a given population of humans. Thus strong Ogres, magical Elves, warring Vampies and Werewolves, and all such desperate attempts for the good old days of chauvenism and racism: VETO


~ by davekov on 21 December 2009.

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