The Wyrding Way

Audio Edition Coming Soon!

 

Wyrd: a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny.

Wikipedia

 

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Anglo-Saxon symbol for “wyrd”

Few lines make my hackles rise more than hearing, “It is your destiny,” particularly if it is said by some old guy in a black robe. I have some serious issues with the concepts of prophecy, destiny, fate, and Chosen Ones. From a practical standpoint, they are overused tropes and cliches in works of fantasy. Predestination is a lazy cock-and-bull story made to justify plot threads or character motivations. But on a deeper level, the concept is actually rather disturbing. I’m a big believer in free will, so the idea of having everything I have done, am doing, or will do laid out for me with no ability to change it is both creepy and frightening.
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Inferior Origins

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Kira at the Gelfling Wall of Destiny (screenshot from The Dark Crystal)

Kira at the Wall of Destiny

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Who doesn’t love a good origin story?

Whenever I get into a fictional universe, be it books, movies, TV shows, or video games, I dig deep.  Those characters with shady or mysterious pasts are the most intriguing; we want to know how they became the person we know now.  If you’ve read (and enjoyed) The Symphony of Ages series by Elizabeth Haydon, you probably want to know Achmed’s full backstory more than anything else.  We get tantalizing hints, but no more.  Tolkien’s book The Silmarillion explores the history of the elves and Middle-Earth in almost excruciating detail.  People clamored so much for more stories about Drizzt Do’Urden that R.A. Salvatore gave them the drow ranger’s backstory in the form of The Dark Elf Trilogy.  Amazing RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age cover the history of their worlds, the aspects of the places explored there, and the characters you encounter.  And isn’t that what a lot of modern RPGs are all about?  Exploration?  How was this world created?  What happened before the story that we see?  A good origin story is a fascinating and rewarding journey.

Of course, the key word here is “good.”  Not knowing parts of a universe’s history or the origins of a character leads to all kinds of juicy speculation, head canon, and fan fiction.  Sometimes the creators even deign to answer those burning questions for us.  That’s fine and dandy, but there is a dark side to it.  No matter how much I may want to know, “What happened?!” a part of me is always a bit wary when official works drop in to fill the gaps.

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Cult and Tone-Twists

I’ve been reading a book called The Cult TV Book:  From Star Trek to Dexter, New Approaches to TV Outside the Box.  It’s a collection of scholarly essays on the phenomenon known as cult television, shows like Star TrekFireflyBuffy the Vampire SlayerBabylon 5, or Battlestar Galactica that gain a dedicated, and sometimes even massive, following of viewers who are deeply engaged in an ever-expanding and enriched reading of the universes, stories, characters, and themes contained within those shows.  I’m fascinated by books and articles like this, particularly when it pertains to media I like or hobbies I participate in.  Several of the articles so far have pointed out that the dedication of fans to these kinds of shows and their willingness to consume alternate media relating to those shows, such as websites, conventions, podcasts, fanfiction, and purchasing DVDs and other merchandise have impacted networks.  Television networks have begun shifting their focus from creating shows that are (usually) insipid enough to appeal to the greatest number of people to focusing on niche markets of smaller, but more dedicated, viewers on networks such as HBO.  The trend that once marginalized cult TV fans is now what helps TV networks make a profit as they design more and more shows to be more like original cult TV and tap into the love fans have for shows that reward attentive viewing.

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