I’ve been re-watching Being Human, and marvelling at how consistently good it was before it decided the vampires had to take over the world. Well, that subplot’s right there in the first season so perhaps that’s unfair, but I have to say most writing involving the handsome blood-drinking undead works better for me when it doesn’t lean towards plotlines of world domination. Seriously, why are fictional vampires so intent on ruling the planet and implementing a system that glaringly does not work?
Of course, many a narrative dutifully points this out, and the logistics bring up all sorts of lovely philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and evolution and morals, but the plot is still there to be talked about. I suppose it’s a natural direction to take your story in if you’ve got vampires running about, because let’s face it, living for x hundred years in style (because vampires are more fun when they’re stylish) would quite conceivably give you a bit of an ego and air of invincibility. Why not move up in the world, stop skulking in the shadows? Stage a vampire coup and make them the ruling class. Nothing could go wrong there. Continue reading →
This is not a post musing in a mutter about whether Hollywood is running out of ideas since half the new cinema releases these days are book adaptations, but instead looking at the trend towards the young adult audience within those adaptations. Just this year we’ve had Beautiful Creatures,The Host, City of Bones and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, with many more in the works and peeping over the developmental horizon. It’s a pretty interesting trend considering before a few years ago movies based on teen books, much less books for teen girls, weren’t so much A Thing, but now the genre is practically booming.
Why is this? Well, much as everyone has mercifully stopped talking about Twilight I think it’s worth a mention here—Harry Potter too, for being the first to take on the ambitious project of adapting an entire series of seven books (that turned into eight movies), which was a ridiculous feat when it first came out, but now every other series seems intent on following suit. But Twilight stood out as being the first major adaptation of a YA series geared specifically towards girls (not that guys can’t enjoy the saga too, of course… Bella’s so wonderfully bland that inserting yourself into her shell is really rather gender neutral), going on to draw legions of devoted and new fans, casually ruin Robert Pattinson’s life and make squillions of dollars. And while they were at it, prove that adaptations of YA novels made for and led by teenaged girls can be successful, which opened the doors for a flood of new productions.
Which is pretty awesome, because if there’s one thing this little everyman media critic never turns down it’s mainstream fiction with strong female characters, especially those of the coming of age variety which, classically, is a pretty male-dominated field. It’s also interesting to note that a lot of these adaptations are of urban fantasy series, which makes sense because they contain a lot of visual splendour and action that would translate well to the screen. It’s opening up the field for new talent and injecting imagination into the stream of blockbuster releases. It’s great, but is it entirely a good thing? Well, let me bring out my scales. Continue reading →
The most terrifying mythological monsters are the ones that want to sleep with you.
Look at mermaids, for example—supposedly dugongs mistaken for beautiful topless women (how far away/homesick/salt-drunk do you need to be to mix those up? I digress) by ancient sailors, the stars of myths and horror stories about sailors wrecking their ships or drowning having been distracted and seduced by the sea ladies’ beauty. It certainly made for a good cautionary tale: scurvy-induced hallucination or not, travelling men should be wary of any strange, ethereal women they come across. They’ll seduce you with their sweet songs and drag you under the sea to drown, or maybe crash your ship for good measure. And they’ll take all your sea-biscuits when they dump you. Wicked wanton creatures! Wanderers beware!
Sirens, mermaids and other watery seducers appear in the legends of all cultures with any coastal connection, and of course they have equally dangerous, gorgeous cousins extending into all kinds of supernatural creatures: handsome and lustrous vampires, succubi and incubi, enchanters and enchantresses and a whole parade of demonic legions set on leading the unwary to ruin via their undergarments.
Lookin’ fine, fishy ladies
It’s easy to see where this mythological trope comes from. Much in the same way that fairy tales teach children good morals and life lessons (and terrify them into compliance), these myths were part of establishing a moral and safety-conscious compass: in the case of the sirens, don’t get distracted by sexy ladies when you’re missing your wife on long journeys, because you’ll end up underwater. In the case of vampires, don’t talk to strange men, because they might bite you and drink your blood. It’s less daunting, in a way, than straight-up saying ‘don’t have affairs with women you meet while at sea because you’ll end up with terrible guilt and illegitimate foreign children’ and ‘don’t talk to strange men because they may overpower and sexually assault you’. By creating veiled imagery, the warning is established. Continue reading →
Here’s the question for this week, gang, and it makes me tear out my hair that I should even have to ask it, but: why do we keep romanticising creepiness and abuse?
There is nothing fun about being stalked. Anyone who has had even a breath of the experience can tell you that. We are taught to fear this, taught to be wary of our surroundings, taught to travel in groups at night and be altogether afraid of the wholly negative species that is creepy men. And yet we are also taught, through the media and fiction, that said creepers are a thing we should idolise.
I try not to mention Twilight every time I find a gripe about young adults and the media, but it just seems to be the base example for so many things that are wrong, wrong and wrong with a garnish of wrong. We all know the story to death by now, surely, but if you don’t, let me fill you in on one of the key beginning points of our hero and heroine’s glorious relationship: Edward breaks into Bella’s house and watches her sleep.
His major source of angst throughout the series is also the fact that Bella smells oh so tasty, and he must control his bloodlust when he’s around her. Aww, isn’t that sweet? He’s a biological-fluid-drinking immortal monster, but he’ll restrain his primal urges because he loves her. Admirable on one level, a metaphor for how all men just want to bang every woman they see and those that resist the urge are gentlemen on another, and overall, the basic and rather overlooked principle that he wants to kill and eat his girlfriend.
Over the years that would fit into the Young Adult section of the bookshelf of my life, I received most of my drama from my platonic relationships. Friendships blooming, crashing, tearing themselves apart from within and being hacked to pieces by outside forces formed the basis of the emotional plot of my pre-teen and adolescent years, much more so, in any case, than the stories created by crushes and romantic entanglements. I have little doubt that this is true for a lot of people, too—which is why I find it strange that so many stories aimed at the YA market choose to completely avoid friendship as a source material.
Most books have a romantic element, this much is true—the addition of a love story intertwined with (or shoehorned into) whatever other plot that is going on adds a more human and emotional element to the story, giving the readers more opportunity to empathise with the characters at hand and add the wonder of how their relationship is going to end up to their emotional hook to the story.
Now, this is all well and good on its own, but there seems to be a recurring trend where these love stories are the only relationship-based plotlines for the main characters. Which is odd. How many people can say that their boyfriend or girlfriend is the only major relationship in their life? What about their families, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters? There’s plenty of room for growth and plot there. And most prominently, what about their friends? Continue reading →
Sometimes books are a niche interest, but there are some that everyone has heard of: and at the moment those that have achieved this success of world-renown-ment are Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight… which funnily enough are all series aimed at the young adult market.
Some may ponder this most academically: why have these teen books become so hugely successful? Some others may fling the obvious answer back at them: they are engrossing stories that have captured the attention and imagination of an audience, an audience that extends well beyond the interest in struggles of teenagers stuck in fantasy or sci-fi settings.
There is in fact a large market for adolescent literature because, contrary to some belief, teenagers aren’t all spending their time popping shots and getting freaky and doing totally radical ollies in the skate park and they do read. And when they do read, they seek out stories that they can see themselves reflected in and relate to.
It’s an epidemic. When people have a series on their hands dealing with great science fiction-y or supernatural drama, something clicks somewhere in their minds that they have to have some human-based drama to balance it out.
This is good.
Sideplots are excellent ways to develop characters and show the human side of all the ruckus going on, be it an alien invasion, fight for the freedom of a dystopian world, vampire war or rise of demonic forces.
And then they think, how about a love triangle?
This is less good.
This is not an attack on all love triangles in fiction, but merely me falling to my knees and crying to the sky Why? Why are they the automatic go-to plot element used to give characters a story of their own?Can’t we think of other ways to develop characters and add extra drama without having the heroine (and it’s usually a heroine) caught between two babes? Continue reading →
You’d think fantasy and science fiction would be the two most widely different genres on the planet, but weirdly enough you’d be wrong. They kind of have a Tiger and Dragon thing going on, like those two characters that bicker all the time but everyone knows it’s really because they’re secretly uncomfortable with how similar they are beneath the surface (and someone somewhere is utterly convinced that it’s just repressed sexual tension).
Riddle me this: one of the great staples of fantasy is dragons, right? You can’t have an epic fantasy without them. Not even if you’re a hardcore deconstruction like A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, because even then they appear sitting on naked people.
So you have dragons moseying around your fictional world, breathing fire and stealing maidens or providing cryptic wisdom, or whatever you wish, and so it is definitely a fantasy. But what if it turns out that dragons are aliens, or the highly evolved, mutated form of the common iguana?
No, the title is NOT a sly, shippy Madoka reference
Can’t we just let characters enjoy their relationship without having to have it be The Greatest Love in the Universe?
People are obsessed with the concept of True Love. It’s a hangover from the reign of fairy tales, I suppose, where that was the basis and endgame of all things (well, in the less horrifying more modern versions, anyway). But, like all hangovers, it’s starting to stink up the place and give fiction a bit of a stale air.
I’m mostly talking about teen fiction, which has taken to promoting the idea that young love is RIGHT AND TRUE AND DEFIES ALL ODDS and is sweet when done well, but when not handled gracefully plunges the characters and their romance into Special Snowflake territory.
Special Snowflake(n): someone who believes, or is expressed to be by their author or creator, even more unique than every other infinitely unique human being on the planet, much like a snowflake in a blizzard wherein every flake has a distinctive shape, but still shouts that they are the most distinctive as they whirl towards earth and annoy the rest of their frozen-water buddies.