So a couple of days ago I started building out a D&D Campaign – the first part can be found here. I want to try and write on it and add in more things a couple of times a week at least, might be more […]
When I was writing about fantasy last, see the Not Your Normal Fantasy article, I touched on a concept that I really didn’t have time to flesh out. That what the difference between high and low magic fantasy settings are. Let’s jump into the top […]
We all know fantasy pretty well, at least I’m assuming that we do. We’ve seen and/or read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. We might have read the Shanara Chronicles, Wheel of Time, Mistborn, or so many other epic fantasy series or watched shows like Merlin, Game of Thrones or Grimm. And there are certain things that we generally expect from fantasy, but what happens when fantasy series aren’t the norm, and why aren’t there more of them?
I think the biggest reason that there aren’t more of them is because publishers and writers want something that feels familiar. A writer can feel like it’s their own unique twist on something that is familiar and safe, and a publisher can look and see how well things have sold. Now there is plenty of variety within the standard epic fantasy that we often think of and that we see published most often, but there’s always some medieval feel to it that feels normal and allows us to jump into a world quickly and pick up the edge cases about the world that are different from others.
What are some of the tropes of fantasy that are used often?
While it’s less the case now, it often feels like fantasy is the clear good versus evil. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are both clear examples of this where there is clearly a good side and there is an evil side, and there really isn’t ground in between. Sometimes you really want that delineation, but fantasy can lean too much so into the good versus evil and it simply being that and nothing more.
Also there is the medieval feel, or what we attribute to a medieval feel. There are going to be knights most likely, though they might be called something else, a king, either good striving against the evil forces coming to the lands or evil keeping the people oppressed so a rebellion must rise up and there’s not all that much in between. Lots of castles, sprawling forests, and generally a lot of what you’d expect from Robin Hood shows up in your standard epic fantasy. Even in urban fantasy, there is often some leftover feel of the medieval period. In the Dresden Files, the wizarding council holds old traditions, in Harry Potter, Hogwarts is literally a giant castle.
Finally, while it’s not in all fantasy, there is very often some form of magic. This is often where fantasy diverges the most as different people use different things for magic. It could be that the magic comes from the divine, it could be that magic is steeped heavily in ritual and must be done at ritual locations, or it could be a quicker and dirtier magic that can be done on the fly. Magic can be fine and precise wielded like a scalpel or it can be swung around like a club, bludgeoning everything. So there’s plenty of leeway for magic, but it is something that is commonly found in fantasy.
That’s epic fantasy, is all fantasy like that or are there different types of fantasy?
While that might be the type that people think of when they think of fantasy thanks to Lord of the Rings, it certainly isn’t the only type of fantasy out there. There’s paranormal fantasy, urban fantasy, low fantasy, dark fantasy, or even steampunk would qualify as a different type of fantasy. Probably the biggest growing type of fantasy falls into that area of urban fantasy. The Dresden Files series is one of the biggest or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman are two of the better known. But TV shows like Grimm also fall into that Urban Fantasy sub-genre of fantasy.
There are a few that I really want to call out, though, the first being Urban Fantasy. This is one of my favorite genres of fantasy as taking a modern world and putting magic not just into the world as a whole, but a densely populated area and really focusing the story down into that world can be done so well. In all of Neverwhere, Grimm, and The Dresden Files, there’s a grittier side of the world that you don’t a lot in fantasy. That grittier side of things is what sets it apart from contemporary fantasy which would qualify as something like Harry Potter where it’s in a modern setting, but doesn’t deal as directly with the modern nature of the world.
Another one can either be modern or not, but it’s a non-standard medieval fantasy. That’s a long name, but basically, it’s looking at fantasy that really goes outside of the normal sword and sorcery that you can see and takes us to another world or part of our world than London or the medieval European equivalent. An example of this is the Daughter of Smoke and Bones trilogy. Those books are set in Prague, so different location than normal, but they also deal with a very different subset fantasy with how they talk about a number of fantasy tropes, which you can see from above, and the creatures that you see. You don’t really have your standard goblins, trolls, and faeries. It’s often a bit jarring not to have your standard fantasy tropes, but it’s also refreshing to see fantasy step away from it’s roots and branch out into new areas.
Finally is a sub genre of fantasy that I want more from, and that’s the Weird West. But this can also fall somewhat into historical fantasy as well, so I’ll use that genre so I can talk about more things. But in the Weird West genre, you’re getting something that we’re familiar with, because of westerns, and adding in some mix of magic, steampunk or advanced technology, aliens, or monsters. The movie, Wild Wild West is an example of what Weird West can be. But when you expand it to look at other parts of history, you see it around WWI and WWII, even something like Wonder Woman which falls under the umbrella of Superheroes, but the movie was as much an alternative history fantasy movie as it was a superhero movie because of Wonder Woman’s backstory and Ares being a Greek god.
Now, there’s so much more you can go with into fantasy. And a lot of what I’ve talked about with world building before for RPG’s or just in writing in general you can pull into fantasy as well and use it to help shape your thoughts around fantasy. I’m going to be doing a follow up article soon on magic and high, medium, and low magic as well as different ways of using magic that I touched on here in this post.
But I’ll leave you with the question, what are some of your favorite genres inside fantasy, and some of your favorite books or TV shows or movies in that genre?
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Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons. Von’thre takes advantage of the opportunity ahead of him to gain some more knowledge, because that is the smart and safe thing to do. If you have questions for Nerdologists: Dungeons and Flagons emails them to […]
Let’s start by what I mean by the title “Culling the Nerd“. It sounds ominous, but I don’t mean actually culling nerds out of your life, I’m talking tips, tricks, strategies for decluttering your nerd life when your collections grow to a hoard, and you have things that you haven’t used for a long time. I’m going to be talking about board games a lot because that’s what I’m going through right now as I try and sort and cull.
Why Might You Want to Cull?
This is a tough question, and for each person it’s going to be different. The common reason is that you’re running out of room. You have a collection of something, movies, board games, RPG books, manga, art supplies, etc that you have loved and collected for a long time, but now they are taking up too much room. You haven’t used them in a while or you have another nerdy hobby you’re more focused on now. That is a good time to clear out some things from that collection. It might also be that it’s just taking up space, you have the space to store it, but you never use it or look at it anymore. For that reason you might look to free up the space just so you have more space available. Or, maybe you have a collection that has some value, for example you collect Magic: The Gathering cards for a while but aren’t playing anymore, maybe you look to move them so that you can get some funds for your current collection. That’s a great reason to cull some of the nerd clutter out of your life.
How Do You Cull?
Another tough question, how can you be brutal enough to get rid of some things that have given you joy in the past? It’s tough, going through board games, I got rid of 16 different games and it’s tough to get rid of some of the games. For some of them, it was the fact that I haven’t gotten them to the table either at all or in a long time. I got rid of the game Power Grid, which is a fun game that I have good memories playing, but it hasn’t made it to the table in a long time, and looking forward, I don’t know that it ever will again. I have other games that I prefer to play now, and if I really want to play it again, I can probably find someone who has a copy or find it on a game shelf at a game shop. I will say, you have to be brutal at times when culling and sometimes you need to do a second pass. When you go through something you haven’t seen in a while, you open up a box or find something that you’ve forgotten about and the memories come flooding back. You remember the good times you had with something and all of a sudden, something you haven’t looked at in years seems to have value to you again. Ask yourself this when that happens, if you put it back into the box or onto the shelf, is it just going to sit there again for a year? If the answer is yes, you maybe should cull it. And if you can’t quite bring yourself to do it now, set it aside, and when you are done going through once, come back to the maybe pile and go through it again. Especially if this going through the maybe pile is a day or two later, you might find that you are now ready to let go of things since you have had your reminiscing and now you can now move on from it.
Where Can it Go?
This is something that can maybe help you get rid of more. Is there a spot that you can donate it to where people will enjoy it? Or a place where you can sell it and pass on what you’ve enjoyed to someone else. In my case with the board games, I’m going to see if one of the breweries that I like is interested in the games. They have a game shelf that I could help refill for them as games at breweries end up missing pieces or getting beer spilled on them. But maybe that isn’t your scene or you have comic books you want to donate. Is there a Children’s Hospital that you could give them to, or somewhere that can donate them to people who would want them. Or, you can sell yourself.
The piece of advice I have to give when selling them yourself is that the person the comic book or movie or board game is most valuable to is you. If a game cost you $100 and you’ve played it twice and enjoyed it but won’t play it anymore for whatever reason, $80 seems like a reasonable price plus shipping to someone who is out of town. It’s going to run them $100 after shipping (shipping board games is expensive). I’d love to say that you’ll be able to get that value, but you likely won’t and as much as it might hurt, you might need to sell your memory for less than it seems worth. Spend time on Amazon and eBay figuring out the actual cost of an item used and if you are just going to list it locally on Craigslist or Facebook group, go slightly cheaper, even if it seems too cheap to you. These are things you determined you don’t need anymore and getting something for them is better than nothing, especially if you’re selling something so you can get money for your next nerdy hobby. Finally, opposite of that, there can be things that have a certain value to you and anything less won’t do. It might be because they are rare and worth that much or it might be that anything less than a certain amount isn’t worth losing the memory. However, that is a special case, don’t do that all the time.
I’ve Tried to Cull, but I Just Can’t Do It
It is tough, sometimes when looking at something you haven’t touched in years, you still can’t get rid of it. I’m not an expert on hoarding or I’m not going to tell you that you’re a hoarder. If you are, hopefully you can find someone to help you with that. But if it’s just tough to get rid of your old action figures that are sitting in a box in the basement, recruit some help. Have someone go through it with you and ask you a second time if you really need it. Or someone who can listen to your story about the game one last time and help you be tougher about getting rid of things. This part I don’t have much advice about because it’s something that is tough and personal for a lot of people. I don’t want to belittle what you’ve gone through with your hobby and the memories you have with them. It might help to also remember that those memories are yours even if you don’t have the action figure or board game or movie anymore. While they might work as a trigger for the memory, the memory itself will always be yours no matter if you have the item or not. Finally, it might help to remember you don’t need to do all of this at once. If you have six boxes of comic books that you want to go through, go through one of them and start there. You don’t have to go through all of them at once, because that loss can seem like a lot, but doing a little at a time and moving forward on it that way can help a lot to slowly clear out the parts of the collection that don’t mean as much anymore.
Hopefully these are some helpful suggestions. It’s tough, and I’m a pragmatic person so for me, culling things is easier than a lot of people, and it’s still tough for me. That’s why, with the board games, I want to give them away somewhere that I know people will enjoy them. Instead of just giving them away randomly to a Savers, I want to put them somewhere that I know where they are going, but also with the hope that they’ll be able to get people into board gaming and be there for a lot of people.
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