Wednesday, April 18, 2007

If we stick with magic, we stick with chamberpots.

I just finished Avatar: The Last Airbender (Wii flavor, of course). It was a pretty easy game, even for my limited gaming skills. Probably too easy--basically accessible and beatable for as many age groups that might pick it up. The story was pretty good, obviously fitting in the series storyline, with plenty of "Oh I know that guy" and "Those gawd-darn-hog-monkey" moments, plus all the same cast and voices, and the cell-shading looks pretty good (it's a good way to overcome tech limitations and imo overcome uncanny valley issues the naturalistic route of animation causes).

Anyway, the villain of the story creates these (pollution spewing) machines to fight the Fire Nation (the big bad of the series), but get people hurt, which is what you end up needing putting a stop to. Tech gone to far and overreaching and all that. Now, the Fire people are already the industrialists of this fantasy world, but despite industry = bad notion being a peeve of mine, I'm alright with it, because I think the series left enough wiggle room to consider the villains not the only possible representatives of these modes of thought. Game, not so much. By the end it was Stars Wars at the end. The villain, who represents the "thinkers" (their word, not mine), basically gives a rant and promises to kill everyone of the old regime. Why always the idyllic, live with magic balance of nature business foofaraa? Why always a genetic aristocracy? Or aristocracy in general?*

I'm not saying I want the equally inexplicable science/progress oriented utopia that is Star Trek, but why is the norm in fantasy always robber barons? Samurai 7 basically had mecha beaten by swords. Mind you, they trained the villagers to arm themselves with giant ballista, but that's still crossbows vs. tanks, and that only works in Civilization. Lord of the Rings had the righteous elves fleeing miscegenation, and the Incredibles had the self-made man as the villain. It's not like the guy was Dr. Frankenstein...oh wait he was. Heh.

This whole post is startlingly unfocused, but I'd really like to end it. So I'd like to know, urban landscapes in fiction manage capture some sort of complexity of it, why does it seem that pastorals are always nostalgic? Is that just how we write now?** I imagine those magical societies might invent indoor plumbing with a little more faith in industry, myself.

* Maybe China Mieville, with a dash of Marxism to go with the populism in fantasy. Just can't shake the Homeric mode, can we?
** How about, set in medieval times, MacGyver and the A-Team beat robbers and build windmills for peasants?

1 comment:

HoBs said...

http://daily.stanford.edu/article/2005/1/14/theSupermanMyth

I have already done my ranting against fantasy where I rant against Harry Potter the Incredibles and Ayn Rand (a rant that duvall is of course quite familiar with). (see above)

The point I thought you were going to make though (from the title) is that almost no fantasy takes magic's impact on society to its logical end. Somehow, you have this crazy new capability (magic) and yet people still stay stuck in a feudal agrarian absolutist hereditary monarchy.

Why not magical indoor plumbing and telephones? Why not magical tv and internet?

And actually, I'm not saying magic should lead to the same world as technology has, but it should lead to something besides what Europe was like 1000 years ago.