I have spent the last 2 hours debating posting my opinion on an issue that I am passionate about. Not because I worry about backlash on the internet. But because I fear what I might say in reaction to said backlash on the internet. So before I begin, I might delete this soon to be massive wall of text for my own sanity.
Still with me? All right. Let’s begin.
Lately I have been seeing increasingly higher complaints about entertainment. That it is hypersexualized for example. I see people adhering to the nostalgia viewpoint that stories of the past have and always will be superior to modern stories. I see people discuss on their blogs that fantasy and science fiction as writing forms are a complete waste of space and time. And recently again, I saw people pointing out our social obsession with Sociopaths and Serial Killers.
Personal Bias Warning:
Now before I continue, I want to point out some of my personal bias before I start tearing into what some of you reading this might hold dear. Right now its February. This is the most traumatic month of the month for me. And that reason happens on the 14th. The wonderful Hallmark Holiday of Valentines Day represents loneliness, murder, and death to me. This is not just because of the multiple school shootings that have effected those close to me or my connection to at least one of the killers given our shared autism condition. Actually, that covers most of why I hate it.
I have known a very lonely, bitter, and hate filled life. Valentines Day represents both everything that I feel lacking in as well as a representation of where and when my life went so horribly wrong. I won’t drown you in the details, but essentially, I hate romance, especially when its concerned with storytelling.
What Was I talking About again?
Anyway, let’s get back on track. I want to talk about what I believe to be the multiple culprits behind the devaluing of entertainment. I could make pot shots at Capitalism, or Humans being stupid, or our species sex obsession. And while all of those things are true and together do create many of the problems I am about to outline, these things are simply symptoms rather than the disease.
I started writing when I was young because of constantly being disappointed with how stories played out. Harry Potter’s magic appealed to me less and less as I got older. It wasn’t violent enough. I wanted to see a world where the Unforgivable Curses were the first three spells a mage learned.
And so I wrote Search For Eden. A world where murder, mind control, and torture are everywhere. A place that as Rowling pointed out in Harry Potter, Mages treated the rest of humanity like cattle and used them as playthings. But the story lacked teeth at first. At 11 years old when I started writing it, I had not been exposed to the other stories I needed to find my voice.
My Take on Hypersexualization in Entertainment:
Let’s talk about hypersexualization. Since that issue is everywhere and quite frankly is never gonna go away. The world’s oldest profession is no accident. Anyway, I already got personal in this post, so I’ll do so again. My introduction to sex was watching a woman strangle a man to death during the deed. Sigmund Freud would have a field day with me.
Around the same time as the above, I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. To the surprise of no one who has ever been a teen boy, I immediately became fixated on the Succubus. However, unlike others my age, I associated sex with death first, and well, everything else second. That also spilled over into my work.
Search for Eden as a series already existed at this point in my life. But as I became more fascinated with the Succubus, and other Demons that interacted with mortals, these stories began incorporating more supernatural elements. Shapeshifters, seductive villains, wishes with cruel costs, and all the other things an angsty teen would squeeze into his pet project.
Moving past all of the hormonal things I mentioned above, I started reading more stories, eager to find those that would impress new ideas. I turned to the classics. Stories read in English class gave me almost nothing. I was writing in the sci fi fantasy setting. A world that the literary community views with disdain. However, for the sake of entertainment, I hope this stops.
Tools Needed to Write:
Ultimately, Harry Potter took me to Tolkien and while Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit had some effect on my writing, most notably, my love of Dementors and Ringwraiths, (let’s not forget Liches, though I didn’t know what those were yet) but it was what I found next that might have been the most notable.
I discovered Eragon. A book series written by a man not much older than me. And from what I could tell, Christopher Paolini had been on a similar journey as I. The magic in his universe was dangerous and was used to murder in cruel ways. Overusing it would lead to death. Underestimating it, would lead to harming others. And that single concept propelled my writing to new heights. His stories provided me with high quality entertainment. I wanted to improve upon it.
Myths About Nostalgia:
At the same time, I had my first encounter with Tales of Symphonia, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy 7, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 9. and most importantly, Final Fantasy 6. And to go back to the point I branched out from. These are not old stories. They are relatively new and exactly what I needed to discover. The past is not always the place to look. In fact, I would argue, the past is a map showcasing what to NOT do.
These stories were filled to the brim with ideas that made me think. They also filled voids in my life where I was chronically depressed. These games are living proof that entertainment can be heavy. In fact, each of them requires an explanation so let’s do that.
Tales of Symphonia opened my eyes to the idea of casting angels as antagonists. That God was a wicked monster that did not have humanities’s best interests at heart. This game also introduced me to deconstruction. A trope that I abuse to the absolute limit in my work. Most importantly though, this game explores the what if involving religious institutions, terror groups, and hate groups all being the same organism. An idea that had never occurred to me. I learned new things alongside a game with high entertainment value.
I actually played Kingdom Hearts before Final Fantasy 7. I didn’t even know what Cloud and Sephiroth looked like till I played this strange Disney Square Hybrid. Kingdom Hearts annoyed me with its whole power of friendship crap. But I instantly fixated on Riku, a character who didn’t need any of that and was infinitely cooler than the worthless Sora.
Logically I moved to Final Fantasy 7. I visited this game for a certain silver haired boy, and left hating that character and falling in love with few others. Final Fantasy is a bit of a misnomer on this game. Its firmly a sci fi dystopian story that is all about the evils of capitalism. Evils that the Shinra Corporation is more than happy to showcase through the game.
However, something much more important happened when I played this game. I met Jenova, my first Eldritch Abomination. Though Ungoliant from the Silmarillion also fits that title, her place is a little more complex, while Jenova’s purpose is much clearer. Ever since, I have included comsic entities that have shaped humanity for its own purposes in all my stories.
Chrono Trigger was next and it took everything that Jenova did and showcased how to do it without the plot tumor known as Sephiroth getting in the way. Lavos gave me the secret formula on how to find motives for such alien entities. This game also took the world by storm by killing its protagonist off. To this day, I am a fan of not having plot armor on my characters. Chrono Trigger has a great deal to do with that.
Once upon a time, I was a Final Fantasy 7 fanboy. Those were dark days. Luckily, I was rescued from a life of semi good taste, with my introduction to an even better Final Fantasy game. Now I want to double back on an earlier statement. Perhaps I erred when I said that I hate any and all romance. In reality, I hate sappy and forced romance. It just happens that most romance is that. However, Final Fantasy 9 is different. Armed with a great cast, an incredible story, and to this day, my favorite romance arc in all fiction, I can’t stress enough how much this game gave me.
But while Final Fantasy 9 is one of my favorite games, it does not have the throne of number one. That title goes to Final Fantasy 6. A game which I am a fanboy of and will defend to the death. Most games assure you that the hero will go on a journey, encounter evil and defeat it before it causes too much damage. Final Fantasy 6 does not do any of this.
Final Fantasy 6 does not have a main character. In its first few hours the antagonists cause such an extreme amount of damage that one feels overwhelmed. Bio-weapons, Genocide, Human Trafficking, Fascism, Horrors of War, Terrorism. This game really has the works. And that is only the first half of the game.
At the halfway point, the villain completely succeeds in their plans, becomes God, and destroys the world. I compare 6 to 7 a lot because everything that Sephiroth wanted in his game, Kefka accomplishes almost by accident and with little planning.
Imagine Batman’s Joker became an all Powerful God. (It happens in the comics eventually) The second half of Final Fantasy 6 showcases just how terrifying this is. Dealing with The Apocalypse, Teen Pregnancy, Suicide, Reasons to Live, and the Concept of Hope, the second half of 6 is even more remarkable than the first. Easily this has cemented itself as my favorite game of all time. I shouldn’t have to mention the importance of entertainment at this point. But this game delivers even in that respect.
What Was I Talking About? (Again)
Well that was quite a rabbit hole we just went down. Let’s get back on track. At the start I mentioned how so many critics ignore Fantasy and Science Fiction, claiming that they have no appeal. I got more out of the videos games outlined above than any of the literary crap I read in school. These games explore most of the same themes, but don’t hold their punches anywhere near as much as the books.
Romanticism of Serial Killers:
It seems we have arrived at the last point of this post. People’s fixation with Serial Killers and lunatics. I noticed with annoyance as I went to college just how much of this is true. And like all things in writing, I set out to change that while still providing entertainment.
By this point in my life, I knew what my voice sounded like, and thus I treaded into the fetid sludge of Dark Fantasy alongside the surreal elements of Cosmic Horror and brought to life crazed maniacs and serial killers with the intent of showing the audience that there is nothing to like about these people.
Search For Eden already had a few of these characters, notably, the Cultist Torture Technician Alleria. I decided to ramp up her immoral tendencies, and turned her into a poster child for psychopathic woman child. There is no line she won’t cross. And yes, that includes sexual abuse, a trope that I did not include lightly in that series. Dealing with the ramifications of such abuse is a large part of my protagonists journey in that series. To me, high quality entertainment requires heavy issues.
But by this point, I ran into the problem that many writers had. A second idea had started to form. College was when I took notice to the fact of the under representation of female leads in fantasy. So, despite being a male, I decided to challenge myself and write a book series with that in mind.
Exploring An Idea:
Thus Earth Everafter was born. And Hex, a character heavily inspired by Vin, a character from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, managed to become its protagonist. But I also took the time to include a serial killer in the series. Alongside the character Alleria mentioned above, he might be one of the most controversial additions.
To paint him as an utter asshole and menace to society, I choose to have his character defining moment be the death of a pet. I have been told by my peers that this will turn off many readers. Quite frankly, I would rather paint a truthful depiction of the depravity of a crazed killer than sugarcoat it and allow people to continue idealizing such people.
How I Wrote a Serial Killer:
But there is a second aspect to Z, the name of this killer. When I read Harry Potter, continually, the idea that Voldemort must not be named was shoved down my throat. Yet, his threat level did not match how he was treated in universe. What better way to show the right was to do this than to use a serial killer? You know what’s worse than a serial killer who kills animals with glee? A serial killer who can teleport at will, can bend space around them, and is essentially impossible to hit while doing all the above.
Remember his name is the letter Z. And anyone who utters his name has a great chance of watching him warp in, kill their loved ones and leave before they can do anything about it. Z doesn’t run from the police, or even conceal his name. The police run from him, as any intelligent person should. Not that it will help, since space is just the distance between two points. His powers are changing those points. Given the heavy subject matter, I had to think carefully about what would add more entertainment potential while dealing with such horrific characters.
What’s the Point of this Post?
Ok, I’m done with all info dumping and my personal goals. Let’s talk about the point I’m trying to make. At the start I pointed out that people are complaining about entertainment going to hell. Ignoring the resurgence of Dark Fantasy and the obvious pun, let’s talk about why this appears to be so and what we can do to change it.
Entertainment is nice and all, but people have to make money. For story writers that means they write what allows them to eat. I consider Twilight to be absolute garbage. But Stephanie Meyer can laugh at my pointless opinion all the way to the bank. The market rewards those who make money with more of it. If you want to continue seeing garbage stories, then keep buying garbage.
I won’t claim to be the best author out there, but I am trying the best I can to break the mold and do things differently. The entire point of half of this blog post was to showcase how I am going about it. So if you want more high quality fiction, buy high quality fiction and don’t just jump from fix to fix assuming that the quality will improve. It won’t, unless you reward stories for doing so.
Closer to My Point:
I already mentioned the hypersexual problem but I’ll do it again. Humans are fascinated with sex. Entire religions revolve around it. Some of the most mind bending stuff I have ever watched such as Neon Genesis Evangelion can be simplified as massive sexual symbols. America has an extremely notable fixation on it. Just look at our sport outings if you don’t believe me.
It upsets me greatly when authors try to do something incredible. But then fail because those around them don’t want to see success. Go look up all the controversies surrounding Treasure Planet if you want to get an idea of what happens when creative ingenuity becomes a slave to Capitalism.
Even Closer To My Point:
Since the issues of creativity and entertainment have slowly been devalued and replaced by the need to make maximum profits, it might appear that the past was filled with better stories. A better answer is that the best work of today is undervalued, under marketed, and invisible. Go look at the independent communities. The internet has given people a platform to reach more people. Go find them. (Like you found this blog post!)
Finally, don’t obsess over serial killers and sociopaths. These people are mentally ill and dangerous. There is nothing romantic about that combination. Try people with mental illness that will feel better when the world respects them more. Not the ones that want you to respect them so that they have an opening to gut you.
Here there be the Point of This Post:
If I could sum up the point of what I said in over 2000 words, it would be this: reward quality in entertainment and don’t assume its gone forever. Call me biased since I’m a writer, but I want to see more Berserks, Madoka Magicas, Wheel of Times, and Silmarillions. I could do with less 50 Shades of Grays, Twilights, and Hallmark Stories.
And please, since I didn’t get a chance in this massive rant to talk about it, don’t wait until someone is dead to celebrate their work. Tell them how amazing their crafts are while they live so that they may create more. (Don’t forget to show them your business too. They have to eat too.)
If people don’t like being called lowest common denominators, then don’t buy stuff meant for the masses. Collectively, the masses will get better as a group and the world will be a brighter and more entertaining place for it.
Thank you for taking time to read this rant. I appreciate you for getting to the end.