A prophecy for a fantasy*
Welcome back, everyone. It’s good to see some new faces in the crowd. Well, it’s good to see any faces at all, really, given that my budget won’t run to cake two weeks in a row. But do help yourselves to biscuits. They’re only a little bit stale.
So, on to today’s speech. I want to talk to you about prophecy – specifically, whether it has a place in fantasy any more.
Though real-world prophecies have about the same level of accuracy as sticking a pin in a calendar blindfolded and identifying the resulting date as the End that is Nigh, humans as a species seem to have an unquenchable thirst for foretelling. We believe in prophecy. We believe in horoscopes, Tarot cards, runes and tealeaves. In short, we’re pretty darn gullible. We like to think that God/Fate/ the Universe has a plan for us. No, not just a plan. A Plan. We’re desperate for our lives to have meaning, to have structure. To have significance.
And significance is something that fantasy excels at.
In the classic good-vs-evil scenario of many a fantasy tome, everything that everyone does has meaning. Our heroes are fighting for the world, for the triumph of right over wrong. There can’t be anything more important than that. And prophecy – well, that’s just a way of ratcheting things up another notch. Not only is Mr Chosen One battling to defeat evil, it was foretold that he would do so. That’s a double whammy of significance. And as a result, there’s no other genre that can make people feel so much as though there really is a Plan.
Of course, fantasy has changed over the years. The prophecy trope has been visited and revisited, subverted and played for comedy and tragedy alike. Many fantasy authors have left black and white behind and moved into shades of grey; many have used the genre to give us worlds that are brutal, cruel and muddled. Worlds where the difference between right and wrong isn’t clear-cut. Worlds, in fact, much more like reality.
Yet despite that, prophecy has an enduring hold on that part of us that still believes in the Plan. We accept without question the idea that some person or event could be foretold, that the workings of Fate are so inevitable that certain things have to happen – and this in the face of all evidence to the contrary from our own experience. In the heart of every fantasy reader is a little spark of longing for a world where what we do and say actually matters. And for that reason, I suspect prophecy is here to stay.
In fact, I predict it.
Incidentally, I notice that last week’s blog entry was somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, what with the three comments it received. I’m just sorry the dog didn’t comment as well – I’m sure he would have had worthwhile things to say. Still, in case I’ve somehow developed the power to make my own words come true, I would like to give a warm welcome to the representatives from the publishing industry who are with us today. It’s lovely to see you all. Please submit your offers for consideration and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
* Yes, I used a quote from a T’Pau song as my title. So shoot me.
Testing ... testing ... one two, one two ...
*clears throat nervously*
Hello. Can you hear me at the back? Hello? Sorry – let me just try this switch – hello? Ah, that's better. I must say it's great to see so many people here today. Six of you ... that's much more than I expected ... and a dog as well. Marvellous. Thank you ever so much for coming.
So, welcome to my blog. I know, just what the world needs: another blog. There are only a few billion of them out there already. But I hope you'll stick around all the same. You might enjoy yourself. And if not, you can always content yourself with pointing and laughing.
I'll be here around the same time every Sunday, so feel free to drop by. Topics will range from writing to books to fantasy in general to, well, writing. Sorry? What was that? You thought this was the Awesome Origami blog? No, I'm afraid you want next door. Great. Thanks.
Right. Where was I? Oh, yes ... this is a blog about writing. More specifically, writing fantasy, since that's what I'm most interested in myself. But as this is the first toe I have dipped into the murky waters of public wordsmithery, I can't promise not to deviate off topic in the future. In short: anything could happen, and probably will. Still, we're fantasy fans, right? We like a bit of adventure. So don't be alarmed if those big blue tentacles start coming through the walls again. Oh, and ignore the one-eyed man in the corner. His face always looks like that; I'm almost quite sure he's not trying to decide how to kill you.
Great. So, that's it from me until next week. Thanks for coming, all five – er – three of you. Plus dog. Please help yourselves to free cake on your way out.