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I have an interesting relationship with fantasy. I have always generally preferred reading scifi over fantasy, despite liking ideas like magic, and a lot of the "more to the world than meets the eye" kind of thing you find in fantasy over the more scientific view of the world scifi has. But there's a good reason for this. Before urban fantasy became popular,1 there was only traditional fantasy (I think it's called high fantasy), and most of that sucks. Traditional fantasy has the same damn plot over and over and over again, with only slight differences in plot, characterization, and setting. It's always "Good versus evil, Good wins." And the magical creatures are almost always pretty much the same from one book to another despite those books being from completely different authors. I don't even remember the first few traditional fantasy books I read as a kid (I went straight into adult section fantasy because kids fantasy was almost nonexistent) because they were so boring; I was already familiar with the tropes involved thanks to TV, so my first foray into fantasy was disappointing.

What I liked so much about scifi was that even with the same basic plot, such as "human versus alien invaders," the plot would never be *exactly* the same because the aliens were always different, the technology involved slightly different, and these differences have HUGE effects on the plot. The plot for Invasion of the Body Snatchers, for example, would not work if you tried to replace the body snatchers with Kzinti, for instance. They are completely different creatures and so their tactics and motivations are entirely different, hence changing the plot in wildly different ways. But in traditional fantasy, so many of the creatures and so many of the settings are pretty much identical, so any changes to the basic plot of "Good vs evil, Good wins" are negligible.

But then I read the books of David and Leigh Eddings, which I found out about thanks to an ad in a fantasy magazine my dad was thinking of writing for. I don't remember the series name, but it was the one with Belgarath and Polgara. I was VERY impressed. There were no elves, fairies, dragons, etc. And the stories weren't about some larger-than-life hero destined to bring about salvation from the big dark evil. It was about good wizards fighting evil wizards. And each side had their own GODS! Gods they could see, feel, speak with, and know were real. And though I think fate was involved, it didn't really feel like it. It felt like two warring sides struggling against each other. The few magical creatures they had were completely unique, as well. They traveled in groups, had setbacks as well as [opposite of setbacks], and - a touch I liked - Leigh Eddings even made sure that they camped and ate when they needed to, so they didn't seem larger than life by merit of never having to stop to eat. They also had limits to their powers, on both sides. Pretty much everything about the series was awesome and fascinating.

I later went on and read all the rest of their stuff, and it's all great. They don't even recycle their own ideas in the same ways, which is awesome. I was inspired by their works, and I think that's why I started "Playground of the Gods." Started, but barely got into it, and eventually lost the file and the files for the notes. But I had so much of the story memorized that I could resurrect it without a problem.

PGOTGs was going to be epic. It had real, living, touchable Gods just like the Eddings stuff, but these Gods were really powerful energy beings called Vecerti, inspired by the Q. However, there were at least 6 different species, depending on the color of energy they wielded (Red Vecerti, White Vecerti, Blue Vecerti, Green Vecerti, Yellow Vecerti, and Black Vecerti). The different colors of energy have different properties. White energy overpowers, Red subverts and re-channels (red energy and white also don't mix well; they tend to explode); blue energy was cool and calm and worked *with* matter and energy. Green energy was about seeing through the illusions of solidity and even existence itself, so the Greens were one of the most powerful species of Vecerti. Black energy worked similarly to Green and Blue. I never figured much out about Yellow, though, since Yellow Vecerti energy was based on emotions, and pretty much all Yellow Vecerti were extinct for some reason, Kwan Yin being an exception. (At the time I first came up with this, I had never heard of Asian people being called yellow, and besides, the color of energy a Vecerti wields has nothing to do with what skin color they have in human form. Especially since they are all shape-shifters. I have no idea why I gave the different color energies the properties they have.)

The basic conflict of PGOTGs was interesting, too. Not just the world, or the universe at stake in PGOTGs. The whole multiverse - thousands and thousands of universes - is at stake, because the big bad evil has a plan that, if it succeeds, will make half the universes at random just blink out of existence. And the other half will eventually wither and die as well. No new universes, no new life. Entropy will win completely. (But no, Entropy is not the big bad.) It's a very clear line, and the side of evil all know the stakes. But for all the simplicity of "do you want all of existence to die, and possibly your universe to just wink out of existence?", the answers are incredibly complex. You get people defecting from the evil side to the good side, and from the good side to the evil side. There is treachery, deceit, and intrigue. There are people neutral in the conflict; they know what's going on, and choose not to take sides.

I basically took every trope I knew about and turned it on its ear. Take standard fantasy creatures like dragons: in the PGOTGs storyverse, dragons come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, abilities, appearances, and intelligence levels. There are your standard animal-level intelligence large winged ferocious beasts, but there are also small dragons like magical lizards, and there are humanoid dragons of many varities, who are sentient, sapient, and build cities. Some of the most intelligent dragons, the Elder Dragons, look like your standard fantasy dragon but are much larger, pretty close to immortal, and spend their days discussing philosophy. But I also have lots of unique creatures, along with the interesting variations on old creatures.

There were even gender changes and species changes. The main Vecerti organizing the side of Good was originally a Goddess named Kellena; she was killed, and came back to life as a God named Kell; no reason was ever given for this change. One character, who I intend to bring back in the next Lyria story, is of a shapechanging energy species called Darhadjay; they are basically foot soldiers with lots of power, and are the Evil side's answer to Kell's Dahdjay. This particular Darhadjay, named Zyalin, is a defector to the side of Good. His normal appearance is male, and while he's not a big beefy Schwartzaneggar type, he does definetely have a masculine vibe and personality. But he occasionally, for reasons he never explains, takes the form of a 10 year old girl.

I eventually gave up on PGOTGs because while the idea was awesome, it was too big for me at the time I first came up with it. My writing skills frankly sucked, and the story was big enough to easily fit three really big books.

Besides, I have a better idea now. What greater way to turn the tropes of high fantasy on their ears than to have a bunch of stories with a dark sorceress as the main character and the epic battle for the fate of the multiverse being a background piece you only catch glimpses of in the stories. Like, "Oh yeah, that? That's just an epic battle for the fate of all existence. Don't mind it, you get used to the noise eventually." And if you think about it, is that any more shocking than using WWII as a background to a story? Not all WWII-era novels have to focus on one soldier who is destined to bring about the end of the conflict by having a personal duel to the death with Hitler, why must high fantasy be the same?

Oh Gods, now I'm picturing a WWII novel written as though it were high fantasy. o_O

1 = I'm even picky about urban fantasy, though.

Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
underlankers
Jan. 7th, 2011 12:45 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a more high fantasy version of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Darkness_Series. It's a Sorcerous WWII expy where the Holocaust-analogue allows extremely powerful battle magic, all of the societies are autocratic monarchies straight of the Medieval period, and there are Powers Above and Powers Below, the latter of which are directly summoned as a last-gasp thing by the Nazi Analogue. To make matters more fun there's magical atomic bombs by the end of it.

There is another good side to the series, too, in that it is quite forthright that the evil Soviet analogue, Unkerlant, is barely better than Algarve (the Nazi analogue) but that by the same token the battles are mainly won by one Evil Overlord defeating another Evil Overlord.
underlankers
Jan. 7th, 2011 12:55 pm (UTC)
And on a slightly longer note, my typical fantasy worlds *do* have the cliche incarnate Physical Gods of evil, but all sides use guns (because the physical gods quite reasonably don't want to waste their power in huge hordes that are going to be drubbed by good in Classical-Age style melee battles). All sides are really Magitek, with the good sorcerers as willing as the evil ones to call on their own supernatural aid, but everybody is fond of the More Dakka principle.

I should note like all my works I differentiate between Order and Chaos and Good and Evil. It's perfectly possible to be Chaotic Good, most mortals who are good would qualify as that by a cosmic POV. It is seldom possible to find Chaotic Evil as mortals, while good in them is anarchic, evil as anarchy burns itself out over too much time. So Chaotic Good v. Lawful (think totalitarian) Evil is the standard there. So also are the demons Lawful Evil, but the Gods are Lawful Good.

The various Cosmic Horrors are outside it altogether, and the ones who join in very rarely do it for any motive higher than amusement. The recurring theme is that limitations of flesh (i.e. incarnate creatures) blinds them to the typical Chaotic Evil because flesh requires infrastructure and the like to support it, even with Physical Gods on one's side, but good is also anarchic because attempts to mandate it get rapidly into counter-totalitarianism that doesn't resolve anything.

The other theme is that the deities and demons (ignoring the cosmic horrors here for this part of it) are extreme manifestations of emotions/goodness/evil bereft of fleshly (the aliens in the stories have their gods, too) limits, which explains how some are Lawful and some are Chaotic. If this sounds like Warhammer 40,000 it isn't because the "Evil" Niche filled by the Chaos Gods is filled instead by Angra Mainyu/Satan, a Lawful Evil who is far more Sauron of Mordor than he is Khorne.

The other thing my fantasy tales include are both heroes and villains who are Nobodies to Heroes/Nightmares, which doesn't exist anywhere in fantasy that's truly notable....

That all said, this sounds very interesting. :-).
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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