Slaying Bob from HR

Was still pondering yesterday’s post about weakness / achievement gaps in genre fiction when I went to read SF Diplomat, where Jonathan McCalmont is fascinating on the content of fantasy:

‘Why does fantasy prefer to dwell on saving a morally simple world instead of making the best one can in a more realistic one?’

He’s looking for a greater sense of the cut and thrust of the commercial, for narratives that may be fantastic in setting but that acknowledge and riff off the source of most day to day drama in this world – business life, as many of us live it.

One effect of this is to create a more credible weakness / achievement gap – but it also raises a very interesting question – if you’re writing this kind of fantasy, then what’s the fantasy for?

Something very positive, I would say; rather than facilitating muscle bound escapism (‘I pulled out my battleaxe and slew – SLEW!!! – Bob from HR! And all those other fools who do not appreciate my world saving genius!!!’) it enables (amongst other things) a metafictional exploration of why dealing with Bob from HR can feel so much like a deep betrayal of the self in the first place, motivating the desire to hew.

It also takes a far saner view of resolution. Rather than amassing a monstrous pile of treasure / saving the world from imminent oblivion / restoring the balance between Law and Chaos, etc, heroes in this kind of narrative resolve through infinitely more credible, less compensatory achievement sets.

And come to think of it, that kind of understanding of fantasy leads directly to M. John Harrison – but I’m not going to talk about that until I’ve had some breakfast…

2 thoughts on “Slaying Bob from HR

  1. Thanks for the mention 🙂

    You’re right about the metafictional exploration (though at this point fantasy doesn’t do much of it) and your points about achievement.

    I think that economic fantasy would bring a human scale to fantasy that would be quite refreshing. I’m reminded, now I think of it, of what Deadwood did in this vein. They introduced a load of characters, gave them all the desire to find their place or make money and then just let them bounce off each other as the town slowly grew from a camp to a place with some proper industry.

  2. Pleasure!

    Yup, the lack of the metafictional always surprises me – it seems to be such an interesting and fruitful use of this kind of writing.

    Hmm, I haven’t seen Deadwood, but that description makes it sound very cool. Good that they’ve been brave enough to let people be people, rather than distort everything with an epic situation of some kind. A scale of achievement thing again!

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