My son is an awesome person. He works at a thrift store while we’re waiting for his brother to graduate this May so we can move a bit northward for them to attend college. He found a trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman at the store and got them for me. It’s a Dragon Lance trilogy, something I haven’t seen in years, and the authors also wrote the Darksword Trilogy, one I loved in my childhood. So far, I’m hooked into the first one, Dragons of a Fallen Sun, and can’t wait to get to the other two. The stories are complex, and I have to pay attention to what’s going on to follow it. I’m hoping it’ll be just as rewarding as the Darksword books were.
I know I’ve mentioned before that it seems like our technological age has created a world where a story with a complex plot and many characters isn’t wanted. We seem to be too busy to curl up with a book and read, and we want something that states what’s happening and moves on, at least that’s how it seems to me sometimes. We want simplicity in our story-telling, something we can read without having to think. But does this do the story itself justice? Does it give us the same escape as the 500 page monstrosities that predate the present age? I wonder.
I’ll admit I’m not a television watcher. I mean, I’ll turn it on in the daytime, but it’s more to have the noise than because I’m watching it. I rarely, if ever, just sit back and watch TV, so I don’t think in hour long segments. I don’t know if this really impacts what I like in a book or not, but I’ve noticed that the people I know who do watch a lot of TV want shorter, simpler books.
For myself, I want a fantasy world that’s complex. I want to know about the cultures, the history, what kind of plants grow, what kind of animals roam around. I’ll admit to not caring too much about what the aristocracy and government are doing, but I want to know about the daily life of the people who live there. What does an average merchant do in a day? What challenges do the farmers face? Are there a lot of street urchins running around picking pockets?
Weis and Hickman do a good job of creating a world like this, as does Raymond E. Feist. I know there are newer authors and newer books that also do this, but there’s something about the fantasy literature of the 1980’s that’s in a class of its own. Maybe it’s just me getting older and feeling nostalgic, but it just seems like we’ve lost something, not just in our stories, but in our lives. It seems like we’ve lost the desire to sit by a fire and talk or to take a walk in the woods or to play a game with our family. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the ever-present cell phone (I know I’m guilty; mine never leaves my side). Maybe it’s the face-paced world of the internet, the idea of anything we need to know an ‘ok Google’ away. I know I could talk to World Book all day long, and the only way it was going to tell me what I wanted to know was for me to pick it up and turn the pages. Encyclopedia Britannica was the same way. And don’t even think that the card catalogue was giving up its information without flipping through a billion little cards.
So, which world is better? Is one better than the other? Have we lost substance to gain speed and ease? (If the chips in credit and debit cards are any indication, we certainly aren’t going faster. Sheesh! Those things take forever!) Have we truly lost anything? Have we really gained anything?
And the biggest question of all – what comes next? (I really hope it’s lightsabers.)