Hey everybody. For those of you who remember my Youtube channel, you know that I used to make Fantastic Fiction videos, which were review/analysis pieces on various fantasy works. I don’t make those anymore, but I need to test out how the site deals with pictures. So for this article I’m gonna tell you about all the Fantastic Fiction videos that were planned but never made.
The Discworld books
I had the scripts for The Thief of Time and The Last Hero complete, and had started on the script for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. But then things happened. Here’s what I can tell you.
I found The Thief of Time another good book, but also another instance of Sir Terry phoning things in. It felt like he was spinning his wheels and he’d said everything he had to say with Death and Susan in previous books. It also didn’t help that this is the book with the worst Asian jokes in the whole Discworld series.
The Last Hero is elevated by the presence of Paul Kidby, to the point where it feels like a tryout for his art. In my opinion, he passed with flying colors, but Pterry’s writing, again, feels like it’s going through the motions at this point.
The Amazing Maurice though was a shock to the system, and the start of what I like to call the Renaissance Era of Discworld. I get the feeling that Terry Pratchett was in that position where you’ve been doing a thing for so long that you start to forget why you used to like doing it. And in those cases, some massive paradigm shift in things helps you remember. With Discworld, I think that shift came from being asked to write a children’s book, as opposed to Pterry’s usual fare. And after Maurice, Sir Terry started to explore newer, more exciting corners of the disc, even putting out his single best work during this time.
This was a book that I’d been told to read for a long time, but ended up not enjoying, to the point where I couldn’t even finish it. And right when I started Fantastic Fiction, it was slotted to be a video. I really don’t know why I never made a Deryni video, but for whatever reason I never even wrote a script.
My main issues with the book were its portrayal of prejudice and its protagonists. The Deryni are an oppressed group, and we’re supposed to sympathize with them, but they’re prejudiced against because they have psychic and magical powers. So the fact that they’re more powerful than normal humans and that these powers are of the psychic variety raises the question of why the Deryni don’t just use their powers to make people stop being mean to them. Like, if I had the ability to influence people, I know that’s the first thing I would do. More than that though, given how having magic powers is exactly the sort of thing real-life oppressed groups have been accused of, having a whole race that really does have powers beyond the ken of mortal men creates some unfortunate implications that I don’t think Katherine Kurtz intended.
While Kurtz is hailed as someone who brought realism to the fantasy genre, I found that most of this realism simply consisted of her inserting random trivia on royal titles and such into the narrative. And despite Kurtz’s devotion to realism, she fails to take into account the very realistic fact that if some low-ranking nobleman who was exiled by the former monarch is suddenly granted special privileges and power by the new monarch (and immediately after the former monarch’s mysterious assassination to boot), people are going to get reasonably suspicious. Kurtz treats any suspicion of said nobleman, or anything less than total devotion and loyalty to him, as the result of being deceived or PURE EVIL. There is no other possible reason that you wouldn’t want to kiss this man’s boots, for he is a great man whose wisdom we peons can barely grasp. Thank you, but no.
Lirael and Abhorsen
I never wrote any scripts for these, but I definitely had them planned. I even had a White Australia policy joke in my Sabriel video just so that I could bring it up in the Lirael and Abhorsen videos as an “Uh-oh spaghetti-o, more fool me.” moment. So, I’m really not sure why I never made these into videos. Ah well.
Lirael was a mixed bag. It was a lot more introspective and less action-packed than Sabriel, to the point where the ending felt like a good ending despite there still being a lot of loose plot threads, because the characters’ internal journeys had concluded. However, the subplot with the refugees essentially boiled down to a message of “My goodness, it’s shameful, simply shameful for that other kingdom to turn away refugees. But, I mean, uh, it we were to take them it would be the end of the world! We want the refugees to find a home, just not with us.” And Garth Nix doubles down on the Midichlorians/Special Blood trope that I hate so much, by having Lirael not wanting to be an Abhorsen, but being forced into the role because she has Abhorsen blood, and as Mogget says, “The blood will win out eventually.” I’m not accusing Nix of racism, but god-damn if that isn’t a borderline racist message.
With Abhorsen meanwhile, everything I liked about Lirael was ignored and everything I disliked was given more focus, and it all just felt like a pale imitation of Sabriel. It’s like everything was meant to be Sabriel, but bigger. But the reason we liked Sabriel was its novelty, its clever, new ideas. Without that advantage, Abhorsen simply became the cliche storm Sabriel could have been. Like, hey kids, you know how Kerrigor wanted to destroy the world? Well Orannis wants to destroy the world, but bigger! How are we supposed to care about this, especially when Orannis is an even LESS detailed character than Kerrigor? I just… I really could not get into things.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker
I think Kolchak is in many ways the failed prototype of the Urban Fantasy genre. It failed to even make it past its first season and I failed to make it past episode 7, but there are several genuinely compelling aspects of Kolchak that I think modern Urban Fantasy writers could learn from. Admittedly, one of the more questionable aspects of the show is its adulation of small, independent press outfits that are willing to talk about what THEY don’t want you to know, which, given how many of these press outfits in real life are neo-nazi rags or alt right grifters, makes me unable to fully engage with the premise. However, I love the fact that Kolchak doesn’t have powers or experience in monster hunting. He’s just a middle-aged, not particularly athletic reporter who believes the common people deserve to know about the supernatural. It’s an interesting and unique concept. I just wish the content of the actual episodes were any good. I can see why Darren McGavin grew disillusioned with something what had once been his baby.
So that’s what could have been with my Fantastic Fiction videos. Maybe in the future I’ll review these works on this blog. But in the meantime, I hope folks enjoy the other stuff I’ll be doing here.