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C.C. Hogan

Do your fantasy heroes care for the common man?

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Surely the real victory in a fantasy is when the people win?

#Fantasy fiction has been a mainstay of most cultures over millenia. Sometimes it is simply works of fiction like many of the stories from ancient Greece, or ancient tales around the Green Man and fairy tale characters, but it has even informed entire religions and belief structures.

Modern fantasy, although sometimes taking a different tact, owes much to these earlier forms and it is very common for the plot to be set in a pseudo feudal society, involve plenty of kings and queens and heroes that live and die by the sword.

One thing that is very rare to find in a fantasy is a ballot box.

In some ways this is not surprising as we are forever enamoured by the cult of monarchy and celebrity. Take the UK's monarchy. People who live in the UK are often unaware what a huge PR boost the British Monarchy is for the country outside of the UK. The US is a prime example. They fought long and hard to make sure they were NOT ruled by George III, and had a fully democratic society, but then cannot get enough of Queen Elizabeth and the younger royals.

But when it comes to politics, even in the UK those who want to keep the monarchy (and the good PR that goes with it) do not in anyway want the Queen to be political - they want to vote for their politicians. They want a democracy - or as close as anyone can get.

Whatever the story line, I would argue that at some point the fantasy #author wants to create a little beau-ideal for themselves; it may be the perfect tavern or the most wonderful cottage or the epitome of palace and garden, but in amongst the war and the plague and the magic and the sex, they will sneak in a little heaven. Strange, therefore, that they do not also sneak in a bit of democracy.

In Lord of the Rings, Aragorn becomes the first human king of the fourth age and he is going to be a righteous and beneficent ruler, supporting the needs of Hobbit and Ent alike. But what happens when "Son of Aragorn" turns out to be a right little messianic shit? There are no polling booths in Middle Earth, Gandalf has buggered off to Valinor as has Frodo and the Elves, so unless the Dwarves get all uppity and into human rights, life for the rest of the people in Middle Earth sounds like it is going to hit dictatorial oblivion at some point soon.

That seems to be a problem with other fantasies too; we are left with the kingdom being ruled by the beautiful princess and her sexy champion whilst cuddling the next Stalin in their arms. For most writers, the solution of the terrible ruler seems to be to replace them with a better ruler, by the sword.

This all makes for wonderful stories; Alice Through The Looking Glass would be a stain on literary blotting paper if it were not for the spectre of the Queen and where would be King Arthur, the rightful granddaddy of all fantastical rulers, if he had to put himself up for re-election? You want to spend how much on a pointless quest for what? A mug?

The majority of modern fantasy, as far as I can see, originates from the pens of those who have the vote; they live in modern democracies and outside of their books would never give up their right to say who run's their kingdom, sorry country, for anything - even a beautiful princess (and lets face it, how many of those do you get to the pound?)

I am writing a long Saga called Dirt at the moment, and although I have kings and queens, I am trying to establish the shaking foundations of something that at least leans towards accountability; the people may not have the vote yet, but they are moving in that direction and they get to voice an opinion. It is difficult to write, I admit, and if I just stuck to replacing one dictator with another, albeit pretty dictator, my life would be a lot easier. 

But I am a political fellow at heart and my characters are starting their journeys at the bottom of the political heap. I would like to think that genuine heroes would care more about the fortunes of their fellows than whether they got to jump the nearest prince or princess.  That does not mean they succeed; my first trilogy ends with the hope of something better than absolute rule, but in the end the interests of the greedy crush it. (That is not a spoiler, you would be an idiot of a reader if you thought they could actually succeed). However, in the second trilogy they are trying again and in the third?

Democracy, human rights, fairness and equality are hard won concepts and it has taken the human race 100,000 years to move from equality within a tribe to inequality within a large society and then to try and rebuild fairness within the masses. We have not succeeded yet and it would be idiotic to assume that within the realms of fantasy it can be achieved in just a few words, but perhaps we authors should think a little more about the rights of our farmers, peasants, serfs and gutter dwellers and at least attempt to give them a say in our fairy tale societies. 

Otherwise it is pretty debatable whether our heroes are heroes at all!


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