Behind The Monk’s Curse: Chapter Seven

Behind the Scenes, The Monk's Curse - Prologue

I am afraid that there is not much for this week. Almost no planning or research went into this chapter. Still, I had difficult decisions to make while writing this chapter. How much to reveal to the reader?

This is a classic dilemma. On one hand, it is ideal to have the reader know everything. This is why omniscient narrators are so popular. On the other hand, it is beneficial to the suspense of the story to keep some information hidden. But, in works like this, with complex machinations, it is hard to strike a balance. But balance I did. Or at least I hope so. Thus, this chapter is nothing more than a device to reveal key information while introducing an aspect of mystery to the story. It was certainly a fun chapter to write, and hopefully one you will enjoy.

No onward – to the publishing of my latest book. One more proofread!

Problematic Fantasy – and reality – Tropes

In my previous post on the problematic villains of fantasy, I promised another rant. Well, actually a few. But here is the first one. As anyone familiar with fantasy, or specifically epic or high fantasy, knows, there are classic tropes which make the plot lines of fantasies so unoriginal. My post on villains only confirms this.

But the problem goes more deeper than that. Unfortunately, fantasy worlds often reflect the real world. This in itself is a problem. How can fantasy have any claim to being fantasy if it is not – for most fantasies are effectively allegories? Now I am not criticising the masters of fantasy – nor the master of masters: J.R.R. Tolkien. No, I love them. I love Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and the blatant copy of those – David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean.

I love immersing myself in these fantastical worlds. But the problem comes in when one is so immersed that the line between reality and fantasy is blurred. And this is too often the case. In fact, most readers don’t even realise it.

To unpack this, let me elaborate on the tropes of fantasy. This is simple to do. Fair skinned and beautiful good versus darker skinned and ugly evil. Good west versus evil east. Highly civilised west versus barbaric east. I could go and on. But the fact remains that the maps of worlds like Middle Earth and David Eddings’ sagas too often reflect the problems of the real world – civilised west and barbaric east. The other tropes fit this almost perfectly.

Let us not forget Game of Thrones. It also reflects the above, all the while making it abundantly clear that the east is a place of mystery and barbarity. Slavery is abundant in the east? Reality check! Europeans invented slavery!!! The hordes of Dothraki?? That is a blatant misappropriation of the Golden Horde of the descendants of Genghis Khan. And in portraying them as savage people only skilled in horsemanship plays on the classic belief that Genghis Khan was only effective in savagery and not in his actual civilisation. Oh, and the treatment of characters of colour on the TV show is pathetic. I could see the racial hatred on the faces of the Westerosi in Winterfell as the foreign queen marched in with her coloured warriors. Don’t even get me started on the painting of Arya Stark as the Columbus of the world of Game of Thrones. What is west of Westeros? Well, who knows? It is probably a place that has never deserved the attention of the advanced races of Westeros who were too focussed on the barbaric east. It is in the name. Nothing is deemed worthy of being considered west of Westeros because it simply doesn’t matter. Well, let us leave it to Columbus to ‘discover’ the new world.

I could go on and on. Even Rick Riordan makes it plain that the location of Mount Olympus is wherever Western Civilisation is. What about Eastern Civilisation? What about the fact that some of the most sophisticated cultures, ancient civilisations, and advanced scientific discoveries like the number zero and the system of numbers all sprung from the East?

As I said, I could go on and on. And I can tell you this, my views are inflammatory. No one likes to read these kind of things. But it is a topic which needs discussion. Why are most fantasy worlds based on medieval Europe? Medieval Asia and Africa were far more civilised places. Why are most fantasy worlds predominantly featuring white characters?? Many people say that people of colour do not belong in these fantasies because the fantasies are based on medieval Europe. Well, news flash, the Europeans have traded with people of colour for eons. People were not isolated in their worlds that is depicted in fantasy and period dramas. Well, perhaps only the natives of America were. But even they could not keep their identity. Because Columbus was too stupid to know where he was, he called them Indians. Also why do you think their (European) food is so bland? Because the only Eastern spice that they could handle was salt and pepper. Oh, and for those who say colonisation brought civilisation, let me remind you that colonisation was the expansion of slavery and religion. The Europeans had no care for the natives. If they had, well, Africa would not be where it is today. The Europeans did not share their civilisation. They took new lands and practised civilisation while only allowing the natives to watch. Oh, and before I forget, the means that Europeans used to conquer lands was acquired from the East. Gun powder and ammunition.

For too long people of colour have been inferior to white people in real life and in fiction. I have even been told that my culture has contributed nothing to science. You would think that these civilised people would at least have scruples. Well, they don’t. For all their civilisation, they lack humanity. So, who should the villains in fantasy be? The ones who have humanity or the ones who lack it? That question needs no answer. At least not for anyone who has the attribute of rationality.

Behind The Monk’s Curse: Chapter Six

Behind the Scenes, The Monk's Curse - Prologue

Two weeks too late! I completely missed last Wednesday (the day that this post was supposed to come out). After all, I did promise one post per week giving an insight into each chapter of The Monk’s Curse. On this note, I have two confessions to make.

Firstly, I have realised what a dismal show this topic of blog posts has put on. I promised behind the scenes and I delivered teasers. So, this week I will endeavour to correct that.

My second confession is that I am drowning under the work of being a self-published author. Not only has this kept me away from Twitter, and blogging, but it has brought all my works to a grinding halt. A book that was supposed to be published at the start of this month is get published two weeks too late. Other books that were planned for release this month will probably have to be moved on to next month. Alas, that is the price for trying to juggle so much at once.

But, onto the chapter

This is the unravelling of the tantalising plot. This is the chapter where two pivotal characters meet and where three key bits of information are passed on. Behind the scenes, this was the chapter that lulled me out of the comfort of my seat-of-the-pants writing style. That is, unlike previous chapters, I could not write this one without any planning.

Because two key characters meet here, it was especially important to decide how much to give away to the reader and to the protagonist as he continued in his search for the truth. In the end, not much was given away. What was given away was a pivotal newspaper article that only led to more intrigue. This was in itself fun to write because not only did it add another dimension and character to the story, more of which came to be elaborated on in other chapters, but because I delved into historical research for it. It took more on a journey deeper into the circumstances of the end of the Romanov Tsardom. It took me on a journey deeper into the end of the House of Medici. And, it took me further into territories of European history unchartered and clouded by the rise of the USSR and its suppression of fact through propaganda. Apart from that, another document was revealed to the protagonist. This was a brochure discussing Ottoman primogeniture. As anyone familiar with this topic know, it is a quagmire of details that are far too obscure for the lay man to understand. As such, it is not fully comprehended by the reader or the protagonist. Nevertheless, as all parts of the story do, it has its place. And that place is something that will come to rock the curse around which the book is centred.

To conclude

I hope that this blog post has been refreshing. I hope it has been so for me. From here, onward and upward. Until next week.