Month: December 2006

The Quality of Escape

The principal element in escapist fiction is difference. Not solely from each other, but from everyday life. Differences in lifestyle, in period, even in the world those characters inhabit.

Part of what makes Tolkein so engrossing is simply the detail of his world, so different from our own, yet drawing on such similarly-flavored societies. There is enough to get lost inside, which many have. Teasing out each detail, savouring its same-but-different peoples and lands, is probably why it has lasted so long.

His legions of imitators, on the other hand, simply perceive the plot: small-town halfling travels lots, does good, saves world. Which leads to hordes of trilogy (or more) based fantasy stories that at the very least involve a not-so-worldly individual traveling the world, and stopping some Ultimate Evil along the way. Sometimes they’ll swap out the halfling for a kitchen scullion or perhaps an orphan Boy (or Girl) of Destiny, but that’s garnish on a well-established meal plan.

These stories fall short due to their sameness. Though Dragonland-Whatever is different from your backyard, it’s just a bit too close the wasteland of Mordor. Its similarity to its progenitor is what diminishes its quality. Those stories in the epic-fantasy genre that have succeeded are usually because they understood that it was not the plot that was successful, but that element of difference.

Hmmm… this kind of drifted into a Tolkein case-study, didn’t it?

To drift back: the principal of escapist fiction is to escape. This is a perceptual escape, so defined as providing a different perception. A difference from the normal. Whether that’s a difference based on living a long time ago (sometimes even in places far, far away), in places that never were, or even just playing poker with millions at stake, against a financier of international terrorism.

It’s not part of the world you’re living in. And the best sorts of escapism are often the most different.


Swedish for Torture

After spending hours building my Ikea furniture, I have to assume that, though one saves money by building it yourself, you also lose sanity in the construction. Which means you have to pay for therapy later. Which means, what have you really saved?

At one point in the construction, it occured to me; the directions that accompanied the desk and drawer would work so much easier in a different environment than my apartment. Such as zero-g, where it makes sense to float each block and rivet towards each other. That, or they assume I have telekinesis.

Okay, enough with the griping. Ultimately, I really liked what I picked out, and it works in the room the way I hoped it would. Maybe I’l even post some pictures…

Building a new nest.

(This title is in relation to a previous post, for any newcomers.)

Tonight I’ll  be off to Ikea, land of homogenized individuality, to add some of the final touches to the new apartment I’ve moved into. A lot of my furniture previously to this were hand-me-downs, and though functional, no longer what I’m looking for.

In general, we learn the lesson of accumulation; of getting all the stuff we need so that we don’t need it anymore. Perhaps a vestigial instinct from more primal days, when shelter meant life, and maintaining it meant continued life. Hell, in some of the more war-torn or generally ravaged sections of the world, this is still the case.

But the feeling of getting rid of something, not because you don’t need it, but simply to replace it, is an interesting emotion.  There is a sense of metamorphosis. You can begin to tailor your environment more specifically, attaching it to your own habits and aesthetic. Perhaps redesigning a room can begin a redesigning of self.

As my environment changes, I feel a similar change approach…