Guest Post: “Living Larger with Animism” by Arianne “Tex” Thompson

ThompsonAT-AuthorPicYou know, one of the coolest things about SFF is how it invites us to mothball our skepticism and explore just about any metaphysical concept. Avatar Aang lives in a world where reincarnation is inarguably real. So does Rand Al-Thor. Just so, Narnia is a world with a concrete moral order, and the Marvel universe is absolutely lousy with gods. Fate, karma, magic, ghosts – you name it; we’ve got a franchise for it.

But here’s one big idea that I’d like to see getting more air-time: animism. It’s one of the oldest belief systems in the world, and put simply, it’s the idea that non-human creatures and things have souls, and therefore should be treated with awareness. In sci-fi and fantasy, animism usually comes to the fore whenever a creator wants to craft a culture that’s all about living in harmony with nature – your wood-elves, blue cat-people, et al. The problem is usually that they are so dang harmonious that they would never be worth writing about if they didn’t get bulldozed by the plot. (Literally, if we’re talking Ferngully and its like.) Continue reading

Guest Post: “Don’t Hold the Horses” by Arianne “Tex” Thompson

ThompsonAT-AuthorPicYou know how there’s this one genre that we call “swords and horses” fantasy? It’s a heck of a thing. They’re kind of the PB&J of old-school fantasy: tasty, familiar, and they go so well together. But it’s not exactly an even relationship, is it?

I mean, the swords – let’s be real, The Sword – gets all kinds of literary limelight. It’s got a name, a big ol’ backstory, some awesomesweet epic powers, and probably a good chunk of the hero’s destiny riding around in its carbon-steel interior. More often than not, that sucker actually drives the plot.

So why no love for the horses? Size, sex, color, and that’s it. Maybe a name, if it’s going to be a long-term fixture, and not stolen by goblins or eaten by were-possums at the end of the first act. But unless the horse is some kind of magical creature (with a big tip o’ the hat to Misty Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series!), you can almost guarantee that it’s just a half-ton inventory item – as if only the fantasy elements of a fantasy story are allowed to be interesting or important.

I vote we change that. And I think a lot of writers would be up for trying – it’s just that we’re not really sure how. After all, most of us don’t live within thirty miles of a horse, nevermind own or ride one. The only time pop culture shows them to us as characters in their own right is either when they’re the focal point of the story (Black Beauty, Seabiscuit, etc.) or else when someone’s following the “basically furry humans with speech impediments” Disney sidekick model. Continue reading