This week’s Tough Travels theme is “lairs”:
The evil lair is where a great fantasy villain will spend the plurality of his or her time.
Now of course, there are some really iconic ones — Saruman’s Isengard, Sauron’s Mordor, even Shelob’s Cirith Ungol and Smaug’s Lonely Mountain — but I’ve been racking my brains to think of something a little off the beaten path. So I remembered a quote I read somewhere quite recently, about the people who ultimately do the most evil being the people who are unshakeably sure they’re right.
Which gave me…
- Roke, from The Earthsea Quartet and The Other Wind. It’s a stagnant world, not willing to bend with the times and let in new people (particularly, women). It’s the Establishment, really. With the best of intentions, they make a total mess of things. I think that goes for a lot of magic regulating bodies in fantasy…
- Malthus and Aracus’ strongholds/camps/etc from Jacqueline Carey’s The Sundering. I could’ve picked Satoris for this without twisting it even slightly, since most people view him as the bad guy — essentially this world’s Sauron. And yet, his side are more accepting of grey areas and outcasts, while Malthus and Aracus’ forces are completely self-righteously convinced that they’re on the side of right. That’s more dangerous, to me.
- Sky, in N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. There are some good people trapped in the system there, mostly kept turning by Itempas’ injustice…
- 10 Downing Street, circa Tony Blair’s stint as prime minister. Oops. That’s not fantasy.
Looking forward to seeing what other people came up with, here; hoping it won’t make me want any new books, because I don’t have a debit card to buy them with at the moment!
The prompt this week for Tough Travels is this:
Seems odd to think that in fantasy cities in which entire economies revolve around crime there is room for the men in blue (or crimson, or whatever). But the law does the best it can, even when faced with magic, mystical creatures, or rogue deities.
So I thought about this and for some reason my mind was totally blank. I mean, there’s various forces of law and order in fantasy, of course, but I couldn’t think of specific ones. In a lot of what I read, they’re just in the background — the king’s guardsmen, the city watch, whatever. Anyway, I’ve done my best to think of some of the forces of law and order that we don’t normally associate with the men in blue, as such. Like…
- The Avengers (Marvel comics). You’ve never met a more law-abiding, law-enforcing person than Steve Rogers! And, admittedly, he does wear a mostly blue uniform.
- The wizards on Roke (A Wizard of Earthsea). They’re pretty insular a lot of the time, granted, but if there’s a problem out there in the world, they’re probably the only ones who can solve it. And Ged is very aware of that fact. There’s the short story in Tales from Earthsea where he goes after a disgraced wizard, and then there’s the whole plot of The Furthest Shore…
- Valek (Poison Study). The Commander might be the centre of power, but he wouldn’t be that way without Valek keeping people in line.
And for a guy who does represent the boys in blue, though this is not strictly fantasy (it’s alternate history)…
- Peter Carmichael (Small Change trilogy). Because he tries to do his job even when it’s hard. Because despite all the risks to himself and those he loves, he subverts the regime he’s in, and supports real justice.
Here’s a new, but very appropriate, meme for this blog! From here.
Each Thursday, our copy of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.
The topic this week is PETS:
Everybody needs somebody to love. And the best companionship doesn’t always come from the same sentient group, does it? Be it furry or scaled, large or small, sometimes an animal companion is the best thing a person can have.
- The otak, from A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin: We don’t see much of the little creature, but without him and his fierce shy loyalty, Ged wouldn’t survive past half the book. And we know how special he is because most otaks are shy.
- Nighteyes, from the Farseer trilogy, by Robin Hobb: Okay, not quite a pet, but an animal companion nonetheless. You’ve got to love this guy.
- The Disreputable Dog, from Lirael, by Garth Nix: Another sentient one, really. I’m doing bad at this, aren’t I? But you gotta love her.
You can probably think of some obvious ones I forgot…