Saturday, April 24, 2010

Team Bad

Last week I got thoroughly addicted to Fables again.  This is a comic book series aimed at adults that chronicles the lives of a group of characters from fairy tales that live in modern day Earth.  Imagine if you will the Big Bad Wolf magically transformed into a human acting as the sheriff.  Consider too that he is in love with Snow White, the deputy mayor.  Prince Charming is an irresistible ladies man and thorough cad who married and then was divorced by all 3 of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty for his infidelities.

At the moment there are 18 books in the series and it seems destined to be one of those bits of fiction that I will fall into every year or two.  Around that timeframe Wendy or myself remembers that we haven't gotten the latest in the series and when the new books arrive it is mandatory that we reread the entire set even if it means that no work gets done for two days.  This desperate and temporary necessity reminds me of both George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.  Both are sweeping fantasy epics written over a huge span of years that forced me to submerge myself in them each time a new entry arrived.  Of course the major difference between these 3 series is that Song of Ice and Fire and Fables are wonderful and the Wheel of Time has three good books and then 9 instruments of torture.

The other really key thing that is different between the 3 series is the idea that there is a Team Bad.  In Wheel of Time Team Bad is really a thing.  The evil people are evil by definition and work for evil ends.  No one can argue that they deserve forgiveness and they are beyond redemption.  They work as a unit towards ends that cannot reasonably be explained simply by greed, foolishness or madness but rather are stitched together by being part of a Team.  In both Song and Fables there is no Team Bad.  There are people that do evil things and people that make ruthless, destructive and selfish decisions but they remain people and are not simply cogs in the machine.

That idea of a world populated by complex people who cannot easily be set into two opposing teams has tremendous appeal to me.  I want people to change teams not by magic or dramatic defection but rather by context.  Is Jaime Lannister really evil?  Is Prince Charming?  Both are certainly the bad guy in some of the stories, heroes in others.  The appeal of these two characters is that they are the same people throughout but they aren't locked into one side or another of some cataclysmic battle between Light and Dark.  Rather they are powerful, complex, passionate people doing what they think is the right thing to do in the situation they are in.

Some authors can write a story about a group of people, some really evil, some really good, most somewhere in between and capture the madness and chaos that occurs in the real world and the way it shapes the character's lives.  Those authors are a rare treasure and if you have not yet sampled Fables or Song then I suggest you do.  If you have not yet sampled Wheel of Time... then read the first three books, say to yourself "Rand beats up the bad guy and they all live happily ever after" and consider yourself lucky.

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