Keeping it in the family
Keeping it in the family… No, I wasn’t actually referring to the ancient Egyptian nobility’s tradition of marrying their own daughters. They often say genetics is nature’s revenge on parents, and in this I imagine they considerably increased their chances of genetic problems. No, I was referring to the familial saga.
It’s an interesting little branch of sf and fantasy, and fiction in general, and politics (which has a lot in common with Fantasy – although given some of the antics you start wondering about this inbreeding – and if this is a ‘Game of Thrones’ reality show with no likable characters allowed to survive.)
I was thinking about this as a result of a comment from a reader – plainly someone (like me) to whom family is important. After all: we like to read books about things that are important to us, with characters that we can at least support if not love or identify with.
Maybe when you’re 16 (or not maturing much past) or single, the heart of a story is the drama and the hook up… but honestly the older I get the more I love books that at very least hint to a continuation. Maybe it is mortality catching up on me. Maybe the lack of grandkids seeing as my boys are now grown up and married and keeping me waiting… I look forward to helping the young tykes be suitable vengeance on my boys. I want to corrupt the youth with my song (yes, that is a Zelazny reference) and teach the ancient traditional ways of my people — in a fashion that horrifies the very people raving on about the wickedness of cultural imperialism. Mine are a hunting people, a warrior people, and learning to use the tools of the trade – the knife, the spear and the gun are our way. Funny, that’s not cutesy culture anymore, and cultural imperialism in doing away with that is entirely different. But aside from that – well there is a fascination in family. Military sf – and modern literary sf (where families, children and a healthy interest in future generations just fails to be unique, like all the rest) do have a harder time of it, although Bujold does weave it in well to her military sf. But the rest of sf/fantasy? THE ROLLING STONES. My HEIRS OF ALEXANDRA books – there are definitely some.
So: is it rare? Has it become less common? Is this sf/fantasy/fiction in general reflecting the diminishing role of the family in society (or at least in NY publishing and who they choose to publish) Or is just a false impression of mine, nothing to do with reality? Was the Scouring of the Shire the least important part of LotR and just important to me?
More important, as writers, why does it work, if it does? And what of books, series that follow generations. I can see the attraction – you want to know what became of those heroes that one invested so much in. But is it good for the reader? Is going to get the best out of a writer? I was thinking of some I enjoyed – DUNE sequence (to my mind got weaker), Heyer’s THESE OLD SHADES, and then DEVIL’S CUB (which got better to my mind) SHOGUN and the follow ons (which I liked less).
What are your thoughts?