Inbreeding and Cults
What happens were the intersecting rigors of thorough creation and over-saturated entertainment collide? A series of toxic by-products are produced which diminish the creative process. They are creative inbreeding and the Cult of Good enough, respectively. Let us begin with the former- creative inbreeding. What is it? Simply, it is the byproduct of the accepted practice of extreme literary borrowing. Extreme is important in this context. All literature borrows, but there are degrees of separation which allow the borrowed elements to adopt a unique life which makes them interesting to engage. The Lord of the Rings borrows significantly from Norse mythology, for example, including the foundations of dwarves and elves whom feature prominently in the legendarium. Yet, these elements are changed thoroughly a become something new and quite unrecognizable. This is interesting. It pushes the boundaries of definition and from it creates something fresh. Creative inbreeding is not borrowing- it is recycling. What dwarves and elves became in the modern fantasy genre is creative inbreeding, as each universe borrows from its contemporaries. Dungeons and Dragons, Dragon Age, Warhammer, Elder Scrolls (for elves), and countless other projects share the same appearance, characteristics, and dynamics in that regard. This is true for those identified elements, being dwarves and elves in this case, but this does not mean the noted franchises are worthless. Each bring some unique elements to the genre. Creative inbreeding thus serves a purpose as literary short-hand while other aspects are explored more deeply. The problem, and why the Eshanic mythos shuns that approach, is that the genre’s development becomes arrested by what becomes compelled stereotype. The stereotypical image of dwarves and elves are so deeply enmeshed within fantasy that it becomes difficult to write without them. It doesn’t feel right. The result is that more and more fantasy writers feel comfortable adapting those materials rather than creating original content. It is from that creative abyss that devotees of the infamous Cult of Good Enough arise. The Cult of Good Enough refers to a mentality wherein creators cease exploring and pressing boundaries. Why bother? Somebody else must have developed the same ideas with greater resources and skill. Pursuing originally thus becomes a race toward a finish line which others have already crossed. These fallen creators forget that the value of creation is the journey and lessons learned therein, not the product. Surely, some poor literature might be spawned from that font. Prompting people to push the limits elicits the worst and best of what new methods can create. Yet, this ratio is worth it. A single high-quality piece is enough to justify the trash. It will rise while the others fall. The secret is to never join the Cult of Good Enough and settle. A good product can eventually spawn from consistent effort with some failure, whereas a mediocre product thus settled with remain mediocre forever.