The Salve of Authenticity
If the dreary Cult of Good Enough, latent creative inbreeding, and audience rendered limitations are the enemies, what might be considered the positive response? The answer is authenticity and the relentless pursuit of it. In this context, authenticity is relative to the world itself rather than real life. Achieving this important, yet often undetected status is what separates good fantasy from the plethora of lesser conceived universes. Fantasy is particularly vulnerable to bouts of disconnection and unrelatable madness. It manifests in “flashy” characters and monsters along with contrived storylines of dark lords and lost artifacts in strange need of retrieval. These things paw at the boots of the ancestor fantasy works- greater things conceived by more diligent minds. However, the mimics never achieve the same heights of literary potency. Why? Authenticity. It is obvious when fantasy literature is a thinly veiled clone. It feels hollow. It lacks the depth and original thinking which made the predecessors great. Consider this passage. “The author is a doomed fellow. He is swamped by an immense literary tradition and drowning amidst its rising current which is excited by the work of his contemporaries. The desire to mimic or render himself unto the work of others is as tantalizing as it is simple. It weighs like stones around his feet. Swimming to the surface and freedom requires extraordinary effort. The test is more often failed than not. As he struggles, the author breathes irregular air pockets which drift to the surface and burst. These are unique and original ideas which escape the singularly dreary abyss and reach the crisp freshness of original work. The author must pursue them with every ounce of strength available and resist the complacency which allows others to drift down into the depths of obscurity and mediocrity. Upon the surface is artistic liberation which is the objective of true art as divorced from the product.” Don’t burden yourself with worrying about defeating all the competition. It is impossible. It is simple truth that too many talented artists are creating work to successfully trounce them all through every metric. Create what is true to the experience you’re attempting to capture. Those who focus upon the art develop the greatest pieces, for their mental power is solely directed toward that purpose. This is true for all aspects of life- the victors pursue victory while the others pursue the victor. Overtly attacking, subtly undermining, or otherwise lingering on the works of others only wastes your own mental potential for original creation. At the same time, be vigilant. Consider a brief aside note which illuminates much. On the waning months of 1945, after the destruction of Europe through war’s ravages, Karl Popper penned the Paradox of Tolerance. In it, he stated that "to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance." One must challenge the anti-thesis of a condition to maintain said condition. Originality is much alike. It is an elusive beast, not half as achievable as tolerance. For that reason, consider this rewording of the quote. Now- “to maintain an original piece, the artist must be intolerant of unoriginality”. It is a difficult process, and fallible. The artist, just like the analogous society entity, must be aggressive against that which is does not desire to become in time. In the pursuit of quality work and originality, certain elements of the mythos must be revised or removed altogether. This is perhaps the most controversial truth of world-building. Nothing will, or should, remain the same throughout years of work. The content which represents older concepts, such as Necromancy/Undead, Dragons, and Demigods, are removed in favor of material which better reflects the specifics of the mythos, such as Áckeshir corruption, Axokari, and Nith’eshan. What those specific things are is irrelevant but suffice to say they are more lore specific approaches the older questions. Without this manner of ‘house-cleaning’ the mythos becomes weighed down with generic, boring content which tears down the value of what remains. The controversy arises when there is opposition against this process or quarrels develop on what ought to remain or disappear.