We have all read the story before. A group of people join together from various walks of life and backgrounds to journey on a quest. They may have to traverse dangerous terrain, fight off bandits, or avoid pursuit by the forces of evil. The setting itself does not matter, only that this band of adventures embarks on a journey seeking something. But a quest does not just have to a physical matter. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a quest as an act or instance of seeking. It does not state that a quest is just about the travel or that what they seek is a physical object. Oftentimes, the point of the quest is not only to accomplish a mission, but to grow as well. While a character remains in one place, they are static. It is only through embarking on or joining the quest that they can change.
One of the longest enduring staples in fiction is that of the Chosen One. The Chosen One is the special hero, standing above all others as the only one capable of defeating the enemy of the story or saving the world. The method for selecting a chosen one can be varied. In many stories, there is some form of prophecy which only fits this one individual. In others, they may have a certain birthmark or be born from the right parents at just the right time. This trope is not even relegated to one genre. Chosen one are found all throughout fantasy, science-fiction, and beyond. Harry Potter may be one of the most recognizable examples, but the chosen one can also be found in Star Wars in the form of Anakin Skywalker, and in The Matrix with Neo. Even The Lord of the Rings, which posits that anyone can defeat evil if they have the courage to rise up, contains a chosen one to a certain extent with Eowyn. However, the chosen one has waned in popularity. There are no chosen ones in real life.
There is a certain amount of joy gained in reading some fiction. Fiction meant to entertain, to transport the readers to fantastical worlds and witness the deeds of heroic peoples. Where literary fiction tends to prioritize specific word choice and meaning over plot and character, many authors realize that there can be greater value in drawing in and entertaining your audience. Sometimes the best books are the ones that make you forget that you are reading words on a page, instead conjuring images in your imagination. These are the kinds of books that are hard to put down, and you wonder how you managed to read through them so quickly. These types of books thrive in science-fiction, where most things, if not all things, are possible. The only barrier is the author’s imagination.
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Science-fiction takes many forms, but there are two archetypes which nearly all science-fiction stories fall into. First, there is the hard sci-fi. The Expanse, The Three-Body Problem, anything by Robert A. Heinlein. These are the stories which pay extra attention to the technologies of the future and go to great lengths to explain exactly how races have progressed to their points. This type of science-fiction can be literary, it can be intellectual, and it can be gritty. On the other end of the spectrum is the space opera. Star Wars, Firefly, A Princess of Mars. In space operas the technology is present, but is not central to the story. These stories are all about the characters. Where hard sci-fi series can fluctuate between multiple viewpoints, space operas relish in following an individual or a group of characters throughout their adventure. As our world changes and progresses, hard science-fiction and sometimes feel outdated, but space operas are timeless. Polaris Rising is very much a space opera.
Anyone who reads this blog will know that I read a lot of fantasy novels. They are the perfect form of escapism, pulling readers into different worlds. The world can be as similar or as different from our world as the author’s imagination allows. They can draw on real-world environments, societies, and peoples. The worlds of fantasy can also be as nontraditional as the author likes. Medieval Europe is usually the go-to influence, but there are no limits on which culture a book must take to heart. Asia, indigenous Australia, the middle East, old world America, the Pacific Islands, Africa…fantasy is the excuse to be as non-traditional as possible. The whole point of fantasy is to create a new world. Why should that new world be a slave to the rules of the old one? Create your own world and write your own rules.