Folklore: an Appeal to Fantasy Authors to Get it Right

Dear Fantasy Genre,

I know I haven’t spent as much time with you recently as I used to.  I’ve been hanging out with mystery more often lately, and even sometimes with those Victorian novels (they’re not all bad, you’d know that if you got out more). But fantasy, I do still care about you, and about what you’re up to. So when I read about one of the best-reviewed fantasy novels of recent years having a very simplistic understanding of my academic field, an academic field which has had a definite role in inspiring fantasy, I become concerned.

I mean, seriously, the American Folklore Society has 2,000 members and the size of the annual meeting is growing every year. There are folklorists hanging out in regional studies, English, and literature programs in Universities across the continent. The University of North Carolina’s folklore program has recommended reading for people new to the field on its site. It is not hard to figure out where to find some basic information. And if you’re teaching English at a University, especially at a University in the University of Wisconsin system, which has UW Madison in it, which is one of the places with an actual folklore program, yet you don’t think to look into any bare basics of how folklore works, you’re a  GODDAMN LAZY HACK WHO SHOU-


Fantasy, I want to help.

So I’m going to try to deal with some basic questions you may have about folklore in this post.

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The Truth is Out There

If you ask me what my favorite or the best television show I’ve seen is, I’ll babble for a while and do things like try to find words to express how amazing Kenneth Branagh is in BBC’s Wallander, but it will basically all be a lead up to me saying “yeah it’s the seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street before executive meddling started screwing things up.” (And, if this discussion is online, I’ll probably end by linking to this clip, which will demonstrate why for me.)

But if you ask me what television show has had the most impact on me, personally, the answer’s going to be immediate, and I must with shame admit it’s not Homicide.

It’s The X-Files. It’s definitely The X-Files.

From Mulder and Scully’s relationship to overwritten philosophical voice-overs to self-aware and self-mocking episodes to the Smoking Man’s method of villainy to  the lack of lighting (especially to the lack of lighting), X-Files is all over me, for better and worse.

Since I’ve been getting addicted to blogs that recap and evaluate series, things like Jenny Trout’s Big Damn Buffy Rewatch or Ronan Wills’ Let’s Watch of Dollhouse, and since The X-Files is all (save the movies) up on Netflix and I have the password to my parents’ account, I’ve been thinking of starting a project. A “rewatching/watching all of X-Files and blogging about it” project. I’ve never seen the show in full order and there are parts of it (admittedly, a lot of them in the last two seasons) I totally missed, so this is something I’d like to do with my free time anyway. And blogging about it will encourage me to think more critically about the show while I do so, and allow for conversation with all of you lovely folks.

Watch out, internet.