Love and family in storytelling

I recently jotted down some thoughts about how the Witcher may actually be superversive, despite its apparent blighted grayness and nihilistic feel. I’m still thinking on that, but it does look like it checks off a lot of Russell’s boxes. I’ll write more about it in the near future.

While I was musing on the nature of Geralt and Yennefer’s relationship as one of their most redemptive aspects, a Google + post of Jeffro’s from a couple weeks ago came to mind.



In my mind at least, when measuring whether a story is supervisive, it may be that not all points are equally weighted. This emphasis on love and family seems to me to endow more “superversive points” than some other common elements. That’s not to say, of course, that all stories involving love and elevating the family are superversive, but it sure don’t hurt.

I’ve been pondering this as I get into Moorcock’s Elric stories, as well. The Albino Emperor comes from an evil, demon-worshiping society. But even when he gives into societal pressure, Moorcock takes pains to show that Elric’s not such a bad guy, and he’s just trying to do what’s best for his people, or for the woman he loves. I think this is kind of bullshit, honestly. In refusing to wield his power to vanquish clear and present evils early on in the story, he opens the door to more sinister forces and avoidable tragedy. But one thing I will give him – unlike many of his kind, it seems, he loves. He certainly cares for the princess Cymoril, to the point that he would risk his life. That love is worth something, right?

Image source

So is Elric superversive? You’d probably have to be familiar with the larger body of works and/or with the Eternal Champion storyline to answer that. Maybe I’ll get there someday.

But for now I continue to ponder the weight and importance of romantic love and consummation, as Jeffro put it, in classic and transcendent modern SFF.




9 thoughts on “Love and family in storytelling

  1. Jeffro does that a lot. He tosses off a couple paragraphs of idle speculations that nurrow deep into your brain, waiting for a chance to grab the controls of your train of thought. He’s like a switchboard operator for your brain.

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  2. Well, the relationship between family and fantasy has always been uh, I was going to say complicated, but non-existent would be closer to the truth. If half of the protagonist aren’t orphans, the other half seems to exist in a vacuum, without a close family or an extended one, or even without any kind of culture that identifies them. Ironically, this is the kind of stuff those who talk about “improving” fantasy and cultural sensitivity and all that could bring to the genre. They don’t, of course.

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    1. Do you mean contemporary fantasy? Two thoughts on this: first, prominent examples of more classic fantasy with strong or traditional examples of family do come to mind relatively quickly for me, even if “family” may not be one of the central themes in most of them. Second, I think for many writers the orphan or child of mysterious origins has served as an easy way to hint at or explain superhuman powers or divine favor. Why develop an interesting family history when you can hint at your protagonist being the child of some god or ancient wizard lord? In some cases I guess it’s also used as an allegorical device.

      But I agree, more focus on family in the genre would be welcome.


      1. Yeah, contemporary, although it also happens in more classic works. But it’s understandable, really, because some of them were short stories with action-packed conflicts, and even for full novels, inserting a family or similar relationships may hinder the whole idea of rugged individualism, roam free around the world, adventure, and similar stuff that many of those stories tried to convey.

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  3. A couple of years ago I re-read the main series of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion cosmology (22 books)
    and I can’t say I really enjoyed Elric that much. He’s certainly sort of an anti-hero or nihilist compared to Corum and Hawkmoon, or even Erekose. I will agree that Elric’s professed love for Cymoril and hatred of his brother are great motivations in the early going, but I always had the underlying doubt that he REALLY cared as much as he claimed to.

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