We, as a society, tend to give women the short end of the stick. Right now, you might be thinking ‘duh’ or crying misandry right now. If you’re in that second group, I can’t help you with this piece. Sometime last year I was listening to the Slow Burn podcast about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. I had complicated thoughts about the whole thing. As someone who grew up in the 90s, I was distantly aware of the scandals. Bill Clinton mainly figured into my worldview via re-aired episodes of the Simpsons. Episodes were he appeared as a cool saxophone-playing guy, was replaced by an alien in their attempts to take over the Earth, and uh, flirted with Marge Simpson. Generally, as I learned more, there were a few conclusions I came to. What Clinton did was wrong, regardless of whether the relationship was consensual or not. The power imbalance between the middle-aged President and his twenty-year-old White House intern was always going to be fraught. Might we view Clinton in a different light in the wake of the #MeToo movement? Absolutely. However, at the time, it was clearly a partisan hack job. Those condemning the President weren’t about moral standards. You know why I think that? One of Clinton’s detractors was a fellow named Brett Kavanagh and we know what his track record with sexual assault is. There was only one person in the whole scandal who I thought was pretty blameless in all this. Monica Lewinsky herself.
So, I’ve just started watching Netflix’s adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events because I’m always six months behind the conversation. Earlier this year, the second season dropped and I’ve been enjoying it more than the first. Now, I did read the series when I was younger. My memory of the books is hazy but from my memories, the show is rather faithful. The area in which it probably differs the most is in expanding the role of the adults in the series. Now, as I made my way through the series I had a thought. A Series of Unfortunate Events reflects the Trump era in an interesting way. Now for me to explain why I am going to spoil both series to a point. The discussion of the series will probably spoil The Vile Village and all preceding episodes. With that out of the way, let’s begin.
So, this past week I’ve been writing up elements of the world that I run D&D in. Now in my campaign, I have three players new to the world of D&D and one player who has been running his own games of D&D for ten years. Often, I will add elements of the lore of D&D into my world. When these elements are discussed, there is a back-and-forth about how they are typically portrayed in the canon of the lore and where my world differs. While writing up the deities of my world, I’ve thought more about where the stories that have been told about the gods differ. So, that’s a fun writing topic, what are the benefits of writing in an established universe?
So, despite the fact that I call myself a writer. I don’t often dole out writing advice. I’ll correct those around me on grammar and language choice if they want but I’m not in the habit of shaping myself up as an expert. Mostly because I’m not. I’m a practitioner of the craft but I have some way to go before I can call myself an expert. With all that out of the way, let’s talk about worldbuilding. When I say worldbuilding I refer to the practice of creating fictional worlds usually employed in works of science fiction and fantasy.
The shimmering eyes stared down at them from enormous backlit billboards. In days gone, they might have been confused for an advertisement. No longer. The eyes were cruel. Although to give them that much agency was to personify them. The eyes felt nothing. They weren’t really watching from their point above everyone, plastered to the side of ever-growing skyscrapers. The eyes were merely a warning. God is watching, though a god of their own making. A god that was above but was also hiding in their pocket and their watch. The machines had won, and they were God now.
Stepping on the creaky boards, a million memories came flooding back. The space has barely changed in twenty years. She noticed the new paint in places. The stage was in a halfway state, vaguely resembling the set from the prior set. She had acted the words of a dozen notable playwrights on this stage from Shakespeare to Ibsen to Brecht. She had played everything from Lucy in Cosi to a gender-swapped Hamlet. That was many years ago though. The face of a younger woman adorned the posters that hung all around the foyer. Her hair had begun to grey, and wrinkles had formed at the corners of her eye. Whereas she had once played the role of ingenue Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, she now feared that the role of Lady Bracknell was not far off.
‘Hasn’t changed a bit, has it?’ a voice came from backstage.
Recently I’ve been getting into the hobby of Dungeons and Dragons. This is, I admit, an odd way to start a conversation about Harry Potter. The reason I mention it is that in the spell lists of D&D there is resurrection magic. Online communities for D&D openly discuss what the meaning of resurrection means for their game table. Mechanically, it means that a player can continue playing their character that they’ve grown attached to. While I was ruminating on resurrection, I began to think of the most influential fantasy text of my generation. When it comes to healing and resurrection in the world of Harry Potter it is a painful, slow process that more often involves potions than spells.