Dissecting Dragons: Episode 116: Cliches are Cliche for a Reason - Why Tropes aren’t bad, but Some Tropes need to Die

May 4, 2018

Episode 116: Cliches are Cliche for a Reason - Why Tropes aren't bad...but Some Tropes need to Die.

 

When writing for a target audience a writer will include and rework various tropes of the genre. There are only so man basic plots after all, so the freshness and originality of a story comes from how it's told. Contrary to certain opinions in the book review community, tropes aren't a bad thing - there's nothing wrong with giving your audience more of what thay want. However there are some tropes that continue and perpetuate a toxic stereotype of mindset when they are repeated in literature. And those tropes really need to be identified and stamped out. Looking at their own experiences in writing and taking examples from film, TV and books, the dragons attempt to untangle the worthy from  the unworthy in this weeks episode. On the slab this week Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Circle of Magic by Tamra Pearce, Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 115: Clothes Make the Man - Cross-dressing in Speculative Fiction

April 27, 2018

Episode 115: Clothes Make the Man - Cross-dressing in Speculative Fiction

 

Throughout history, there have been many documented cases of people donning the clothing of the opposite sex. The reasons for this are myriad and complex - wht would a cis-gendered person disguise themselves as another gender? Whether it's a woman dressing like a man to obtain a medical degree or a man dressing like a woman in order to escape violence, cross-dressing has been part of our history for thousands of years. Whether it's from the desire to create art and entertainment, or for necessity and freedom, the stories behind these cases are fascinating and have given rise to a sub genre of myth and speculative fiction. This week the dragons rummage through the dressing up box looking for answers. 

On the slab this week The Song of the Lioness - Tamora Pearce, Mulan, Robin Hood and the Bishop and many more.

 

(Please note that we are specifically talking about cis gendered people dressing in opoosition to their sex, not Trans people who are dressing to reflect who the are.)

 

Title music: Ecsyasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 114: Queer Eye for the Straight Story - Reading Speculative Fiction through a Queer Filter

April 20, 2018

Episode 114: Queer Eye for the Straight Story - Reading Speculative Fiction through a Queer Filter

 

While diversity representation is slowly becoming more balanced in books, film and TV, the scales still tilt firmly towards a straight, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual and usually male default. This creates an expectation that all stories will default to this default setting which everyone to some degree ingests on a subconscious level. This week the dragons try an exercise whereby they deviate from the default and read fiction as though the standard is for a character to be 'queer' or non-cis gendered and non heterosexual, before exploring how shifting the default can enhance both reading experience and real worl perception. On the slab this week - The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch, Moby Dick - Hermann Melville, Dracula - Bram Stoker, The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins and many more.

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 113: Decoy Ducks & Red Herrings - Sayings, Urban Legends and Aphorisms

April 13, 2018

Episode 113: Decoy Ducks and Red Herrings - Sayings, Urban Legends and Aphorisms

 

Language is a peculiar beast. We invent words for everything and then combine them in odd ways to describe circumstances. If language is odd then metaphor and simile is even odder. This week the dragons look at some of the most peculiar sayings and proverbs in English (with a fair smattering of French and Irish ones too.) Part of cracking the ability to write dialogue is understanding the mind set of a character and when or if they might use a particular saying. Jules and Madeleine also discuss creting your own sayings for dialogue in speculative fiction. Buckle in for some very peculiar proverb origin stories...

 

Title Music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 112: Spies, Traitors & Turncoats - Informants in Speculative Fiction

April 6, 2018

Episode 112: Spies, Traitors & Turncoats - Informants in Speculative Fiction

 

Spy thrillers provide some of the most twisting and suspenceful plots imaginable and it's not unusual to have a spy or traitor character in other settings. This week the dragons delve into the morally ambiguous world of spycraft, citing their own favourite examples in speculative fiction. On the slab this week Trickster's Choice - Tamora Pearce, Alias, The Night Manager, Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 111: Larger than Life - The Fictional World of Giants

March 30, 2018

Episode 111: Larger than Life - The Fictional World of Giants

 

Giants are some ways, one of the stranger mythological creatures, ubiquitous in almost all cultures as dragons and mermaids, but varying greatly in characteristics. Were their origins buried in history in cultural clashes? Are they metaphorical for natural cataclysms or people who possessed what seemed more than human ability? What is their lingering hold on our subconscious as archetypes? Tune in this week as the dragons delve into these mysteries. From Jack and the Beanstalk to Balor of the Fearsome Eye, giants have had an enormous foothold in our collective imaginations for some time.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 110: Saying What You Really Mean - The Importance of Theme in Speculative Fiction

March 23, 2018

Episode 110: Saying What You Really Mean - The Importance of Theme in Speculative Fiction

 

Spoiler Warning: We discuss Star Wars - The Last Jedi

 

Theme is one of those elusive things that experinced writers tell you you must have or at least be aware of, but that no one can really tell you how to do. Even if you have a really strong grasp on your theme, it can get away from you and deliver a message you didn't intend. Add to that themes can become out dated over time. So why is theme important? Why should you be mindful about what you're really saying with your book? This week the dragons delve into these questions using the Star Wars saga (films rather than expanded universe) to examine examples of theme - where it works, where it's a bit cringeworthy and how The Last Jedi has subverted and updated all these ideas.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 109: Into the East - Fantasy Settings Tolkien Never Used

March 16, 2018

Episode 109: Into the East - Fantasy Settings Tolkien Never Used

 

For most of us the word 'fantasy' conjures up a rugged, natural landscape with a more historical seeming setting (usually medieval) and possibly Alpine mountain ranges in the back ground. This is certainly one fantasy setting and thanks to the Grandfather of the fantasy genre, J.R.R.Tolkien, it's often the default setting. This week the dragons delve into fantasy worlds set elsewhere than the Western world. Exploring the questions of diversity and race in conjunction with setting and discussing what exactly makes a good fantasy setting, Madeleine and Jules talk about some of their favourite non-European set fantasy books. On the docket this week - Across the Nightingale Floor- Lian Hearne, Marvel's Black Panther, Shadows on the Moon - Zoe Marriott and many more.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 108: It Must be the Weather - How Nature Reflects Art in Speculative Fiction

March 9, 2018

Episode 108: It Must be the Weather - How Nature Reflects Art in Speculative Fiction

 

Writers use various literary devices as shorthand - a way of saying as much as possible and building chains of association withou resorting to lengthly passages of unnecessary descriptive prose. One of these much used but largely undiscussed devices is the weather. This week the dragons delve in to scene setting using the natural worl, the weather and the seasons. From the fairy tale of Snow White to Disney's Frozen, from tornados in Stephen King's The Stand to mists, fogs and rain, Madeleine and Jules have got it covered on how to add an extra dimention and emotional depth to a scene using that most British of small talk topics - the weather.

 

Tite music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

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Dissecting Dragons: Episode 107: The Balance of Power - Sexism and Sexual Harassment in the Publishing Industry

March 2, 2018

Episode 107: The Balance of Power - Sexism and sexual Harassment in the Publishing Industry

 

In the wake of campaigns such a #MeToo more and more industries are looking to their own ranks in a re-examination of how well they all navigate such murky waters. Recently Ann Ursu published the results of a survey on sexual harassment in children's publishing. The results were shocking, leading to the School Libraries Journal to publish a list of alledged offenders. Neither the survey nor the list make easy reading but the conversation is an important one and this week the dragons are joining it. From the SLJ list itself to general sexism in publishing, particularly speculative fiction, M.E.Vaughan and J.A.Ironside present their viewpoint.

 

Title music: Ecstasy by Smiling Cynic

 

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