I admit that I am only a very recent Neil Gaiman convert. I’ve heard of him when I started reading Terry Pratchett. But having to read all of the Discworld novels first, I sort of put Gaiman aside for a while.
I read “Good Omens” and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I picked up “American Gods”, which I finished a few weeks ago and found hard to get into, because it struck me as rather glum and depressing in parts. But once I finished it I loved it. Having seen the movie “Stardust”, I decided to read that next and just finished it yesterday, but getting through it much quicker.
I quite enjoyed it, but kept comparing it with the movie, which I also rather enjoyed. The story as a whole wasn’t changed very much, but many details were different and I’ve not yet been able to decide, which one I preferred. Independently both movie and book are great, but I find that they shouldn’t be compared too much, because I thought it was sad that the book didn’t end in the same way the movie did, just as I thought it a shame that some details of the book were omitted in the movie.
But so it goes and that is the business in which we find ourselves. Few books are translated faithfully onto the screen and the book certainly didn’t have a Hollywood ending, but one that should be appreciated in the context of the story of the book.
I’ve started on “Neverwhere” now and am already quite intrigued.
What struck me was Gaiman’s afterword in Stardust, however. He’s fascinated by fairy tales and myths and legends, folklore and all the rest of it. So am I, but probably in a different way. Needless to say that we grow up with fairy tales and many happy endings and always filled with lessons to be learned from them.
Stories are a way to teach children, they feed our imaginations just as much as our imagination fuels them. It’s a never ending cycle. As history is, so stories are written by the winners, though. Which is something he points out as well.
He tells about a conference he was asked to speak at and found that the audience didn’t seem to believe that stories and fairytales can have an effect on adults anymore. So he wrote a retelling of Snow White from the viewpoint of the Evil Queen. Needless to say that the queen wasn’t as evil as the fairy tale makes her out to be. Gaiman gives a few examples on what he touched on in his retelling and upon finishing noticed that quite a few people in his audience were quite disturbed.
Where am I going with this? Good question. I titled this blog entry “The Other Side”. Let’s consider that each story has two sides (at the very least, usually it has as many sides as it has characters). We get to see the side the author wants us to see. It’s the side the other chose him- or herself in order to make a particular point. But do you really believe that the villain in a story actually considers themselves a villain?
In all the history of story and fairy tales and make believe, how many characters have there been that you could righteously claim set out to do evil and nothing but evil and who considered themselves the bad guys? Have we ever actually hear them say or claim so in any way, shape or form?
Where does the Evil Queen say that she’s evil and villainous and only wants the worst for everyone in her realm? From what we know she wants to kill Snow White, because she’s prettier than the Queen. Do we know anything else? Not that I recall.
Or take the latest Star Trek movie “Into Darkness”. Khan is ruthless, no doubt, but what about his motives? He wants to protect his own people at all cost. How is that a bad thing? How are Kirk and Spock any different?
The main villain in that movie is actually the Starfleet Admiral Marcus. But even he has a set of motives that appears to be on the right side of humanity, because he wants to strike against the Klingons before they vanquish Earth. Being a war monger is no solution, however, no matter how much you want to protect your race.
In the case of this movie and many others, we get to glimpse the other side. We get an idea of their motives and we get an idea where they are coming from and that they don’t consider themselves the bad guys.
Where many stories and fairy tales are concerned, we don’t get to see that. It seems, the older the story the less we get to see the whole picture, only the winner’s story.
We will always find ourselves siding with someone. The author of any story inevitable does the same and will write accordingly. I’ve not read a book, where that wasn’t the case or was even attempted to be avoided. Maybe I’ve not found the right book yet.
The morals I live by, the morals anyone lives by, if they match or not, steer us a certain way and some may not allow for empathy for the person I believe to be in the wrong. But I could at least try and see their side. Especially as a writer I should consider every side, every angle, every argument, and if I can’t see it right away, I should be looking for it, because my own blinders may hide them from me.
There’s always another side, the other side, a whole other truth. I’m obliged to consider it at the very least, acknowledge it and, if I can, tell you about it so you be the judge.
After all, I consider myself a story teller, not a judge.