Friday, July 23, 2010


See, imaginary readers? Sometimes I do post when I say I will. That'll learn you to assume my partial inability to keep to my own schedules is a complete inability to keep my own schedules.

Anyway, prophecy and why I hate it, both in fiction and in the real world. But mostly in fiction

First thing is, the paradoxes involved in knowing the future. Often, the assumption is that the future is set, what will happen will happen, period, and what you're getting is a snapshot of that. (I will address conditional futures later). What's the problem? That it makes no fucking sense. If you're getting a snapshot of the future, and we assume that the past holds some manner of influence over the future, then we have to assume that knowledge of the future being in the past somehow worked everything out so that the future would turn out exactly as it did. Which really only happens because of authorial intervention. There's no intradiegetic reason why visions of a set future work out (Yes, I do like that word a whole fucking lot, why do you ask?).

Conditional futures have similar problems because they are often set as in very stark choices, it's either the end of the world or the beginning of Utopia, etc. Never as a gradient of slightly different possibilities, which is what you'd expect if it actually was about the natural consequences of actions and not hamfisted fitting into prefabricated patterns.

Second, the whole vague symbolism. Real prophecies (That is, alleged prophecies that take place in the real world and not in fiction) are almost always filled with obscure symbolism. See Nostradamus or the book of Revelation. This is because of a very good reason, namely, that they are bullshit. Prophecies that have specific interpretations have the annoying tendency of being disproved.

However, this makes no sense in fiction. In a universe where prophecy is true, there's no reason for this multiple interpretations babble. Sure, it might have been a nice literary twist the first five hundred times or so, but by now it's been done to death. Not to mention, all these prophecies with vague wordings that have some sort of obscure meaning need some sort of intelligent source. There's no reason given why information spontaneously travels back in time, assembles itself into an arguably technically true statement in a language understood by the prophet. And if there is an intelligent source creating these messages, why? If it wants to help the characters, then why be an asshole about the meaning? And if it doesn't, why create the prophecies at all?

So yeah. I dislike prophecy as a narrative element, at least the usual versions of it. Which is why Ananke's power works the way it does.

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