By Amanda Steele
The panelists were Farseer Trilogy author Robin Hobb, Sixth World series and Star Wars: Resistance Reborn author Rebecca Roanhorse, The Rise of Kyoshi author F.C. Yee, The Evermore Chronicles author Emily R. King, The Vine Witch author Luanne G. Smith and Loki: Where Mischief Lies author Mackenzi Lee.
This panel was especially relevant to people who are storytellers and writers themselves in the fantasy and sci-fi genres and looking to learn more about how classic fairy tales, myths, and tropes can be reinvented in modern stories.
To begin, panelists were asked if they think modern writers have the responsibility to address problematic fairy tale content. King said that many modern writers were doing this, giving the example of the live-action Cinderella and saying, “that’s a good example of I think what we’re trying to do…we find an example we don’t agree with as much, so we rewrite it the way we want it to be.”
Next, the panel discussed a character archetype that has become quite prevalent in pop culture lately: the witch. Panelists were asked to discuss witches and if modern stories have been reclaiming this word and the negative associations with it. Smith said “women particularly are looking for that intrinsic power that they feel. Sometimes we don’t feel like we have a lot of power politically.”
Lee brought up her experience of writing Loki: “my witch is Loki, who is a woman often.” She said that the popularity of witches and their power “had to do somewhat with historical malignment…we are not only reclaiming it but taking it and instilling real power into it through out fictional narratives.”
Roanhorse also brought up the important fact that witches aren’t seen the same way across all cultures and that they aren’t always associated in other non-western cultures with negative femininity.
The panel then discussed the intersection of fairy tales and horror. They were asked about why these two things often go together. Roanhorse expanded on this idea saying that fairy tales and horror tales in myths were both used to help keep people alive. They were meant to warn people of danger and also be entertaining as they come from the oral tradition.
Next, the panel addressed the idea of character archetypes and how these change over time; specifically talking about the archetypes of the fool and the trickster god.
Fans of Loki should take note of what Lee had to say about Loki as an archetype of a trickster God. She noted that while in Norse mythology that he was more of a side character but now, “Loki in our pop culture is very dangerous and unpredictable and a little bit sexy.”
As the panel began to wrap up, the panelists discussed something that is relevant to many sci-fi/fantasy storytellers today. They talked about whether or not the typical narratives of a “chosen one” on a hero’s journey is still relevant or if it should be moved beyond. Yee responded saying that “it all depends on execution as these narratives allow you to play with expectations.”
Star Wars fans, especially those aware of discourse in the fandom, might find what Roanhorse’s idea about the chosen one narrative interesting. She brought up The Last Jedi and how “a lot of people didn’t like it because it reverts the ‘chosen one’ narrative…I think that reflects our times a lot. No longer does this narrative work for all demographics.”