Wednesday, January 10, 2007


The AK or the Avada Kedavra?

I just made up the title of this post, but now I wonder if JK Rowling deliberately gave her killing curse the same initials as the most important automatic rifle in history. Bitter ponders the role of firearms in fantasy stories and concludes that the literary downside might outweigh the practical benefit for the gun-toting character.

It seems to be a common plot device in film fantasy to pretend things like guns don't exist, usually combined with treating them like something morally akin to WMD if they do turn up. Think of the episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where after failing to defeat Buffy with androids or dark arts, Warren finally just shows up at the back gate and shoots her. This is the final rung in his slide down the ladder, IIRC coming after he murders his girlfriend (i.e. we're to see using a gun--even if it fails to kill the victim--as worse than some sort of 'garden-variety' murder)

Alternatively, firearms exist but are magically useless against magical people or creatures. In the Harry Potter books, this is carried out further to have the good guys suffer drastic casualties while still limiting themselves to nonlethal magical weapons. I think this all mostly comes under the heading of suspending disbelief in support of the plot, but of course there's a well known current of anti-militarism in western art and literature dating at least to the First World War.

The explanation could be simpler though: It just wouldn't be the same if, say, Lucy and Edmund stood around discussing kill zones and the relative range and effectiveness of catapults, trebuchets or the weight of stone projectiles an eagle could carry, as opposed to finding the key to bring Aslan back at the critical moment to defeat the White Queen. Not that you can't write a techno-thriller about ancient weapons (Micheal Crichton does this spectacularly in his novels Timeline and Eaters of The Dead/The 13th Warrior) but as the commenter on The BitchGirls says, good old-fashioned firepower would have a boring tendency to dominate fantastical confrontations.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?