Monday, October 1, 2012

Guilty Pleasures: Certain Dragonlance Novels

Dragonlance is a universe of novels based on some role-playing game. The universe is huge, and goes on to this day. As anybody might expect, the central storylines are bland Tolkien knockoffs: motley people in search of MacGuffins to defeat their assorted Dark Lords. The most popular and longest series tell different versions of such a story.

However, when I was a kid, I loved the hell out of some of Dragonlance's dragon-centric side stories. There were both short stories and novels with dragons as viewpoint characters, and that was total catnip to me. It's true that non-tie-in fiction has a lot of sapient dragons, but the stories tended to be ones with dragons, not ones about dragons, which was an important distinction for me. Dragonlance had a surprising number of stories told from a dragon's point of view, more than I could find anyplace else, so I was hooked good.

I eventually got around to reading the "founding" Dragonlance novels, and found them boring, but it wasn't because I knew how bad they were, just that they had less dragon-ness. It wasn't until later that I really began to wise up to issues like quality, and lose interest in the franchise for those reasons. I blame this on being young and also not growing up in a very literary household, but soon I got a little more experience and realized how badly-written and how badly-executed these books were.

I mentally threw out most of them, and didn't want to look for any new ones, but there were some that I couldn't let go of. One of them was The Black Wing, which I've spent more time talking about than the writer probably did thinking about. It's about a dragon named Khisanth, a young villain-in-training with a crappy life that's mostly the result of her own bad choices. Khisanth is still my favourite dragon character of all time, far above the more iconic dragons of mythology or modern fiction. However, the novel is a disjointed mess, and doesn't develop its ideas well enough. The book isn't anything I would have admitted to liking if I wanted to be taken seriously, but it's sort of a personal icon nonetheless.

I also have a weakness for the Kang's Regiment stories, too. In order to spice up the ranks of their enemies, Dragonlance introduced the draconians, a race of mutant dragon men created by corrupting the eggs of good dragons. They were cannon fodder in the early stories, but two authors decided to write a series of short stories and novels focusing on a draconian named Kang and his comrades.

These started out as comedic short stories about put-upon workmen, before transitioning into an oddly touching pair of novels about draconians leaning to define themselves as an independent people despite being created as servants of evil. It's a very cute series, even if they are not well-written. Again, my interest is not something I want to spread around, but my preference is genuine.

I wish I could have grown up reading better fantasy or being encouraged to, but I really do love those stories, and a couple of other short stories that I decided were still worth keeping around. One of my favourites is "Aurora's Eggs", a creation myth about one dragon defeating five of her evil counterparts alone.

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