The indigo blob and epic fantasy

Fantasy is about the only fiction I really enjoy these days. I find that going to a world that’s palpably not real is the most direct way to explore some of the most real of human truths. I like how different authors take the same motifs in completely different directions, for example how Star Wars Rebels ripped off one of the main plot points of Dune Messiah but with a rather different spin. But some of these finer points aren’t obvious. It takes time to process and make sense of it all.

And yet elite types have always made fun of fantasy, especially fantasy fans. It sure ain’t capital L Literature. It even seems like Tolkien was a bit embarrassed by his own success.

Lately I’ve been liking Brandon Sanderson more and more. At first glance his stories are simple. But they’re really not. It takes time, and then all the little details come together.

When you search for Sanderson online, the first result is likely to be this truly bizarre Wired piece about him. It’s a long whine that Sanderson isn’t writing capital L Literature in an ivory tower. He’s just a normal geek, living a geek’s life.

The author starts off mocking Sanderson’s very popularity:

I came to the WIRED offices ready to gossip [about Sanderson]. Is Brandon Sanderson even a good writer?

Nobody had the first clue who or what I was talking about.

And then just gets nasty:

[N]one of his self-analysis is, for my purposes, exciting. In fact, at that first dinner, over flopsy Utah Chinese—this being days before I’d meet his extended family, and attend his fan convention, and take his son to a theme park, and cry in his basement—I find Sanderson depressingly, story-killingly lame.

Sanderson talks a lot, but almost none of it is usable, quotable. I begin to think, This is what I drove all the way from San Francisco to the suburbs of Salt Lake City in the freezing-cold dead of winter for? For previously frozen dim sum and freeze-dried conversation? This must be why nobody writes about Brandon Sanderson.

A good writer? Who knows. What I do know, now, is this: So many of us mistake sentences for story, but story is the thing. Things happening. Characters changing. Surprise endings. As I drive us back to the house, drop off the kid, and then stay in the car with Sanderson a bit longer, talking about life, talking about worlds, my ending takes shape. The surprise is that it was Sanderson’s ending all along, the ending of his best books. A character becomes a god, and the god beholds his planet below. If Sanderson is a writer, that is all he is doing. He is living his fantasy of godhead on Earth.

The whole article is a giant attack on his religion, his mentoring of younger writers (Sanderson teaches them how to make a living rather than being starving artists), the state of Utah, and the genre of fantasy itself. This twitter response says it well (emphasis mine):

Imagine being super nice, enthusiastic about and successful with your work, loved by fans, family, and friends, fairly private, then inviting a reporter to hang around with you, and they write a piece just making fun of all of it—you, your religious affiliation, your town. Wild.

on the bright side it’s nice to have a handy reference for when people ask what is meant by the term coastal elite.”

And this is where it ties into the indigo blob. The whole saga shows the range of how the indigo blob pretends that those outside of its circle don’t exist to simultaneously hating them.

Sanderson’s own response is inspiring:

I am not offended that the true me bores him. Honestly, I’m a guy who enjoys his job, loves his family, and is a little obsessive about his stories. There’s no hidden trauma. No skeletons in my closet. Just a guy trying to understand the world through story. That IS kind of boring, from an outsider’s perspective. I can see how it is difficult to write an article about me for that reason.

As a community, let’s take a deep breath. It’s all right. I appreciate you standing up for me, but please leave Jason alone. This might feel like an attack on us, on you, but it’s not. Jason wrote what he felt he needed–and as a writer, he is my colleague. Please show him respect. He should not be attacked for sharing his feelings. If we attack people for doing so, we make the world a worse place, because fewer people will be willing to be their authentic selves.

I’m someone with multiple identities, often hop between communities, and am around a lot of different people. And I’ve noticed myself feeling increasingly uncomfortable around the indigo blob types.