The Wonderful Wizard of Warcraft

WoW Ruby Slippers StatisticsI am ever amused by the places where to the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz pop up, but a fantasy-based massively mutiplayer online roleplaying game was not one of the places where I ever expected to find a full-fledged Oz parody! Evidently, the storytellers and programmers at Blizzard decided organizing a high level raid in the World of Warcraft Burning Crusade expansion around killing Dorothy, her three friends from that first book and even the Wicked Witch was a great idea. And really, who am I to argue? If I had a character of a high enough level I’d be right there trying it! I totally want a pair of those ruby slippers (despite the fact that I haven’t logged into the game in months). Alas, my poor little rogue is only around twentieth level or so (I can’t even remember, really, but she’s nowhere near 70, so it hardly matters).

The encounter takes place in an opera house and in theory the characters are players in a production, but it is a production you can’t get out of without killing them and they don’t go down without quite a fight. I love the quips they throw out during the fight! Tinhead says “I could really use a heart. Say, can I have yours?” while the best tactic with the cowardly lion is evidently to have a warlock in your party who constantly casts “Fear” on him! The whole thing sounds like a riot (keeping in mind that I’m not actively trying to keep a character alive here, just enjoying the spectacle). After defeating Dorothy and her friends, you have to defeat the Wicked Witch and her cyclone!

There is a nice write up of the whole encounter here at Blizzplanet. It’s a bit heavy on technical details, since it’s designed as a manual for those actually going through the encounter, but it gives a good picture of the scene and the technobabble should be easy for laymen to skip. There’s a video at the end if you’re interested that lets you see the scene itself. It’s long, but if you fast forward through parts you can see it without having to watch all of the fight (although the fight is interesting because you get to hear all of the Oz character’s comments). Most interesting of all are the treasures player characters are rewarded with at the end, like the ruby slippers detailed in the image above. They are all clearly Oz inspired and highly amusing!

This amused me a lot and I just had to share it! I hope it amuses other people as much as it does me!

Genre Snobbery

GenreI just recently finished reading The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler and it made me think about genre and the way genre categories color our opinions about books even before we know anything about them. I work in a book store and it amazes me how much genre matters to people and yet how random it is which books are shelved where.

People will ask for books that were recommended to them or that their book clubs are reading or that Oprah recommended or whatever with no idea where in the store it is but fully intending to buy it when I hand it to them. Then I’ll walk them over to, say, Mystery or Biography or Science Fiction and hand them the book. Usually the book looks perfectly benign, like anything they might have found in the regular fiction section. If they weren’t standing under a sign that said “Mystery” they never would have known. But they do. So they say “Oh, it’s a mystery? I don’t like mysteries. I don’t want it.” and walk away. Or they wrinkle up their nose like something just died and say “Ew! Why would she suggest a fantasy book to me? She knows I hate all that elf crap!” and huff off, offended.

This happens all the time.

At the same time, there are all kinds of strange things you wouldn’t expect shelved in “Fiction”. Stephen King is entirely shelved there. This includes the “Dark Tower” series which really should be in “Fantasy/Science Fiction” if you get right down to it. The “Dune” series by Frank Herbert is in “Fiction” too. Don’t ask me why. Wicked by Gregory Maguire could certainly be in “Fantasy/Sci-Fi” too, but it’s not because they don’t think it will sell there. You would think that Danielle Steele would be in “Romance”, right? I mean, that’s what she writes. But she’s in “Fiction” with Nora Roberts (except for her mysteries). There are mysteries everywhere and romance is all over the place. Vampire romances are split evenly between “Romance” and “Fantasy/Sci-Fi”, but Anne Rice gets special dispensation and gets to be in “Fiction” for no particular reason. None of it makes any bloody sense. Clearly genre isn’t that cut and dry.

Why are there people who are so afraid of genre? What is so scary about it? The most common rational excuse I hear is “I like books about real people”, but I have trouble understanding how half of the fiction books I see are any more real than anything else. And if you give a really good fantasy book a chance you might find that it’s more realistic in terms of characterization than many mediocre fiction books you’ve read. There’s bad apples everywhere. Most of the “Fiction” section is mediocre at best, but so are most of the other genre sections. The key is listening to recommendations and finding out what you like and taking risks once in a while. Don’t be afraid to try something new or you’ll find that all you read is books about quirky 30-something women who are trying to get married to 30-something men but can’t find the right guy. One in a great while is great, but most of them are pretty forgettable. So change it up! Try something new! Or, if you really like that story, try it with 300-something elves or 30-something detectives or something. At least it’s variety. I guess I’m just tired of books being judged by the sign above their shelf.

I guess I just wonder when genre became so important in our lives and in our book reading choices. Is genre so important that it really trumps the recommendation of a good friend?