C4P: Lucinda Holdsworth - The Problem of Evil in Pseudo-Taoist Secondary Worlds



Luna's third Call for Papers, A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction will be released on Wednesday the 14th of August, at Dublin Worldcon. Explore the 21 brilliant papers you will find in the book.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Lucinda Holdsworth (UK). PhD student in English Literature and Theology at the University of Glasgow. MLitt in Fantasy Literature, University of Glasgow.

Presenting the paper: The Problem of Evil in Pseudo-Taoist Secondary Worlds.

Lucinda says:

"A war between good and evil has long been a staple of fantasy literature. This Manichean world view is so pervasive in the genre that as readers we expect evil to be defeated by the forces of good, long before we have even turned the first page. Some authors, however, have attempted to escape this cliché by creating a secondary world based on Taoist values. In Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series and Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino’s animated series Avatar: The Legend of Korra, for example, the ideal resolution is not the defeat of evil by good, but finding a balance between two opposing forces. In this Taoist world view, evil is found in an excess of one the two opposing forces rather than one side being inherently evil. This is particularly poignant in the Earthsea cycle, in which evil is explored through both an excess of the Old Powers in The Tombs of Atuan and an excess of magic in The Other Wind. However the majority of western fantasists who have attempted to integrate Taoism into their work have interpreted it through the lens of Christian conflict dualism. This means that, although the protagonists ostensibly seek to create harmony through balance between two opposing forces, one of the forces is still defined as ‘evil’. This mix-and-match attitude towards incompatible doctrines has several implications for the works it creates, the most obvious being that often, it simply doesn’t make sense. Perhaps the most obvious example of this can be found in George Lucas’s Star Wars saga, in which viewers are told that Anakin will ‘bring balance to the force’, yet this is intended to mean the destruction of all Sith rather than true balance between light and dark. However this pseudo-Taoism also opens up some interesting theological questions regarding the nature of evil. In this essay I will explore exactly what ‘evil’ means within these Taoist/Manichean hybrids and argue that within this framework, a refusal to define evil by the Taoist definition of excess suggests that evil is anything which inconveniences the protagonists."

Lucinda Holdsworth is a freelance fantasy editor based in Glasgow. Obsessed with all things fantastic from a young age, Lucinda endured a B.A. in sensible literature from The University of Nottingham, before moving on to the good stuff at the University of Glasgow with an MLitt in Fantasy. She is currently working towards a PhD in English Literature and Theology at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include religious fantasy, gender and comics. In her free time, Lucinda enjoys screaming at the news in despair.

Follow the progress of A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction on the "Books in Progress" page!

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