Family Friendly Entertainment
Why family-friendly doesn't mean what it used to, and why that's important.
So if you look at the front page of this very website, you'll see the tagline: Family-friendly Stories about the Ordinary and the Extraordinary. This is mostly referring to the two main series: the Torchmouth Saga, of which Octave of Stars is the first book (but not Book 1); and Euphony of Seasons, of which Paper & Feathers will be the first book (but again not Book 1). The books in the Torchmouth Saga are set in this world in the (mostly) modern day, and follow ordinary people who are chosen by God for extraordinary adventures and other such fun. Euphony of Seasons, however, is a series of books about a fantastic world populated by people who don't resemble humans in any way (with some that do), all of whom have amazing powers and skills and who use them to… live out their everyday lives. Well, there might be some sort of adventures here and there, you never know.
But what about that family-friendly part? What is that supposed to mean? Can I give it to my kid? Are your books just YA, or middle-grade? Well, yes and no. I wish that it were simple, that I could just use the term and people would understand that my books are suited for families who respect life, hold a Biblical worldview, and want to be able to enjoy media with their kids. But it isn't that easy anymore.
In honor of my patron saint, I'm going to try to explain what family-friendly is by first explaining what it isn't. First case in point: Wanderhome. At first glance, it looks like exactly what I'm trying to do in Euphony of Seasons. A low-stakes, "pastoral fantasy" tabletop RPG about overcoming obstacles with teamwork instead of battling. Amazing! It even claims to have won an award as a family-friendly game (though there's no link for it). But wait, what's that a little further down?
And that was my first introduction to how the phrase family-friendly means different things to different people. Thinking perhaps that some publication saw something in their product that wasn't really their intention, I researched further, and found the creator's mission statement:
"Our games invite everyone to imagine rich and fantastical stories that reflect the wonder of our own world.
We believe it’s possible to find magic in the mundane and adventure in the uneventful […] While our games might visit distant lands and traipse across the stars, they are always grounded in our home in the Hudson Valley, the liminality of queerness, and the majesty of the everyday.
We dream of a better world than the one we live in today.
We are meaningfully invested in anti-fascist action, in Indigenous stewardship over colonized land, in Queer and disabled joy, in the dismantling of the capitalist carceral state, and in the survival and prosperity of all those who have been marginalized by an unjust and cruel society … "
(Emphasis mine in both paragraphs)
And how does that actually play out in the game? Instead of choosing whether or not your animal character is a male or a female, you choose their pronouns. That's enough to win an award, apparently. So here we have a game that embodies the complete ideals of what I want to create, while being backed by a group of people that espouse the complete opposite. This form of family-friendly is not the same as mine. But do you know what is?
Admittedly, I haven't seen the movie yet, since we live in the middle of nowhere and I get sick whenever I go in a theater. But we're getting it on DVD, probably used, you can bet (that's another show). I also have it from reliable sources that the movie is in fact the traditional form of family-friendly. This is backed up by the fact that it is outperforming any of Disney's recent attempts at movies, to a dramatic degree that can only mean people are fed up with this new attempt at "inclusion" and "liminality" and just want things to be simple and straightforward. They don't want any hidden agendas, no one telling their kids that they're not okay being who they are. They want to just enjoy a story for the sake of the story. They want to be entertained, not indoctrinated. And that, dear readers, is what I will accomplish.
Here are the things that you will find in all of the stories and books you find on this website:
Characters with clearly defined genders, who embrace and celebrate them instead of questioning or rejecting them.
Romantic and marriage relationships between one man and one woman (and not between teenagers or younger kids either).
Respect for life in all its forms. Children are sacred, as are the elderly.
No excessive violence, blood, or gore.
Nothing else that violates any of the important rules.
You may notice I made sure to emphasize all in the previous paragraph. This is due to the second-book effect of many series intended for children. The first book will be very good, no issues whatsoever, and then the second one will come out and include all of the objectionable elements that you were glad weren't in the first one. This will not happen, the overall content level will remain consistent throughout.
Some of the other books that are in this vein (and which have inspired my own work) are The Green Ember series by S.D. Smith, and The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Petersen (although WFS is a little more intense and darker). If you've read those and thought: "yeah, that's the kind of thing I want my kids to read," then you're in the right place.
Of course, I don't just write kids books. I write family books. Octave of Stars may be categorized in the YA section, but that's just because a book has to go somewhere on a shelf. There is plenty to recommend it for adults as well. The perfect situation, at least in my opinion, is reading it aloud to your whole family, but barring that, not needing to worry about the younger ones scaring themselves or having too many questions about what the older ones are reading.
Comments? Questions? Criticisms? Witticisms? Please let me know. Thanks for reading this far, and remember, all is well.
For more family-friendly entertainment offerings, visit the ZMT Books site.