I’ve been fascinated by prophets and prophecies since I was a child — and not just the ones in the scriptures, Church history, and General Conference. I remember reading the Greek myths, and the ones that tended to interest me the most were those in which people who tried to avoid a prophesied fate ended up bringing it upon themselves.
Probably because of that fascination, I tend to enjoy fantasy novels in which prophecies play an important role. The Wheel of Time series, the Belgariad, and others have made an archetype (which is the nice word for cliché) out of the farm-boy who is the prophesied one who can overthrow some great evil. (For my own twist on the trope, see my short story “A Great Destiny.”)
I’ve been thinking about prophecies and fantasy recently because (WARNING: Shameless plug!) I’m part of a Kickstarter anthology called What Fates Impose: Tales of Divination. The tagline from the publisher is: “Life is uncertain, and the chance to get a peek into the future is tempting… but is it a good idea to look?”
Based on the Greek myths I remember, it generally was not a good idea. Prophecies tended to make things worse. I mean really, who thought it was a good idea to tell Oedipus’s parents that he would kill his father and marry his mother? How was that supposed to make the world a better place? A few years ago I even wrote (but never published) a retelling of the Oedipus story, in which the characters do not try to avoid their prophesied fates. The prophecies were still fulfilled, but much grief was avoided.
While being fascinated by the logical conundrum presented by stories in which attempts to avoid the prophecy result in its being fulfilled, I tend to prefer outcomes in which prophecies are a benefit to the world — which is why I tend to like fantasy novels that incorporate prophecies of good triumphing over evil. This preference probably stems from being part of a religion that believes in living prophets.
And now, to close this post, I will prophesy that someone will make a comment on what I have written. I hope that this is a true prophecy.