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Lore and unreliable texts (Destiny)

by Robot Chickens, Tuesday, July 11, 2023, 12:43 (380 days ago) @ Cody Miller

There's some buzz around 'retcons' to the Des2ny story.

As far as I can tell, the retcons amount to lore books being 'unreliable', much like real life religious or ancient texts.

How's everyone feel about that? Is this an ok way to retcon? Does it devalue the lore as lore if you know it might not be literally true? Is it a legitimate unreliable narrator device, or just an excuse?

There's some buzz around 'retcons' to the Des2ny story.

As far as I can tell, the retcons amount to lore books being 'unreliable', much like real life religious or ancient texts.

How's everyone feel about that? Is this an ok way to retcon? Does it devalue the lore as lore if you know it might not be literally true? Is it a legitimate unreliable narrator device, or just an excuse?

I think this is just how histories are written (religious/ancient/modern/whatever). Writers and audiences almost always have an investment into how a story is portrayed or something is explained. Because of this, I find it incredibly useful as a method of explaining the biases of people encountered in any world.

My first encounter with this in literature (that I was aware of) was the Great Gatsby. An unreliable chronicler of people's motives opens up so many more ways for a character to feel real. My first encounter with this in games was Skyrim (I didn't play the earlier ones until later) and it was such a fascinating piece of world-building. Because I didn't know what was authoritative from a canonical perspective, every competing group felt more well-rounded. Compare this to The Lord of the Rings where you have an authoritative perspective of the Truth. Sure, Tolkien gives us competing stories, but the narrator tells us what is true. In LotR the history is something you can master, whereas in the Elder Scrolls, histories compete for the position of answering who you are, and what you ought to do. I love LotR by the way, but it is helpful as a comparison.

This particular community gripe came about regarding a lore book that described the Winnower and the Gardener and their cosmic chess game back in Season of Arrivals (I think). A lot of people thought this was akin to Tolkien's omniscient narrator and it gave a lot of shape to theories about the nature of the Destiny universe. I love it. Now they're upset that Bungie is saying this is closer to a creation myth (which should not surprise anyone given the genre of the presentation).

I agree that its better when stuff like this is telegraphed to a community rather than just retconned, but I don't think this fits the bill of a retcon. Everything about the story screamed it was part of a different genre. This stuff already was present in the Books of Sorrow which gave a totally biased history of the Hive so its not even like Bungie pulled a switcheroo on people in regard to whether all sources could be trusted.

All that to say, I'm fully supportive of unreliable texts with the caveat that if a narrator is established as authoritative (LotR), you shouldn't undermine/change that trust in the narrator without a really good reason (Han shot first).


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