In previous posts I have lamented (ad nauseam) in various ways the constant under-appreciation of The Ravages of Time. Here I shall fantasize and speculate a bit about what Ravages would look like and how things will work out in an imaginable-conceivable, prima facie possible world. In a sense one can construe this piece as an exercise in fan metafiction and unsolicited advice via thought experimentation. That being said, I cannot guarantee that other fans of the series would love and endorse my setup (especially the political aspects).
Suppose we live in a more prosperous and equitable and just (and ‘communistic’ – therefore classless and cashless) social formation, life-world-system, cultural setting, political order, and mode of production, with the added bonus of having gone through a rich variety of historical transformations and the survival of previous records. Then should a version of Ravages be produced, it would first and foremost no longer be a pop-cultural (fetish) commodity subject to the price-supply-demand mechanisms and forces that we have come to live with in this age. Of course there would still be social pressures, target audiences, the formation of fans and haters and critics, but the composer(s) of Ravages would no longer have to rely on sales to survive, given the presumed welfare programs and safety nets in place. This also means that there would be more leeway (constrained only by ‘natural factors’ as well as ‘ideological governance’ from without and from within) with regard to the length of the series, the pacing, the rate of publication, the number of direct collaborators, the wildness of the plot, etc.
Moving on from the ‘macro’ preliminaries, suppose further that Ravages has a dedicated, supportive, vocal, and large fan base all around the globe (if not multiverse) that keeps up with and contributes to the developments of the text – in other words, a stable participative audience that can serve as the social bulwark protecting Ravages from the ravages of time (pun-intended) and the contingencies of taste and potential political adversaries. Moreover, note that in this stipulated scenario Ravages would still retain, albeit in an amplified manner, the salient features that we in the actual world have come to like (or dislike) about the series: the setting and cast; the allusions; the convolutions; the intellectual weight; the historiographical playfulness; some of the ‘shonen’ and ‘B-movie’ gimmicks; minimal fanservice; etc. This would mean that Ravages given the encouraging conditions would feature crazier mind games than ever, more extensive references and anachronisms, more room for more characters and more development, more sophisticated political commentary and more profound philosophical discussions, among other things. Continuity wouldn’t even be that much of an issue since the composition of the main text would be a team effort of more than eight geniuses and one-person-armies (as a consequence of the premises, there wouldn’t even be private intellectual property rights as we know them to begin with). The existence of ‘rival’ and fellow series with similar characteristics but set in other realms could also help in the improvement and progression of Ravages.
As for the more ‘micro’ stipulations, suppose that the team – or better yet, the army – of composers and contributors are all really passionate, get along with each other (despite inevitable creative differences), have incredible skills and talents that are relevant to the production of Ravages, etc.
Or if one wants a more extravagant cosmos, suppose that Ravages has helpers from various kinds of entities with extraordinary powers- including perhaps special revelations from the ‘Pure and Perfect Being’… but let me put a break to these scenarios, lest I end up writing an entire series out of these unfulfilled wishes (but who knows, maybe we do live in an enchanted world after all and that Chen Mou gets his inspiration from all sorts of marvels and so on and so on, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, whatever).
There is of course a ‘simpler’ way to resolve my lamentations and to have Ravages gain more appreciators. For one thing, I can lower my expectations (and ask longstanding readers and critics to do the same and just focus on quick-fix satisficing), and in turn the series can ‘play dumb’ and resort to ‘marketable’ gimmicks. Sigh.
So I ask: How would you envision a setting with a better version of Ravages in it? What adjustments do you think would improve Ravages?