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Why fantasy gets derided - an answer.

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Posted on 11 Apr 2012 11:33:47 BDT
Multiple stories with the same characters work for me, rather than huge tomes...

Have you seen the size of some of the warhammer books? Door stops isn't in it.

Posted on 11 Apr 2012 11:57:11 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Apr 2012 11:57:48 BDT
Jim Webster says:
I have the Caiphas Cain stories which I rather like, there is a touch of irreverence about them which appeals to me. Mind you they were passed on to me by a friend to GW is alas no wealthier because of it.
If you have a nice background with nice characters it's a shame not to use them again.

One example of a nice background well used was Jack Vance with his Dying Earth stories, (which was initially four books but put together into one in Tales of the Dying Earth)

Posted on 11 Apr 2012 14:31:47 BDT
Love vance. GRRM isn't worthy to lick his shoes clean...

Posted on 11 Apr 2012 16:03:38 BDT
Jim Webster says:
I've avoided GRRM, comments friends made put me off.
Vance is an interesting example of how good Fantasy writing can be, but then is he writing Fantasy or Sci Fi, and of course he wrote a lot of detective fiction as well, so he refused to be trapped in one genre.

Posted on 11 Apr 2012 16:06:51 BDT
Are Asimov's Robot books detective fiction or Sci fi?

Who cares? They are well written and entertaining...

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2012 16:32:47 BDT
Isobel Ayres says:
I didn't like Eragon for exactly the reasons you describe.

Completely opposite reaction to GOT though, loved it. Read it and thought - finally! This is what I've been waiting for! Fairly ealistic depiction of what living the middle ages might be like, great characters, fantastic plot and some very unexpected twists,

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2012 16:34:32 BDT
Isobel Ayres says:
It completely escapes the 'make-believe' people that having an alternative universe to play in means that you can investigate sensitive issues in a new way, for example BSG and genocide.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2012 16:43:47 BDT
Jim Webster says:
And of course Jack Vance combined the two in Galactic Effectuator. A book that is also well written and entertaining.
Actually my book (which I'm selflessly shunning mentioning) has elements of detective work alongside other things. But if a Fantasy world has any 'reality' at all it will have all these things.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2012 16:46:26 BDT
Jim Webster says:
This is something that Fantasy shares with Science Fiction, the fact that you can investigate issues and concepts in ways other forms of literature cannot do.
Mind you it looks as if the 'Agony literature' genre contains rather more fantasy than it ought to.

Posted on 11 Apr 2012 19:54:47 BDT
Can't stand Mis-lit myself.

Posted on 11 Apr 2012 23:25:23 BDT
J. Bradley says:
I think one of the issues is that 'fantasy' is as incredibly broad genre. Depending on the story it can be an epic like Tolkien or the wheel of time, a detective, an adventure....the list is endless. Frankly fantasy is so broad that like fiction, people sometimes forget the big names are not the only names - but they are what people will notice, try and quite possibly reject.

I think the trick is to making fantasy work is the amount of rule breaking you manage to get away with. Why was Harry Potter successful? Because it had a key fantastical element (there are wizards secretly living among us) and used that, a single assumption upon which was built a series. The more of these elements you use the farther a series slips into fantasy. The distance you can go before it starts to alienate people used to other genres depends on the skill of the writer.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 07:50:48 BDT
Jim Webster says:
If I want bad news I read journalists, who seem to have a nice line in unveiling some Mis-lit as the producers of fantasy.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 07:56:37 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Apr 2012 07:57:28 BDT
Jim Webster says:
An interesting way of looking at things.
Just to follow up on it, some 'near future' Sci Fi is called 'gritty' because it looks at difficult issues in a background that is almost but not quite our own and seems to be considered to be of rather more 'literary merit'.
We have a thread running, 'fantasy everyday settings'. It is interesting that I know people who 'don't read fantasy' but will read the stuff which is set with a modern setting.

Posted on 12 Apr 2012 09:36:30 BDT
China Mielville would be a good example of that, Jim?

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 10:55:02 BDT
Jim Webster says:
He could well be. He isn't an author I've read, I must confess I don't favour gritty realism myself, if I want realism I can help at the local homeless shelter. But looking at the 'wiki' he seems to be regarded as a 'serious player'
Me, I'll cling pathetically to the escapist wing.

Posted on 12 Apr 2012 12:12:19 BDT
Nothing pathetic about reading for escapism, that is exactly how I feel! I'd much rather read a book about wizards, vampires, dragons and post-apocalyptic battles than real life, you get enough of that on the news.

Posted on 12 Apr 2012 12:34:50 BDT
Jim Webster says:
Is this happy escapism the reason why fantasy is derided?
If we were long faced and miserable then we'd be regarded as serious players and respected.
If we're enjoying it, it cannot be any good!

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 15:45:17 BDT
I do believe that is how some people think, and I have heard people say that a good book is one that is hard to read, and that feels like a challenge. I think life is to short, reading is for enjoyment, not punishment!

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 17:00:42 BDT
Jim Webster says:
It is almost a perversion of the 'Protestant ethic'. If we're enjoying it, it's not good for us, and we ought to be doing something that's difficult and unpleasant

Perhaps good Fantasy fiction is too much fun to read and is therefore disapproved of

Posted on 12 Apr 2012 17:15:48 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 12 Apr 2012 22:25:19 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2012 17:37:19 BDT
Jim Webster says:
You read it awfully quickly if Amazon was correct and it was only published on the 10th April and the fact that it doesn't yet have an "Amazon Bestsellers Rank" could be taken by the cynical to mean that no one has actually purchased it yet.
I confess that I'm not too enthused with the idea of buying a book pushed, if not written, by someone who doesn't even check the forum he's pushing it on.

Posted on 13 Apr 2012 10:54:14 BDT
John says:
I think fantasy(literature) is derided because it is only enjoyed and appreciated by a very small percentage of the population. I think this is because of the level of open-mindedness that is required to understand, appreciate and enjoy with story. But while only a tiny proportion of the population genuinely reads fantasy or sci-fi, a huge number of people will happily watch trash fantasy on tv. Therefore many people who don't read fantasy, judge it(fantasy literature) by what they see on tv and in the cinema. The leap of turning a book into film is often too great and what can be envisaged easily in the mind, cannot easily be turned into credible images and acting.

Added to this is the wealth of very poor fantasy and sci-fi created by new, and also experienced writers(e.g. George RR Martin). I am very familiar with amateur fantasy, as I used to run workshops and I have written my share. Writing well is a very difficult skill and it takes years to master, and many new writers are just too keen to put themselves on display before they have truly got to grips with the art of producing something worth reading(see the huge amount of sell promotion in the forums).

So, in my view, Fantasy is sneered at because the really good books are buried in a mass of drivel not worth reading or that cater to specific tastes, and because the majority of the population view fantasy as being represented by Buffy or worse. I think there might also be a cultural/age factor involved because most of the people who will come out and tell people how good fantasy can be are younger guys(below 30), and I think that might be something about the open mindedness to new and strange ideas.

Posted on 13 Apr 2012 11:03:28 BDT
Garscadden says:
And a quick reminder - Sturgeons law - 90% of everything is crp.

Aren't most genre's looked down upon? Romance, erotica, adventure, lit fiction, crime, et cetera. They are just looked down upon by people who don't enjoy those genres, or who *think* they don't enjoy those genres, because it is often hard to find the good 10%. I'd argue even harder now, with the tremendous amount of self publishing I'd go for way less than 10% being readable, let along good - bu that is just my opinion :)

Posted on 13 Apr 2012 11:17:46 BDT
John says:
Can I just add one more thing... Sorry for any offense I may cause. I would like to point out a few things. Delete this if its not relevant. Here goes.

George RR Martin fans, while I agree that the standard of writing isn't all bad, there are some very serious plot-character points that I think need to be addressed.

People say the characters are very strong, but they are not and the plot is weak. The characters betray themselves so that the plot can advance(albeit very, very slowly).

1. The young girl with the sword called Needle(aryla?). She discovered a plot to kill her father and presented this to him with 5 points of information that she could Never have possibly known unless she was telling the truth? She knew things she couldn't have known unless she was telling the truth and her father told her to run along and stop being a stupid little girl. Weak and stupid, in my opinion.

2. The girls father and the king were all too willing to kill the pet wolf, eager almost, and this seemed to be too contrived. And once it was done, everyone seemed to just get over it. Besides which the wolves never seemed to contribute to the plot(by fighting or killing for example).

3. The little boy who was pushed off the tower. I get little boys sometimes like to climb towers, that's okay. But it was just way too convenient that after he discovered the royal brother and sister having sex in said tower, firstly to survive and not die when he was pushed off, secondly to fall into a coma and thirdly, when he does wake up, he doesn't remember that he was pushed off the ledge or anything that he had seen. Way too convenient and annoying.

4. The outcast royal brother and sister, the brother sells his sister off to be raped by a barbarian. Raped. Sometimes she cries out in pain, sometimes in pleasure. She doesn't seem to mind. Finally she manages to get rid of her hated brother, but she is weak and she runs back to save him, which he rewards her with a torrent of abuse for and the cycle continues. I thought she betrayed herself a number of times by accepting the abuse she received at the hands of her brother and the barbarian. Weak.

I gave up on the song of ice and fire series because I would not tolerate such weak writing, weak characters and so many huge plot holes. George RR Martin fans, please by all means stick by your chosen books, but don't be too aggressive in shooting people down who don't like it. There are undeniable weaknesses in the plot, and the characters, and to some people, those weaknesses are unforgivable. Forgive me for demanding higher standards.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Apr 2012 11:32:38 BDT
Garscadden says:
I have to admit to not having read GRRM (I do have the first on my list to read though), but these don't seem to be massive holes.

1 - did the father disbelieve her, or was there more going on?

2 - having wolves and not using them seems a betrayal of one of the rules of fiction (if you describe a shotgun on the wall, you'd better use it at some point...). Killing the wolf doesn't seem a big deal. Presumably it was kept as a pet and had done something wrong? Dogs get put down all the time for this, and I suspect sometimes the owners, or the owners loved ones, aren't that bothered.

3 - doesn't seem that weird. Shock trauma?

4 - sounds like a text book abusive relationship. May be weak, bit unfortunately that is precisely how abusive relationships work.

All in all it sounds like he is mostly injecting some realism into fantasy. But as i say, I haven't read it.
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Discussion in:  fantasy discussion forum
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Initial post:  6 Apr 2012
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