What Turns You Off Fantasy?

My wife says it’s the names. She was recently taking a Lord of the Rings trivia quiz, and threw up her hands, shouting, “If I ever tried to read this blasted book, these [deleted] names would drive me absolutely loopy!” The name “Galadriel” really gave her fits.

“That’s not fair,” I protested. “After all, you like Russian novels. They’re full of funky names! How can you read about characters with names like Vsevolod Zhitomirivich and Sopiko Guramishvili, and be frustrated by a name as simple as Galadriel?”

“That’s different!” she said. “I’m used to the names in Russian novels.”

To each his own… But I can’t deny that there are a lot of screwy names in fantasy literature, and I suppose there are readers who can’t warm up to it on that account. Burdened with enough goofy names, a fantasy novel may sink irretrievably into mere silliness.

I read a lot of fantasy, and much of it is just plain awful. It’s not the names that put me off. It’s the deluge of cliches, especially those pertaining to female characters. I am especially averse to air-headed young girls who are treated as love goddesses by sickly-looking young males with hairless chests; to warrior-women who routinely outfight strong men twice their size; and even more especially to wenches with insatiable sexual appetites. Like, what ever happened to normal girls and women? I get the impression that a lot of this “literature” is written by male nerds who don’t get out too often and deal mostly in wish fulfillment, and young feminists with bad complexions.

It’s enough to send you running off to Russian novels.

I continue to wade through the mire, in search of well-written fantasies that satisfy my imagination: the last one I found was Inkheart. As soon as I can find another, I’ll let you know about it.

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