‘Fantasy Cliches I Have Tried to Avoid’ (2013)

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As Roberto Duran once said, “No mas! No mas!”

Why is it that a literary genre that should be the most imaginative of them all is loaded down with dull, lame, unoriginal, boring, stupid cliches? I hate it when fantasy does that!


Sometimes I’m afraid it’s just me, and everybody else is just crazy about buxom tavern wenches, invincible female warriors, know-it-all elves, all-powerful wizards, and bad guys who always win. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much of it in fantasy. (Yeah, Game of Thrones, I’m talking about you.)

I will not reveal the name of this fantasy novel, because the author is really quite a nice guy; but it remains the gold standard for how to annihilate fantasy. It does this in just a single line of dialogue. The dwarf turns to the elf and says, “We must learn to value other lifestyles.”

It leaves me speechless.

8 comments on “‘Fantasy Cliches I Have Tried to Avoid’ (2013)

  1. I know what you mean about faux-medieval characters speaking in contemporary PC jargon. (“Lifestyles,” indeed, forsooth! … she says, using a pre-modern “forsooth” herself, but hey, she’s entitled.) 🙂 As a historian, I go into spasms when I see anachronistic speech in historical fiction.

    And since I’ve raised the subject…. One type of fiction I’ve come to hate with a febrile passion is the kind set in the early or mid 20th century, where “authenticity” is marked by the characters’ constantly talking or thinking about current events or personages that people actually living then rarely paid any attention to — or took so much for granted that they rarely mentioned them at all. And that includes brand names of everything they used. I almost threw one book across the room after a couple of chapters in which the main character thought or spoke about everything she put in her mouth — from food and snacks to smokes to coffee to chewing gum — by brand name, often a brand that no longer exists. That’s no more “authentic” than getting the details wrong. I know, because I lived through the book’s purported decade (the 1940s). No one spoke or thought that way at the time.

    1. I’ll tell you. That book, as you described it, reminds of those incredibly annoying radio playlets that are thinly disguised commercials–so thinly disguised, a college student could see through them–in which the characters talk like zombies, never failing to omit the brand name. It makes me gnash my teeth.

      I hate it, just hate it, when I read an historical novel set in, say, Elizabethan England, in which a character spouts the line, “My father is very controlling, because he’s paranoid.”

      That author needs to be kept in a painful wristlock while she writes on the blackboard 1,200 times, “I will not put contemporary jargon into the mouths of historical characters.”
      (He shudders violently)

  2. And speaking of “lifestyles” …. One of my students once said about “Paradise Lost” (I can’t remember whether in answer to an exam question or in a paper) that when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, “it changed their whole lifestyle.”

  3. Zena objects! Bad guys always win, until the end when the last good guy singlehandedly takes down the last bad guys with even more unbelievable fantasy! And just in case you get bored, there’s always the sex.

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