Tag Archives: fantasy cliches

‘Murdering Fantasy’ (2016)

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People wonder why I got so mad at the library director when she assumed my books were self-published. Well, gee–“self-published” means no quality control. As in the following example.

https://leeduigon.com/2016/04/27/murdering-fantasy/

It’s bad enough, you populate your fantasy with stock characters whose every action and reaction is totally predictable. Bad enough you name your lead characters after popular pain reliever products. But to do both at once is to create something monumentally bad.

I find it hard to get my books reviewed because so many potential reviewers and interviewers say, “But that’s just fantasy.” Like it’s all verbal cliches and stupid unbelievable characters named Feen-a-Mint or Tylenol.

Sometimes every step’s a struggle.


‘The Abuse of Fantasy’ (2015)

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Remember those “Spirit Animals” fantasies, from Scholastic Books? If you don’t, I do. I had to review them. Reading them was like a root canal gone wrong.

https://leeduigon.com/2015/01/30/the-abuse-of-fantasy/

Fantasy is a powerful tool for communicating the intangible, especially to children. As a fantasy writer myself, using fantasy to serve an evil purpose is something that makes me quite truly angry. But it should always make you mad to see something good twisted into bad.

We see a lot of that, these days.


‘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!

https://leeduigon.com/2013/01/22/fantasy-cliches-i-have-tried-to-avoid/

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.


A Wasted Opportunity

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“Thomas Locke” is Bunn’s pseudonymn.

So you’ve got an already-successful Christian author with a large fan base, writing in a popular genre with a wide readership, and a major publisher to produce and market the book–golden opportunity, right? An opportunity to win ground in the culture for Christ’s Kingdom.

Wrong. Instead, all these resources came together to make, well, a bunch of nothing.

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/review-of-christian-novel-emissary

T. Davis Bunn had all this going for him when he set out to write his first fantasy novel, Emissary, three years ago. So he decided to write a “completely mainstream, totally secular” fantasy novel–that is, he cobbled together a thorough collection of fantasy cliches: and the big huge Christian publisher, Zondervan, published it.

Waste, waste, waste.

 


I Am So Sick(!) of Buxom Wenches…

Image result for images of visions of light and shadow by allison reid

I’ve just received my copy of Visions of Light and Shadow by our esteemed colleague, Allison Reid (we know her here as “Weavingword”), Book No. 3 of her Wind Rider Chronicles. I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as I catch up on some other assignments. I know it’ll be good–in fact, a good book to read in bed.

One of the things I love about her books is that Allison has female protagonists who don’t conform to fantasy cliches, but instead are kind of normal people, albeit interesting ones,  who happen to be caught up in extraordinary events. This helps me to believe in the story as I’m reading it.

The fantasy genre–these books are fantasy novels–is smothered in cliches. For an art form that leans so heavily on the imagination, these toweringly unimaginative touches constitute literary crimes. The genre is notably poverty-stricken in its cast of female characters.

I can’t decide which female fantasy cliche I detest the most–The Invincible Female Warrior or The Buxom Tavern Wench. Their presence in so many fantasy novels is almost mandatory. From the moment each is introduced, you know exactly, down the most minute detail, what she is going to say or do in any situation–because you’ve already seen it hundreds of times before. They tend to form tag-teams with the male cliches, like The Thief With A Heart Of Gold or The Brawling Lusty Barbarian Warrior Who Can Drink Any Norse God Under The Freakin’ Table. These are not the only trite and overdone characters in fantasy, not by a long shot–The Know-It-All Fantastically Handsome Elf springs to mind–but it’s a rare story which doesn’t stifle the reader’s imagination with these.

Anyway, Allison’s books are all available in paperback now; and if you enjoy fantasy but hate cliches, try ’em, you’ll like ’em.


No, No, Please, No! No ‘Katana-Wielding Scullery Maid’!

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Here she is with her katana. I wonder what school she studied in.

In my continual search for fantasy fiction that edifies instead of just making you dumber, I receive many invitations to review new books. Like Ella the Slayer, billed as “an Edwardian retelling of Cinderella.” Or “Cinderella” meets “Upstairs, Downstairs.”

The premise is, the worldwide 1918 flu epidemic was something more sinister than a germ, and the people who die of the flu come back as zombies who have to be killed all over again, blah-blah. I hate zombies. You seen one zombie, you seen ’em all. Besides which, the Great Flu was only 100 years ago and there are those of us whose families included some of those victims: this is in rather bad taste. In fact, it’s in execrable taste. The publisher ought to get the ducking stool, and the writer a public thrashing.

But allow me to mount my hobby horse–

Ella, the heroine, is described as “a katana-wielding scullery maid.” A lot of those in Edwardian England, were were?

I studied Japanese swordsmanship. I had to study and practice with the wooden sword for five years before I was allowed even to touch a katana–ten pounds of live steel sharpened to a razor edge. This is a serious weapon and I don’t appreciate ignorant wannabes fannying around with it. You could very easily do yourself a major mischief.

No one can say that my own fantasy novels fail to include major female characters who are strong, brave, resourceful, and worthy of admiration. Believe it or not, this effect can be achieved without writing up your female characters as comic-book superheroes with steel bras. I think I hate superheroes even more than zombies. Like, how many cliches can you jam into each chapter?

Why is non-idiotic fantasy so hard to come by?


‘How Good Should Your Heroes Be?’ (2016)

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The other day I talked about villains, so it’s only fair to give equal time to heroes.

https://leeduigon.com/2016/06/17/how-good-should-your-heroes-be/

Recommended: The Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott. A young woman’s fiancee is cast into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and there’s no one to help him–no one but her. Armed only with her faith and with her goodness, she sets out, alone, to do the impossible… Wow!


Can’t Miss! ‘Throne of Games’

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While I’m waiting for them to print The Silver Trumpet, I’ve got an idea for another fantasy series that just can’t help but make boxcar-loads of money.

I’ll call it A Throne of Games–I’m already offering the TV and movie rights–and it will feature beloved fantasy characters with really cool names.

Tydibol, the drop-dead gorgeous Invincible Female Warrior who does jumpin’, spinnin’ kicks.

Gassex the Crusty But Benign Old Wizard who talks like a text message.

Clairol the Buxom Tavern Wench, always up for a good time.

The Duke of Pez, villainous beyond belief, with a castlefull of monsters.

Solgar the Strong, the drop-dead gorgeous Hunk, Invincible Male Warrior with this really thick neck, it’s hard to tell where his head begins, who does jumpin’, spinnin’ kicks.

Plus a multitude of drop-dead gorgeous know-it-all Elves, insatiably lusty Dwarves, and all sorts of supporting characters who have absolutely no morals and commit all manner of revolting crimes.

Because, you see, in A Throne of Games, everyone’s bad–unless they’re, like, this total victim who’ll be lucky to survive two pages–and so the reader doesn’t have to decide who to root for, he can just sit back and enjoy the sex and carnage. In fact, these characters are so loathsome, even I’m turned off. Whose idea was it to get me to write this garbage? Well, confound it, I won’t! And I am withdrawing those movie and TV offers as of this confounded minute!


‘Yes, the Culture Really Does Matter’ (2015)

Why is it so hard to convince people that this is so–that the world’s in such a mess because of what’s in people’s heads and hearts?

Somehow waving sin around as glamorous and desirable just doesn’t work out well for people born with Original Sin.

https://leeduigon.com/2015/01/29/yes-the-culture-really-does-matter/


What’s So Hard About Writing Fantasy?

When I first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in high school–and I’m currently re-reading it, I don’t know how many times–it blew me away. I didn’t know it was possible to write such stories; but a couple of chapters into it, I knew I wanted to write fantasy. It took me over 40 years to come up with Bell Mountain.

A lot of people write fantasy, but according to any number of readers, few write it well. After Tim Wildmon interviewed me on his internet TV show, he turned to his assistant and shook his head. And said, “He made the whole thing up! Whew! I don’t know how you do that.”

Practice, man, practice…

People ask me why I have to sit outside to write it. Well, the phone doesn’t ring outside. I’ve got trees and sky, birds and squirrels, to keep me company. And I have to get myself into a world that doesn’t exist except in my imagination. I have to be able, in my mind, to see it and hear it and touch it. This takes a great deal of concentration, easily broken.

I have to relate to characters that I invented as if they were real. Although I’m inventing what they say and do, think and feel, I can’t just have them do anything I want. They have to behave as if they really live. Again, lots and lots of concentration. A character like Helki the Rod doesn’t just grow on trees. He has to say and do whatever he would say and do if he were real.

I have to see these landscapes, it has to be a movie in my mind. And I have to resist the temptation to load my story with elves and dwarves and wizards and all the other stock characters that burden so many other fantasies. No invincible female warriors, no crusty but benign old sages. Impossibly beautiful, know-it-all elves, uh-uh. Otherwise, next thing you know, all you’ve got is a pile of cliches.

It’s all very difficult, a constant challenge–but it’s the kind of work that I love best. The finished product has to be very different from everybody else’s finished product. I reach back into vanished worlds of the long-gone past and pluck out animals that most of my readers never heard of before. Creatures known to us only imperfectly, from bones and scientific speculations that may or may not be accurate.

Nor can I do any of this without prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

Which leaves me, when a book is finally done, figuratively gasping for breath and wondering, “Well, now what do I do???” But the Bell Mountain stories are a kind of history, and in history there’s always yet another chapter.


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