Don’t accuse me of exaggerating. There really are fantasies featuring characters with names that sound like bathroom products. And there are a lot of fantasies that are just plain awful.
Me, I dunno: some readers are crazy for Russian novels, and those are full of names that are much harder for English-speakers to handle than anything in Tolkien. Yeahbut, yeahbut! Those names are real names! What–you mean “Maalox” isn’t? You need to get out more.
I love good fantasy; but there’s enough truly rotten fantasy published every year to line the whole world’s bird cages several times over.
Not that it’s anywhere near the only thing that bad fantasy gets wrong, but it is perhaps the most annoying thing: its treatment of women. If a female character in a stupid fantasy is not The Invincible Female Warrior, you can be sure she’s in for a hard time.
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.”
This is always provided Lord Reesh doesn’t take revenge on me today by having me murdered during surgery. That’s how they got rid of Lenin’s widow, you know. You could look it up–under “Better Living Through Communism.”
Someone, I think it was Mickey Rooney, once said, “If I have seen farther than others, it’s because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants.”
But sometimes you can do all right standing on the shoulders of midgets, too.
Here are a few old fantasy novels you’ve never read and never heard of, but which have nevertheless inspired some very famous novels.
The Hamster, the Alchemist, and the Sock Drawer by G.M. Karz was almost certainly the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia (starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe); but in Karz’ case, the various elements of the story never quite came together. There’s something unconvincing about a hamster that inspires awe, and a whole public school class of 12-year-olds accidentally entering another world while putting Limburger cheese in the headmaster’s sock drawer.
A Game of Throneberry, by Imhotep B. McGonegal, tries to re-interpret the 1962 New York Mets’ baseball season as Shakespeare’s plays about the Wars of the Roses. The Mets in 1962, their first season, lost their first twelve ballgames. Then along came Marve Throneberry and they got it together to win 40 games while only losing 120. But I dunno: presenting Marvelous Marve as a kind of modern-day Richard III, drowning poor Elio Chacon in a great big barrel of wine hidden behind the set of Kiner’s Korner–really, I can’t imagine what Mr. McGonegal thought he was doing. Inspiring today’s Game of Thrones franchise?
In The Slobbit, Prof, B.Y.O. Boose created a fantasy world centered around extremely slovenly little people called Slobbits. A Slobbit named Bulbo accompanies a group of leprechauns on their way to slay a dragon. It’s difficult because Bulbo is always losing things. Scholars believe this little-known tale prompted J.R.R. Tolkien to write The Hobbit. Could be, could be…
Last but not least, we have The Wizard of Pfudd by Priscilla Chumply, an obscure 19th century fantasy that introduced the whole idea of an entire nation being duped by a fraudulent wizard–although poor Miss Chumply undermined her own work by writing all the dialogue in garbled Classical Greek. Many modern masters of fantasy have been inspired by Pfudd, but none have ever admitted to it.