Issendai (issendai) wrote,
Issendai
issendai

Other things the fantasy genre could do without

Arranged marriages. Oh my god, an institution that's been dead in English society for centuries and never existed in our own society is BAD! Quick, beat on its badness some more or it might make a comeback! Make sure you misunderstand it egregiously, 'cos the real thing is dangerously seductive! The youth of America are at risk! MAN THE HARPOONS!

Remember to hem and haw if someone points out the educated, enlightened, suspiciously-like-us Indian women who have arranged marriages. It's different when it's, you know... real people in the real world.

Princes. Princesses. Kings. Queens. Emperors. Empresses. The rest of society did exist. Really. Even before the creation of the modern middle class, untitled people showed occasional humanlike traits and the rare glint of personhood. I know it's hard to think up stories they could star in, since everyone nowadays is a titled royal and it's tough to envision the world as it was before that happened, but try. There's a reason it's called "fantasy," after all.

Magical jewelry. Magical swords. Also magical capes, robes, shoes, socks, underwear, and frilly garters. And magical gems. And magical cups. In fact, try not enchanting anything and see how it feels. It was a stupid idea to begin with, as any evil sorceror who stuffed his power into a tchotchke knows, so let's at least pretend that the fantasy world is capable of learning.

Yes, I know, this kills the quest plot. That's okay. Let it die. No one else is ever going to be as good as Tolkien anyway.

Plots powered by the gods. Let those bitches do their own damn chores. What's all that power good for if they're going to sit on their butts dispensing magical jewelry and bad prophecies to peasant boys? Besides, gods are traditionally characterized with the delicacy and individuality of three-year-olds' crayon drawings; if we're going to suffer through lousy characterization, can't we have it stuck onto characters who are close enough to the ground to occasionally get the stuffing knocked out of them?

Developing magical powers. Oh look, magical puberty! I bet they don't want their powers to begin with, then grow to appreciate it! And have at least one hard-knocks lesson about responsible use of power! And if they foul up, the world is doomed! Never read THAT story before!

Prophecies. Please do learn to establish a plot without laying it out beforehand in bad poetry. If the plot wouldn't happen without the prophecy, then let it not happen, and go write a better book.


In conclusion, a few books that aren't about any of these things:

Damiano and Damiano's Lute, by R.A. MacAvoy
A young Italian witch (who used his witchcraft to call down the Archangel Raphael to give him lute lessons) becomes a musician to survive in war-torn, plague-ridden Renaissance Italy. It's a strangely sweet story, and the relationship between Damiano and Raphael is one of the best parts.

Shriek: An Afterword, by Jeff Vandermeer
Hard to describe. A scholar goes too far in investigating the mushroom-people who live under his city; his sister, the main storyteller, deals with "normal" life in the city above. It's mostly about the wonderfully weird city of Ambergris.

Larque on the Wing, by Nancy Springer
Immersive fantasy about a suburban housewife who paints horrible, tacky "country" paintings for tourist traps in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania until her doppelgangers thwack her out of her rut. Amazon saith: "Larque creates temporary people from nothing, which does not become a problem until a ten-year-old version of herself leads her on a search for lost dreams and she returns stronger, braver--and male."

Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman

His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik

Aunt Maria, by Diana Wynne Jones

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susannah Clarke

The Iron Dragon's Daughter, by Michael Swanwick
Tags: on writing, rant
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