I have my thoughts on what constitutes a bad fantasy, and when I
started searching for examples I realized that I don't own anything
that I consider to be bad fantasy. All the "bad fantasies" are
books that I read in the school library and whose titles and authors
are blurred memories. The only ones that comes to mind are the
first Shannara books (then a trilogy), which has long been described
as a Tolkien rip-off.
Also, I recently skimmed a copy of _The Tough Guide to Fantasyland_
(love the map), and I realized that I can't think of any books that
fit the cliches in the guide. Many books have a few of the items
listed in the guide; the items are so general that a medieval fantasy
can't avoid all of them. But there have to be books out there that
inspired DWJ to write the guide.
(I'm convinced that most of the items listed in the guide aren't
intrinsically bad; rather it's how they are used in the story that
makes them a signpost of bad fantasy.)
Specifically, I am looking for a few modestly sized books that I
can read over the next two weeks. I do not have the time or interest
to read monstrous bad fantasy series. They don't have to be recently
published; I'll be picking them up at a used bookstore.
Perhaps a few of the bad RPG-based fantasies would be good to get
as well? I'm a gamer who has never read any of the gaming novels,
and I don't know where to start. (I'm interested in the *better*
ones of the bad. If I'm going to subject myself to bad fantasies,
I don't want to have keep a bucket by the chair.)
I'm not interested in starting a debate or discussion of the specific
books; that'd be more appropriate to rasfw. I am interested in book
suggestions from other writers.
Feel free to email me if you don't want to publicly state "Book X
is a bad fantasy".
I think much of the Tough Guide was inspired by the collected works of
David Eddings and Mercedes Lackey. I can't think of any specific Lackey
titles, but you might try Eddings's first book, _Pawn of Prophecy_, if you
don't want to read a five-book series. You can pretty much predict the
rest of it from that one, anyway.
Perhaps I shouldn't mention it because I didn't actually read it, but while
flipping through Terry Goodkind's _Wizard's First Rule_ I discovered what
appeared to be a 100 page torture-and-BDSM scene in which the protagonist
addresses his dominatrix-torturer-wizardess-person as "Mistress." Unless
the rest of the book is better than _Lord of the Rings_, I'd say it's a
pretty safe bet for you.
And then you should read any late Xanth book. Again, I haven't read it, but
I don't see how you could possibly go wrong with _The Color of Her
And Gor. Can't leave out Gor.
Regular, every day 20th century guy/woman gets gated / drawn / tripped / flung
/ schlurped / whatever into said fantasy world...
I personally don't want the fantasy world to depend on the real world... I like
it to live on its own...
Am I missing some good fantasy? Yeah, maybe...but I've got tons of reading to
do anyway, can't keep up...
Anthony "Looney" Toohey
Yehoota on chess.net/FICS/Yahoo
If I see one more quote of that stupid
bathing gnat drowning elephant thing...
And "Last Herald Mage trilogy" by Lackey. That one was bad. Well,
obviously all of this is IMHO.
>Perhaps I shouldn't mention it because I didn't actually read it, but while
>flipping through Terry Goodkind's _Wizard's First Rule_ I discovered what
>appeared to be a 100 page torture-and-BDSM scene in which the protagonist
>addresses his dominatrix-torturer-wizardess-person as "Mistress." Unless
>the rest of the book is better than _Lord of the Rings_, I'd say it's a
>pretty safe bet for you.
Just as an aside, how does _that_ make it "bad" fantasy? Of course,
the book isn't _that_ well written, and has its problems, but I
thought the S/M sequence was a refreshing change.
>And then you should read any late Xanth book. Again, I haven't read it, but
>I don't see how you could possibly go wrong with _The Color of Her
>And Gor. Can't leave out Gor.
"Baker's Boy" (and the other books in the series) was, IMHO, bad
fantasy as well. I didn't quite manage to finish all of it, but it had
the prophecy, the boy with destiny, evil wizard, and whatnot. In
addition, the plot was following a sine curve, everything returning to
where it began at least a couple of times (Oh, she is running away
_again_! Oh, she was caught _again_!).
'I have something to say! | 'The Immoral Immortal' \o JJ Karhu
It is better to burn out, | -=========================OxxxxxxxxxxxO
than to fade away!' | kur...@modeemi.cs.tut.fi /o
I have to agree with this. I only bought the first one in the series and
found it appallingly predictable and annoying. I kept wanting to hit the
female lead, which is not a great sign.
John Jakes wrote several about Brak the Barbarian. (Seriously) Brak
was a Conan clone. I think all had Brak in the title.
Lin Carter wrote about Thongor. Wizard of Lemuria was the first. The
rest had Thongor in the title. Conan / Edgar Rice Burroughs. I think
it was the first novel in which the airboats were run by a perpetual
The late Buck Coulson (fanzine YANDRO) thought that a bad flaw. I
pointed out that perpetual motion was just another fantasy element. I
was surprised to get a printable reply.
I think this is a bit of a non sequitur: just because our world
co-exists in with the fantasy world in the same book doesn't mean that
the fantasy world can't live on its own. Or vice versa. How much
fantasy have you read where the fictional world isn't rather
derivative of the real world (like, people dressing as 14th century
Englishmen, the social structure being modeled on 13th century France,
the language being very similar to modern Welsh)?
>Am I missing some good fantasy?
To name just two examples, you're missing _Nine Princes in Amber_ and
the _Fionavar_ trilogy.
>Oh, I suppose this is as good a place as any to air one of my little pet
>peeves... The thing that makes me put down a fantasy novel faster than any
>Regular, every day 20th century guy/woman gets gated / drawn / tripped /
>/ schlurped / whatever into said fantasy world...
Since my current WI(glacial)P uses this device, I feel I ought to defend it:
It's an old and honorable trope dating back to at least *A Connecticut
Yankee* and John Carter.
Of course, those two works used *19th* century guys schlurped into the
fantasy world, and my WIP uses a *21st* century guy schlurped into the
fantasy world, so I suppose one could say "that's different!" :-)
>I personally don't want the fantasy world to depend on the real world... I
>it to live on its own...
Are you talking about the way most such fantasy worlds are "parasites",
taking people, ideas, and stuff from the real world without giving anything
back, or do you mean something different by "depend on"?
And, without any comprehension of what's going on, manages to save it
from the Dire and Horrible Peril, through some ineffable quality that is
never quite adequately explained, often having to do with a prophecy.
They do get to be a bit much.
> I personally don't want the fantasy world to depend on the real world... I
> like it to live on its own...
Mmm. Consider some of the legendry of Faerie and the lands Under the
Hill, where the 'fantasy world' was interlaced with the real world,
connected at some points, influenced by and influencing the real world,
but rendered utterly separate by some factor.
I'm working on about three things that have sort of a parallel reality
style world, without falling into the hackneyed convention of the
tennis-shoe wearing kid suddenly getting carried into dragon-land and
winning the princess's love and other such overdone conventions.
One is dealing with the interlaced world concept of faerie.
One has the worlds as more parallel entities, with the 'magical'
creatures being unable to comfortably live in 'reality' for entirely
consistent and explicable reasons, but occasional humans cross the
barrier, and occasionally the magical creatures slip over for a limited
amount of time to see what the rest of the universe has been up to.
One has the fantasy elements entirely within the 'real' world, but
uncommon due to a sort of paradigmatic interference - everyone knows
there's no such thing as a... so reports of seeing one get ignored, or
glossed over, sort of in a Men in Black or DeLintish way.
At least one of these was begun because I got frustrated with hackneyed
parallel-world type plots and decided I'd do it right, with things like
reasons that the magic people don't go buzz humanity other than 'the
magic doesn't let them cross the barrier'.
Heather Nicoll - Darkhawk - http://aelfhame.dslonramp.net/~darkhawk/
"This is not a Y-2-clay gitch!" - News announcer on Boston's Channel 5
My WIP has a couple of variants on this ... one central character, who
never actually appears, was schlurped through into the fantasy world.
Didn't actually save it, but he did make a fortune, get knighted, and
settle down on a nice estate.
Vaudeville. A whole universe that's never heard your jokes!
The further I get on this WIP, the more I think the next book is going to
be the reverse, a character from the fantasy world who gets schlurped
through into this one, on a minor non-world-saving mission.
Lisa A Leutheuser wrote:
> Specifically, I am looking for a few modestly sized books that I
> can read over the next two weeks. I do not have the time or interest
> to read monstrous bad fantasy series. They don't have to be recently
> published; I'll be picking them up at a used bookstore.
For the first time in my life, I can wholeheartedly and without
reservation recommend the Gor novels to you. Try for one of the later
ones, when the author's obsessions have really spun out of control and he
refused to be copyedited. Guaranteed, if you open one at any page and
begin to read, you will find what you're looking for.
This has also been successfully tried with the works of L. Ron., but
perhaps they'd count as science fiction and wouldn't meet your needs.
Brenda W. Clough, author of HOW LIKE A GOD, from Tor Books
>The further I get on this WIP, the more I think the next book is going to
>be the reverse, a character from the fantasy world who gets schlurped
>through into this one, on a minor non-world-saving mission.
Or (to connect nicely with the recent thread about changelings), there's
Zelazny's _Changeling_ (and its sequel), where two people from our
world and the fantasy world are exchanged.
>Lisa A Leutheuser wrote:
>> I'm on a "The signposts of Bad Fantasy" panel at a local sf
>> convention on Jan 21-23, and I'm looking for examples of bad
>John Jakes wrote several about Brak the Barbarian. (Seriously) Brak
>was a Conan clone. I think all had Brak in the title.
IMHO, the two Brak books I read way back in the mists of
time were a lot better than most of the Conan books.
For some reason probably related to adolescent testosterone
I once read a whole lot of them. Brak was a lot smarter
than Conan for one thing. I never found more than the
2, otherwise I might have read all of them. I'm not sure
I would rate Brak as highly today as my tastes have
changed a bit, but still, they were better than their
titles would indicate.
Now Gor, those are really indescribably awful.
Surely you don't have to eat a whole egg to know if it's rotten?
My SO, bless his heart, adores what I can only describe as Extruded
Fantasy Product. I've tried to read some of them, generally without
success. ("She tried and failed?" "She tried and died.")
Without naming names, and wincing as I consider how closely these
criteria may describe either of my two WIPs, here's a short list of
common qualities, if that's the right word for it:
1.) Generic kinda-medieval setting, sanitized for your protection.
People live in drafty castles or snug villages or walled towns, with or
without socks, but have standards of food, clothing, and sanitation
comparable to modern suburbia. They have surprising literacy rates as
well. Addition of non-medieval goods such as potatoes and chocolate is
a bonus, as is the use of silk, velvet, and other luxury fabrics at a
decidedly non-luxury frequency.
2.) Generic hero, often a young lad who wanders through the first
chapter without showing any special talent, inclinations, or
personality. All his rough edges have been machine-tooled off so that
theoretically, any fool can identify with him without having any
uncomfortable points of difference poke out through the ribs.
3.) Generic Evil Overlord, often in a Manichaean context-- the Creator
sealed him off, or cast him into the outer darkness, and now he wants
to get back in with the aid of his human(oid) pawns, which only Generic
Hero can stop, because the Creator doesn't directly dabble in his
creation any more. Or the EO is a power-hungry mortal
magician/priest/king who aspires to Take Over The World. (The other
variant is a political scenario in which good and evil are less
polarized, since both sides are scheming merrily and they're only
squabbling over local real estate, but it's still pretty clear where
the reader's sympathies are meant to lie.)
Sigh. Generally, I like my SO's taste in SF, but his fantasy reading is
just not my bag. Then again, my taste in fantasy (e.g., Tanith Lee)
sends him hiding under the covers.
('^, * womba...@yahoo.com (NB: my real username has no dot) *
Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.
On Thu, 13 Jan 2000, Jouni Karhu wrote:
> "Baker's Boy" (and the other books in the series) was, IMHO, bad
> fantasy as well. I didn't quite manage to finish all of it, but it had
> the prophecy, the boy with destiny, evil wizard, and whatnot. In
> addition, the plot was following a sine curve, everything returning to
> where it began at least a couple of times (Oh, she is running away
> _again_! Oh, she was caught _again_!).
Well, I liked this series quite a bit. It had a lot of the standard
fantasy tropes, but then I don't find those troublesome in a fantasy
novel. What I enjoyed about the book was the characterization. I was
interested enough to see what happened to the various people that I
finished the three-book volume and then wished it were longer. There was
a lot of humor in the book, also, which I enjoyed. But tastes vary, of
_A Hawk In Silver_, Mary Gentle. One of the *grimmest* YA fantasies I've
>(snip)"The Woods Out Back" by R.A. Salvatore
>I don't know if that meets your requirements :) It was far better
>written than that chapter of _Rockiods_. I could see a teenage boy
>enjoying it more than a 23-year-old female.
I think it would. IIRC, this is the one where the Haggis, in the
fantasy world, is a large, dangerous, and ravenous beast; whereas in
the real world it is a small, lovable, furry creature native to
Another 355 days, then it's "Welcome to the Third."
> To name just two examples, you're missing _Nine Princes in Amber_ and
> the _Fionavar_ trilogy.
Haven't read _Fionavar_, but _Nine Princes in Amber_ doesn't exactly fit
that bill...our "real world" is very much an integral part of that
universe. And the protagonist cannot, by any stretch, be called a
"normal" guy. :-)
Mark D. McKean - The Quantum Panda - qpa...@iwaynet.net
> On Wed, 12 Jan 2000 23:44:48 -0600, SLMonkey <slmo...@enteract.com>
>> (snip)"The Woods Out Back" by R.A. Salvatore
>> I don't know if that meets your requirements :) It was far better
>> written than that chapter of _Rockiods_. I could see a teenage boy
>> enjoying it more than a 23-year-old female.
> I think it would. IIRC, this is the one where the Haggis, in the
> fantasy world, is a large, dangerous, and ravenous beast; whereas in
> the real world it is a small, lovable, furry creature native to
Sadly endangered now, due to the Scots' habit of stuffing its innards into a
sheep's stomach and wearing its fur as a sporran.
And oooooh . . .
>For the first time in my life, I can wholeheartedly and without
>reservation recommend the Gor novels to you. Try for one of the later
>ones, when the author's obsessions have really spun out of control and he
>refused to be copyedited. Guaranteed, if you open one at any page and
>begin to read, you will find what you're looking for.
My take on the Gor novels is that they're the moonshine whiskey of SF:
They're of uneven and generally low quality, they have a strong flavor that
many readers find nasty, consuming them can make you feel ill, they have a
disreputable air that make people quick to condem them but ashamed to say
they like them - and they pack a 100 proof emotional punch. This last causes
people to have exaggerated reactions toward them: A few readers become
addicted; more have a Carry-Nation-like reaction (they want to take a
hatchet to the stuff).
> >Am I missing some good fantasy?
> To name just two examples, you're missing _Nine Princes in Amber_ and
> the _Fionavar_ trilogy.
Except that _Nine Princes_ doesn't follow that pattern: we start in what we
laughable call the "real world", true, but the protagonist is *not* a "regular,
everyday 20th century guy". Which becomes apparent pretty quickly.
And, in the same vein, in _Fionavar Tapestry_, some of the main
characters aren't exactly regular every-day people either.
I certainly wouldn't want you to be discouraged from your efforts due to the
opinion of a rather odd fellow (that would be me...) I probably won't plunk
down $7 to buy it, though it might be quite good...
Then again, there was once a time in my life when I wouldn't listen to opera,
so who knows :-)
>Of course, those two works used *19th* century guys schlurped into the
>fantasy world, and my WIP uses a *21st* century guy schlurped into the
>fantasy world, so I suppose one could say "that's different!" :-)
>>I personally don't want the fantasy world to depend on the real world... I
like it to live on its own...
>Are you talking about the way most such fantasy worlds are "parasites",
>taking people, ideas, and stuff from the real world without giving anything
back, or do you mean something different by "depend on"?
The idea that the 'hero' of the story doesn't come from the realm itself, that
there is no "native" person/being who can achieve the results necessary to save
the world/save the kingdom/save the person/save the artifact/ or whatever...
It just doesn't work for me, and for me in particular...
A couple of folks have mentioned GGK's "Fionavar Tapestry." After reading
Tigana, which was stupendous, I broke my rule and bought all three volumes... I
got about 60 pages into it, and that one element of the plot was just egging at
me... I didn't like it, I couldn't suspend my disbelief... I took all three
books to the used bookstore and never looked back...
I jus' can't help it :-)
Perhaps I wasn't as concise as I should have been. It's the idea that the
realm in question needs someone from another world, outside it's own, shall we
say, sphere, to save it's collective arse...
>Or vice versa. How much
>fantasy have you read where the fictional world isn't rather
>derivative of the real world (like, people dressing as 14th century
>Englishmen, the social structure being modeled on 13th century France,
>the language being very similar to modern Welsh)?
Certainly plenty, but that derivative work doesn't necessarily depend on
someone from another world to save it. It's kind of sad that no one who is
native to that realm has what it takes to be the "hero..."
Have you been to J.V. Jones' web site? She has lots of humorous bits
there. Especially in the Bodger & Grift stuff -- including a free
Here's the URL:
There's a fantasy quiz -- and I learned stuff from it! (I didn't know
David Farland was Dave Wolverton!) I got enough points to earn me
"Apprentice-Master, Gandalf Level."
For Bodger & Grift stuff, hop directly to:
I liked the Brak books, too. I think they've gotten a lot of heat
because they were considered Conan, uhm, tributes. But the lone
barbarian hero is a rich vein that has still has plenty of gold in it.
Too bad John Jakes didn't stay in the SF field. He wouldn't have as
much money, but he might have written some truly interesting stuff.
Somewhere, I have a book on tape version of one of the Brak books,
read by (get this!) Roger Zelazny! The company that made them was in
New Mexico, right near where he lived. They also did tapes of some of
his own books, I think. Anyway, that was fun to listen to. :->
> For some reason probably related to adolescent testosterone
> I once read a whole lot of them.
I read a lot of them because of adolescent estrogen. (Hey, the guys in
Teen Beat magazine were too young and pretty. I wasn't into pretty
boys -- then.)
> Now Gor, those are really indescribably awful.
John Norman, the only man who could make bondage boring... I've heard
the earlier books were much better, but I never got far enough to
>>I personally don't want the fantasy world to depend on the real world... I
>>it to live on its own...
There's an example of opinion; I love those stories where the fantasy world
echoes/coexists with our world.
The best example I can think of is _Warriors Of Virtue_ (the spin-off
young-adults book series, not the film). At one point, the real-world
("Outlander") human has a minor epiphany when he realizes that the
constellations in Tao are exactly the same as the constellations from Earth,
making him realize that Tao and Earth exist in the same place. . .
>I think this is a bit of a non sequitur: just because our world
>co-exists in with the fantasy world in the same book doesn't mean that
>the fantasy world can't live on its own.
Agreed, WoV is based on Chinese legends/myths, but has elements from various
other sources as well.
"Virtue of Wisdom, Power of FIRE!" -Chi
Like a Scottish Tribble.
"The Tribble With Troubles"
I have a short story drifting about looking for a publisher tha kind of
touches on that. Since I like the Universe I've created/interpreted, I plan
on doing several stories there, touching on the barriers between the magic
and the "real."
>One has the worlds as more parallel entities, with the 'magical'
>creatures being unable to comfortably live in 'reality' for entirely
>consistent and explicable reasons, but occasional humans cross the
>barrier, and occasionally the magical creatures slip over for a limited
>amount of time to see what the rest of the universe has been up to.
That's in mine too! The concept is that magic has withdrawn (around the time
of the Roman/Christian conquest of Britain, but I haven't set an actual
chain-of-events yet) but still exists, like a sort of underground. The key
point in the withdrawal was the Dragon War, that marked mankind's betrayal
of, well, you know.
>One has the fantasy elements entirely within the 'real' world, but
>uncommon due to a sort of paradigmatic interference - everyone knows
>there's no such thing as a... so reports of seeing one get ignored, or
>glossed over, sort of in a Men in Black or DeLintish way.
What are you, telepathic? Mine deals with perception, how a young child will
see something, and then learn to believe their parents/teachers/older
friends/whatever when they tell them repeatedly that _______ don't exist,
and to stop daydreaming. Some people have a natural talent to see Reality.
"Always explaining, never explained."
No. That's one of my characters.
Actually, lots. But that universe breeds them.
I'm just overanalytical. ;)
Heather Nicoll - Darkhawk - http://aelfhame.dslonramp.net/~darkhawk/
Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind.
- "Ruby Tuesday," The Rolling Stones
> > Now Gor, those are really indescribably awful.
> John Norman, the only man who could make bondage boring... I've heard
> the earlier books were much better, but I never got far enough to tell.
Yes, the first 6 books were quite good, after which they went downhill
fast. I read up to about book 10 and gave up hope.
Nevertheless, I would defend the earlier books...Priest-Kings [#3] was
pretty good S-F, and Assassin [#5] was an excellently realized
David T. Anderson
On Sat, 15 Jan 2000, Anne M. Marble wrote:
> Have you been to J.V. Jones' web site? She has lots of humorous bits
> there. Especially in the Bodger & Grift stuff -- including a free
> screen saver.
> Here's the URL:
Thanks. I had found this site already, yes. After I read Baker's Boy,
I did a web search on her name. It is a neat site.
> There's a fantasy quiz -- and I learned stuff from it! (I didn't know
> David Farland was Dave Wolverton!) I got enough points to earn me
> "Apprentice-Master, Gandalf Level."
At NASFIC last summer, she gave a fantasy quiz out at Warner's session. I
did well enough on it to be one of the people who won a copy of _A Cavern
of Black Ice_. (I have a couple of degrees in English, focus on Medieval
and Romantic literature so I did well on those questions -- not as well on
the more up-to-date ones.) It was a fun presentation.
I haven't read the book yet, as I don't like to start a series until I
have all the books in it, so I can't comment on the quality of this series
I'm not so sure about Eddings.
OK, his books are full of cliches and stereotypes. But my impression
is that surprisingly many of them are *original* stereotypes (how's
that for an oxymoron?). What I mean is that Eddings tends to invent a
reasonably original character, or setting, or plot device, and then
re-use it until you can't keep all the clones apart. He's derivative
of his own work, as it were.
OK, he does use a number of the classic cliches as well, like the
all-powerful thieves' guild (invented by Leiber, or was it a cliche
already in Fafhrd and Gray Mouser?) and the Anglo-Saxon Nomads. Not
to mention the generic medieval settings.
So is Eddings an example of Bad Fantasy? Depends on your definition of
bad, of course, but if you mean "fantasy that exemplifies all the
classic cliches of the genres" you're a bit off the mark.
BTW, I think this "Bad Fantasy" would be the analogue of pulp Sci-Fi,
Yes, but I'm afraid Looney might have chucked the book before that
I see what you mean, but I think this can be done more or less skillfully;
if the "ordinary world" and the "fantasy world" both turn out to be parts
of a fantasy "metaverse" (as in the Amber books), you could just widen
your definition of "fantasy world".
>>Or vice versa. How much
>>fantasy have you read where the fictional world isn't rather
>>derivative of the real world (like, people dressing as 14th century
>>Englishmen, the social structure being modeled on 13th century France,
>>the language being very similar to modern Welsh)?
>Certainly plenty, but that derivative work doesn't necessarily depend on
>someone from another world to save it. It's kind of sad that no one who is
>native to that realm has what it takes to be the "hero..."
OK. I see your point: books where this is literally true (the fantasy
world contains nobody able to solve its problems, but Joe Average from
our world can solve it just because) would probably be rather bad.
But what if the author has some compelling reason why this should be
so? I don't mean just hackneyed stuff like "anybody from a world with
20th century technology can whip the medieval guys", but a book where
the author has really created a larger world which contains both the
fantasy world and something similar to ours?
> Regular, every day 20th century guy/woman gets gated / drawn / tripped / flung
> / schlurped / whatever into said fantasy world...
One of mine involves a guy who gets whatevered into the fantasy world...
But he's not the first.
They've been doing this on a regular basis for over three hundred years,
and they've got the "convincing the outworlder to help us" routine
Someone told me that a recent study established that low levels of a
horomone or brain chemical have been found in boys who abuse animals and
exhibit other signs of becoming sociopaths. Unfortunately, the person
remembered nothing more. Does anyone have a reference on this, or know
more about the subject?
Thanks in advance.
>Patricia Novak <duf...@mail.aburn> wrote:
>> <stuff about "The Baker's Boy">
><snipped to save room>
>Have you been to J.V. Jones' web site? She has lots of humorous bits
>there. Especially in the Bodger & Grift stuff -- including a free
>Here's the URL:
>There's a fantasy quiz -- and I learned stuff from it! (I didn't know
>David Farland was Dave Wolverton!) I got enough points to earn me
>"Apprentice-Master, Gandalf Level."
heh heh heh
i'm a balrog <g>
but it was easy enough - gimme questions on tolkien and i'll score ok.
did you know, by the way, that the house he was born in in
Bloemfontein, South Africa, was razed to make way for... a
"The difference between journalism and literature
is that journalism is unreadable
and literature is unread."
On Mon, 17 Jan 2000, Graydon wrote:
> I am; Eddings is unquestionably bad fantasy, becuase the societies do
> not reflect in any way their nominal economies.
True. And the economies, to my mind, didn't make sense of and by
themselves, either. Like the slave pens in one of the places visisted.
The slaves seemed to serve no useful purpose that I can recall. And the
farm, where Belgarion grew up, struck me as off kilter somehow. It's
been a while since I read this series, so my memories of what exactly was
wrong on the farm are fuzzy, but I'm an agricultural econonomist and farm
stuff that isn't quite right will jump to my attention, like the hay bales
in Jordan's WoT.
> One can make a case for the Eddingses having written good _fable_,
> which isn't supposed to be about somewhere else, although I must say
> the degree of gender and culture absolutism in the books in question
> is not at all to my taste.
I agree with you on this, too, and yet I still enjoyed this series. I
liked some of the characters and the plot moved along well enough that I
kept on reading. It was a fun, "mind candy" kind of read for me.
I couldn't get through his next series, though. As someone else said, it
seemed to repeat his earlier material.
>Someone told me that a recent study established that low levels of a
>horomone or brain chemical have been found in boys who abuse animals and
>exhibit other signs of becoming sociopaths. Unfortunately, the person
>remembered nothing more. Does anyone have a reference on this, or know
>more about the subject?
Cortisol. I read it in Salon's Health Log.
"In a study, published in Thursday's Archives of General
Psychiatry, University of Chicago assistant professor Keith McBurnett,
Ph. D., and his colleagues have found that young boys who were
persistently aggressive had lower levels ofcortisol in their saliva."
It was interesting, and I've been generally very impressed with Salon's
writings on medical issues.
Rachael Lininger | "It's good to know an assassin
lininger@ | you can hire with a can of tuna fish."
chem.wisc.edu | --Rocco da Mallet
I believe it's a chemical found in saliva.
Check http://www.eurekalert.com, and you should find something.
Thanks very much! That gives me everything I need to find the article.
On Sun, 16 Jan 2000, Jon Hendry wrote:
> Check http://www.eurekalert.com, and you should find something.
Yup, they have a nice summary of the article. Great site. Thanks.
I've bookmarked it for future use.
I am; Eddings is unquestionably bad fantasy, becuase the societies do
not reflect in any way their nominal economies.
One can make a case for the Eddingses having written good _fable_,
which isn't supposed to be about somewhere else, although I must say
the degree of gender and culture absolutism in the books in question
is not at all to my taste.
"I call thee by the most modest terms, for I am one of the gentle ones
that will use the devil himself with courtesy." -- Feste, :Twelfth Night:
You're quoting me out of context; I meant I wasn't sure that Eddings
what was the original poster was looking for when *she* said she
wanted examples of '"bad" fantasy'.
But apart from that I agree with you. Eddings also has a very odd way
of ignoring cultural change - i think it was in "Polgara" where he
follows a society through a thousand years of history. Polgara
essentially creates one of the countries and rules it through
tremendous political changes - but the way its inhabitants speak,
dress and behave doesn't change one iota during that time.
This is not a flaw exlusingly of Eddings', of course. It strikes me
now and then when reading fantasy set in "generic medieval" settings
that the various real-world phenomena adopted by fantasy writers: a
particular brand of feudalism, armoured knights, troubadours, people
dressed in hose and doublets, whatever, only existed for a fairly
short period of time (nevermind that the elements also often didn't
exist at the same time in the real world). In the Eddings case, it's
fairly strange to see armoured knights a la 15th century England
existing over the millenia...
It's refreshing to read an author like Katharine Kerr whose world
actually changes, not just politically, but culturally and
technologically as well, over the years.
Oh, BTW; I suppose I should refer to Eddings as "they", since his
wife seems to have been a co-author also in the early books.
There are plenty of things in _Fionavar_ that would have made me toss
the book if it hadn't been so extremely well written - your complaint
isn't among them (it just didn't bother me at all), but it's
pretentious, sentimental, balances on the line between archetypical
and cliched, mixes mythoses to a confusing degree - but it's a
wonderful read. Of course YMMV.
Let me get back to why you don't like books where a hero is brought
over from our world: you mention suspension of disbelief. I think I'm
beginning to understand now: is the problem that you can't understand
why the people in, say, Fionavar would need to go to our world to
find somebody to fix their problems, and since you can't suspend
disbelief on this point the entire book is ruined?
If that's so, would it help if there were some well-motivated reason
why they would need somebody from another world, and that this reason
was made clear more or less at the start?
Note: I'm not trying to convinve you that you're wrong and really
_should_ like this kind of story; I'm just curious what makes you
react the way you do. Knowing why a certain kind of story alienates
some readers could help fix the problem.
>A couple of folks have mentioned GGK's "Fionavar Tapestry." After reading
>Tigana, which was stupendous, I broke my rule and bought all three volumes... I
>got about 60 pages into it, and that one element of the plot was just egging at
>me... I didn't like it, I couldn't suspend my disbelief... I took all three
>books to the used bookstore and never looked back...
fortunately i read them all in the reverse order, which meant that i
took fionavar almost as a "practice run" - it was full of brilliant
moments linked by stuff that was almost laughable. he lost me in that
one when he pulled in the arthur/guinevere/lancelot plot and threw it
all in with the elves and the celtic pantheon and whatever else was
handy at the time. but the moments hung on in the back of my mind,
those phrases that rang with true power, and when i saw Tigana i
bought it. and couldn't believe that the same author had written that
and fionavar. and then came arbonne which i still think of as kay's
best book. then he went off at a tangent - i never did connect as
vivdly to the universe of Al Rassan and then, later, Sarantium. but
the man just WRITES so well, dammit, that you're wiling to forgive him
a lot of plot and story sins... <g>
A.("bad" fantasy? in my book, if you'll forgive the expression, it's
things like "Shards of a shattered crown" by feist. that book
*utterly* frustrated me.)
When I was younger and more cynical, I plotted one of those,
where the key element was amorality. I had a magical universe
where there really was an external good and evil, and it was
necessary to bring someone *else* over to do bad things for
the good of the kingdom. If the king did it, he would poison
the land, etc. So they brought over (I have trouble remembering;
this was the 1970s I plotted it) a stereotypical exCIA agent
who wanted nothing more than to live in fantasy world where
there was a clear good and evil.
Too bad he could never join either side completely, so after
he did the job, he would still be an outsider. Oh, it was
going to be a bitter and ironic book. :-)
Fortunately for the world, I was not old enough to write it.
And nowadays, I'd point out to my protagonist that to become
good, you have to do good.
Not exactly fantasy but not exactly science: Sharon Green's
_Mists_of_Ages_ was the one I hurled across the room and
said, "If this can get published, I can get published."
Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.
*nods in agreement*
The "alternate fantasy-world" stories that I like best are the ones where
the "Outlander" ends up sucked into the middle of things and ends up causing
more trouble than helping.
These stories use the real-world (or whatever) character as the "eyes of the
audience," meaning that whenever something needs explaining, he/she is the
person to whom it is explained. This can be a very effective way, IMHO, for
a character writer to cover a lot of exposition by just having one character
befriend the outsider and explain "that's Princess Kierra, she visits the
village from time-to-time, rumours are that she and the miller's son are
involved. . ."
But I nearly lost it even then with Aileron. You see, I used to buy C-130
Jean Lamb, tlamb...@cs.com
"There is chaos under heaven and the situation is excellent"--Chairman Mao, by
way of _Doonesbury_.
>I must admit, the first time I read the Fionovar Tapestry through I was stunned
>beyond belief at the beauty of the linked moments, and tried to ignore the
>creakiness of the linkages (then again, I fell in love with Kevin and so
>perhaps I was not the most objective person at the time).
>But I nearly lost it even then with Aileron. You see, I used to buy C-130
exactly <g> how can you take seriously a character named after a piece
of aircraft hardware?
and one of my best moments in the book was kevin's "to this i will
make reply, even if he be a god and it mean my death" vow after he
sees what rakoth had done to jennifer....
This is the bane of the fantasy author: all the nice-sounding names
you've made up may mean something else in a different language,
or perhaps even in a different subset of English. I had problems
with Patricia McKillip's _Riddlemaster_: "Morgon" means "morning"
in Swedish, "Raederle" sounds like it may be a diminutive of
"wheel" in some German dialect, and as for master Ohm - what,
the guy with U = R*I?
Woohoo! So am I. I'm not sure whether this is a good thing or not.
Some of the suggested answers were interesting, though. _The Phantom
Menace_ novelised by... Stephen Donaldson (I wish). And what *does* spice
soup taste like?
+- David Given ---------------McQ-+ "There is only one thing worse than war,
| Work: d...@tao-group.com | and that's business. Spacely has declared
| Play: dgi...@iname.com | business on us." --- Cogswell
+- http://wired.st-and.ac.uk/~dg -+
Naw. Not if the Gods of our little magical universe simply
define good and bad by decree.
I imagine that most of the secret service folks would be
deeply grateful if some sort of outside agency were to
reassure them ocaasionally that, yes, everything is OK,
they are despite everything still Good.
So a world were one side is inherently good and sanctifies
every mean in our agent's arsenal -- talk about job fulfilment!
Just imagine being able to for once _use_ all those dirty tricks
you were drilled in for years, without a bad conscience lurking
in the off-hours, because you are an Officially Certified
Good Guy, and even your victims have to admit that!
Oh well, it wouldn't work, neither for the agent nor the reader.
I guess a few decades worth of conditioning in traditional
Western Values can't be suspended quite that easily.
But there is at least a short story hiding in there...
"He who wields a sharp tongue is armed to the teeth" (Werner Mitsch)
quite that easily.
>Helgi Briem <he...@NOSPAMdecode.is> wrote:
>> Now Gor, those are really indescribably awful.
>John Norman, the only man who could make bondage boring... I've heard
>the earlier books were much better, but I never got far enough to
John Norman doesn't make *bondage* boring; he makes the punishment of
rebellious slavegirls boring:
"Tina, you've been bad and rebellious and I'm going to have to punish you."
"I'm going to give you a philosophy lecture."
"No Master! Please! Anything but that! I'll be good! I beg! I beg! Noooo!"
Re: Fionavar Tapestry
> >But I nearly lost it even then with Aileron. You see, I used to buy
> exactly <g> how can you take seriously a character named after a piece
> of aircraft hardware?
John M. Ford had one of those unfortunate moments in _The Final Reflection_
with a beautiful woman named Rogaine.
> and one of my best moments in the book was kevin's "to this i will
> make reply, even if he be a god and it mean my death" vow after he
> sees what rakoth had done to jennifer....
Also Diarmuid's last scene. And "Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain."
Although I gave into that temptation once during an earlier fantasy I wrote
(mercifully unpubbed)--see, I used to live in Arkansas, and the twins Basagran
and Basolin were actually heavily advertised herbicides...
I thought 'Fionavar' was wonderful in its own right, and showed a lot of
promise - the author was clearly a genius.
'Tigana' fully lived up to that promise. I think it's among the
greatest works of literature that has ever been written, or ever will
'A Song for Arbonne' was quite good, but the spark was gone.
'The Lions of Al-Rassan' disappointed me.
Seeing the trend, I haven't read 'Sarantium'.
A lot of authors seem to do that - peak early, then fade, or at least go
off in directions I'm not interested in following. I think it's because
they just only have a finite amount to say about a certain kind of
[Earth person in fantasy world]
Personally, I love these sort of stories...
> The one time I've seen this device really work was in the early
> volumes of Rosenberg's "Guardians of the Flame" series. What I really
> liked was that the reason only these people could solve the problem in
> this world (slavery) was that only they _saw_ it as a problem - everyone
> living there just accepted it as a fact of life, as they would have in the
> Roman Empire here (there were some anti-slavery thinkers in the Roman
> period, but not very influential or vehement).
But that one strikes me as rather implausible - *how* would they do
anything about slavery if none of their hosts saw it as a problem? I
can't see them getting all that far preaching that it's wrong.
The more typical sort of scenario:
"O strange person from another world, we're being overrun by the legions
of the Dark Lord, can you help us?!"
"Hmm, maybe. Let's see, to start with we'll need some charcoal, sulphur
by contrast seems to me to be perfectly plausible. Much easier to solve
someone's problems if they acknowledge them; then all you need is to
figure out how.
> One thing fantasy rarely
> takes into account is moral and intellectual "technology" - things like
> slavery being wrong, logic, perspective, the scientific method, etc., that
> we all take for granted but that actually had to be "invented."
One of the best of this sort of plot is Rick Cook's 'Wiz' series. Our
hero in this one isn't actually very good at magic; compared to the more
skilled of the native wizards, he's a klutz. But what he does bring is
the idea of combining standard components into structures that can be
"To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem."
Personally, I tend to dislike stories where the world (any world) is in
danger and The Hero is the only person who can do anything about it,
just because he's The Hero, and everyone else for some contrived reason,
or no reason, is completely ineffective. I see that as orthogonal to
the cross-universe bit; it annoys me regardless of where The Hero comes
Most of the cross-universe novels I've read, though (certainly the ones
I remember) have:
1) Logical reasons why the Earth person should have unusual abilities.
2) Strong, interesting native characters who complement these abilities,
so that everyone's skills are needed.
Certainly, I'd regard stories with neither of these as being unlikely to
be very good.