Sunday 13 May 2012

Fantasy Literature - like it or loathe it?

The source material for D&D is handily encapsulated within Appendix N of the Dungeon Master's Guide and by its very nature, it dates from before the 1980s.

In my other incarnation as a would-be fantasy novelist, I often dip in to the current crop of fantasy, although I don't restrict myself to that genre.

However, not many of the blogs on the OSR blogosphere seem to voice their opinion one way or the other of today's generation - the Appendix N of the 21st century.

I'm intrigued as to why; is modern fantasy not to people's tastes, even though we play a fantasy role playing game? Do fantasy fans and gamers actually inhabit two different spheres of interest with the occasional overlap? Or is our love of fantasy literature something that we tend to keep close to our chests?

I've reviewed several books that I've read over the past few months but few others seem to do so. To this end, I thought I'd solicit opinions on this; fantasy literature - love it, loathe it or leave it to one side?


  1. I don't read nearly as much fantasy as I did as a child. My reading as a whole has lessened as adult responsibilities take over my time, but I find that I don't have as much of an interest in fantasy writing as I once did.

    I will always give China Miéville a go, and I am aware of what's supposed to be good in the current fantasy literary landscape -- Abercrombie, Cook, Morgan, Kearney, Lynch, Rothfuss and so on -- but I've not been able to work up the enthusiasm to jump in.

    Part of it is that the genre still seems to be stuck in trilogy mode, and I want to be able to read one book, put it down and move on to something else. This is probably one reason why I have stuck with Miéville, as even when his books are linked, it is only in the loosest sense.

  2. I'll completely agree with Kelvin that the "trilogy thing" is killing the genre for me.

    That said, some of the D&D Ebberon setting books I've really enjoyed. A bit more 'noir/gumshoe' than most fantasy I've read, and no long list of minor but repetitive characters and relationships to remember over several books...

    I can't recall the last stand-alone novel I've read.

  3. Abercrombie is good - and you can see he was a gamer, in a good, understated way - but as you've all said, the 'trilogy thing' is a killer. It is hard to recommend a book to someone when you're saying to them, 'if you want to know how this turns out, you have to read nearly 1500 pages'.

    So slim fantasy novels such as the old Moorcock books not sell in this market? Do people feel like they're not getting a real book unless they get a doorstop too?

  4. I tend to avoid any series of books nowadays, simply because there are so many books I want to read and so little time; and the trilogy thing has been done to death. I like standalone ones more; although there are the odd exceptions, like KJ Parker's books. Still, give me a well-told 300 page novel, and I'd be happier.

  5. I'm actually looking for some interesting fantasy fiction to put on my kindle.

    I tried reading Erikson's Gardens of the moon but couldn't get into it. Does anybody have any suggestions? Daddy G, I've noticed you've had a lot of reading material pass through your sidebar - is any of it good?

    The last good fantasy book I read was Gaimen's American Gods. I'm also looking for the good 300 page novel - or really anything under 800 pages :) I'll read modern fantasy, old fantasy, really anything that is decent.

  6. My buddy Dave reads a lot more contemporary fantasy than I do. I've read some of the "door stop" series (WoT, Sword of Truth - quit midway, and am reading Song of Ice and Fire), but haven't read much other stuff published after 2000. Dave's read a fair bit, and often posts about it on his blog.

    I'd really prefer a return to the 250 to 300 page fantasy novel, but it seems like publishers only want to print massive tomes that will stretch out into sequel after sequel.

  7. I'm fine with a trilogy, bring back the trilogy. It's the never-ending series that shits me to the point where I rarely read current fantasy authors.

    When a trilogy turns into 6 then 10 and before you know it 15+ books, and when the author is publishing one every year or two, it's taking them decades to write the story and by the time each new book comes out I've forgotten everything in the previous one.

    So these days I tend to either read stand-alone novels, re-read stuff I've read before, and stick to deceased authors. Although even the latter isn't a safeguard. I stopped halfway through Jordan's Wheel of Time series because it had become a joke and I knew he'd have to write twice that many to finish the story. He kicks the bucket and I think "perhaps I'll read them now", but no, some other bugger is still writing the series.

    This modern publishing trend of the never-ending fantasy series has driven me wholeheartedly into the used books market and there I stay.

  8. I'm not a fan of any contemporary fantasy authors. The neverending-series thing is a big turn-off, as is the seemingly relentless drive for "grittiness" above all else. The combination of the two has turned the genre a "soap opera" for teenage boys aspect that I don't have much interest in.

  9. Yeah, I pretty much loathe most current fantasy fiction because it feels rooted in an desire to escape from the pluralistic & multicultural reality in which we live to an imagined world of fantastic nostalgia. I get a much bigger thrill from those novels that have become characterized as 'slipstream' -- is anyone familiar with these works?
    Here is a link to list of some of these works:
    these works feel more fantastic to me & tend to generate more useful ideas for the kind of campaigns I prefer to run.

  10. I don't see where that is coming from. We have things like the Wheel of Time RPGthe upcoming Mistborn, various RPGs for the Warhammer and Warhammer 40K setting, although I guess it could be a chicken and egg arguements there. Lots off conversation on about what game engine would make a good starting point for game X. And while I don't do 'reviews', of fiction, I do tend to blather over here about how different fiction I read interacts with my gaming side.

  11. I'm still writing, 20 years on, the fantasy story I want to read. Trouble is over 20 years, what I liked then is not what I like now. So hence I need to rewrite, from the start! So thus, I am still writing the fantasy story I want to read.

  12. I read a bit of fantasy literature, but I made a conscious decision to not review literature per se on my blog. I'll cover bits of books that seem relevant to dungeon-crawling adventures - hence my blog posts on the dungeon in Shadow series by Pehov, say, or discussing a Castle Greyhawk mention in Gygax's books. But otherwise, I'm not a fan of other people's fiction reviews so I avoid writing them myself. Plus, most fantasy books suck. ;)

  13. I read a lot of fantasy literature. I write a lot of fantasy literature. I am all about the fantasy.

    I think the problem is threefold for myself, and I'm not sure if it applies to anyone else here. First, when I was young I could get as many fantasy books as I wanted from the library; there was no cost prohibiting me, and I was very undiscerning in terms of taste, so I quickly devoured anything I came across.

    Now, I have a sharp critical eye (thanks art school) towards writing, and most of the fantasy books in the library are ones that I've already read. I buy books now, which makes it harder because I don't want to necessarily make an investment on something I'm not sure I'm going to like.

    Thirdly, my tastes in fantasy have definitely changed. I can't read just any fantasy anymore; no longer does a book cover of a mysterious vista prompt me to instant reading. I realize there's something sad about that, about perhaps all of these reasons. That's one of the reasons I write fantasy myself (though I've yet to see a lick of it published outside of the amazon kindle store).

  14. Love. It.

    Go read all of these

    Then tell me you don't like fantasy literature.

    Also: Yes, the never-ending series drive me bonkers. Xanth? No thank you. Shanara? Girlfriend, please! Discworld? Meh.

    I will make exceptions for anything by ERB, and REH.

    Otherwise, a series needs to be a mythos, ala HPL.

  15. I like quite a bit of modern fantasy, though not so many multi-volume epics.