There are certain opinions shared among people about some genres. The people who hold these opinions call them truths – or clichés, if they are less rigid, saying that clichés are cliché for a reason. Less biased and more open-minded people call these opinions unfounded – or bullshit, since their reasoning is always flawed or factually untrue. This is especially true when it comes to fantasy books.
I will give you brief run-down of the main reasons why cretins bad-mouth fantasy, and show you why they are simply not wrong.
It is only for nerds and losers, not grownups
We’ve all seen those films and tv shows where guys interested in fantasy are presented as losers. We all know that its an oversimplified image of a fantasy fans always being dorks.
Well… nope, that’s just not the case. I’ve met all kinds of people that read fantasy books, so this one definitely empirically does not hold true. There are as many cool fantasy aficionados, as there are kids and dorks reading fantasy – or any other genre.
Here’s some news for you, you can still have a great life, a pretty girlfriend, jump from an airplane, and do great stuff, while still enjoying reading fantasy in your spare time. The genre does not limit anything about your life. In fact, it’s the opposite – it expands your imagination and gives you pure pleasure. We argue that it even makes you cooler. You have your stuff, and don’t give a fuck what the halfwits who don’t read fantasy think about you.
There are absolutely no rules as to what kinds of people enjoy fantasy books and that’s great.
It is always like reading LOTR all over again
Well, it really doesn’t have to be. There are many fresh novels and book series that you can read without the falling taking the traveled and well-known paths. It is not about parties of heroes fulfilling a bunch of prophecies and killing evil lords.
This has become decidedly true during the last decade with the enormous popularity of the Game of Thrones TV series, that reflected the increased sexuality and medieval-like brutality in the fantasy genre.
The choice and variety in fantasy is nowadays extensive and even a bit overwhelming. And it is such a delight that you can pick up different books from your shelf (or your kindle) and immerse yourself into a totally fresh setting and read about any fantasy sub-genre.
Without even considering sci-fi and dystopian fiction, there are plenty of options. For instance, if you prefer the military aspects of fantasy novels, you can check The Malazan Book of the Fallen. It is like the best of historical literature. Being vast in scope, it abounds in warfare, while still having a magical system, and the characters are splendidly written. There is gritty fantasy that GRRM pioneered, where you abound in choice of high-quality books. The Kingkiller Chronicles is great for the most part; The First Law series is very amusing; and, how can you not enjoy the Gentleman Bastards? There are also some terrific urban fantasy books, such as Neverwhere, and Dresden Files. And yes, let’s not forget comic fantasy, grab any Discworld novel and laugh to tears.
Just, please, do yourself a favor and never stoop to reading the crappy Vampire stuff like Twilight or the Vampire Diaries, it is pathetic. But, our editor-in-chief did take one for the team and read those series – for purely academic purposes, to criticize with a basis, not because he enjoyed reading about Edwards marble-like body…
Fantasy books are shallow and simplistic
Yes, all the elves are blondes and somewhat superior to humans, all wizards are old and gray-haired and carry large staffs.
Except for, well… that’s simply not true. Over the last three decades, or so, fantasy literature exploded, offering a great range of diverse characters. Most of GoT male characters are great, and they are one of the main reasons why the TV show is so popular. Kvothe is… incredibly well-written and complex. Locke is such a dazzling and devious genius. Jorg is a great fun to read. Glokta is a delightful psychopath. Azoth is mean and erratic.
I could go on, but these ones suffice to prove my point. The spectrum of distinct fantasy characters is plentiful, and it is such an exhilarating venture plunge in and discover it further.
It is not literature its pulp fiction
This one appears tricky at first sight, but it isn’t really. This is so because there are many fantasy writers that just keep piling up books without any sense of style, and their writing is well… quite bad. But how is this different than any other literary genre
However, there are fantasy writers that use language in beautiful and amazing way. If you tend to prefer classic literature, and you still want to read fantasy, there are many great choices for you. Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin, Jack Vance – and even Patrick Rothfuss, are all master wordsmiths. You can also enjoy top quality writing defined by beautiful simplicity in such writers as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
To be continued
This is generally a very wide topic, one that we plan on returning to – when things pop to mind or when we feel like it. If you still have any of the wrong preconceptions about the fantasy literature, simply check out some of authors and titles I’ve mentioned, immerse yourself, and enjoy.
Or if any other popular misconception about fantasy comes to mind, drop me a line and I will make it go away.
Andrej is a geeky ailurophile and a multi-class analytic philosopher and business development mage. Has a four-legged roommate of the feline persuasion, called Lara. In love with fantasy since he was a kid.