Hot-take time: Fantasy is a dull genre

BreakfastMan

Scandinavian Jawbreaker
Jul 22, 2010
4,367
0
0
Fantasy, as a genre, is fucking boring as hell (especially western fantasy). 90% of the stories are just immensely banal remakes, riffs, or commentaries on LOTR or Brothers Grimm tales; 9% are decent remakes, riffs, and commentaries on LOTR or Brothers Grimm tales; and the remaining 1% is just LOTR or Brothers Grimm. Try and disprove me, you can't motherfuckers!
 

Bedinsis

Elite Member
Legacy
Escapist +
May 27, 2020
588
112
48
Country
Sverige
As a starter I'd point towards Sturgeon's law, stating that 90 % of everything is crud. If taken as a truth what you're saying might be true but it's hardly revolutionary.

Apart from that... define fantasy. The point I'm getting at is that "genre" is kinda defined as "similar to these other works", and being similar to other works by necessity requires it to be derivative to some degree, if not it wouldn't be part of the genre. So depending on how narrow your definition is it could by necessity be true that everything within it is heavily derived from LoTR.

Nonetheless, I offer you Harry Potter, which I'd argue fits closer to the definition of Urban Fantasy, and the sources it draws from I'd say is closer to myth and Arthurian legends. I'd also offer His Majesty's dragon, which riffs more on history than anything else, and the dragons are less dangerous beasts of legends than they are everyday fact of life and part of society, participating in the struggles of the era together with humans, not against humans.
 

BreakfastMan

Scandinavian Jawbreaker
Jul 22, 2010
4,367
0
0
Bedinsis said:
As a starter I'd point towards Sturgeon's law, stating that 90 % of everything is crud. If taken as a truth what you're saying might be true but it's hardly revolutionary.
I am not even talking about all the dregs in the genre. I am talking about the "important" works like Wheel of Time, Game Of Thrones, or the Elric series. If we include all the random bad crap, the percentage of stuff is just riffs on LOTR shoots up to 99.99%.

And fantasy in particular encounters this problem of being immensely derivative of a very small number of works (those being: Grimm's fairy tales, Conan the Barbarian, and The Lord Of The Rings) far more than other "genre" fiction like sci-fi or horror.
 

Ogoid

New member
Nov 5, 2009
405
0
0
Eh, depends on how much effort one is willing to put into looking up stuff, I'd say.

There are many contemporaries and even predecessors of Tolkien or Howard that are as far from the formula of those two as they are obscure, from Lord Dunsany to E. R. Eddison, George MacDonald to William Morris, Mervyn Peake to Hope Mirrlees; and there are also more modern works that don't riff off those, either, especially in other branches of fantasy, like Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles trilogy (historical fantasy) or Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle (YA fantasy).
 

BreakfastMan

Scandinavian Jawbreaker
Jul 22, 2010
4,367
0
0
Ogoid said:
Eh, depends on how much effort one is willing to put into looking up stuff, I'd say.
This honestly proves my point pretty nicely. The fact that one has to go digging through more obscure works to find stuff that breaks out from the mold says it all, I think.
 

Bedinsis

Elite Member
Legacy
Escapist +
May 27, 2020
588
112
48
Country
Sverige
BreakfastMan said:
Ogoid said:
Eh, depends on how much effort one is willing to put into looking up stuff, I'd say.
This honestly proves my point pretty nicely. The fact that one has to go digging through more obscure works to find stuff that breaks out from the mold says it all, I think.
Harry Potter didn't count?
 

BreakfastMan

Scandinavian Jawbreaker
Jul 22, 2010
4,367
0
0
Bedinsis said:
BreakfastMan said:
Ogoid said:
Eh, depends on how much effort one is willing to put into looking up stuff, I'd say.
This honestly proves my point pretty nicely. The fact that one has to go digging through more obscure works to find stuff that breaks out from the mold says it all, I think.
Harry Potter didn't count?
It is like, one example. I will give Potter and The Dark Tower props for breaking the mold, but they are only two series.
 

Bedinsis

Elite Member
Legacy
Escapist +
May 27, 2020
588
112
48
Country
Sverige
BreakfastMan said:
Bedinsis said:
BreakfastMan said:
Ogoid said:
Eh, depends on how much effort one is willing to put into looking up stuff, I'd say.
This honestly proves my point pretty nicely. The fact that one has to go digging through more obscure works to find stuff that breaks out from the mold says it all, I think.
Harry Potter didn't count?
It is like, one example. I will give Potter and The Dark Tower props for breaking the mold, but they are only two series.
I also mentioned His Majesty's dragon. Thinking about it Let the Right One in also fits, another urban fantasy.

The Twilight series I would also argue does not riff on Lord of the Rings or anything that you mentioned. They are often considered not good novels, but in your opening post the only thing all the 100 % had in common was that they were riffs on Lord of the Rings or Grimm, a descriptor that does not fit with Twilight.
 

BreakfastMan

Scandinavian Jawbreaker
Jul 22, 2010
4,367
0
0
Bedinsis said:
The Twilight series I would also argue does not riff on Lord of the Rings or anything that you mentioned.
The twilight series is pretty explicitly horror-romance. It uses a typical horror monster, the vampire, to explore a teenage girl's first romantic encounter.
 

Bedinsis

Elite Member
Legacy
Escapist +
May 27, 2020
588
112
48
Country
Sverige
BreakfastMan said:
Bedinsis said:
The Twilight series I would also argue does not riff on Lord of the Rings or anything that you mentioned.
The twilight series is pretty explicitly horror-romance. It uses a typical horror monster, the vampire, to explore a teenage girl's first romantic encounter.
Fair enough. That also excludes Let the Right One in. What about His Majesty's dragon?
 

BreakfastMan

Scandinavian Jawbreaker
Jul 22, 2010
4,367
0
0
Bedinsis said:
BreakfastMan said:
Bedinsis said:
The Twilight series I would also argue does not riff on Lord of the Rings or anything that you mentioned.
The twilight series is pretty explicitly horror-romance. It uses a typical horror monster, the vampire, to explore a teenage girl's first romantic encounter.
Fair enough. That also excludes Let the Right One in. What about His Majesty's dragon?
Not really familiar with that series, so I cannot comment.
 

Addendum_Forthcoming

Queen of the Edit
Feb 4, 2009
3,647
0
0
What about My Little Pony?

And gave us amongst the first various RPGs, both pen and paper and computer RPGs. I will argue fantasy is kind of a catch all genre, which makes it transform into something larger than easy description. Fantasy does open some interesting character driven environments for a narrative to unwind, whether or not those elements are even explored.
 

Marik2

Phone Poster
Nov 10, 2009
5,462
0
0
BreakfastMan said:
Fantasy, as a genre, is fucking boring as hell (especially western fantasy). 90% of the stories are just immensely banal remakes, riffs, or commentaries on LOTR or Brothers Grimm tales; 9% are decent remakes, riffs, and commentaries on LOTR or Brothers Grimm tales; and the remaining 1% is just LOTR or Brothers Grimm. Try and disprove me, you can't motherfuckers!
It really is.

I usually only like western inspired fantasies when it's done by a non westerner.
 

Addendum_Forthcoming

Queen of the Edit
Feb 4, 2009
3,647
0
0
Marik2 said:
It really is.

I usually only like western inspired fantasies when it's done by a non westerner.
Sorry, but I see some ofthe most egregious examples of fantasy being Eastern in origin. Moreover it seems to borrow heavily from Western ideas of narrative devices and suspension of disbelief systems.

I love Spice and Wolf precisely because it seems to utterly subvert Eastern tropes through a Western lens for that reason. Also because as a fntasy setting, with demigods and entirely fictional nations ... the focus is on Medieval European economics and the common lives of European merchants pre-15th century.

And the stories of which are usually a collection of financial crimes, schemes, mysteries and market manipulation (and politics surrounding economics) are in hindsight the only example of Eastern fantasy I can think of that does that.

Which is odd, and kind of highlights the point.

Eastern fantasy seems more than egregiously a part of what I like to call pure escapism fuel. And there's only so much of that that youcan watch before your brain turns to mush.

There's no magic in Spice and Wolf, the protagonists are in truth always bit players in a larger macroeconomic play, there is no central 'big bad' in the world. And as is repeatedly shown one of them is incredibly fragile like the rest of us. And yet he effects change like the rest of us by using commonly understood economic schemes to get ahead. The terms of victory are always couched not in terms of defeating someone, or changing the world, but how they made a couple of extracoinsout of a situation ... or how they manage to make personal milestones in their character development and interpersonal relationships.

And it was brilliant. With clever plots, schemes, economic mysteries, and the cunning that the two leads use to difuse personal endangerment or escape the clutches of economic determinism.

And it is the only example of Eastern fantasy I can think of that does it. There's no wandering samurai, no evil villains, no convoluted threads of mysticism and occultism ... and because of that the writer holds themselves to a higher standard in illustrating ther world and conveying real endangerment and cunning of the protagonists. Every story is a new financial mystery, scheme, or interpersonal relationship dynamic they need to suffer through, but also represent real character goals and interpersonal relationship dynamics.

For the longest time, Lawrence's only desire is to open up his own storefront, and actuallybecome a part of a community. No longer being a travelling merchant, but a stationary figure of a community's economy. The capacity to not have to travel around selling wares.
 

sXeth

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
2,636
114
68
Depends where the borderline around fantasy goes, really.

The already mentioned, Urban Fantasy, Space Fantasy, a good chunk of anime/manga. These are all popular things that dont fall into those molds right off. There's also your serial adventure stuff like Tarzan or Indiana Jones and whatnot, which can skirt the edges, but definitely use fantastical elements.

Swords'n'Sorcery, as the more specific fantasy variant with the knights and the wizards and such, tends to be all kind of samey because it is a subgenre itself, leaning on Tolkien (and Arthurian mythology).
 

Worgen

Follower of the Glorious Sun Butt.
Legacy
Apr 4, 2020
12,187
1,391
118
Gender
Whatever, just wash your hands.
What about cyber fantasy like Shadowrun? I suppose you could just call it cyberpunk, but it does have a lot of fantasy trappings.
 

Kajin

This Title Will Be Gone Soon
Apr 13, 2008
1,016
0
0
The correct answer is that personal tastes and preferences are entirely subjective and what you consider dull is fun to other people (original or not).

I don't want to beat a dead horse, but Twilight is as perfect an example of this as we're going to get. It's a romanticized story about abusive relationships that should be run away from but instead treated as perfect love... and a large number of people enjoyed the crap out if it. Do I think it's shit? Yes. But my opinion matters not to people that do enjoy it.

Yeah, sure. We can reach a general consensus about what is good and what isn't, but at the end of the day people vote with their time and money and anything that most people hate will still be considered good by *someone*.

In summation, whether or not you like or dislike something is pointless. Just stick to stuff you like and leave other people the hell alone.
 

Marik2

Phone Poster
Nov 10, 2009
5,462
0
0
One of the few murican made western fantasies I've liked was the fable comic book series.
 

Arnoxthe1

New member
Dec 25, 2010
3,374
0
0
Not a refutation of OP's point, but read Roger Zelazny sometime. Specifically, the Chronicles of Amber.