Hot-take time: Fantasy is a dull genre

BreakfastMan

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Addendum_Forthcoming said:
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.
I strongly suspect the first RPGs where fantasy primarily because the story typical of most fantasy literature (that of the "epic quest") fits much easier into a game format than, say, a noir mystery or whatever.
 

Squilookle

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100% Agree. The amount of idea-incest in fantasy is even worse than it is in Anime. I'm so sick of seeing some new fantasy project be announced thats got aaall the same races, aaall the same conflicts, and aaaaaalll the same bloody aesthetics as Tolkien. DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!
 

Bedinsis

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BreakfastMan said:
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.
In one sentence: What if the Napoleonic wars had involved dragons?
 

PsychedelicDiamond

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Western fantasy definitely needs to get over Tolkien. Who, as an author, wasn't actually that good. Very elaborate worldbuilding but my god, are the actual plot and characters of Lord of the Rings basic. Really set the standards for thousands of even worse author who think bombarding the reader with countless exotic sounding names and places distracs from how little you they have going on thematically.
 

Addendum_Forthcoming

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BreakfastMan said:
I strongly suspect the first RPGs where fantasy primarily because the story typical of most fantasy literature (that of the "epic quest") fits much easier into a game format than, say, a noir mystery or whatever.
You're right, it's 'safe territory' that gives the best possible tools to GMs for worldbuilding.

But at the same time... colourful ponies. And how dare you try to cheapen that for me?


Fantasy is broad because it gives you a blank canvas to work with. About all it requires of a reader is suspension of disbelief. And in the end the barrier, or 'reward' impetus, for investment is lower.

But that's not bad... It can allow for character driven dynamics in situations that you couldn't have them any other way. The dangerous dimension to that is when that goes from delivering endearing characters to creating an impenetrable lore shield. Like how Trekkies in Star Trek fandom will always be weird to me.

Now, the problem with impenetrable lore is two-fold ... it invites purple prose. Secondly, it invites purely egotistical writing. Whereby you lash your reader/viewer and you tell them ytour world as opposed to show them your world.

Let's be honest here ... Tolkien is kind of shit. Do you know who does worldbuilding really, really well? George Miller.

Why?

Because he shows you the nitty gritty, leaves you to pick up the pieces. So every Mad Max film is rife with symbolism of the whole. Now George Miller wrote millions of words of all of his characyters he's ever portrayed. They all have a backstory. Humungus has an indepth backstory. Wes has an indepth backstory. MasterBlaster has an indepth backstory. Toecutter has an indepth backstory.

Fucking novels worth of lore and backstory ... and you know what George Miller did with all that? He Kurt Vonnegut-ed the shit out of it. Made 4 movies worth out of about 10-15 million words of notes, supposedly. He showed the audiences, he didn't tell them. Imagine if George Miller pulled out an Andrew Jackson or whatever? Imagine if every Mad Max film was a 3.5 hour long epic?

And that's basically what all good authors do. Regardless of genre, regardless of literary or filmography. Show, don't tell. If you're spending pages justr describing a person's fucking lineage ... you got to be fucking kidding me.

Either you move the plot, or you have character development (not character exposition), or simply don't write more about something.

There is kind of a reason why Miller 'ended up with two scripts' by the end of Fury Road. That's what he does with every movie. He writes a massive world, then goes Kurt Vonnegut ... he doesn't pull out some The Silmarillion or Legendarium or any fucking tripe.

Tolkien created a stir, he created an influence. But that's no excuse to inherit his flaws.

It's kind of like Star Wars geeks. I saw TLJ recently ... thought it was okay. Fun to watch. Major pacing problems ... but that's the majority of Star Wars films, now. Some good action. Ditto Rogue One. I liked the moral complexity they gave the Rebellion. The fact they ixnayed the childish idiocy of the Jedi/Sith dichotomy. But you know what's fucking insufferable? Hearing Star Wars geeks IRL whine about how it was like cancer... and yet any suggestion I hear from them is teeth-grindingly bad, or about stuff that is so fucking esoteric that would either lose audiences or be purely egotistical or purple prose writing and screenplay.

Also, I like Finn. Fite me, Star Wars losers.

The biggest problem with fantasy is it most easily falls intothat trap of egotistical writing and purple prose.

You know ... like how every GM has this cherished child of campaign worldbuilding they've created ... and because it's theirs/yours they/you think it's great? But then as a player how many times have you actually groaned under the weight of such a GM spending FUCKING HOURS explaining how laws around weapons use in public work, or racial relations because a PC just happened to play a certain species?

Show, don't tell. You'll enjoy it more, they'll enjoy it more.

First rule of writing. Kurt Vonnegut everything... because you're never as good as you think you are to make something boring unboring.
 

Bobular

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I've been trying to think of a fantasy that I've encountered that didn't stick to the usual fantasy tropes. Closest I could think of was Final Fantasy (sometimes), but that is often because it includes a load of sci-fi stuuf in there as well.

Wait, no, just thought of one. Avatar.

Avatar is fantasy that doesn't hold to the standard fantasy tropes and doesn't look like its straight out of Tolkien.


Sure, Avatar takes its inspiration from other things instead, but at least its not Lord Of The Rings for the millionth time.
 

Neurotic Void Melody

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I think what annoys me more than the lack of originality, but not that much more, about typical Tolkien-esque and other Western (but not restricted to that side of the compass at all by the way for this 'n) fantasy is that there is hardly any desire to lay a strict groundset of rules for the magics or maguffins, as they seem to mostly exist for the sake of the writer making the plot do cool stuff or move along without having to put much thought into it other than "bored now!" Generally vague at best, contrived nonsense otherwise. It's too easy, and no wonder that type of creative 'get out of writing-pit free' card has been embraced by the vidjigams. "Sir, is that a gaping plot-hole from a half-baked thought process you got going on there in your story?"
"Of course not, you doubting simpleton! For I have magic! The putty of plot-holes, the plaster to pustular protrusions, the pruning shears to the impetuous prickly pear tree. For you see...the hole is no longer more. Shazaaaaaa!"
"Oh. It disappeared. Splendid. Does this putty follow any definable rules and limits other than your own sporadic whims, sir?"

...

"It's good putty. It's very good putty. Do not question the putty."

Am not hoping for an in-depth mathematical breakdown of the quantum mechanics at work in each contrivance - though it would be greatly appreciated if anyone happens to be that mad - just some semblance of visible, consistent restraint so this flow-chart diagram of rules i have here properly checks out when the inevitable victory is handed to our protagonists on a word-processed platter.
 

Kiall

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Joe Abercrombie
Mark Lawrence
Scott Lynch
China Melville
Daniel Polansky
Adrian Tchaikovsky

That's six highly successful, well known fantasy authors, just off the top of my head, who don't remotely fit the categories you're suggesting.
 

Chimpzy_v1legacy

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Ok, an example of Medieval European fantasy that isn't Tolkienesque. What about something like Berserk?

It draws heavily from European folklore, same as Tolkien, but it's not Tolkienesque. Its elves are more fairies, trolls are these weird rat/pig/monkey creatures and there are no orcs (I guess the Daka are the closest equivalent). No giant spiders or great eagles either. The closest to being Tolkienesque it gets are the mentioned-but-not-seen dwarves, which are your typical miners and craftsmen, because that what folklore said they are.

Other than folklore, I'd say Berserk is influenced more by the visual arts than litarature, notably by the movie Hellraiser and artist like H.R. Giger, M.C. Escher and Renaissance painters like Hieronimus Bosch.
 

BreakfastMan

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The thing about fantasy is it could technically be anything that isn?t real. That is a *Trump voice* yuuuge spectrum to pull from. It?s unclear to me why it always gets pigeonholed into a specific subset. Perhaps because it?s simply a popular example that others routinely try to follow.
 

Squilookle

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Addendum_Forthcoming said:
Fantasy is broad because it gives you a blank canvas to work with. About all it requires of a reader is suspension of disbelief. And in the end the barrier, or 'reward' impetus, for investment is lower.

But that's not bad... It can allow for character driven dynamics in situations that you couldn't have them any other way. The dangerous dimension to that is when that goes from delivering endearing characters to creating an impenetrable lore shield. Like how Trekkies in Star Trek fandom will always be weird to me.

Now, the problem with impenetrable lore is two-fold ... it invites purple prose. Secondly,
OK, let me just stop you right there- what the hell is purple prose? Are you going to back up that label with an explanation?

Secondly- you give two examples of how it should be done, and neither of them are fantasy. They are both science-fiction, with a heavy focus on modern/futuristic technology used according to certain unbreakable laws of physics. Not always the same as our own, but laws nonetheless. They are also both films, not literature, and it is a cardinal sin of films not to show instead of tell, so they both have that working for them already. Had LOTR first appeared as a film instead of a book, Tolkien himself would probably have been forced to Vonnegut the material, as other writers already had done for say, radio adaptations of their works. Moby Dick is another excellent example of the sort of change LOTR would have had to undertake.
 

BreakfastMan

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PsychedelicDiamond said:
Western fantasy definitely needs to get over Tolkien. Who, as an author, wasn't actually that good. Very elaborate worldbuilding but my god, are the actual plot and characters of Lord of the Rings basic. Really set the standards for thousands of even worse author who think bombarding the reader with countless exotic sounding names and places distracs from how little you they have going on thematically.
Yeah, quite a lot of fantasy is far more concerned with building out complex lore than actually telling stories. And as such, the stories end up falling into one of two holes: the quest, or inter-kingdom politics (sometimes both!). Like, I would love to read a fantasy horror, fantasy western, or fantasy noir novel, but very few exist. Compare that to, say, sci-fi, where sci-fi takes on horror, western, and noir are some of the most famous, celebrated, and commercially successful works the genre has to offer (in order: Alien, Mad Max, and Blade Runner).
 

BreakfastMan

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Squilookle said:
Addendum_Forthcoming said:
Fantasy is broad because it gives you a blank canvas to work with. About all it requires of a reader is suspension of disbelief. And in the end the barrier, or 'reward' impetus, for investment is lower.

But that's not bad... It can allow for character driven dynamics in situations that you couldn't have them any other way. The dangerous dimension to that is when that goes from delivering endearing characters to creating an impenetrable lore shield. Like how Trekkies in Star Trek fandom will always be weird to me.

Now, the problem with impenetrable lore is two-fold ... it invites purple prose. Secondly,
OK, let me just stop you right there- what the hell is purple prose? Are you going to back up that label with an explanation?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_prose
 

Ogoid

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BreakfastMan said:
Yeah, quite a lot of fantasy is far more concerned with building out complex lore than actually telling stories. And as such, the stories end up falling into one of two holes: the quest, or inter-kingdom politics (sometimes both!). Like, I would love to read a fantasy horror, fantasy western, or fantasy noir novel, but very few exist. Compare that to, say, sci-fi, where sci-fi takes on horror, western, and noir are some of the most famous, celebrated, and commercially successful works the genre has to offer (in order: Alien, Mad Max, and Blade Runner).
Ever read Karl Edward Wagner's Kane books? They're admittedly heavy on the Robert E. Howard influence, but they're also steeped in Lovecraftian horror.

Other than that, I suppose if your defintion of "fantasy" is broad enough (and I'll readily admit, mine isn't), there are also people like Jeff Vandermeer, China Mieville or Jeff Noon whose works would probably fit some of those descriptions.
 

BreakfastMan

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Ogoid said:
Other than that, I suppose if your defintion of "fantasy" is broad enough (and I'll readily admit, mine isn't), there are also people like Jeff Vandermeer, China Mieville or Jeff Noon whose works would probably fit some of those descriptions.
Yeah, Mieville and Vandermeer are more solidly under the "weird fiction" banner than fantasy. Like, if you stretch it far enough, you could also consider Machen's "The White People" fantasy horror, but... lolno.
 

Gethsemani_v1legacy

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Did this thread seriously get to page 2 without anyone mentioning A Song of Ice and Fire? Now, I'd argue that Martin's epic is actually the exception that confirms the rule, since Martin goes way out of his way to break with most standard fantasy cliches and put a spin on most of the tropes he does decide to use. ASoIaF is probably as good as it is because the OP is essentially right and ASoIaF proves it by taking the standard fantasy set up and then throwing spanners in the works, twisting it and weaving an actual complex narrative out of the set up.

Still, shame on you all for not bringing it up sooner.
 

BreakfastMan

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Gethsemani said:
Did this thread seriously get to page 2 without anyone mentioning A Song of Ice and Fire? Now, I'd argue that Martin's epic is actually the exception that confirms the rule, since Martin goes way out of his way to break with most standard fantasy cliches and put a spin on most of the tropes he does decide to use. ASoIaF is probably as good as it is because the OP is essentially right and ASoIaF proves it by taking the standard fantasy set up and then throwing spanners in the works, twisting it and weaving an actual complex narrative out of the set up.

Still, shame on you all for not bringing it up sooner.
I actually did mention the Game Of Thrones series as a whole earlier in the thread. :p

But yeah, I don't think Game Of Thrones existing actually goes against some of my points from earlier. Game Of Thrones is still all about commenting on these pieces of Tolkien's world that get re-used and re-referenced endlessly. It is still mostly a political thriller.
 

Samtemdo8_v1legacy

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Bah.

Hipsters complaining about tradionalist Fantasy stories..

I love Fantasy, the Tolkien esque fantasy you so despise.

Heck sometimes, I see myself as Don Quijote de La Mancha when it comes to the Fantasy Genre:



Between the romance, the epicness, and the wild imaginations, while also being close to home, makes me prefer it over say the Sci Fi genre mostly.

Also Warhammer Fantasy > Warhammer 40,000.

Sigmar > God Emperor of Mankind, Tomb Kings > Necrons, High Elves > Eldar.