JP On Gaming

Monday, February 4, 2013

[Rant] Fantasy Fiction and the Fiction-Writing Bug

For the past week or so, I have been bitten by the fiction bug. Something I never really felt before. At least not seriously... I mean I do have a novel or two partially written but never anything like this. During this time, I wrote a few fiction pieces, most of them not gaming related at all. I received some great comments about it from readers and might lead me to write some more. I have a few ideas I have been floating around I might just get into a Word doc.

I don't mind fiction or fantasy at all - I love reading Lovecraft (which I am reading right now - Thank you Santa!), Bradbury and Howard. But my first true love remains in historical classics: Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, and Frederic Soulier form my top 3. Though I would like to see if I could get my hands on some Balzac this year. Yes. You noticed these are all French authors from the Romantic period (roughly 1820-1860). It was a period of complex stories with strong characters put against a background of social upheaval (for the most part). The protagonists lead their lives and conduct their business and endeavors with the world around them acting as a barrier or an impetuous for action. Dumas' "Le Chevalier de Maison-Rouge" about the "Complot des oeillets" deals with a plot to smuggle Marie-Antoinette (last queen of France) out of her jail with the Terror as its background. Hugo's "Quatre-Vingt-Treize" (Ninety-Three) deals with the rise of Nationalism under the revolution also, with the wars of Vendée as a backdrop.


Now if you know me, and I'm vocal about this, I'm not into modern fantasy (as in, recently written fantasy). At all. It's predictable, overly simple characters and rarely have a plot that seriously makes sense. Perhaps the worse sin of modern fantasy writers in my opinion is this obsession with trilogies and endless series. That just drives me NUTS. Good stories rarely spin twelve volumes. Most of the trilogies I read would've made awesome single books, but have so much filler, like the characters describing the working of a loom, the twenty-five different type of mushroom, spanning from 1 to 5 pages make me lose interest, especially when it's barely relevant to the story.

We're not talking about a crime drama where the detectives are off on a red herring following a lead. No... This would be like watching CSI and they spent ten-minute period talking about the type of paints used in the motel when there really is no reason for it. "Mr Jones drowned in the tub, can you tell us of the different types of white you use in your rooms..."

As the exception to my own rule, last year, I bought at the auction, Kate Novak's Azure Bonds, a novel I've been meaning to buy and read for years... Every since I bought and (tried to) run the "Curse of the Azure Bonds" adventure (and played the Gold Box of the same name). This is a one novel story. When I was done, I wanted to know more about the characters, but the reason for them being together was done. They were free to move to other adventures - alone or together. I like that. I really enjoyed the story. It was quick, complex and well woven together. It made me think about getting a few more stand-alone novels...

Similarly, I read Elaine Cunningham's "Winter Witch" for Pathfinder which was interesting for the most part. I thought the ending was too contrived and short, that should've been an epic battle, but it felt so... So quick. We spend 250 pages building up this villain and we'll end it in 2. I found the story enjoyable for the most part, with a few things I would have liked to see differently, but wanting to see things done differently does not lessen my enjoyment of the book. I could be persuaded to buy another book with those characters... Though in reality I liked the villain more than the good guy...

One of my biggest peeves is when I feel the author is describing round-by-round combat, as though I was being told of his home game.

I guess publishers of fantasy novels are only interested in long stories that never end or that stagnate.

I must not be their target audience.



  1. They're interested in selling a 'franchise' and a 'brand'. That's why you get these insanely long series.. it's marketing and branding more than showing intergrity to the story and work within.

  2. I have a lot of those Forgotten Realms paperbacks stashed somewhere around the apartment. Some are really good, some a lot less, but I agree with you: the ones I prefer are the "one shot deals". If the author comes back with a (good) sequel later, the better, but when I read a book I like it to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

    Maybe that's why I'm a big fan of anthologies and short stories.

    And if Elaine Cunningham (one of my favorite fantasy writer) is writing for Paizo, I'll have to have a closer look at their novel line...