The Problem with Fantasy

p-p-z.jpgI’m not a voracious reader, by any means. I usually have a magazine (design! science!) or some kind of fantasy novel in my Bag Lady bags. I’m trying to read more, however, with a focus in the genre I’d like to be published in one day.

I just finished up two classic fantasy novels and found them both underwhelming. Granted, one was published in 1970 and the other was translated from German, but one was also a Newbery Medal winner, and both were made into movies. The writing is fine, the stories are interesting, the lands fantastic. The characters? Generally Meh.

Which is a shame. The cool thing about Fantasy is you get to make everything up. The possible pitfall is that you have to make everything up. You have to set the ground rules of a world, a society, whatever.

Those bonus perimeters include the characters, and can allow for some great added drama — for instance, Pride and Prejudice would have been a different book if Elizabeth were a vampire or fairy or… zombie?

But while the unique aspect of a SF/F setting can be a roller-coaster ride, it shouldn’t be the only engaging aspect of a story, with the characters you’re supposed to care about simply being shuffled around. I’ve never connected emotionally with a mountain, coastline or swamp; but give me a character I can love or hate or root for and I’m yours. Speaking as someone who’s created some different environments, I know it’s challenging to keep that world from becoming it’s own entity, and perhaps in some cases that is appropriate, but after seeing it crash in spectacular fashion (or am I the only one who thinks so?) I have a hearty interest in making sure I did not, will not, make the same mistake.

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