TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: BOOK TRENDS YOU’RE TIRED OF

top5

Today, the guys in the Goodreads Top 5 Wednesday group have an interesting topic: BOOK TRENDS YOU’RE TIRED OF!  This is a topic about things you are tired of seeing that are trending in publishing today.  Maybe, something that pops up on a lot of covers these days, or the popularity of certain tropes in a particular genre.  There is something out there you are tired of seeing.  This is the time to LET IT OUT!

Life is all about trends.  I’m old enough now to recall loads of trends from fashion to fiction.  Certain aspects of each changing under the pressure of the prevailing whims of the society they are tailored to satisfy.  Some trends I’ve liked and hated to see end, while others could not have vanished fast enough to suit my tastes.  And that also applies to the prevailing trends in the SFF fiction I am currently seeing.

Since this topic is focusing on what trends I don’t like, I want to go ahead and say there are many things being done in the SFF circles that I do greatly enjoy.  More female protagonists, more female writers, more diversity in societies, and many other areas have made SFF a more exciting genre to read.  So before anyone says I’m a “hater” of some kind, please note we are only dealing with the trends I’ve grown tired of.

chosen-one5. CHOSEN ONE TROPE

Long ago, it was always an orphan boy.  Then we changed to an average boy.  Then authors included girls in the mix.  Now, we have used this trope to the point where everyone including the family house cat has been the Chosen One.  I, for one, am sick to death of it.  No one is the damn Chosen One alright.  Our life is our own to make of it what we will.  We become something great through hard work, dedication, and innate ability (a little luck, as well), not a damn prophecy.  Let’s move on from this already.

red-sonja-chainmail-bikini4. UNREALISTIC FIGHTING  

I’m not trying to pick on Red Sonja by any means, but chain mail bikinis are the easiest illustration of the problem I am talking about, specifically the fighting in many fantasy stories is unrealistic.  Other, easy identified examples of this in most fantasy stories are young heroes becoming skilled warriors in days/weeks/months; a single hero killing five, six or more enemies all by his self; terrible wounds miraculously healing between chapters without any lasting problems; the weight and protection of armor being disregarded in favor of stylish elements (like the chainmail bikini); ridiculous battle tactics working perfectly against veteran enemies.  The list goes on and on and on.  Many times the fighting is so ridiculous in some books that it really ruins the story.  I mean, fantasy is almost synonymous with sword fighting and such, so let’s try harder to make it realistic everyone.

spanish-inquisition3. ALL RELIGIONS ARE EVIL

Whenever I see organized religion in fantasy stories, I immediately know it is going to be presented as a persecutor of magic, science, a particular race of people, or others.  It seems organized religion is the go to trope for societal persecution.  And it just isn’t clever or subversive for authors to do this in this day and age.  Rather, it is lazy writing.  I mean, nothing is absolutely good or bad — including organized religion or its adherents.  Let’s start focusing on the individuals instead of acting like the Spanish Inquisition and declaring that all people of faith are biased, insensitive, haters, or whatever.

asian-message2. PHILOSOPHICAL MUSING

Decades ago, it was the wise, old wizard showing up to give good advice to the young, orphan boy.  Now, it is the scarred, cynical warrior/soldier giving advice to the young, naive warrior/soldier about the way the world really is.  Either way, every other page in many fantasy stories is filled with philosophical statements about the meaning of life, how shitty life is, how bad people really are, or other nuggets of wisdom.  Quite frankly I’m tired of all the Confusius-esque sayings.  They feel forced most of the time and distract from the actual narrative.  I mean, can we focus on the plot already, not be worried about giving our fans quotes to posts on Goodreads.

social-commentary1.  SOCIAL COMMENTARY  

Art has always been used to illustrate a view of the state of politics and society. Animal Farm and To Kill a Mockingbird are two of the most easily recognized examples.  And, yes, every book will have social commentary of one sort or another due to a human being having written it and intentionally (or unintentionally) including their personal views in the narrative.   (I myself did this in #5 The Chosen One with my belief that no one is born “special” but make themselves special through hard work.) That isn’t what I am talking about here.  I am talking about reading a book and coming away with nothing but an idea that the author supports “x” or “y” or believes the people who support “a” or “b” are idiots.  I’m referring to a book which reads less like a work of fiction and more like a work of political philosophy.  Perhaps it is just me, but I read to get away from the bitter, divisive issues in our real world, and I’d rather not pick up a SFF story which offers nothing but more of the same.  If an author can provide social commentary while also telling a compelling fictional story, then I will be happy to read it (and, hopefully, enjoy it).  But if it is all proselytizing, I’ll pass, thank you.

I know you either agree or disagree with my points, so go ahead and tell me. (I promise not to use all CAPS in my response as long as you don’t.)  And be sure to add your own picks if I did not include them.  🙂

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Top Five Wednesday and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: BOOK TRENDS YOU’RE TIRED OF

  1. I’ve got to write it, sorry…….but chain mail bikinis look so damn good!😂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I should buy you a beer! Thanks for this! But you left out the one where witches, priestesses, the Goddess, etc, used to loved and respected until MEN came and hunted them down… without any magic of their own.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Greg Long says:

    I was going to say the same as Drew 😀😀😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Reblog: Top 5 Book Trends You’re Tired Of | Illuminite Caliginosus

  5. Not sure why, but I just shrug at most of the trends these days. So I’m neutral on most of these, except for the useless armor. Unless it’s part of a joke or has an enchanted that does the protecting. Honestly, the trend that really irks me these days is the trend of making every book follow the trend of the current popular stories. It’s like you can only have one flavor until everyone gets tired of it and then follow the mob to the next one.

    Like

  6. Bob Milne says:

    #3 doesn’t bother me so much, but I’m with you on all the rest – especially when the dreaded Chosen One trope is embedded in a coming-of-age slog through the ‘magnificent moments’ of youth.

    Like

  7. Great post! I agree with every one of your selections as well as your commentary and, to be honest, I have DNF’d books because of these same issues. Here are my two cents about each one (and I do apologize for appearing long-winded):

    Regarding Number 1 (Chosen One Trope), I am the most lenient towards this provided the story is well-written and has compelling characters. The “Harry Potter” series utilizes this trope but, due to Rowling’s magnificent world-building, intriguing characters, and well-crafted narratives, I give that trope a pass in her books. Unfortunately, there are a plethora of other works that use the same trope but with far less aplomb.

    Concerning Number 2 (Unrealistic Fighting), I agree and I wonder exactly how fighting with less clothes on somehow better protects you (I immediately call to mind Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts – they wear nothing that even remotely resembles armor yet somehow removing more clothes is helpful in a fight?). Regarding fight scenes, I’ve read my share of battle sequences that clearly demonstrated that the writer did no research into tactics, weapons, fighting styles, etc. For me, personally, if a fight scene risks not sounding realistic, then it’s better to either stop and do my homework or scrap the scene altogether.

    Number 3 (All Religions are Evil) gets a hearty “Amen!” from me. I take no issue with a story wanting to make commentary about religion, for good or bad, blatant or latent. But the trick, like you said, is to focus on individual characters rather than demonize an entire people for their faith or tar and feather an entire system of belief. It especially annoys me that most (though not all) religious systems in fiction tend to mimic some form of Christianity (as if it’s okay to demonize Christianity but not any other religion). Many times, these types of books turn preachy, thus forsaking story-telling for sermonizing.

    Regarding Number 2 (Philosophical Musing), again, I can give this a pass if it’s done well and fits with the story (actually this plays directly into the Wise Old Man trope). But, again, it depends on the execution. If a story opts to show these messages rather than have a character tell another character about them, that makes all the difference for me. One of my favorite recent examples of this is the character of Silas from Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book.” Yes, Silas qualifies as the “wise old man” figure as he takes the young boy, Bod, under his proverbial wing, but Silas (as well as other characters in the novel) teaches by example rather than lobbing platitudes at Bod. Thus, showing (to borrow your phrasing) “nuggets of wisdom” in action is far more effective than having one character just deliver quotable infodumps.

    Lastly, again, I heartily agree with your sentiments on Number 1 (Social Commentary). I take no issue with a story wanting to offer commentary on various facets of society, such as politics, social institutions, social issues, etc. However, I think authors tread on thin ice when they focus more on the message than the medium. That’s why I tend to avoid “diverse books” as many of them (though not all) tend to be sermons thinly disguised as stories rather than the other way around and seem to exist only to court the P.C. crowd. However, I remember one author (I can’t recall who) remarking that a writer should tell a story first and present a message second, and the likes of which should be so embedded in the story that it’s inherently a part of it (much like the examples you give as model works of social commentary).

    Again, I do apologize for taking up space here in the Comments section, but I really did enjoy your post. Thanks again for the insightful thoughts! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A hearty ‘here, here!’ from me on number 1 and 3 😀

    Like

  9. Social commentary can indeed be a difficult beast to tame, and in the hands of a less than skilled author it becomes more like a long, drawn-out speech than an element of the story. When a writer tries to spoon-feed me his/her ideas in this way, I run for the hills at top speed! 🙂
    Oh, and about chain-mail bikinis: impractical, yes, but also very, very VERY uncomfortable! 😀

    Like

  10. I don’t mind some social commentary, sometimes I enjoy it. But I don’t like preachy.

    Like

  11. Bookstooge says:

    Hear, hear!
    However, I do tend to like “the chosen one” trope. It’s no surprise that the Matrix is one of my favorite movies ever 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Rebecca says:

    I’m a fan for the “chosen one” trope, but it’s gotta be good. You can’t give me a pile of crap and make it the chosen one… it does have to be believable/convincing. I agree with you on all the other points to varying degrees. The religion is evil trope thing is definitely over used, so I’m pleasantly surprised when a religion turns out to be sort of neutral.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am definitely with you on #1. I don’t care what the authors personal views are but don’t beat me over the head with it. SHOW me why your views are correct in a compelling complete story and I’ll listen. Sadly I’ve also had to go a step further and unfollowed book blogs that do social or political commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Christy Luis says:

    Such good points…and they all bother me, haha. I’ve read a lot of YA, and not to be a genre-basher here (I do love a GOOD YA), but 4 out of 5 of those trends show up in almost every book. Kinda sucks. I especially appreciate you including #3, as a person of faith and a lover of speculative fictions…it can be hard to find SFF that both respects religion and tells a great story. Thanks, great post!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s