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.
5. 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.
4. 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.
3. 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.
2. 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.
1. 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. 🙂