Thursday, September 7, 2017

Pedantry: Let's Kill Fantasy!

Apologies for subjecting you to that spergout of a tweetstorm, but I was scrolling tumblr today and saw this, and felt that it was a perfect way to illustrate a point. Now I could go through and address all of this idiot's points line by line and show exactly how much of a fucking retard he really is, but I don't need to. You see, this person thinks they're smart, and bringing up serious problems that fantasy needs to solve, but in reality what he's trying to do is actively kill the fantasy genre. And being someone who loves fantasy literature above all other forms of literature (except maybe science-fantasy westerns, but there's so few of those), this sets my parsnips a-boiling in particular. 

But just to do one point here because as an alcoholic I feel I can speak with some authority. Also because fuck this guy. People in fantasy novels are able to drink beer year-round because they store it in casks and tap the cask when they need to. So, you can see, this person clearly has not a fucking wingding of a clue what they're talking about, and he's trying to appear intelligent while asking questions that are so insipid any fantasy fan could answer them straight away or, even better, explain how they're the wrong questions to be asking.

Now I'm the first person to tell you that if world-building and planning to this level of ridiculousness is how your writing method works, go to and good luck. It doesn't work for me, but if it does for you, then that's great. This is not a screed against building a world and then turning your characters loose in it. 

However, very often many of the things he brings up literally don't matter to the story being told. A couple of examples: "Your middle class. Where are they?" Probably in the background being background, if they're even brought up at all. They're most often not important to the actual story itself. "Why are there no small businesspeople?" Tavern and other shop owners. Have you ever read a fantasy novel before? Etc, etc ad nauseum. These are middling background details that could add more flavor to the novel, but they are completely unnecessary to telling a good story. Even an epic fantasy story.

For example, The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb is an excellent epic fantasy series, and even addresses a few of these...I'll be generous and call them "concerns" this person brings up. But for the entirety of the book the action is situated around the main character and narrator, Fitz. There are plots for assassination, power plays with Dukes, King Shrewd is on top of everything, and a whole lot more court intrigue goes on. But we never see the foresters keeping the palace supplied with wood, we never see the brewers making the beer, and we never find out who domesticated the wheat they use in their bread.

Because those aspects have no bearing whatsoever on the story at hand. They literally do not matter. They couldn't matter less to the story if they tried. 

So what is the point of all this?

The point, my friends, is the slow death of fantasy literature. This idiot can't figure all this out on his own (which collections of teenage girls do on tumblr all day, every day, for free), therefore it is the duty of the author to do all of this for him. This demand that all authors meet these expectations is going to kill fantasy literature dead. Imagine, if you will, in five years time after this "advice" (the worst kind of vice) is applied universally. It will quickly become a trope that every fantasy novel has a history of the domestication of wheat somewhere in it, a short biography of the man who first created ale and casked it, and so on and so forth. All of this will become fucking ridiculous very quickly.

And what it will do is make the novels about 2/3's longer than they need to be. Epic fantasy books are already long as fuck, usually 400+ pages, sometimes 900 per book. Thanks for that, Vox, by the way. These books are already a time sink from hell. 400 pages takes time to read through, and if most of that is pedantic padding about piddly little shit that doesn't effect the story (despite what that fucking autist with the tweetstorm might think about their affect on the story), people are going to drop the book, stop reading it, and not buy anything else like it.

It always comes back to this, doesn't it? Honestly I stopped reading after "More gay sex, for everyone," and "Gender. Get rid of it." Yeah no fuck you, buddy. What this does is drive the audience away. They stop spending their money. And if there's no audience spending their money on these books, there's literally no incentive for writers to write these stories. When you get to this level of sped you're making shit worse for everyone.

The market is not your personal tard-wrangler. If you're unable to deal with epic fantasy novels because they don't meet your personal, pedantic, ridiculous list of demands that you probably think make the world "more organic" but in reality just make the story boring, that's on you. 

You don't get to foist that on authors as some kind of authoritative list that epic fantasy should live and die by. Go write your own goddamned book. If you think you can do it better, why not? Maybe attempt to put in the work these "lazy history nerds" put in and see how well you do coming out the other end of it. 

Just don't be surprised when nobody wants to read your boring, pedantic bullshit because it's boring and pedantic.


  1. We need more 200 page fantasy novels. That's the sort of thing that would hook people turned off by the bloat: which is a lot of people.

    But I have to say, I don't care about anything he mentioned. I have an imagination and I fill the gaps my way. What's important is what is happening in the story.

    1. Fucking Preach!

      I mean even looking at Tolkien, who I've mistakenly labelled as the worst offender in this regard, there's actually not a whole lot of bloat on LOTR. Everything the characters go through is a vignette that brings a small part of this world into very sharp focus, and leads on to the next part of the story. I recently listened to the audiobooks with an ear for this kind of bloat, and I couldn't find any whatsoever.

      LOTR is tight as fuck, my dude.

      Most modern fantasy novels are pseudo-intellectual wankfests of the caliber described in that tweetstorm.

      This idiot thinks he's helping, but he's working towards the destruction of the thing he cares enough about to work out all these ways to "make it better". It's fucking cancer, and no mistake.

      This kind of shit needs to be slapped down without mercy.

  2. So he doesn't want literature he wants monographs from the Annales by Braudel and company. Fine. I immensely enjoyed reading them and was fortunate to read the stuff in French. In fact I have one of Braudel's smaller booklet on the Mediterranean culture which is very helpful for world building.
    But it's not literature

    1. Exactly. This kind of pedantry is fun for world-building, but so far as story goes it's completely irrelevant. Unless it bears on the story, it's needless pedantry that just extends the book length beyond what it really needs to be to satisfy this sperglord's hunger for ridiculous world detail.

  3. Jim
    it's also showing Off. Lookatme I'm as erudite and detailed like Tolkien but with intersectionalism!

    1. Yeah, pretty much. The only real difference is that, if you go back and read LOTR, all of the information Tolkien gave was vital to world building and the story itself. Most of the stuff this guy is asking for is just needless information that in all likelihood has no relevance to the story whatsoever. He just wants to seem smarter than other people while not telling good, engaging stories that don't put people to sleep out of sheer boredom.

  4. It's an attempt to force Hard SF tropes onto the fantasy genre. We don't need that, that's what killed the adventure in science fiction. It's not world building, it's an exposition dump. If you are going to fill in details as you will make those details interesting.

    Robert E. Howard does it. Lovecraft does it. Burroughs does it. No excuse for going on for seven pages describing the town youare walking through.