Friday, March 9, 2012

The Spirit of Fantasy: Do You Have It?

I went to exactly one panel at LTUE that I hated. It was a reading by Larry Correia from a short story called "Tanya, Princess of the Elves." He started with the idea that in his world, elves would be the equivalent of white trailer trash. His wife was tired of the high and mighty elves, so he took the exact opposite road.

This I could have dealt with on its own. I'm very fond of elves as they appear in common folklore, with beauty and grace and magic, but I always enjoy new twists on the old works. What drove me absolutely crazy as he read through Chapter 1 was the complete and total lack of fantasy.

Fantasy isn't a setting of rolling plains and dark forests. Fantasy isn't elves and dwarves and goblins. Fantasy isn't having crossbows and swords and having knights charge at each other in full armor--we have medieval fiction for that. Fantasy isn't even magic.

Fantasy is everything, all of that, all combined into power and mystery and strange mysterious beauty and the secret creeping dread that in the middle of the night you will close your eyes and see the Horned King riding through the woods, cape swirling around him in a nonexistent breeze, arms stained to the elbow with still-wet blood, and he will turn and look straight at you.

The fantasy genre isn't a coating you paint on afterwards to make the book more appealing. A true fantasy book shouldn't sound right at all if you move the characters to Capitol Hill, or make them all humans. It should completely immerse itself into the spirit of fantasy.

Correia's book was completely lacking in true fantasy. The "elves" in his story sounded more like they belonged to the trailer slums of Arkansas than the high forests of Lothlórien. Sure, there was a Queen and a Princess, but they didn't belong as the ruling class. They were just another human family having typical lazy disagreements. Even the Enchanted Forest was unconvincing. It seemed painted on, and every word rang false to me.

Maybe Larry Correia is an excellent writer who can develop characters that make you weep for them and devise intricate plots, but because he chose to operate within a shadow of the fantasy world instead of choosing a more realistic setting or delving deeper into the magic that lies underneath the surface, I will not be reading his work. He broke my suspension of disbelief as a reader and my expectation of excellence as a writer.

Has this ever happened to you?

Update: Thanks to assistance from Correia himself and a smartphone-wielding colleague, the actual reading has been found and linked to.

7 comments:

  1. Wow. Thanks Google.

    You really don't have a flipping clue what you're talking about... That is some ignorant nonsense right there. Here, let me help you, aspiring writer and know it all...

    Despite me not meeting your obviously well thought out "expectations of excellence" in the last 3 years I've got 7 published novels, most of which have been bestsellers, 6 of which are fantasy across two completely different settings, 7 foreign translations, 1 TV deal, 18 more books under contract, 12 of which are fantasy in four different settings, a ton of published shorts, most of which are fantasy set in various universes, a Campbell nomination for best new FANTASY writer, two Audie award nominations for best FANTASY novel, and you dismiss me as a writer because the first 1/3 of one short HUMOR story, which was about 2,000 words of the two million words that I've published, wasn't rehashed LoTR?

    But what do I know? I just write books for a living, while you're a WORDSMITH.

    How about you take your "expectation of excellence" and shove it? The reason I do humor stories as readings at cons is because they translate the best in a live setting with my reading style. I'm a writer, not a narrator. But see, I know that because I'm a professional that knows his personal limitations.

    Since you were attending LTUE, I can only assume that you are an aspiring writer. Well, here is my tip of the day for you as an aspiring writer. Have a nice warm cup of shut your mouth and listen to the professionals that know more than you do, so you might actually learn something, rather than blathering on about a topic you obviously know squat about.

    Nobody likes to listen to a clueless newbie tell them how to do their job.

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    1. So lemme see if I got this right. An aspiring writer writes a post on her blog saying she doesn't like what you wrote and your reaction is to go ad hominem on her? I must commend you on such productive use of your time, though I pity your PR right now. If you even have one.

      To be honest, right now you could be the world's Nobel in literature, and you'd still give the impression of being a stuck-up moron whose fame got to his head and can't tolerate anyone disagreeing with him. Since you're so keen on giving advice, I expect you'll love to receive it as well, so here's some: Take criticism with a smile.

      Being as good a writer as you are, you would've obviously had no problem in being polite. Which begs the question, why would you not be? What exactly is so offensive in that post that you could not retain your manners?

      But hey, you got your kicks, right? Enjoyed insulting a beginner? Of course, I understand that her heinous crime - disagreeing with you - is deserving of a thousand torments, and as such must praise you for your benevolent compassion. What, think you're the only one who can use big words, smart guy?

      TL;DR Shut up, before you make a bigger fool of yourself.

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    2. I'm sorry to say this, Larry Correia, but you suck.

      Sure, maybe I don't have any sources to say this, but I sincerely believe you do. And that's what all matters to me.

      For me, I believe you suck because for one: why can't you take it like a man and accept that not EVERYONE likes the idea of fantasy you portrayed in the book Wordsmith just talked about in the above.

      Two: Will you really waste your time writing or talking to someone why you're WAY better than what they picture you as, because here's the truth: Not everyone will picture you as you picture yourself. So, if you want to prove them wrong, try to act in a better way so that they might think of you better, instead of flaming about someone's post, because, obviously, that person will think of you as a self-conceited (excuse me for the term) DOUCHEBAG. And aside from that, you make more than just one person think of you as a SELF-CONCEITED DOUCHEBAG.

      So, overall, I think you should take those two points above to heart and think about the attitude you just showed and how you can improve on it. Because, if you don't, I can just wait for the moment you win a prize for "The World's Most Polite And Behaved Writer", I can just just write down the post you made and present it to the judges so that they can kick your butt all the way to MiseryVille.

      Oh, by the way, nice post you have there, Wordsmith. really liked it. :)

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  2. Your summary of fantasy is everything I think of when I think about fantasy; the magic, the different races, the drama, the scenery. It's what I love about fantasy. I love it's differences from the real world, it's majesty. Honestly, I think fantasy is my favourite genre.

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    1. Thank you! I love fantasy too, and I hope you find many more wonderful fantasy books in the years to come.

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  3. I emailed you a comment! :o)

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    1. :o Thanks Allie! I'll go check it out. ^_^

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