Saturday, October 29, 2005


I read a lot of fantasy as a kid and a teen. Sometime around college I stopped. At the time, I thought I had gotten tired of it or outgrown it.

Then I read Harry Potter. And I began reading fantasy again.

And I realized what my problem with fantasy really was: that I had begun to read too many books that were derivative and poorly written. That it seemed as if "fantasy" meant that all the rules went out the window; and that the main characters and plots were more wish fulfillment than well written books. Had I known the term Mary Sue back then, I would have said, aha, too much fantasy with Mary Sue type characters.

Anyway, I shall always love JK Rowling for showing me that well written fantasy exists and for getting me back to reading and loving fantasy.

When I saw The Fantasy Novelist's Exam I had to laugh. Because, seriously? Published books that pass (or is it fail?) this exam is why I stopped reading fantasy. This exam is spot-on (even if it does come close to describing my favorite fantasy series, The Belgariad. Which just means that many people are being "inspired" by it.) And it describes the book I will not name, but which I cannot get beyond page fifty.

All laughing aside, there's a serious question here. Why are so many of these derivative books being published? This is not a recent event; this is what I observed back in the late 1980s. Fantasy can be great, well written and original. It's almost as if everyone -- and yes, I'm including publishers and reviewers -- views fantasy as the "special" child, where not as much is expected.

Fantasy can be great. But if too much derivative stuff continues to get churned out, I think you'll see more people with my experience: they just stop reading it.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Nice post, Liz. I agree with you wholeheartedly.'ve been tagged :)