Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Problem with Fantasy Writing is...

I was on a train to visit my family yesterday and after 15 minutes of my journey I was longing to have a comic to read. Something to dip into, no commitment...just pretty pictures and entertaining stories.

Instead, I spent the majority of my journey idly sitting, ignoring my 548 page monolith of a novel - the first parter of a fantasy trilogy by one of my favourite authors. Don't get me wrong, I love K.J. Parker's writing. It's just, I have the same problem with all fantasy writing in general. I always find it incredibly taxing compared to other genres, I find it draining. A few chapters of a fantasy novel and I'm ready for bed and I don't mean that in a negative way; I'm just being honest.

I love the stories, the settings, the mythology that surrounds them and all the intricate details that are so characteristic of the fantasy genre but when it comes to place name and characters I'm stumped every time. They're often so similar I find it hard to differentiate between place or person. I don't know where I am or who I'm reading about! Also, you're lucky if a fantasy title has just three parts to it...there are some that seem to never end. Look at The Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordan for instance or the recently adapted A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Game of Thrones is a phenomenal series and I've no doubt the books are just as good. Usually I like to read a book if I hear it's been put into production but I just couldn't bear the thought of all that reading. Five novels, two more planned and a couple of prequel novellas...This despite the fact that I love reading and used to be a bookseller.

I don't want put anyone off the genre because there are some fantastic titles out there and I especially love K.J. Parker. For one of her trilogies which was predominantly about a blacksmith she trained as one in order to write accurately. She even studied medieval weaponry and learnt how to make a bow out of the ribcage of an Ox. Now, that's the kind of detail I like when reading a novel.

Ultimately, I just find most fantasy trilogies (or tetralogies, pentalogies, hexalogies, heptalogies and you get the point...) too dense. I feel as if I need to find the time to read a fantasy series and these days the only time I get is on my lunch breaks and reading one chapter a day is so disorientating that I get confused and have to backtrack. I can tell you that reading a fantasy series in this disjointed way is not a great idea. I miss my student days when I had what felt like all the time in the world to read. If you have the time though, give K.J. Parker's writing a go. I thoroughly recommend her writing to anyone, even fantasy genre naysayers - because before reading her Scavenger trilogy, that was me!

Ultimately the point of this post was to ask, does anyone else have this problem with the fantasy genre...or is it just me?!

Currently Reading: K.J. Parker Devices and Desires (The Engineer Trilogy)

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