I have read a fair bit of fantasy and horror literature over the years and some science fiction, and am now making inroads into urban fantasy. While I have been mostly lucky in my choices of reading material in those genres, I have come across some duds and a few really terrible books and short stories, and I have also come across tropes and clichés that I have disliked in stories that I have otherwise enjoyed. So here, without further ado, is a list of 10 things that irk me about fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction:
- Over-complicated world-building, including when there is a map and the story takes place in 1/20th of the area shown and nothing of the rest is mentioned in the story. Authors: It’s better to unfold it bit by bit, sequel by sequel.
- Over-simplistic world-building. If we don’t see any merchants selling, traders trading, tax men taxing, farmers farming and night-soil men going about their business we are going to wonder how your world functions. It makes enquiring minds wonder what is the economic basis of this community? How does it interact with other communities? Doesn't anyone ever take a dump around here? And why, oh why, is the weather tied into the emotional state of the protagonist?
- Unnecessary weird words and strange names. If you have to use strange names, at least make them pronounceable and don’t sprinkle them with diacritical marks and strangely placed consonants. As for weird words, only use them for things that don’t already have a name in your language. Calling what is basically a sword a knizl is just overdoing it, even if the thing looks like no sword known in this reality. If it serves the purpose of a sword, it is a sword.
- Inconsistencies in made-up languages. Authors, some of your readers have actually studied linguistics.
- When you
plag..borrow from famous authors, can you at least be subtle about it?
- Every fantasy story does not have to be part of a trilogy or a series. How about a standalone for a change? This extends to publishers who don’t put a single hint on the cover of a book from a trilogy or whatever-logy that it’s only part of a longer story and not a standalone.
- Cardboard-cut-out villains who are just evil with no explanation and have no character. A good villain has a personality, at least a minimal back-story and isn’t totally evil. Cold, dead eyes, fangs and bat wings are not enough. Neither are scars, greasy hair and a cackle.
- Human/non-human sex. And living/dead sex. Gives me the creeps.
- Science fantasy that suddenly turns it into sci-fi. When my favourite fantasy turned into sci-fantasy it didn't faze me, but when it suddenly became more or less pure sci-fi I decided enough was enough and stopped buying them.
- Horror stories that leave nothing to the imagination. You don’t have to be graphic to be effective, in fact some of the best horror stories leave it to the reader’s imagination to fill in the (deliberate) blanks.
- Old-school covers with half-naked females with breasts that in real life would make them fall over if they stood up, and men with pecs bigger than the women’s breasts.
- The modern urban fantasy female back-to-the-reader pose with tramp stamp. For some reason it irks me greatly.