Skip to main content

List love and Top Ten Tuesdays meme: 10 bookish pet peeves, fantasy, horror and urban fantasy snark edition

It’s freebie week at The Broke and the Bookish, which means we can post and link a list of anything book-related, so I decided to use this List Love list I had prepared and enter it in the meme. Please click on the link above to visit the hosting blog and check out what the other participants have posted.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. Inconsistencies in made-up languages. Authors, some of your readers have actually studied linguistics.
  5. When you plag.. borrow from famous authors, can you at least be subtle about it?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Human/non-human sex. And living/dead sex. Gives me the creeps.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
Bonus peeve: Covers - I could actually write another list of 10 based just on them, but I’ll let two examples stand for the rest:
  • 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.


Anonymous said…
Such a perfectly well thought out list. These are things I wouldn't have thought of but when I read your list, I completely agree.
ditto!! unnecessary weird/strange names especially annoy me. fantastic list.

i did my list on books i need to re-read for this week's top ten tuesday freebie. hope you stop by.

Yes. Excellent list. (Although inwardly I am very sad....I've been secretly working on a fantasy novel for years and it suffers from all of these---somehow there is both too much and too little world building---but perhaps that is why it has never been finished...too many flaws.)

Here's my Top Ten Freebie: Top Ten Books-about-Books! And don't forget to sign up for the Readerbuzz August Giveaway!
Sash and Em said…
lol. Dog-earred pages is one ours!

Check out Sash's Top Ten Guys Who Didn't Get The Girl!
Also check out our GREAT giveaways!
Yvette said…
I agree with most of these. Terrific list.

But then there will always be the great writer who comes along and breaks all the rules, includes all the things that irk us, and gets away with it.
Bibliophile said…
Yvette, of course there will. Just about all of these can be used effectively by an author who knows what she/he is doing.
LBC said…
Awesome list. I don't read much fantasy - although I've been thinking about getting into it- but I find some of these things in sci fi as well, especially #10. An overly complicated world detracts from the plot and characters. I like complexity, but not to be so confused that I have to keep going back to figure out where we are and what is going on.

Come check out my list for the week at The Scarlet Letter.

Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

First book of 2020: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach (reading notes)

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I loathe movie tie-in book covers because I feel they are (often) trying to tell me how I should see the characters in the book. The edition of Deborah Moggach's These Foolish Things that I read takes it one step further and changes the title of the book into the title of the film version as well as having photos of the ensemble cast on the cover. Fortunately it has been a long while since I watched the movie, so I couldn't even remember who played whom in the film, and I think it's perfectly understandable to try to cash in on the movie's success by rebranding the book. Even with a few years between watching the film and reading the book, I could see that the story had been altered, e.g. by having the Marigold Hotel's owner/manager be single and having a romance, instead being of unhappily married to an (understandably, I thought) shrewish wife. It also conflates Sonny, the wheeler dealer behind the retireme