Friday, 6 December 2013

Likes and Dislikes

'Tis First Summertime (Birak, Season of the Young, as the Nyoongar call it.)  The sun rises early and sets late.  Whilst most of the English-speaking world is huddling down for a Long Winter's Nap, I'm taking my ease in the garden courtyard, surrounded by parsley and oregano.

I love summer.  I really, really do.  However, it rarely, if ever, rains, and I do miss warm summer rain.  Just don't get it here.
I love characters who know what they want and set out to get it.
I love characters who make a mark on the world and not just let the world make a mark on them.

I am most firmly decided: I love Fantasy as a genre.  Quick list:

  • Escapism
  • High Stakes
  • Otherworldliness
  • Different Sets of Rules
  • Smerps and McGuffins

I am also decided that I do not like Contemporary fiction.

Granted, much of what I have read recently is well-written. I cannot fault the mastery of the craft.

It's the subject matter that I cannot stomach.  Must Contemporary authors write about divorce, abuse, directionless lives, ordinary circumstances, tepid jobs, dysfunctional families, All The Time?  It is like everything and everyone is broken in Contemporary fiction and they don't get fixed.  Essentially, it all seem to be about them accepting their miserable lot in life.

The characters are weaker than the world that's beating them down. They are where they are because they have not been fighting against the world, but letting the world run roughshod over them.  As the plot progresses, it's not so much that the characters are doing something to improve their lot, but rather enduring all the crap thrown at them in hopes that something better--without much effort on their part--comes along.

Maybe I'm reading the wrong novels.   Where are the [Hello] Dolly Levis?  Where are the Auntie Mames?  The "Thoroughly Modern" Millies?  I want a contemporary novel where the characters might have been handed a few lemons, but by gum, not only are they going to make lemonade, but a really good lemon custard pie.  And lemon bars. And lemon chicken as well.

I get a lot of that in Fantasy.  Characters DO stuff. They're pro-active, possibly because if they're not, the Whole Universe will Collapse on Them.  These are High Stakes.  I like High Stakes, especially if the character fails at the High Stakes, others may suffer, possibly entire nations, if not worlds.

I want outside-the-box thinkers. I want characters whose actions and choices would make a fascinating Wikipedia entry.  Contemporary fiction just ain't doing that for me.

Running away to a small town to start a bakery because your jerk-fiance left you at the altar is not an interesting Wikipedia entry.  Running away to a small town to start a bakery that's really a cover for smuggling engagement diamonds in cupcakes. Not only did your jerk-fiance leave you at the altar, but it turns out this is a modus operandi of a whole lotta jerk-fiances, who want the rings returned. So jilted women turn to the new baker to get their rings to a jeweler who'll Ask No Questions to provide them with enough money to start a new life. (Hey, it could happen.)

Surely someone's written that novel, or its sister.  Kindly point it out to me in the comments, si t'il plait.

Meanwhile, I'm gonna go find a nice fantasy full of literal Let's Save the World.

When not bemoaning unmotivated characters, Her Grace enjoys art by Kathrin "Kitty" Polikeit [GPL (], via Wikimedia Commons.  She offers her thanks to Kitty for sharing her art with the world.


Aldrea Alien said...

I've never thought on it that way before, but that may be the exact reason why I prefer fantasy over other genres.

JeriWB said...

I gravitate toward contemporary literary fiction much more than fantasy because it mimics life's imperfection. There isn't always a silver lining. I guess that is what drives what we find appealing about certain genres. When I read fantasy, more often than not, I grow weary of how over-the-top plots and characters can be.