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Thread: "Cliched Trash"

  1. #76
    Quote Originally Posted by Yobmod View Post
    And still others are great and ignored (although not many imo).
    I may be overly optimistic on this one, but I honestly don't believe that's the case, at least not in the age of the Interwebs. There are enough review blogs and discussion forums like this one that a truly great book will eventually get noticed and talked up and "discovered," at least by the fans who care enough to go looking.

    I'll readily agree that there are authors putting out excellent work who don't get nearly the recognition they deserve, but the only examples who come to mind are authors who are extremely not-prolific (I'm looking at you, Ted Chiang. And, to a lesser extent, Barry Hughart for Bridge of Birds). They produced a book or two and dropped off the map, and even so they get mentioned around here with some regularity. I can't think of anyone regularly putting out quality work who gets ignored.

    As for the male author/female author split... eh. I'll lay my biases out on the table: I'm a female reader, I like primarily giant sweeping epics with well-realized characters and lots of action, and there is not a single female traditional fantasy author that I really, really love. There's a handful that I like (Melanie Rawn, f'rex, gets maligned a lot in these parts but I still like her work, goshdarnit), a couple I can't stand, and a whole lot more who sink into an undifferentiated mass of melodramatic cuddly-wangst poorly-written crap.

    The top and the bottom of the genre are both occupied by male authors, in my mind. I haven't found any female equivalents to GRRM or Guy Gavriel Kay. On the other hand, there aren't any female equivalents to Robert Newcomb, Ed Greenwood or David Bilsborough either, so hey.

    They also don't write huge complicated sagas with massive casts of characters and lots of narrative mysteries (WoT, ASOIAF, Malazan), where people can speculate and argue about what's happening to whom and why and who's behind it. So, based on that opinion, it doesn't surprise me that these books don't get as much discussion; they don't inspire the same peaks of love or loathing as the guys', and they tend not to have as many plot twists/holes to talk about.

  2. #77
    Quote Originally Posted by yobmod
    True. I was pointing out to those that don't believe the cliches are so common that there are many thousands of books each year that do contain many of these cliches, which can be seen by reading a few of their blurbs at random. The books discussed here have undergone a (-n unofficial) selection process, to that those with too many cliches are filtered out as "bad" books. But others are cliche-free and just bad. And still others are great and ignored (although not many imo).
    True to a certain extent. But I've seen several "cliched" series get lots of attention around here recently. Karen Miller and Gail Z. Martin have both gotten a lot of attention and David Bilsborough has been brought up on more than one occasion. Similarly Christopher Paolini has gotten a lot of attention. Surely these folks aren't the best of the new cliched authors? It just seems like there is a circular argument being made when you claim that there are lots of cliched authors around but nobody reads or discusses them.

    I think there are many factors that play into why books get ignored. And the fact that this is a board with a heavily male popular and tends to focus on Epic Fantasy means that one of the reasons books get ignored (unconsciously, in general) is because of the author's gender and what that means about the subject matter they choose to explore.

    It is interesting to me how books get noticed and marketed. Right now bloggers are at the forefront of generating buzz for books. Bloggers, at least the ones around these parts, are male and they tend to read male books. Pat of the fantasy hotlist reviews roughly three books by male authors for every book by female author.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cranky Hamster
    As for the male author/female author split... eh. I'll lay my biases out on the table: I'm a female reader, I like primarily giant sweeping epics with well-realized characters and lots of action, and there is not a single female traditional fantasy author that I really, really love. There's a handful that I like (Melanie Rawn, f'rex, gets maligned a lot in these parts but I still like her work, goshdarnit), a couple I can't stand, and a whole lot more who sink into an undifferentiated mass of melodramatic cuddly-wangst poorly-written crap.
    The interesting thing about cliches is that people like them. You're allowed to play around with cliches but deviate to far from them and you're no longer in the sub-genre and you just get ignored. The reason cliches have become so popular is because people like them, they are powerful. So Feist and Eddings outsell Brust and Cook. From reading interviews Lois Bujold's new series is far more subversive of the standard fantasy ideas then many of the new series with so much buzz. At some level there are things that epic fantasy fans must have for a story to be enjoyable and if it doesn't have those then it gets rejected or reclassified.

    I would say that both Kate Elliot and Janny Wurts have tried the big sprawling epic thing and both came up short. I wonder if female authors tend to shoot themselves in the foot a bit when it comes to marketability. The evidence that big long series sale best in the epic fantasy genre is fairly widespread. World building and political intrigue tend to make these series possible. However, relationships tend to be much more finite. So if you focus on character interactions instead of plot you may be setting yourself up for failure.

  3. #78
    Silent Wrote:
    True to a certain extent. But I've seen several "cliched" series get lots of attention around here recently. Karen Miller and Gail Z. Martin have both gotten a lot of attention and David Bilsborough has been brought up on more than one occasion. Similarly Christopher Paolini has gotten a lot of attention. Surely these folks aren't the best of the new cliched authors? It just seems like there is a circular argument being made when you claim that there are lots of cliched authors around but nobody reads or discusses them.

    If by "around here" you mean here at SffWorld, I think you'll find that these authors are not actually mentioned as often as it seems, and certainly not in a manner leading to serious discussion. Paolini is largely ignored, [along of how we've all already seen Starwars, thanks], Z Martin and Miller come up slightly more often and split opinion rather broadly, and, honestly, we generally only seem to bring up Bilsborough in order to curse and revile him, and while this may be wrong and unkind of us his book really is fantastically bad.

    I think there is a reflexive knee-jerk reaction against thinking about our own reading tastes in the way you're exploring, which does not mean it isn't a good thing to do every once in a while. I've just hand-waved a bunch of authors who don't get a lot of attention around these parts, but what about the ones that do? Joe Abercrombie's Before They Are Hanged was the site's book of 2007, and Scott Lynch's name resounds from the rafters of these hallowed halls, [though somewhat less so recently due to him having dropped off the face of the interwebs.] In general I prefer to avoid gendering books right off, as it can obscure subtleties, but if I had to come down on one side or the other I would have to say that these are both very male authors. By contrast, the secondary world fantasy I'm reading right now, [Sarah Monette's The Virtu], has had a much tougher time gaining traction in forum communities. It has the deep imagined world setting, the sinister wizardly organizations, etc, but Monette concentrates almost aggressively on character interactions, relationships, and psychology, turning away from the broad sweeping approach to tell a more personal story. For example, rather than lavishing descriptive prose on two characters' journey across a broad grassland empire, the narrator of the moment simply tells us that: "There ain't much to be said about walking across Kekropia, aside from the boredom of it." [Melusine, 361]. This might be juxtaposed with the more action-oriented, epic styles of other writers as a rather "female" approach. However, I think that pigeon-holing of this type is dangerous to further discussion of whatever work is in question, and given the number of exceptions which have to be made the exercise really isn't very useful. For instance, the aforementioned 'Crombie, while he certainly utilizes the action scene, actually doesn't really take the broad sweeping approach that people seem to equate with male epic fantasists just because Jordan, Martin, and Erikson use it to such effect. In fact, The First Law is a story which remains very much attached to a small group of characters throughout, though admittedly not as aggressively as Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths.

    Regarding the examples of female broad-scale writers that you've chosen, I have not read Wurtz. I have, however, read the first book of Crown of Stars, and my initial impression is that, if the series is going to come up short, it is not going to be in the plot and world-building departments. In fact I recall being most disappointed with the character relationships, the element which you point to female writers as focusing on, as I found them interesting but somewhat mechanical and uncompelling in the first volume. Just goes to show how much personal taste can play into a discussion like this.

    I'll agree that people like cliches, and shall just say once more that I don't really regard this as a bad thing. I do, however, agree that they shouldn't simply be used without thought to ways in which they could be reinterpreted, [which is one of the reasons why a lot of people don't like Christopher Paolini's books and why I was cracking wise about him earlier on: he has yet to convince a lot of people that he is retelling the heroic coming of age story in a manner that does not seem old and tired.]

    I do think that examining reading tastes through the gender lens is potentially interesting, but I also think that we're likely to come up against some show-stopping generalizations whilst trying to do so.
    ________
    B-King
    Last edited by mjolnir; April 29th, 2011 at 02:20 AM.

  4. #79
    Quote Originally Posted by mjolnir
    If by "around here" you mean here at SffWorld, I think you'll find that these authors are not actually mentioned as often as it seems, and certainly not in a manner leading to serious discussion. Paolini is largely ignored, [along of how we've all already seen Starwars, thanks], Z Martin and Miller come up slightly more often and split opinion rather broadly, and, honestly, we generally only seem to bring up Bilsborough in order to curse and revile him, and while this may be wrong and unkind of us his book really is fantastically bad.
    Yes, I mean here at SFFWorld. These authors get brought up because people read them. I don't care that much about whether or not they're being discussed in great detail, just whether or not people are familiar with them. Martin and Miller have both had threads dedicated to them that had a decent number of posts. People know who they are, they know who Robert Newcomb is. But if I were mention Jenna Rhodes people wouldn't know who I was talking about. I bring her name up because a couple weeks back Locus listed her new book in there just released section. Its the second book in a series that features a supposedly unique take on elves. Is it good or bad? cliched or awesome? I really don't know, I haven't read it and its hardly been mentioned on these boards. In other words I'm disputing the idea that cliches automatically tend to make the board dismiss books and that only the high end cliched books get discussed here. You just need to take a look at the most discussed book of 2007, The Name of the Wind, to know that this board is quite willing to embrace and discuss cliched works.

    There's just a wide variety of factors that influence why certain books get discussed.

    Quote Originally Posted by mjolnir
    Regarding the examples of female broad-scale writers that you've chosen, I have not read Wurtz. I have, however, read the first book of Crown of Stars, and my initial impression is that, if the series is going to come up short, it is not going to be in the plot and world-building departments. In fact I recall being most disappointed with the character relationships, the element which you point to female writers as focusing on, as I found them interesting but somewhat mechanical and uncompelling in the first volume. Just goes to show how much personal taste can play into a discussion like this.
    Actually I meant Wurts and Elliot in my mind didn't measure up to the other folks writing big sprawling epics. The comments after that weren't actually aimed at them, I should have formatted the post differently. What I meant was authors like Elizabeth Haydon that center a lot of the story around romantic relationships might be shooting themselves in the foot because once the romance is resolved the story losses much of its original strength.

  5. #80
    Omnibus Prime Moderator PeterWilliam's Avatar
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    I remember when it became, at least for a time, somewhat fashionable to bash fantasy lit, as well as those who read it. The readers were dismissed as 'nerds' and losers. Fantasy lit was dismissed as 'cliched.' Now, we as the readers, are using the language (e.g. "Man, it sucks! It's so cliched") of those who would flame the whole genre to criticize some contributors to it.

    Don't misunderstand, criticism is necessary and healthy. I just have a hard time using 'their' criticisms against 'us.'

  6. #81
    Personally, I find patriarchal (usually monarchies, almost always patrilineal) societies in fantasy fiction "cliche". Overused is a better word.

    The historical diversities regarding gender roles, religion, and political powers are what make this world so interesting. It'd be nice to see it reflected more in fantasy fiction, or at the very least that same spirit of diversity. Kings and Queens are dandy, but a whole world of gallant (or Martin's less-than-gallant) knights and hapless milkmaidens gets a bit tiring. The argument of gender roles and the male vs. female writer/reader argument is, at best, threadbare. Who wrote the rule that all readers and authors should be defined by their gender, thus ever-toeing the constraints of said gender? To argue that all societies in the history of the earth were patriarchal, that all historical advances were perpetuated by men, is an exercise in willful ignorance. History is full of great female minds -- the fact that they had a vagina is irrelevant. Hypatia, Elena Cornaro Piscopia, Sarraounia, Caroline Herschel , Mary Astell ("If all Men are born free, how is it that all Women are born Slaves?"), Hu Hesheng, Agnes Heller, Hildegard of Bingen, Augusta Ada King, Amelia Earhart, Maria Sibylla Merian, Hatshepsut -- and so on. Scientists, mathmeticians, political / hierarchical figures, philosophers, pioneers -- women. Knowledge and power, much like today, were not always dictated simply by genitals. Social class and wealth, more often than not, is what dictacted the pursuit of power and knowledge. To argue that man has always dominated woman is, again, trite. There are many early societies were not always actively dominated by their male counterparts; pre-19th century Iroquois, Pre-Islamic Iran, Vietnam, the Celts, early Egypt, the Sauromatians, the Tuareg, the Berbers, the Batek, the Saharawi, the Bijagos, the Kandake of Meroe, the Etruscans, the Vanatinai, the Pueblo Indians -- to name a few. (Many of those were later influenced by outside forces, resulting in a changed view on women's role in society. Some, however, persist with their own views.) I think it's a bit demeaning (to men as well as women) to say that one side prefers one set of themes and the other side prefers another. We humans are a bit too diverse to lump us so arbitrarily into boxes.

    What draws me to a story, or to relate to characters, has nothing to do with weepy love stories or fluffy character interaction. I want the grit, the warfare, the wanderlust, the scholarly pursuits, political intrigue, the development of characters that is autonomous and situational -- not reliant on a romantic counterpart, the vigilantism (a.k.a. the hero, be he or she morally white or morally grey), the sweeping vistas of a well-developed world, et cetera.


    - A female reader/writer.
    Last edited by escapist; November 1st, 2008 at 05:49 AM.

  7. #82
    Quote Originally Posted by escapist
    Kings and Queens are dandy, but a whole world of gallant (or Martin's less-than-gallant) knights and hapless milkmaidens gets a bit tiring.
    Which books have you been reading? I'm struggling to think of any fantasy books that are chock full of gallant knights and hapless milkmaids.

    Quote Originally Posted by escapist
    The argument of gender roles and the male vs. female writer/reader argument is, at best, threadbare. Who wrote the rule that all readers and authors should be defined by their gender, thus ever-toeing the constraints of said gender?
    We're talking about general tends not specific individuals. No one is arguing that all people of a specific gender need to or do act in a certain way. I'm just saying there are general trends.

    Quote Originally Posted by escapist
    To argue that all societies in the history of the earth were patriarchal, that all historical advances were perpetuated by men, is an exercise in willful ignorance.
    Indeed. I'm sure glad no one in this thread is arguing that.

  8. #83

    We are talking fantasy tropes here, are we not? One of the most common settings are based on Medieval Europe, complete with a lower class (generally pastoral), an aristocracy, and monarchy. I don't have the time to catalogue all of that fantasy fiction novels reflecting this trope, but many classic as well as current fantasy novels perpetuate the theme. These themes are most often in line with other tropes including (but not limited to): wizards, quest themes, poor farm boys saving the world from "insert mass evil force".

    Speaking of gender trends in reading/writing, you can't make sweeping generalizations of people and not expect to be refuted in some manner.

  9. #84
    Would be writer? Sure. Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by escapist View Post
    [FONT="Verdana"]The historical diversities regarding gender roles, religion, and political powers are what make this world so interesting. It'd be nice to see it reflected more in fantasy fiction, or at the very least that same spirit of diversity.
    Luckily, we live in wonderful times. For fantasy, we suffer an embarassment of riches. There are so many types of fantasy available, including the kind you mention. Octavia Butler, Sharon Shinn, Anne Bishop, Mercedes Lackey, and Melanie Rawn are all authors who have written novels and popular series that are in the vein you described.

    Quote Originally Posted by escapist
    Kings and Queens are dandy, but a whole world of gallant (or Martin's less-than-gallant) knights and hapless milkmaidens gets a bit tiring.
    If, by this, you mean Medieval fantasy, I would agree. However, even in most of the popular medieval secondary worlds, I've not come across a lot of hapless milkmaidens. And thank goodness for that.


    Quote Originally Posted by escapist
    The argument of gender roles and the male vs. female writer/reader argument is, at best, threadbare. Who wrote the rule that all readers and authors should be defined by their gender, thus ever-toeing the constraints of said gender?
    I believe I made that observation somewhere in this thread. Why is that observation threadbare?

    Quote Originally Posted by escapist
    I think it's a bit demeaning (to men as well as women) to say that one side prefers one set of themes and the other side prefers another. We humans are a bit too diverse to lump us so arbitrarily into boxes.
    I would agree that men don't want just 'guy' things, and women don't like 'chick stuff'. However, the degree to which men in general might like certain aspects of reality compared to what women in general might like is different. A book can only present a certain amount of information about a series of events. The relative focus played on those events can be of different importance between men and women.
    I see nothing demeaning about this observation. To say both genders enjoy the same things equally is difficult to square with simple observation. That would be like saying if you had 5 men and 5 women, it would be impossible to predict which group would be more likely to enjoy mixed martial arts. If that were the case, then the demographics of MMA viewership would be such that ads for bras should be just as prevalent as male enhancement commercials during UFC programs.

  10. #85
    Quote Originally Posted by escapist View Post
    We are talking fantasy tropes here, are we not? One of the most common settings are based on Medieval Europe, complete with a lower class (generally pastoral), an aristocracy, and monarchy. I don't have the time to catalogue all of that fantasy fiction novels reflecting this trope, but many classic as well as current fantasy novels perpetuate the theme. These themes are most often in line with other tropes including (but not limited to): wizards, quest themes, poor farm boys saving the world from "insert mass evil force".
    Pseudo-Europe does get used a lot and I'm not shocked someone would be bored with it. Though I'll also point out that while Pseudo-Europe does get used quite often it hardly is the only place in those worlds, normally there are places that are very obviously non-European.
    It is just that I've never read a book with a hapless milkmaid and gallant knights tend to be noticeably absent from most Pseudo-Europes, so I was curious to what books you were actually referring.

    Speaking of gender trends in reading/writing, you can't make sweeping generalizations of people and not expect to be refuted in some manner.
    However, I was very clear about the fact that I was talking only about trends and not something that applied to all individuals. So if someone does disagree with me I expect it to be based on what I actually wrote.

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