At the End of My Trope…

This meme has popped up in a few places that I know of. Steve Goble’s recent resurrection of it inspired me to make my own (not especially original) list.

Things I Never Want to See Again in Fantasy Fiction

1. Vampires. Particularly vampire lovers of moody vamped women. (Isn’t there some new metaphor for exotic doomed romance out there, waiting to be used? Were-panthers? Piratical walrus ranchers? Corrupt but dashing accountants? Enough with the vampires!) Offending authors to be locked in a glass cage with a cloud of mosquitoes to experience the sensual pleasure of bloodsucking parasites at first hand. (Somehow this line seems to good to be original. Whoever I stole it from is free to complain that I am a literary vampire; they certainly have my sincere fangs.)

2. People who are famous without having done anything. (Heroes have to earn their bones.) Offending authors to be sentenced to endless, increasingly disturbing fanfic.

3. Names with apostrophes: F’fiff’le’frr’f or the like. (Self-explanatory.) Offending authors must study phonetics until they can do it right.

4. The Hero Is The Chosen One Who Will wompfle-pompfle-yompfle. (Heroes have to earn their bones; they can’t inherit them from destiny, Aeneas.) Offending authors will be forbidden the use of capital letters.

5. Evil Dark Lords of Evil. (Evil rarely marks itself that conveniently, not if it has anything on the ball.) Offending authors to be compelled to read Melville’s The Confidence Man until they get it.

6. Fluffy harmless dragons. (Dragons can be for or against the protagonist, but they should not be merely nice.) Offending authors will be immersed in a vat of Beanie Babies until they acknowledge the horror of commercialized cuteness.

7. Novels that don’t fit into a single volume. I realize there are many stellar exceptions (Lord of the Rings, the Aubrey/Maturin series, etc.), and I’m not against sequels (a different matter) but I’m inclined to believe that most people continue their story past the first volume because they don’t know how to end it. Much as I don’t know how to end this paragraph with an appropriate punishment.

8. Killing secondary characters–with or without the involvement of refrigerators–just to lend a false similitude of danger and/or emotional depth. (You’re not fooling anyone, you know.) Offending authors to wear red shirts whenever they beam down to the planet.

9. Fake deaths. (It’s one thing to have a character who is believed to have died but actually has not; a character who has actually been killed should not be brought back for the convenience of the storyteller.) Offending authors to confront their own mortality.

10. Characters who don’t see the obvious. Offending authors to spend a week in a shopping mall wearing a Captain Obvious costume, constantly confronted by people who say, “Isn’t it Obvious?”

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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15 Responses to At the End of My Trope…

  1. al_zorra says:

    Hipper than David Bowie Elves in the Even More Hip Present Day U.S.A. City. Offenders condemned to watch all 6 seasons of “Sex and the City” without stopping.

    Paranormal P.I.’s who still think its hipper than hip to walk the walk and talk the talk of Chandler & Co. Offenders condemned to listen to Ronald D. Moore talk non-stop about how brilliant and wonderful he is.

    Love, C.

  2. bg_editor says:

    Ya’ know, that whole Captain Obvious thing was what ruined Mists of Avalon for me. Every woman I’ve ever met has gone on and on about that book, so perhaps my lack of estrogen impairs my understanding of it… but dang, I could see everything coming 100 pages before the characters could figure it out. And these were allegedly shrewd, strong women. Instead they just seemed to feel strongly about emoting their woes.

    Must be feeling cranky today…

    • JE says:

      Mists… came out at the height of my Arthur snobbery, when I was reading the original sources (mostly in translation) and railing at interlopers like Malory and T.H. White. I’m afraid I didn’t give Bradley’s version much of a chance. At a distance of 20-plus years my brain has cooled down a bit. (I now take it out and soak it in icewater during the night.) Maybe I should give it another shot. I did like some of the Darkover novels.

      But from what I remember of Mists… and The Firebrand (her take on the Trojan War), her myth retellings display a penchant for cardboard villains. That, and the shadow of Captain Obvious, might keep me from going back and looking at these again.

      • Anonymous says:

        Your Arthur snobbery is far more deeply seated than mine. As much as I appreciate what came before, I see Malory as the collector of all things and hate pretty much everything that followed him (although White gets a pass for making me laugh so often). I don’t think I made it a hundred pages into Mists.

        If nothing else, Malory taught me a valuable life lesson: Never offer to do a woman a favor until you know what that favor is. Regicide is just around the corner. 🙂

        • JE says:

          Malory does tie the stories together, as much as they can be tied… maybe more than they should be. And he writes very nice English, which counts for a lot with me. But I don’t like the way these newfangled French heroes, Lancelot and Galahad, grab all the sunlight. The heroes from the older tradition (Gawain, Uwain, Arthur himself) get short shrift in Malory’s French sources.

          My younger self would have been foaming at the mouth by this time, but now I’ve read a lot more deeply in mythology and understand better, I think, how legends grow and change. And nowadays I don’t think the Arthur mythos would be nearly as complex and interesting as it in fact is if it hadn’t been taken up and reshaped by so many different cultures. So I say as a mythology buff, but as a reader of fantasy I just look at that massive MoA/i> for a few moments and sneak off to reread Leigh Brackett again.

          Re the lesson: most of the women I know are more reliable than I am, but I do strongly believe in filling in the amount before signing any check. It’s really better for all parties (as Semele would be the first to point out).

  3. davidcapeguy says:

    Except for the vampires — and they wander in before the Wheel of Time creaks its way to its end — and possibly the apostrophes, you may have just created a splendid definition of Robert Jordan’s Big Book.

    Major agreement here, especially regarding vampires and unpronouncable apostrophe-packin’ character names. The vampires on paperback covers especially remind me of a period back in the 80’s when you couldn’t go into the art show at an SF con without finding yourself hip deep in unicorns. Blech!

  4. Anonymous says:

    After another dozen nosebleeds yesterday, I’m reminded of one that’s really started to get on my nerves: smelling/tasting copper in blood. I think I first saw this in a Gemmell novel. I thought it was a pretty neat detail. Having so frequently sampled my own blood and never found myself saying, “hey, that tastes just like copper!” I wasn’t sure how legit a detail it was, but I still thought it was neat. When I started seeing it in every one of his novels, the neatness wore off. Now I run into it everywhere, and quite frankly, I could without it.

    –Jeff Stehman

    • JE says:

      It must be that time of year: I was blowing red bubbles earlier this week, too. I guess blood does have kind of a tang to it, but I’ve never thought of it as coppery.

      Every writer has these narrative tics, I suppose, and a popular writer’s tics could be contagious. (Sounds unsanitary–probably is.)

      • I have plenty of nosebleeds myself, along with the memory of having my wisdom teeth out…blood definitely has an odd flavor, but I’m not sure I’d describe it as coppery. Salty might capture it best, and that’s usually what I use.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If you make that Zombie King Kong, I’ll totally see that on opening day.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the kind words. But I really just posted something because I thought I heard the beat of Valkyrie wings…

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