Monday, July 16, 2012

I Hate Fantasy

I have a confession to make: I hate fantasy literature. This might seem odd considering I run a blog about tabletop RPGs that focuses (at the moment) exclusively on the fantasy genre, but it's true. Aside from a handful of books, I loathe fantasy. Maybe I've just read the wrong books. Maybe it's because I went to school for literature and am a snob. I don't know.

However, this year I have set out to change this. I feel like I can't own funny-sided dice and toy soldiers that I've painted, lovingly, without enjoying a fantasy book or two. Last year I read A Game of Thrones after catching a few episodes of the show. I wasn't impressed. Or rather, the experience wasn't compelling enough that I felt obligated to devour the books in the way so many other people have. I have a theory: if I can find someone reading a book on any subway line during any given day of the week, there is no way it is good. Yeah, I'm definitely a snob.

Still, against my better judgement, I dove into A Clash of Kings earlier this year. I enjoyed this one a lot more. I still have issues with GRRM, but I actually felt tempted to dig right into his next book, A Storm of Swords, which I'm currently struggling to finish. I think he crafts brilliant characters who speak with razor-sharp wit. It's everything in between the dialogue that I don't enjoy. I had almost given up on the book, but found myself plowing through a few chapters this week. It seems, after 700+ pages, that I'm committed. I'll likely even read the whole series, because I'm a masochist and don't know when to quit. 

When DCC RPG showed up on my radar in April, it was the first time I heard the term "Appendix N." After doing a little research, I discovered I was familiar with some of those authors. Two exactly: Tolkien and Lovecraft. I know it's sacrosanct to say, but I hate their books. Tolkien's magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings is a series I've never been able to finish. It's really the first 100 pages of The Fellowship that kill me every time I attempt to read it. The Hobbit, on the other hand, is one of those rare fantasy books I actually enjoyed. Lovecraft has the exact opposite problem of GRRM for me. Absolutely haunting descriptions, but flat characters with boring dialogue. I think I liked two of his stories (I read 400+ pages of them), "The Colour from Out of Space" and "Pickman's Model."

It's really the other authors, whom I had never even heard of, that caught my eye, particularly Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard. I've slowly been collecting their books or putting them on hold at the library, hoping that they will provide me with better experiences than other fantasy authors have in the past. After I finish A Storm of Swords, I'm going to dive right into Swords Against Deviltry.

I end this post with two questions and a request: am I missing something in the works of GRRM, Tolkien, and Lovecraft? In some cases, it's been years since I've read their work, should I go back and re-read them? Lastly, what do you recommend to someone looking to make fantasy a "project"?


  1. I share your opinion on Tolkien. I've read lots of Lovecraft but the whole Cthulhu thing is way overdone now so I can see why it wouldn't be that appealing.

  2. The thing is, I really want to like Tolkien. If it wasn't for the movie adaptations rolling around at the exact same time I discovered D&D, I'm not sure I would still be playing games 10 years later. It just baffles me how the same author who produced The One Ring Trilogy also wrote The Hobbit.

    Could you make some recommendations for Lovecraft? There's a good chance I read it in my trek through his stories, but I'm always willing to revisit something if I missed out the first time around.

  3. I'm with you on Tolkien as well. Love the Hobbit -- find LotR bloated and uninteresting. Fritz Leiber is absolutely fantastic. One caveat: I would advise you to start with maybe Swords in the Mist instead of Swords Against Deviltry. The best part of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser is them playing off one another. Swords Against Deviltry starts out with origin stories for each of them, so you don't see them interact until closer to the end of the book. I found the "individual" stories to be considerably less fun. The Lean Times in Lankhmar collection is a good one to start with if you can find it...

    1. Thanks for the tip, though I still think I will start at Swords and Deviltry. I read some of "The Snow Women" and really enjoyed Leiber's decriptions. If nothing else, it will provide a little bit of groundwork for understanding that particular universe.