Friday, April 16, 2010

Battle Royale Round One: Sci-fi vs. Fantasy

Hello all, it's been a pretty interesting few weeks for me. Busy busy busy. Much is on my mind and I thought I would try my best and settle into a single issue that is near and dear to my heart: Sci-fi and Fantasy novels. I read an article that really got me thinking about the topic, and unlike many other things in this world that I find interesting, I think I have something to add.

That isn't to say what I have to add to the conversation is insightful, but it feels like it is. The article linked above points out why the author gravitates away from fantasy as a genre and towards science fiction. I must say that I agree with most of the points made, even if a large number of the commenter's on the piece rightfully point out that science fiction suffers from eerily similar problems when poorly written. However, one commenter in particular made a very insightful post that I think is worth repeating.
I'm of the opinion that the main issue is that bad Fantasy still sells and populates the best seller charts whereas bad Science Fiction does not.  And on top of that most of the fantasy lovers that I come across are fans of Bad Fantasy
 I think that hit the nail right on the head. Last year, before my several rants about the amount of fantasy I find at my local bookstore when compared toe sci-fi I decided that the problem was really with me, I have read too narrowly and needed to branch out. So I went to one of the more popular fantasy series of the modern era and decided to read and get caught up in a fictional universe where magic reigned and science was never a part of the story. Enter Terry Goodkind.

His series of novels about the seeker has generated a fortune for himself, a tv show based on his works, and entire shelves dedicated to only his books at my local Borders, the man is an industry of one.

So The Wizard's First Rule made its way to my reading list. It's a tomb of a book, but I can read the longer piece of work when the mood catches me. I did get through the LOTR trilogy in one go round, I enjoyed it. But aside from my single visit to the Tolkien universe I've never really read much pure fantasy.

That being said, I read in amazement as every cliche and stereotype I've ever heard of regarding fantasy novels unfolded before my eyes. Only my inability to leave things unfinished made me finish the novel. That isn't to say that some passages weren't moving, entertaining or well written, it's just that as a whole, the book was a thousand pages of a four year old telling a story as a single run-on sentence that never really had an ending in sight.

That book is exactly why I don't read fantasy. If that is representative of the genre as a whole then it's all a big ugly mess, and proof of the decline of the American educational system. I rarely feel passionately about anything, but the quote I posted above rings quite true to me.

Look, the realist in me understands that the bulk of science fiction is probably on par with the bulk of fantasy in terms of product quality, but my experience (as limited as it may be) hasn't provided me with that exceptional piece of fantasy literature that hooks me and forces to me to refuse to leave the genre in an effort to find something else that evokes that kind of enjoyment.

Regardless, the fine folks over at i09 gave us a great little story about gateway books for fantasy lovers. It made me interested in at least a few of the novels I've never heard of before.