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Where is the Fun in Today's Fantasy?
Herb Mallette
Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 1:07 PM
Joined: 6/28/2011
Posts: 188


When I was growing up, one of the big draws that made me read fantasy and science fiction was a sense of high-spirited entertainment. A lot of the books I read back then explored wild and strange worlds with wide-eyed exuberance, like the Xanth series, Kieth Laumer's World Shuffler books, Robert Don Hughes, early Patricia McKillip. While in college, I discovered Jack Vance, whose work is vividly colorful and packed with wry humor from cover to cover.

It's been so long since I read most of those books that I've no idea how true my recollection of them is, but whether or not they truly were more light of heart and quick of pace than today's fantasy novels, there's no denying that they were marketed as being fun.

When I go to the bookstore today, everything on the F&SF shelves just looks so gosh-darned serious that I have trouble finding anything that piques my interest. The real world is plenty dark and grim enough for me ... I'd like my diversionary reading to provide contrast to that.

So does anyone have any suggestions for colorful, whimsical, high-strung fantasy that's heavier on wit and ingenuity than on drama and somber mood?

Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 1:40 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438


The first book that comes to mind is our own Mike Underwood's GEEKOMANCY. =) It's an urban/comedic fantasy, and it's rather whimsical and abundant in pop-cultural references.

However, knowing you and your traditional fantasy proclivities, are you looking for suggestions from any subgenre or just traditional fantasy? I feel like everything I've been reading in that realm lately is gritty and dark...
Timothy Maguire
Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 4:57 PM
Joined: 8/13/2011
Posts: 272


It'll probably come as no surprise that my first instinct is to point towards Jim Butcher, but I do think you'd like his Codex Alera series. Unique fantasy setting? Check. Epic storyline? Check. Chock full of screaming insanity? Check. This is a series that all kicks off because the main character's trying to get his sheep in and where he later has to break into a prison for the second time (after helping to redesign the defences after his first visit). While it's a dark, apocalyptic story, it's heavily leavened with a lot of humour.

The other suggestion would have to be David Weber's Oath of Swords series. Again, it's a unique fantasy setting revolving around a reluctant paladin. I can't think of any other book where a character's done quite so much to avoid his destiny and the sheer fact that he has (quite, quite unwillingly) got his own theme song tells us plenty about the sense of humour of this series.

Finally, for something a little further out of field, have you tried Charles Stross' Laundry series? It's a weird mash-up of Lovecraftian horror, computing and spy stories, with a rich vein of geek humour (two of the characters are only known as Pinky and the Brain). Again it's dark, but humorous, with an entire book revolving around James Bond jokes.
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 9:40 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356


Let me recommend Ari Marmell's GOBLIN CORPS, which is hilarious, and Mary Gentle's GRUNTS. Both are a blast to read!
Herb Mallette
Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 9:54 PM
Joined: 6/28/2011
Posts: 188


Thanks, everyone. I will look into all of those. I haven't actually stuck my nose into any urban fantasy yet (except a couple of excerpts here on BC). Nevena, you're right that I lean toward the more traditional fantasy settings. But it's probably time I gave something else a try.
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 10:14 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438


Tim, you're the second person this week who recommended Stross to me. I guess I gotta give his books a whirl. 
Carl E Reed
Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 12:10 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608


Have you read Fritz Leiber's "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" tales? A bit chauvinistic, ridiculous and arrested-adolescent in tone they're nevertheless rollicking good reads.


Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 6:48 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356


Herb - If you're going to go down the path of urban fantasy, may I suggest starting with Seanan McGuire's ROSEMARY AND RUE, book one of the Toby Daye series. I think Nevena will second me on this one. =)
Brandi Larsen
Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 7:32 AM
Joined: 6/18/2012
Posts: 229


I liked ROSEMARY AND RUE a lot too. It has a playfulness that I really appreciated.

Herb Mallette
Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 1:12 PM
Joined: 6/28/2011
Posts: 188


@ Carl: I don't know why Leiber was left off my list in the opening post. I read and reread those repeatedly when I was a kid.

@ Colleen and Brandi: I'll check out Rosemary and Rue as well. Thanks!


LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 9:14 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


I understand your pain, Herb. There is so much traditional fantasy these days that go for the "gritty realism" mark that they seem to forget that people smile and laugh in the real world. I can't watch Game of Thrones because I read the books, and know that nothing good is ever going to happen. You know what they say, misery loves company.

That said, you must read Kevin Hearne's IRON DRUID CHRONICLES. They have some sad moments, but it is so much fun. I love those books. I even bought my brother the first two for Christmas. I also just started Seanan McGuire's DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON, and I'm loving it. I have ROSEMARY AND RUE sitting on my shelf for when I'm done.

Oh, and anything by Christopher Moore. You'll find him in the Literature section, but he most certainly can be considered an fantasy/absurd fiction writer. A DIRTY JOB is my favorite, even though LAMB (which is about Jesus) is probably his best. You will most certainly laugh. If you like anything by Chuck Wendig, Moore is one of his favorites.

As for traditional fantasy, I can't help you there. I just got back into the genre with Gemmell's LEGEND. (How did I not read this before? While it might not be the best written on a technical level, the story is just so damn good. Why isn't this a movie? Screw Game of Thrones. Yes, I said that.)

I admit my epic starts out a bit depressing, but as a writer, I want people to smile when they read it.  Books should never be just about tears, but laughter too.
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013 7:38 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356


I second the recommendation for Kevin Hearne's IRON DRIUD series. They are wonderfully funny, and the characters are charming.

LeeAnna - I love David Gemmell! Especially the Rigante series. Read THE SWORD IN THE STORM first. Did you know that his wife Stella has a debut fantasy novel coming out from Penguin in June? It's called The City.
MariAdkins
Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 3:04 PM
Heh. I came into this thread to recommend Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye books, but someone already beat me to it.

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 9:03 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


I just finished ROSEMARY AND RUE, and I liked it well enough. I have to admit, after reading anything by Moore, I have high expectations for playfulness. ROSEMARY AND RUE felt more serious compared DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON.
Herb Mallette
Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 9:44 PM
Joined: 6/28/2011
Posts: 188


All these good suggestions, and I've been to busy to get to the bookstore!
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 10:58 AM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438


@LeeAnna, I'm curious, which one did you like better? I've gotta go with ROSEMARY AND RUE. It's definitely darker than DISCOUNT. I guess I'm no fun.=)
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:44 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


Nevena, if I had to be honest, they were kind of on the same line. I don't mind first person, but it's not my favorite. I'll definitely read the rest of her books because they are quality, but I think Wendig stole my heart with Miriam and Atlanta.
MariAdkins
Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 9:35 PM
I'm getting ready to finish her Newsflesh series. Read them straight through. I'm exhausted.

Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013 11:05 PM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195


John Moore writes gently funny, insightful fantasy: for instance Bad Prince Charlie, The Unhandsome Prince, Slay and Rescue, Heroics for Beginners, etc.   I find them lots of fun.

For those who like short fun fantasy, I recommend the series of anthologies that started with Chicks in Chainmail, edited by Esther Friesner.   There are takeoffs on everything ancient modern and in between.  (Ritual disclosure--I have stories in several of them, all set in the very mythical "Ladies Aid and Armor Society."  The first one involves what happens when the Crown imposes a tax on bronze bras.)


MariAdkins
Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 3:14 PM
I second - or is it third or forth? - the Toby Daye books. I also recommend Kelly McCullough's WebMage books (the series is complete) as well as JF Lewis' Void City books.

Maya Starling
Posted: Saturday, May 4, 2013 9:02 PM
Joined: 4/24/2013
Posts: 45


I'm so surprised no one has mentioned the work of Terry Pratchett. His work is witty, smart and so much fun. One of the rare authors that can make me laugh out loud and doesn't insult my intelligence with his writing and storyline. 

Big big recommendation. I personally love Going Postal and Montrous Regiment, while some might prefer his earlier work. In any case, I recommend anything written by him.

Oh.. and Robert Asprin and his Myth Adventure series.



C M Rosens
Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 3:05 PM
Joined: 5/8/2013
Posts: 25


Thanks for this thread Herb! I feel the same way.

I was drawn into fantasy worlds by Terry Pratchett, originally. I love tongue-in-cheek and satire and laugh out loud humour!

Not strictly fantasy, more Alternate History/Urban Paranormal (I have actually no clue what it is) but a cracking read nonetheless is Kim Newman's Anno Dracula. I need to read the others.

Having been submerged in GoT for a while, I need to get away from all the sad and breathe a bit! I'm sure my own writing gets noticeably more depressing when I'm reading those books. So I shall be looking into the above recommendations for lighter, more exuberant reading material too!

Alexander Hollins
Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 4:57 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416


Absolutely Aspirin and Myth. Also, Jack Chalker's Dancing Gods series has a lot of humor. 
Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013 1:20 AM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195


Humor's tricky in that some people like/want slapstick level humor and some people want humor embedded in (and often right next to) serious stuff that might even be called gritty (a la Shakespeare's use of humor in his tragedies.)

My personal preference is for embedded humor--the moments of laughter, the flashes of wit--rather than a constant stream of banana peel pratfalls, especially in book-length works.  (I found Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in KingArthur's Court tiring after awhile--even--dare I say--boring.)   In short fiction, I enjoy being over-the-top rollicking, but in the books...humor's there, but it's not in-your-face.


Atthys Gage
Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013 12:02 PM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467


I agree with Elizabeth.  I've never tried to be funny for funny's sake, but funny things happen, even in the midsts of very serious goings-on.  During a dramatic rescue scene, one of the guards is playing a handheld Nintendo game.  The good guys get the drop on him (because of his inattention) and tie him up.  As they exit, he asks for the game back.  They give it to him.  This isn't hilarious, but it makes a break in the drama, and reinforces certain characterizations.  Did I plan it out in just that way?  No.  I just thought it was funny.

Life's like that.  So, then, should writing be.   
Duncan Gilman
Posted: Monday, June 24, 2013 1:54 PM
Joined: 5/5/2011
Posts: 1


How many fantasy elements need to be present for a book to be considered fantasy? Just one? Stories like The Green Mile and Little Shop of Horrors come to mind. Is one person (or one plant) enough to constitute fantasy?
 

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