What's the worst thing fantasy authors do?

What's the worst thing fantasy authors do?

  • Infodump

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • Overly graphical sex or gore

    Votes: 3 8.3%
  • Take too much time writing next in a series

    Votes: 15 41.7%
  • Kill off favoured characters

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Make up words

    Votes: 5 13.9%
  • Fail to engage with their readers

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Be too familiar /presumptive with their readers

    Votes: 1 2.8%
  • Rehash old ideas

    Votes: 3 8.3%
  • Get defensive about their work

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • Add lots of rambling description

    Votes: 15 41.7%
  • Become obsessed with relationships in their work

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • Exploit feminity in some way

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • Deus ex machina

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • Consider themselves morally enlightened and wise

    Votes: 10 27.8%
  • "Of course, as you know..." Protags explaining plot

    Votes: 7 19.4%
  • "Nebulous, poorly explained magic systems"

    Votes: 4 11.1%

  • Total voters
    36

Bierschneeman

Journeyed there and back again
#42
I always felt deus ex machine implied a miraculous escape for the heroes whether it involved a god's interference or not (more likely the author who saves his hero).
Good point, maybe I should rename it as Diablos ex machina for GRRMARTIN.
technically
 

atheling

A Poet of the Khaiem
#43
I don't think the prologue to GotM (Erikson) was an infodump: how could it possibly be, he didn't give you even one scrap of useful information?

Actually, I'm not sure what the purpose was. It was kinda like certain (old?) TV shows that (used to?) do a throwaway intro scene before the opening credits, sometimes related to the main plot but sometimes just a total nonsequitur. With Malazan, it really wasn't very important and it could have been treated as backstory (and he's clearly not afraid of backstory).
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#44
I always felt deus ex machine implied a miraculous escape for the heroes whether it involved a god's interference or not (more likely the author who saves his hero).
A miraculous escape can certainly qualify as a DEM, if it is facilitated by some external force that previously didn't play much part in the story, and it feels as if the crisis was resolved out of the blue. The way we use the term, it doesn't have to be a god per se (hence why Tolkien's eagles are considered an example). An author bailing their character out, as you mention, can be a DEM with the right elements present.
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#45
A miraculous escape can certainly qualify as a DEM, if it is facilitated by some external force that previously didn't play much part in the story, and it feels as if the crisis was resolved out of the blue. The way we use the term, it doesn't have to be a god per se (hence why Tolkien's eagles are considered an example). An author bailing their character out, as you mention, can be a DEM with the right elements present.
Weren't the eagles Maiar and thus some sort of demi-gods?
 

rudyjuly2

Journeyed there and back again
#47
I did not vote for poorly explained magic systems but when you are reading a series and suddenly a new form of magic is available to save the day (Dex) it annoys me. I think magic being overly powerful is a real danger too. If one person is nearly invincible and capable of killing thousands easily it almost becomes pointless. I had read the firehurler trilogy (a solid indie series that starts well and goes a bit downhill) and this is an example of that. Who needs an army when one man can win every battle no matter the odds?

I do think magic systems can be loosely defined and making them too rigid can lead to problems. I like old school and new magic systems. Sometimes it's refreshing to go back to runes and wards.
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#48
Weren't the eagles Maiar and thus some sort of demi-gods?
Tolkien went back and forth on this, and I don't think there is a definitive answer. From what I recall, nothing in the books really supports or contradicts either interpretation, so it's open season. There's only what Tolkien wrote about the eagles outside of the books (in his letters mostly), which, as said, he changed his mind on. It is kind of funny though to think of the eagles as literal dei ex machina.

And when my kid asks why they just didn't have an eagle fly Frodo where he wants to go i don't even know what to say lol.
This remains the best way of rattling a Tolkien enthusiast.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#49
I picked takes too long also, but in thinking about it my main peeve is when the author seems to be there, as an overriding character. The quality books to me are those that tell a story and don't give an impression of the author being there, allowing me to become immersed in the tale. Allan Batchelder is great with this. Obviously David Gemmell was. I will be so bold as to say that this is the main thing that separates the great big-house published famous authors from the indie world. Every book by the glitterati has an author who disappears. Now some indies do learn this and become big and some like Allan do it unconsciously like the out of the box greats.

Otherwise I don't like the lack of dark crunchy bits.
 

Theophania

Journeyed there and back again
#50
what you describe are more like straining the reader's acceptance of the story or plot holes. Deus ex machina is when the conflict in the plot is resolved suddenly by an external force, hitherto not (or only barely) involved in the story.
I tend to view deus ex machina as not having to be a person - for me, it's anything that suddenly turns up and solves the characters' problem - whether it's the immediate problem or the whole book. Under that definition, one could describe a sudden secret passageway as a deus ex machina - it might be inanimate, but its sudden and unheralded appearance in the story enables the immediate conflict to be resolved (by letting the characters get away from an otherwise impossible situation).

For me, a plot hole is a gap that all the characters are ignoring. Aan example of a plot hole would be... I once read a detective story where the villain committed murders and other crimes to cover up what was essentially a surrogate pregnancy arrangement. This was set in the UK, and surrogacy is legal in the UK. So there was no reason to commit the crimes. Massive plot hole.

Quite often, it seems to me that a deus ex machina gets wheeled onto stage in order to fix a plot hole...
 
Last edited:

Darwin

Journeyed there and back again
#51
The worst thing? Some things not on that list come to mind: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Zimmer_Bradley

Outside child molestation, my biggest pet peeve is probably authors who are repetitive overexplainers. Sure, we're 3/4th of the way through the third book in the series, and the protagonist is in the middle of a fight for his life, but please go ahead and dedicate the next page to restate the rules of magic just one more time. Don't let having already explained how this works 400 times stop you from repeating it. Better yet, have the characters think or say the rules. Of course that doesn't make them look crazy or stupid!

This is a bit different from the options "infodump" and "rehash old ideas". I actually like the rare infodump if it's done well, and plenty of old ideas deserve rehashing.

IMO, this overexplaining phenomenon is a particularly strong argument against Sanderson-style rule-based magic systems. I'll take a nebulus, poorly explained magic system over an overexplained one any day. IMO, poorly explained magic makes sense. Let's take any 5 random people from our world and have them explain the 'rules' of biotechnology or particle physics.
 

Anti_Quated

Journeyed there and back again
#52
@rudyjuly2 if you will forgive me for being pedantic, what you describe are more like straining the reader's acceptance of the story or plot holes. Deus ex machina is when the conflict in the plot is resolved suddenly by an external force, hitherto not (or only barely) involved in the story. It comes from Greek theatre when an actor dressed as a god was lowered onto the stage via a contraption to resolve the conflict in the play (because gods, even just actors dressed as gods, were not allowed to be in contact with unholy ground, and Greek tragedies by virtue of being tragedies would always have had some kind of atrocity taking place on the scene).
It also helped to establish the necessity of 'divine influence' above that of mortals in resolving some of the more complicated aspects of their mores. The Oresteia, as an example, has the Athena DEM to provide a divine agency for calling off the Erinyes and absolving Orests of his blood-guilt, but also serves to reminds the audience that vengeance, even when seeming to perfectly adhere and conform to the notion of dike/justice, should not be meted out at the hands of an individual or state, but left to the nebulous discernment of the higher powers. In this way you give the audience catharsis and relief that Orestes has avenged his father and comes into his own right, but is spared the hounding and rending at the hands of the Furies, whilst simultaneously acknowledged as a beneficiary of Athena's wisdom and prudence. It also somewhat echoes Zeus own self-serving but ultimately wise intervention after copulating with Metis and then swallowing her, thus negating the potential for another patricidal castration cycle of divine violence between the Olympian Father and bastard Son (as Zeus and Kronos, and Kronos and Ouranos before).

Instead, we get Athena as the embodiment of wisdom (the root meaning of Metis, hence Pro-metheus as 'forethought'), Athena is begat as the progeny proper, emerging fully armed and grown; a warlike daughter who will not usurp her father where the son was prophecied to. That said, you can contrast the same function as with bloody Medea after her whole 'hell hath no fury' bit when she gets whisked off in the chariot and spared from punitive remuneration or reproach (and it wasn't mere ekthesis/exposure to the elements of malformed or sickly newborns with her infanticide). Nasty, odious wretch. Again, such judgements are seemingly the province of the Gods, for who else could in their own mind reasonably or righteously exonerate such a foul, callous act?

In the Classical sense, leastways, Deus Ex Machina I take no issue with; it served a profoundly important societal (and mechanical) function within the context of Tragedy so I'm far kinder to Euripides than a modern writer employing the same device. Context appropriate, I suppose.

My only real gripe with fantasy authors and their tricks is overt political grandstanding and issue baiting. If I read your work and it appears more as a slightly subtle lecture on how the world should really be and what makes a person good/bad enlightened/ignorant than an actual story, I find it tiresome and detracts from my immersion and enjoyment. Same, oddly enough, for gorn for the sake of it. Spare no detail, however vulgar, obscene, or horrible, I can hack it - provided it serves a purpose than mere masochistic titillation. The Broken Empire trilogy ended up this way for me and ruined what might have been an otherwise decent trilogy.
 

Darwin

Journeyed there and back again
#53
Gorn is an excellent word. I don't know if you meant gore or if gorn is actually a word, but it seems like it should be. Google gave me "The Gorn are a fictional extraterrestrial humanoid reptilian species in the American science fiction franchise Star Trek" which is probably the greatest answer it's given me for a word I didn't know since I googled Santorum.
 

Anti_Quated

Journeyed there and back again
#54
:D
Portmanteaus are fun, though I can't claim credit for that one. Don't recall where I picked it up; torture porn is inefficient, Gorn is so much more fluid.
 

Theophania

Journeyed there and back again
#55
My only real gripe with fantasy authors and their tricks is overt political grandstanding and issue baiting. If I read your work and it appears more as a slightly subtle lecture on how the world should really be and what makes a person good/bad enlightened/ignorant than an actual story, I find it tiresome and detracts from my immersion and enjoyment.
Oh, yes. There is nothing more likely to make me stop reading an author's books (or blog posts, or anything else) than being lectured at. I can cope with pretty much everything else, up to a point (within the genres I read), but authors pushing their sociopolitical point is an instant turnoff to the point of I'll-never-read-anything-by-that-author-again-even-if-it's-a-note-begging-me-to-save-them-from-a-serial-killer.

Terry Pratchett, though, could do social commentary brilliantly. His social commentary, and his political points, were woven into the story so well that it improved the narrative rather than detracting from it. I think part of this is that all his characters are individuals: they do things for their own reasons, and he doesn't subscribe to "this group of people are all good" or "this group are all bad". Everyone is human, with a full range of strengths and weaknesses, good qualities and bad.
 

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#56
Allowing a bad translation.
Do authors have any saying regarding who translates their work? Does the author have any control over which translator the publishers chooses?
This is the second time in 6 weeks, I’m tempted to give up a book purely down to the quality of the translation.
We are talking French/Spanish (source/target) Two majority languages, in which the offer for translators in both directions is HUGE. Besides, two latin based languages with many similarities in grammar and semantics. We are not talking translating from Punjabi to Norwegian?
Why using unchartered literary translators with clumsy, clanky, disjointed syntax, falling for “false friends” traps? Cost, of course.
However, I believe it is a mistake ignoring the value for translated books in the market. Besides, all the hard work an author puts into his/her book, can be thrown away after 40 pages of painful reading.
I shall finish the book though. I love Fred Vargas. And I know it's not her fault...
 

Theophania

Journeyed there and back again
#57
As far as I know, traditionally-published authors have very little control over what happens to their book - even the cover art, let alone the translator. I've read a couple of translations too lately - one from Danish, one from Japanese - both had the odd word or phrase that hadn't translated right. However, one thing I particularly enjoyed were the 'Danishisms' or 'Japaneseisms' - where you can spot the cultural differences when characters do or say something that they wouldn't do/say in the UK.

It's always interesting to see the little ways that people from different places do the same daily tasks/same social interactions in slightly different ways. Presumably non-British readers spot Britishisms...
 

Diziet Sma

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#59
As far as I know, traditionally-published authors have very little control over what happens to their book - even the cover art, let alone the translator.
I don’t know the first thing about publishers. If what you are saying is correct then, it is a real shame. In this particular case, it will be detrimental to the book sales. I think readers’ loyalty to an author has a limit.

both had the odd word or phrase that hadn't translated right. However, one thing I particularly enjoyed were the 'Danishisms' or 'Japaneseisms' - where you can spot the cultural differences when characters do or say something that they wouldn't do/say in the UK.
What you are referring to, is what we call in the translation jargon a problem of "non-equivalence", and therefore a "loan word" is used. Sometimes this is a necessary evil. When used sporadically can add a sense of character, quirkiness to the narrative.

The problem I was encountering was simply a case of a bad translation work e.g., incorrect use of verb correspondence in subordinate clauses, adding a direct complement to an intransitive verb, mixing up direct/indirect personal pronouns et al.

For a non trained eye, it will simply come across as bad narrative: cumbersome, awkward, inelegant. This is why I have been pulling my hair. Fred Vargas’ style is everything but maldroit.
 

Theophania

Journeyed there and back again
#60
I have to ask, which one? And getting curious too, what kind of cultural differences did you spot?
To be fair, the Danish one wasn't fantasy: it was The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler-Olsen (police procedural/detective story). The obvious difference was that 'summer schools' seemed to be a Danish thing, with students ranging in age from teenagers to middle-aged. It's not, really, in the UK. There were a couple of other smaller things, and a couple of phrases that made me think "that's probably translated directly from a Danish phrase", because it was something a British person probably wouldn't say.

The Gate of Sorrows
is Japanese young-adult, and - unsurprisingly - there are a lot more cultural differences. Not only people bowing and using chopsticks and some other interesting tidbits about life in suburban Tokyo, but I'm wondering if the entire book doesn't show a cultural difference between American YA and Japanese YA. It's ~600 pages long, and a much slower burn. The plot is 'smaller' - as in, the world doesn't need saving. And there's no teenage angst, and no love-triangle. No romance, really, in fact. There is, instead, an actual plot, and a running theme about the power of words and desires. I'd recommend it for people who want a rather more thoughtful read.