After having been recently disappointed by a number of Newer fantasy volumes, I've decided to try and figure out exactly where I would place them on a theoretical table of classification.
I make no bones about it, they are definitely fantasy fiction. They have all the hallmarks of not only Sword and Sorcery, but also of Epic Fantasy due to their length. Yet they also tend to eschew "traditional" elements. They tend to inhabit worlds which don't boast a plethora of sapient life forms like so many of the Tolkienite Fantasies did.. Instead taking more of a page from E.R. Eddison.. Despite the names of the nations in his world.. they were all clearly one race of beings, not literally Witches and Demons and Goblins and Imps fighting one another.. This isn't a bad thing mind you, it is a nice change to see it rather than the inherit preposterous of every book having a team made of an Elf, A Man and A Dwarf.. sometimes with a halfling thrown in for good measure.. So thats one item.
1. Human only worlds, or extreme human majority worlds are interesting but neither are an obvious sticking point.
So that brings up the next thing.. since having only humans dosen't make me un happy about the books.. I'm still looking for something that does. Is it a lack of or over reliance on magic? Lots of books have magical characters, but not every book employs them in the same way.. Gandalf is never shown lobbing a fireball at anyone.. but it doesn't make him any less of a wizard. So I don't think it is that.. I rather like the Wheel of Time books.. and the battles in those can only be described as reminding me of all those videos of the first gulf war shown on CNN.. due to all the Magic being tossed around. So Magic system or lack there of is unimportant.
2. Magic system or lack there of is unimportant.
alright.. tropes, having your characters eat Stew while on the road is annoying.. since its logistically tricky.. but it also says a lot about people who thats all they can think of when they imagine "Rustic" food.. Stew.. It's not as bad as the stories which go to great length to show how alien their foods are either.. I'm looking squarely at World of Warcraft here.. with its merlock eye and buzzard beak fritters or what have you.. or in the Sword of Truth books where the characters happily partake in a little ritual cannibalism..
3. Food items and the manner in which they are described does some what bother me.. but so long as its done either earnestly or simply because its a "trope" its generally such a small thing I can ignore it if I want.. but as a person who is fairly open to trying new things, within reason, I'm pretty open to all manner of food as presented in books..
Setting, setting is very important.. one of my main gripes with the Conan stories.. is that so many of them take place in deserts or dust blown mountain ranges or fetid jungles... I don't mind those settings.. so long as they are not over used.. my least favorite chapters of Lord of the Rings are basically all of the Frodo and Sam chapters in Return of the King.. simply because of how horrifying Mordor is.. a dry, blasted land of ash and ruin. Jungles to me feel like if one was actually inside of a living being.. crawling around.. and if you stand still to long its natural defenses will attack and consume you. These types of settings in general horrify me.. but I also hate to go any further south than where I am right now.. outside of Atlanta which while hot and humid boasts spectacular numbers of Trees and lots of green.. but just a little further south when one leaves the Peidmont region and goes onto the Coastal plain.. I personally don't like the feeling of the place. This feeling of a location, of Geography, being alien tends to unnerve me the same way in literature. However, I don't like the idea that, just because a group is from a specific geographical location it means they are evil. But I don't mind them being presented as such if your narrator is from the place where the "Other" is attacking.
4. So we are now getting some where, Geography is obviously very important to me. I dislike low laying coastal areas, and prefer the land to be abutted to the sea via Cliffs, with only sporadic sandy or stone beaches. I don't particularly like dry, desolate places, or those which are so sun-baked the earth cracks. I don't like Jungles. Obviously, characters who are simply passing through these areas or are otherwise in them for a short period of time.. I don't mind as much.. maybe this is why I was never particularly fond of either the Barsoom or Tarzan books?
I'll continue in a future installment with a few more topics.. and then see if I can figure out what it actually means.. no promises though..