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June 09, 2006



I was just in Borders last night and bought nothing for myself. But I did buy my best friend 2 books (one of them "what would Bill Hicks say?"...are you familiar with Bill Hicks? If not, you should be, because you would love him) and I bought my dad a Dragonlance book, which I'm sure probably commits a few of the offenses on your list. Ha.


But isn't all that why it's called "fantasy"? In my fantasies, everyone has quadrisyllabic names. Like "Pumpernickel."

Jill S

Love it! I'm sending the link to my husband the gamer! I swear, this is what happens when role players become writers.

Wanda E. Santiago

Go Molly you are my hero in more ways than you know!! Love ya Wanda


I am a big Ann Coulter fan but I do think she was very disrespectful to those 9/11 widows. I wouldn't classify as anymore full of hate than say, Hillary Clinton...

Jennifer Adams Donnelly

As a natural redhead with natural green eyes, I take offense at one of your points... but I'll grant it nonetheless.

And I agree with just about everything else... that's pretty much why I don't even venture into that aisle... it's mostly dreck.

Glad you found something you liked!


Bwahahahahahahhaa. I'm not a Fantasy fan, but I can see oh so many of these just from the covers.

And, I'm thinking, maybe you have to be named Patricia to write a good Fantasty novel?

Amy Sorensen

This was JUST what I needed this morning...a good laugh. I'm hoping you do post that list because I've been in a mood, lately, for some GOOD fantasy but feel I have exhausted the possibilities.

BTW, if I were still teaching I would *SO* turn this into a handout!!! ;)

robert eggleton

Re: open letter to authors...

I think I'm innocent, but judge for yourself by searching the title.

Robert Eggleton
"Rarity from the Hollow"


As to point #2... most authors don't get a choice on what the book is called when it hits the shelves, at least according to what I've seen. Other than that, your points are valid.

Bronze Dog

Love it! I'm sending the link to my husband the gamer! I swear, this is what happens when role players become writers.

I certainly hope I'm a better gamer and writer than any of the cliche doinks referenced in the list.

You know, I've gotten really tired of the "Save the world with a McGuffin!" thing.

Other, related annoyance: Mech genre anime: The super-neo unobtanium prototype mech. If mechs are mass produced in the world, the heros shouldn't have anything beyond slightly customized models. They should get blown up, repaired, and replaced periodically.

The only situation where super-duper mechs should come into play are worlds where mechs of any sort are rare.


A pretty good list. And funny.

There are some exceptions, though:

1. Can't trust the blurb on the back. The blurbs lie. Plot lines from the blurb often have little to do with the plot lines of the books. Heck, I recently read a book where the character the blurb talked about, several times, didn't even exist in the book!

2. As Eva said, I assume most writers don't have complete control of the title. Also, Dark and Fate are bad, but Betrayal and Shadow are good?

4+5. There are real Earth languages and names that sound like that. And personally I'm willing to accept fantasy characters with names that are not late western-European in origin.

11+12+13. About 10%-13% percent of the population in Ireland and Scotland should have red hair. Rough searches show values between 2%, 4% and 6% in the US. Fantasy characters can't have genetic similarities with the Irish? Heck, at the lowest it still means that with only 10 characters in the book one of the has a realistic 20% chance of having red hair. I think that's much higher than the genetic disposition for magic, and fantasy characters are allowed to have that sometimes. I couldn't find a value for green eyes (except for a citation-less wikipedia claim of 2%), but I doubt it's in the entirely unrealistic realm as well.

17. Yes, a benevolent monarchy with a kind, caring, and yet effective, king is a big warning sign. On the other hand, how many other forms of government do we have which are kind, caring, and effective? So don't pick on the poor kings just because they're the only one smart enough to fool everyone for the entire length of the novel into believing they're the good guys.

As for the rest, spot on. Though I am merciful and tend to allow even adverbs their place, just as long as they behave.


I freakin' love Ann Coulter.


*chuckle* Guilty. I've done almost everything on this list in at least some form. I'd say I'm getting better at not including some things, but there are certain points (like "Save the world with this sword!") that I use, not because I can't use something else, but because I require the imagery (who calls it 'visual imagery' any more?) that comes along with it to fulfill the comedic side of my story.

Janice in GA

There are certain folks whose blurbs on a book make me IMMEDIATELY put the book back on the shelf. /coughAnnMcCaffreycough/ They serve as an anti-incentive to me.


As for #17: It's fantasy! If you can put up with dragons and ogres, you can put up with altruistic kings.

I recommend as #21: never read anyone who writes more than 12 books based in one fantasy world. They inevitably are all identical to each other.


John Seavey

I recommend highly 'The Tough Guide to Fantasyland', by Diana Wynne Jones, which is apparently back in print (I have the older edition.) It's an A to Z guide to this kind of fantasy cliche, covering (among other things) red-haired heroines, Magick, rhymes, Good Monarchs, and the like. You'll love it.

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Never leave that until tomorrow, which you can do today.

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I agree. The old favourites never fail me when I'm restless or just can't settle or have just read a terrific book & nothing else seems right as the next read. Rereading can be blissful.

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So don't pick on the poor kings just because they're the only one smart enough to fool everyone for the entire length of the novel into believing they're the good guys.


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