I like this pair of posts by Sherwood Smith: Top Ten things she is tired of reading about in fantasy novels, and now a new companion post: Top Ten things she likes to see in fantasy novels.
Post The First: I wouldn’t personally pick exactly the same Top Ten Tropes I Hate list. For example, #2. I really liked I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER. Come to think of it, I really liked the first season of CRIMINAL MINDS, too. And right now in between working on This Huge Revision, I am re-reading tiny bits of the Shadow Unit shared world thing by Emma Bull and Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear and everyone else I am temporarily forgetting, which btw if you just bought a Kindle, you should really try the Shadow Unit series (I’m talking to you, Craig).
I agree that it takes a special writer to pull off Magical Animal Companions (#10). Not exactly for the same reason that Smith mentions, though partly that. For me, the biggest problem is that the Magical Animal Companion is like a robot. Perfectly trained. Perfectly reliable. It has no personality because it is a robot, not an animal — and certainly not a companion. But when an author DOES pull off a great animal secondary character, then I LOVE that. (I bet Sherwood Smith does, too.) (Speaking of Book View Cafe, I like Duranna Durgin’s corgi).
Okay, but. HERE are the items in the list I would like to get behind and push. I would be happier if I never again saw:
7. Evial Red Priests. I get it that a lot of writers hate organized religion. But I’ve gotten it for forty years. It’s not news, nor is it shocking or edgy. There are far too many books in which the entire purpose of the church is oppression and nothing else–no liturgy, poetry, music, art, plays, debate, no social services, however rudimentary. No sense that there are good or indifferent priests, creative ones, visionary ones, savvy ones, conflicted ones–they all seem to be child-molesting, racist, sexist, narrow-minded nasties. And our heroes are heroes because they are postmodern determinists. I particularly dislike that trope in historical novels: the heroes are all enlightened postmoderns, and the villains believe in that particular era’s paradigm.
8. Primitive Utopias. ….Primitive life isn’t comfortable, it’s maybe a step above basic survival. Primitive life means it’s hard to keep clean, hard to keep warm, hard to stay fed without something really nasty getting in your innards, and then you really wish the facilities weren’t primitive. A realistic primitive life story might gain more of my respect–but not my interest. I have to admit my interests lie with art and with evolving civilization.
Yeah, what she said. Absolutely.
Okay, now, stuff Sherwood Smith picks out that she likes: disguises, amnesia, intrigues, capers.
For me personally, amnesia is not a Thing. Disguises, though. I like the girl-dressing-as-boy trope. No reason really, I just do. Luckily a lot of other authors like that one, too.
Plus, Sherwood mentions amazing plot twists as a Thing. Yeah, not actually necessary, but if the author really pulls it off, it can be amazing.
I like my protagonists to have a moral code, maybe even a sense of honor, though it isn’t easy or convenient, and the numinous is going to catch my heart every time.
I have two more books by Sherwood Smith on my Kindle, btw. Or, I don’t know, maybe three? I know one is A POSSE OF PRINCESSES, but I can’t remember the others. When I eventually read them, I’m sure I’ll be asking all of you where I should go next. Big backlist from Smith, I know.