April 09, 2020, 01:57:03 AM

Author Topic: Cursing in Fantasy  (Read 12369 times)

Offline michaelramm

Cursing in Fantasy
« on: January 22, 2011, 01:09:39 PM »
To go along with the 'Sex in Fantasy' topic, what are your thoughts on the rampant use of cursing in fantasy.

The only real problem that I have is the use of the F word. I cannot stand that word, and I have found its use more frequently (Lies of Locke Lamora and Way of the Shadows). I fear that it is ploy for modern writers who don't want to take the time to have their characters express their frustration in a more creative way.

It also seems that the F word is the only word that has made it into the fantasy realms. I don't see a lot of other traditional curse words making it through, except for the many variations on whore, which I am not to keen on.

What are your thoughts? I am especially interested in what our English (Great Britain) folks think. I would have thought that the use of that kind of language would be frowned upon.

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Offline redhead

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2011, 03:57:38 PM »
I'm at the complete other end of the spectrum.

I don't mind the use of occassional (or frequent) adult language in fantasy novels. In fact, if I had to choose between graphic violence, graphic sex, or graphic adult language, I'd take the language anyday.  To me, the ocassional swear word can add weight and seriousness to a conversation, and giving a character a complete potty mouth can add an additional dimension to their personality, even if it's an unsavory dimension.

I can easily see why many readers aren't interested, or are even uncomfortable with foul language.  Many members here are parents who want to share their favorite fantasy novels with their teenage children, or we dream of one day sharing our favorite fantasy novels with our children. How can you put that book into their hands, knowing their are going to repeat all the giggle-worthy phrases in it?  Many people too, are just plain uncomfortable with foul language that can, quite frankly, cheapen the experience.

But. . .  I'm a crass American. Make that a very crass American.  I watch my language around children and at the workplace (usually), but otherwise, I've got quite the potty mouth, and am often entertained to read adult language in novels.

Offline Tiffany Kysis Tackett

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2011, 04:08:17 PM »
I guess language works in urban fantasy.  However, if I see it in epic/high fantasy or medieval fantasy, I'm not happy.  It just doesn't seem to fit the world.  If they want to have something vulgar, they should come up with it themselves, all the more since those often don't take place on Earth, and thus wouldn't have had the same evolution of language.

I, too, am a rather crass American, though.  I do not, however, write like that.  It would detract from the story, in all honestly (except my short stories, which are a completely different genre).

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2011, 04:43:01 PM »
I don't curse in real life, but generally speaking most people do. :)  I don't mind it in books, the same way I don't mind it in movies.  Too much takes away from the story, but if the scene calls for it then that's okay.  I think stories (both books and movies) where the F-word is overused seem lazily written.  There are so many more interesting ways to curse, relying on F*** as a crutch just makes me think they need a thesaurus. ;)

In the story I'm working on, my characters curse to a certain extent, which surprised all my beta readers, because as I said I don't curse.  But I don't use the F-word and characters from different areas of life curse differently depending on their background.  I thought about not using cursing at all, but if, for example, you get shot, the likelihood is you are going to let loose some extremely colorful language regardless of who you are.  Leaving that out kind of takes away from the realness of the moment. ;)

Offline Rhevian

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2011, 05:25:16 PM »
What are your thoughts? I am especially interested in what our English (Great Britain) folks think. I would have thought that the use of that kind of language would be frowned upon.

An a brit who doesn't swear very much, I don't think I have ever been shocked or concerned by coarse language in any of the fantasy books I have read - if anything I think the British are probably more broad-minded about this than (parts of) America

Offline Blodeuedd

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2011, 05:30:54 PM »
I have no problem with it, I swear...a lot ::)

To make this short

Anyway I do like when authors use their own curses and such, like in WOT. But if people wanna say F then they can say it, cos people do swear
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Offline Zziz

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2011, 06:01:41 PM »
I've got no problem with cursing, as long as its well done. Of course Durzo Blint curses like a sailor, man! Look at his life style. Look at the people he has associated with his entire life, and the line of work he's in. You think he's going to be some prim-mouthed ninny?

If anything, the cursing makes Durzo Blint a more believable character.

Also, nobody curses like the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, but in my opinion it makes them all the better.

Offline The Mad Hatter

Cultural Issues
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2011, 08:10:42 PM »

Ah yes. The same things being discussed in the Sex in Fantasy thread.

Let's take the F-Word. FUCK.

In the United States you don't hear the word that much. You'll never hear it on broadcast TV. In Canada you'll hear it a lot. Including on broadcast TV.

It's like nipples. In the United States the entire country freaked out, and they didn't even see Janet Jackson's nipple, they saw the thing she was wearing on it. In Canada, well, you see nipples on TV. I've seen them on the 6:00 News, I've seen them in dramas (I highly recommend Moccasin Flats, a Canadian drama. Brits won't have any problem with it, but Americans will probably shit themselves over the language and amount of skin).

Americans think that their culture is normal. According to the rest of the world, Americans are a bunch of prudish weirdos.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter

Offline OneChapterMore

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2011, 12:47:39 AM »
I have to say Zziz has a good point, and Wayne perhaps also.

Maybe it is a culture thing, but, so what? The swear? Fuck it we all swear. A downtown, urban character has right to swear. It would be odd is he didn't, unless he's sophisticated (e.g. Kell in Final Empire). And all the bollocks about 'children' and 'giggle-worthy' - If you don't want your child to read it, don't give it to them. You don't give it to them, its all the more likely they'll want it and get it for themselves. You can't mollycoddle children when it comes to art and the media. Simple fact.

I'll give you an example: a guy came into the bookstore not long ago and bought a copy of 'Howl, Kadish & other Poems) by Alan Ginsberg for his 14 y/o daughter. Now its not the most daring of poems, but its certainly not the most conservative either. His comment? I wouldn't have bought this 20 years ago, but now she can get it on the internet, and I might as well get it the right way. Spot on that man.

Children and teenagers will always rebel, always want more. Its the way life is. So the 'children' argument, IMO, doesn't work.

Swearing is realistic. As is sex. If you want your writing to come across realistically, then use the right vocabulary - both Sanderson without swearing and Lynch with get it spot on for their environments and characters.
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Offline Dan D Jones

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2011, 01:31:57 AM »
I'm surprised no one's mentioned this (at least, I don't think they have) in either the sex topic or this one but fantasy grew out of fairy tales.  Tolkien's books, which essentially founded the genre, are absolutely redolent of childhood and innocence.  Additionally, most fans began reading the genre when they were in their teens.  Adding sex and vulgarity to fantasy can therefore feel like corruption.

I can sympathize with that, and I hope there will always be a place in the genre for stories which strive to recreate that magical innocence that makes some of the classics so special.  But I also feel that fantasy is vast enough to encompass more mature fare.  I'm not fond of either sex or cursing that feels as though it was included gratuitously or for shock value.  I have no problems with either if they fit the story being told.  Fantasy is full of warriors and monsters.  The antagonists are often depicted as the very epitome of evil.  The protagonists are often placed in impossible situations, faced with overwhelming odds that threaten not only their own lives but those of their entire kingdom or their very world.  Traditional works look at all of this through the misty lens of romanticism.  More modern stories strive for more authenticity, to connect with the real human anguish and the utter brutality that such a situation would truly engender.  Real people in those situations are going to curse.  Quite frequently.  If they're writing that type of story, why shouldn't the author write the dialog as it would actually occur?

Offline The Mad Hatter

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2011, 04:21:25 AM »
I'm surprised no one's mentioned this (at least, I don't think they have) in either the sex topic or this one but fantasy grew out of fairy tales.  Tolkien's books, which essentially founded the genre, are absolutely redolent of childhood and innocence.  Additionally, most fans began reading the genre when they were in their teens.  Adding sex and vulgarity to fantasy can therefore feel like corruption.

Um, have you read the original fairy stories? Full of blood, guts, death, poverty, and pain. Yes, the translations that we give to the younger kids are sanitized, but the originals were pretty brutal by today's standards.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter

Offline Dan D Jones

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2011, 04:43:11 AM »
I'm surprised no one's mentioned this (at least, I don't think they have) in either the sex topic or this one but fantasy grew out of fairy tales.  Tolkien's books, which essentially founded the genre, are absolutely redolent of childhood and innocence.  Additionally, most fans began reading the genre when they were in their teens.  Adding sex and vulgarity to fantasy can therefore feel like corruption.

Um, have you read the original fairy stories? Full of blood, guts, death, poverty, and pain. Yes, the translations that we give to the younger kids are sanitized, but the originals were pretty brutal by today's standards.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter


Yeah, I'm quite familiar with the original myths and folk legends.  But I don't refer to the original stories as fairy tales.  Fairy tales are the tame version intended for kids.  The roots of fantasy go way back and are much darker, but fantasy as a literature genre originally took after fairy tales, not the older folk legends.

Offline Overlord

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2011, 04:53:17 AM »
I'm surprised no one's mentioned this (at least, I don't think they have) in either the sex topic or this one but fantasy grew out of fairy tales.  Tolkien's books, which essentially founded the genre, are absolutely redolent of childhood and innocence.  Additionally, most fans began reading the genre when they were in their teens.  Adding sex and vulgarity to fantasy can therefore feel like corruption.

Um, have you read the original fairy stories? Full of blood, guts, death, poverty, and pain. Yes, the translations that we give to the younger kids are sanitized, but the originals were pretty brutal by today's standards.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter


Yeah, I'm quite familiar with the original myths and folk legends.  But I don't refer to the original stories as fairy tales.  Fairy tales are the tame version intended for kids.  The roots of fantasy go way back and are much darker, but fantasy as a literature genre originally took after fairy tales, not the older folk legends.


Indeed... The majority of fairy tales started off as relatively dark fantasy. They sweeten it up now for kids, but if you think about the main concepts behind them - they are pretty scary... princesses being taken captive, little girls being stalked in the woods, etc. Disney and co have put so many spins on them that we now see 'fairy tales' as kids stories, but they certainly weren't written that way.
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Offline The Mad Hatter

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2011, 05:01:02 AM »
Yeah, I'm quite familiar with the original myths and folk legends.  But I don't refer to the original stories as fairy tales.  Fairy tales are the tame version intended for kids.  The roots of fantasy go way back and are much darker, but fantasy as a literature genre originally took after fairy tales, not the older folk legends.

I'll disagree again. Have you read Tarzan? Or the original Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard? Or H.P. Lovecraft's fantasies? All three predate Tolkien, who most people think used Fairy Stories as a base, which he didn't, he used the Eddas, and the Germanic god cycles.

There aren't a lot of works based on Fairy Stories out there.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter

Offline Overlord

Re: Cursing in Fantasy
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2011, 05:21:01 AM »
Yeah, I'm quite familiar with the original myths and folk legends.  But I don't refer to the original stories as fairy tales.  Fairy tales are the tame version intended for kids.  The roots of fantasy go way back and are much darker, but fantasy as a literature genre originally took after fairy tales, not the older folk legends.

I'll disagree again. Have you read Tarzan? Or the original Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard? Or H.P. Lovecraft's fantasies? All three predate Tolkien, who most people think used Fairy Stories as a base, which he didn't, he used the Eddas, and the Germanic god cycles.

There aren't a lot of works based on Fairy Stories out there.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter


I think most Fantasy Novels are based on broad ranges of things... take a lot at most fantasy novels and you could compare them to fairy tales. Little Red Riding Hood (Helpless Hero goes out on a quest to save her dying Grandmother but is pursued by an evil foe), Sleeping Beauty (A princess has had a spell case upon her and needs a brave/fearless knight to rescue her), and so on.

I think it would be hard to say fantasy is based on either/or really... Fantasy is the creation of ones mind, we don't have rules so we can shape it how we feel. Tying it back into Cursing in Fantasy... I guess it is the same thing... A writer who quite openly swears and sees it as an acceptable part of their culture will no doubt be more willing and think less of putting it into their writing.
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