August 15, 2020, 08:25:25 AM

Author Topic: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction  (Read 1816 times)

Offline Elfy

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Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #30 on: January 11, 2020, 10:58:11 PM »
I found Rap, the main character in Dave Duncan’s A Man of His Word series to be like that. He was rather ‘Samlike’ in his ordanariness, but he did gain power (more by accident than design) and no matter what happened to him he never lost sight of his original mission and eventually got through by sheer strength of will and perseverance.
The original Dragonlance books contained a few character of that heroic type, but the most popular character for many people was the greyest of the band; Raistlin, the consumptive mage.
People love a good anti hero, and every good hero has to have a flaw, it’s what makes them more interesting.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2020, 01:39:38 AM by Elfy »
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline cupiscent

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #31 on: January 11, 2020, 11:44:33 PM »
I find that the interesting characters are found in the middle. Characters who firmly believe in doing good, but understand that their ability to do so is limited and they have to make decisions about where their abilities and efforts are best put to use. Characters who have to question if their choices in that regard were right and whether they should change their current path or continue the way they are doing now.

This resonates with something that's been filtering out of my thinking about this. I was thinking about recent books I'd rec containing "heroism" and found that I was boiling it down to a two-part essential core: find the good thing; do the good thing.

For me, the first part of that is the most interesting: finding the good thing. Stories where the right thing to do is straightforward and clear-cut and the story is just about obstacles in the way of doing it... I'm not so interested in those. Stories where there are many competing views of the world and it's less obvious what is "right"... those are really interesting to me, watching characters working through and crystalising their own priorities and having to make hard choices and all that sort of thing.

So with all that in mind, some things I've read in the past few years that I think were excellent, and that focus on characters who want to do the right thing finding and doing that right thing:
 - Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon - warrior ladies from three different and disparate cultures work to defeat the Great Enemy, overcoming the prejudices that would pit them against each other.
 - KA Doore's Chronicles of Ghadid, first book The Perfect Assassin - a family clan of assassins in a fascinating desert city, but their contracts and their focus is entirely on justice and the best interests of their city, taking on necromancers and their undead creations.
 - Melissa Caruso's Sword and Fire trilogy, first book The Tethered Mage - heavy on the politics alongside the action, but always firmly concentrated on doing the right thing, complete with our main character facing an actual trolley problem, and having to wrestle with having made that decision.
 - City of Lies by Sam Hawke - also heavy on the politics, and very heavy on the finding the right thing part, with a lot of confronting the glorious city's dark past and realising that amends need to be made. Sometimes heroism isn't swinging a sword, it's holding out a hand and admitting fault.
 - RJB's Divine Cities trilogy, first book City of Stairs - as @ScarletBea said upthread, these books are very much about finding and doing the right thing, in a world where a lot of history and conflict has rendered that a difficult thing to navigate.

Offline Peat

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #32 on: January 12, 2020, 01:42:37 AM »
I think perhaps a focus on what happens when two tribes meet, and finding the right thing to do, over defending one's own tribe and finding how to do the right thing, might be why less people now write action-adventure with a straight forwards sincere belief that it's a good thing. Bleary sleepy thought I might not have expressed well.
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Offline Peat

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #33 on: January 12, 2020, 11:21:41 AM »

Anyway, these books get written. I don't think they are any fewer than in earlier times. When we recall the reading of our youth, we tend to recall what is good, forget what was forgettable, and overlook the fact that *most* books back in the day we never read in the first place. And alot of it was garbage.

And, of course, this being a writers and readers forum, the conventional advice applies: go write what you want to read.

The bolded is very true. I enjoyed far more of the books I read when I was young, but I read far less authors; I only really read the "blockbuster" fantasy authors. Plenty of authors who went unnoticed.

The rest though... I dunno. There are a few things I find myself craving to read and haven't been able to find, or at least not ones I want to read. That whole "fate of the entire world" size Epic Fantasy is a lot less common. Books with a genuine sense of adventure; the good old fantasy quest. I wouldn't mind seeing a Tolkien-esque elf. And so on. And of course, there's a few of them (but a lot of them have bounced off me for various reasons) in the mainstream. And there's a lot of them in the not-mainstream, but that's a real churn.

And, yes, I can write what I want to see. But it's not the same pleasure.


No, but I'm more referring to the character viewpoint and not the world in general. A character that truly believes that the world is a good place and that people are in their hearts pure often displays naivety as a trait.

It's like they do what they do because the world is good and they are just righting wrongs. They are 'restoring' the world to the way it should be, as opposed to making the world what they want it to be.

Having a hard time defining it properly. I guess maybe the naive character will care because the world is a good place, rather than the cynical character caring because they think it should be a good place.

It's like the naive character isn't special, they don't see themselves as special, and there's often humility to them. The cynical one would see the world as broken and that it's their place to fix it.

Struggling to find the right words. Hopefully some of that made some sort of sense.

I get what you mean now and yes, I do enjoy naive MCs a lot and you might have a point about there being less of them.


None of those counter means the hero cannot have a sense of humour or be a bit goofy. The image of a hero being a well built, good looking, dependable, larger than life person who is solemn, kind and just is a cliche/stereotype. Tue heroism has no relevance to humour, goofiness or physical appearance.

In LotR, Sam is my true hero.  He has no skin in the game apart from friendship and braves death just for that. There is no destiny or fate or anything that can explain his actions. Simple and heroic. He goofs around...but never once wavers from what he does and is a source of strength for Frodo to complete his quest. Despite his character, Sam is probably the most sincere of all the characters in the series.

Yes and no. Mostly yes, but when the sense of humour undercuts the gravitas of what they're doing constantly, no. I'm thinking mainly of Marvel superheroes here.

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Offline Yora

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #34 on: January 12, 2020, 11:35:55 AM »
The technical term is "bathos", and the Marvel movies are infamous for it.
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Offline Peat

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #35 on: January 12, 2020, 12:58:22 PM »
The technical term is "bathos", and the Marvel movies are infamous for it.

Yes. And I'd forgotten it. And in googling the word, I found the ****Marvel sub-reddit, and I found a video contrasting Wonder Woman with Marvel and containing this quote:

"Cheesy is one of the words banned in my world. I'm tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing.

It's been 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied away from sincerity, real sincerity, because they feel they have to wink at the audience because that's what the kids like"

Which is the argument in a nutshell.

And I think there's a crap ton of sincerity in Fantasy, but very little in the fun adventure section. That's pretty much the whole of it.

Offline Bender

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #36 on: January 12, 2020, 03:43:30 PM »

Yes and no. Mostly yes, but when the sense of humour undercuts the gravitas of what they're doing constantly, no. I'm thinking mainly of Marvel superheroes here.

I don't think Gravitas is a necessity for heroism. Reason why movies like Deadpool are so popular. Nothing wrong in having Irreverent heroes!

Pixar has the right recipe in Toy story, Incredibles etc.
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Offline Yora

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #37 on: January 12, 2020, 07:02:12 PM »
Sure, it's not wrong. It can have it's place. But it's not fitting for everything all the time to the exclusion of sincere heroism in contemporary entertainment.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

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Offline Matthew

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #38 on: January 12, 2020, 07:16:33 PM »
If it was so prevalent in the past, shouldn't there still be plenty left to read? ;)

On a more serious note, I think a lot of military sci-fi might have what you're looking for.

I'd also like to reiterate that sincerity is harder to maintain through a series and that maybe the push towards them buries a lot of standalone novels making them more harder to discover rather than them not being written at all.

Offline Peat

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #39 on: January 12, 2020, 10:57:32 PM »

Yes and no. Mostly yes, but when the sense of humour undercuts the gravitas of what they're doing constantly, no. I'm thinking mainly of Marvel superheroes here.

I don't think Gravitas is a necessity for heroism. Reason why movies like Deadpool are so popular. Nothing wrong in having Irreverent heroes!

Pixar has the right recipe in Toy story, Incredibles etc.

I think you're misreading me. A hero can be irreverent without the story being irreverent towards heroism.

And they can certainly be funny. Look at all of the big stories that we've talked about as being sincere. Harry Potter - full of humour and Harry's full of one-liners and disrespect. Star Wars? Han Solo. Lord of the Rings? Pippin and Merry are very irreverent and Gandalf has some great zingers towards them on occasion. And as mentioned, Sam's not a super solemn guy either.

But these stories have gravitas when it is necessary. They cut the jokes when things get dramatic. The Dresden Files does it too. Harry Dresden can't keep his gob shut most of the time. He's irreverent as all hell. But when he's hurt, when he's angry... he drops it all and just heroes it. Or suffers. Or whatever.

My point is that there are moments for laughter and there are moments for tears and all the things in between, and getting them confused robs a story of its impact. It doesn't have to be gravitas all the time, just some.

Compare to Dr Strange having his moment where he embraces his heroic identity:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHmOnU90Xn0

The joke there ruins it for me. It doesn't fit because it's a big dramatic resolution moment, and the contrast between joke and drama felt wrong. And because of it not fitting, it's like the story doesn't even believe in its own dramatic worth.

Which completely robs it of all sincerity.

It is 100% bathos and I think it makes for bad stories. I know a lot of people really like it, but that's okay, they're all wrong.

Most recent example of me feeling like this in fantasy was Red Country. Every Cosca scene felt like a farce. Which is fine! Except -  Shy/Lamb scenes felt like serious business. The contrast between the two didn't sit well.


Also - Deadpool did feel sincere about what it was and its dramatic moments. Because it doesn't lose its tone at all - parody/comedy from beginning to end.
This is the blog of Peat - http://peatlong.blogspot.co.uk/

Offline Bender

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #40 on: January 13, 2020, 12:08:41 AM »
I know a lot of people really like it, but that's okay, they're all wrong.

 ;D ;D
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"Who needs science when you have a dragon?" - Neil DeGrasse Tyson in Sharknado 6

Offline Yora

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #41 on: January 14, 2020, 02:52:44 PM »
It is 100% bathos and I think it makes for bad stories. I know a lot of people really like it, but that's okay, they're all wrong.

I've come to the conclusion that I am probably a snob. Which might not be a bad thing.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #42 on: January 14, 2020, 06:37:27 PM »
It is 100% bathos and I think it makes for bad stories. I know a lot of people really like it, but that's okay, they're all wrong.

I've come to the conclusion that I am probably a snob. Which might not be a bad thing.
Of course not! I totally accept I'm a snob on certain things too ;D
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Offline Peat

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #43 on: January 14, 2020, 11:30:03 PM »
I'm not a snob, I am merely a freak of nature blessed with impeccable taste. Some people run fast, some people are very smart, I just like everything good which obviously means that if I don't like it, well..  :P

Offline Bender

Re: Sincerity in modern fantasy fiction
« Reply #44 on: January 15, 2020, 09:55:18 PM »
I'm not a snob, I am merely a freak of nature blessed with impeccable taste. Some people run fast, some people are very smart, I just like everything good which obviously means that if I don't like it, well..  :P

"I shall hunt your firstborn children and laugh with glee as I tell them of your death in terrible detail, with many unpleasant adjectives!" - M-Bot

"Who needs science when you have a dragon?" - Neil DeGrasse Tyson in Sharknado 6