Monday 30 January 2012

The Fantasy Dilemma

Well having just finished the fourth book in the series by Chris Paolini I must say it was an interesting read. I found the world to be fairly well designed, but for the most part the story was way too long. Which brings to mind a bit of a curious question, that has been bugging me for many years and that so far nobody has ever been able to adequately answer. So now that our group has this little blog running, I thought I try once again to solve this little mystery.

Now I realize we don't have a whole lot of fantasy authors in the group, and while this message is directed at this genre, I trust that others will chime in.

So here it is:

"Why is it that fantasy authors (in general) seem to feel the need to create multivolume stories when just about every other genre seems to be able to tell a story in one book?"

Now I know the first thing your going to say is "because they are creating a whole new world" - okay fair enough, but so does every science fiction author, most mystery, adventure, and romance authors. In fact with the exception of historically based novels every author creates a new world to some extent. So why aren't these all multivolume tomes? Are they all trying to emulate J.R.R. Tolkien, or is it something else?

I agree that the Asimov's Foundation Trilogy; A. C. Clarke's 2001, 2010, 2060, & 3001; as well as the series by Ben Bova (one book for each planet) exist. However these are the exception, and I'm not whining about books set in the same universe (like those I just mentioned), I'm talking about those 3+ book series that are essentially one continuous story, sometimes with little or no break between volumes. Virtually every fantasy author seems to churn out multivolume sets - some to ridiculous lengths such as those by David Eddings and his ilk.

So why? Is it a bad case of authorial diarrhea?

Anyway getting back to Chris P. there are numerous examples in this last book where he spent inordinate amounts of time (writing wise that is) detailing each and every movement, that each person made during a fight sequence. This was unnecessary, and at times downright boring to read. In fact it reminds me somewhat of when I used to play Dungeon and Dragons and the rules say that during a fight sequence each round is 10 seconds long - think of life going in slow motion.

So that's my question. Anybody got any words of wisdom that'll solve it?



  1. Anonymous31/1/12 11:27

    I have no easy answers for your question. I've found the same thing, which is why I have a hard time with most fantasy books. I like description and intricate writing, but often the over-writing leaves me feeling mired in the mundane...

  2. I think you put your finger on it when you mentioned Tolkien. I know of no book that stands out so far in its genre. While there are classics in science fiction and, I'm sure, in other genres, I doubt there is a single work that defines the genre as Lord of the Rings does. What came before LotR? Dunsany's short stories, E.R. Eddison's individual novels, David Lindsay's single work. And a lot of other earlier or contemporary works, Alice in Wonderland, the Narnia books, Peter Pan, were targeted at children, and never showed the sweeping scope of Lord of the Rings.

    Once Tolkien had shown the way, others followed.

    However, I think that is at least a partial explanation, as it does nothing to explain the appetite of fantasy fans for trilogies.


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