I was down in Houston the other day, bored out of my skull, so I hie’d myself over to the local bookstore for some brainfood.

Is it just me, or has the fantasy section been over-taken by a large number of not-really-heavily-armed ladies, most dressed in mini-skirts and/or lace camisoles, or the like — all fighting vampires?

I’m all for the fantasy genre attracting more readers of the distaff persuasion, but from my brief perusal of the back covers, I get the idea that a lot of these books seem to be cookie-cutter versions of the same basic plot (Harlequin Romance meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, minus the humour.)

Is that about right?


Curses! Foiled again!
Happy Thanksgiving!

66 thoughts on “Hmm?”

  1. That's about it, Bodice Ripper's with teeth.

    If you mistakenly buy one and try to read it because you're on a long plane flight, will lose your mind. Their structure and phrasing are pure Chick-Pulp.

  2. Pretty close. It used to be dragons, now it is vampires.

    The only one of the ilk that I have cared for is Sookie Stackhouse, her series starting with Dead Until Dark.
    Sookie is telpathic and finds hanging around with vampires so restful. Being dead, they don't radiate, you know.

  3. Pretty close. It used to be dragons, now it is vampires.

    The only one of the ilk that I have cared for is Sookie Stackhouse, her series starting with Dead Until Dark.
    Sookie is telpathic and finds hanging around with vampires so restful. Being dead, they don't radiate, you know.

  4. MY feelings are hurt – you were in the Houston area, and I didn't even receive an eMail …………………. gonna go eat WORMS – EWWWWWWWWWWW!

    Semper Fi'

  5. I was at the bookstore yesterday, and noticed that same thing.

    There's a few exceptions to the rule, but those are the ones that started the genre and haven't turned into formula pap. The Kittie werewolf books by Carrie Vaughn, Sookie Stackhouse as mentioned, the Anita Blake series, and Kim Harrison's Hollows novels. This might be more because the writers are good than because of the subjects too. The novels I've picked up from other authors have been hit-or-miss in regards to writing quality and uniqueness of vision.

    Jim Butcher's Dresden Files are worth picking up if you have the chance. Anytime you have a wizard that carries a .357, you know somebody's not relying too much on great cosmic power.

  6. Actually, I disagree. I've enjoyed most of this genre of fiction lately; frankly I can't get enough of it!

    And there's nuthin' wrong with romance novels, either. In my opinion, of course. It all depends on the author, as with any novel. 🙂

  7. I quit reading fantasy years ago when every one was trying to be Sword of Shanara (awful, in my opinion) or that idiot with leprosy and a wedding ring. Just terrible. When I want fantasy, I read Tolkein. Unfortunately, no one is writing good hard science fiction, my preferred genre, these days. All the old masters, except for Clark, are deceased. Sorta makes it hard to find something good to read.

    I switched to mysteries. Lots of writers turning out quility there.

  8. elinor: Check out Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, good hard sci-fi book. Most of his other works is not quite as hard sci-fi, kind of a cross between Ian M Banks(who I also enjoy) and William Gibson. No benevolent utopia busybodies, more gritty humanity.

    On the fantasy side of things I'm still waiting for George RR Martin to finish the next installment of his Songs of Fire and Ice series… Robin Hobb is also quite good and I got a series and a half I've yet read there if I need a fantasy fix.

  9. Fantasy tends to be a lot of miss and a few really big hits. One of the big hits was the Anita Blake series; that started off as supernatural-investigation books (zombie-raising chick hunts vampire serial killers) but slowly turned into romantic-fantasy-erotica-with-fangs. It spawned a lot of imitators, the Sookie books and Kim Harrison's works among them (although in fairness those two were early, and still some of the better examples).

    The rest of that subgenre is basically derivative crap in the same way that much of fantasy is derivative crap based on Tolkien (which, I might add, also includes the Sword of Shannara; later books in that series acquired more creativity).

    The stuff that's really good tends to be a long time between books. GRRM's "Song of Ice and Fire"; Jordan's "Wheel of Time" (though it has its flaws, recently released a new book by an author finishing the series after the original author died). Some of the lesser known and less derivative examples: Katherine Kerr has a long series out ("Deverry") that's very interesting for those with a historical bent with a recent new book.

    I second the Reynolds recommendation for science fiction type books. Also a new Known Space book out that's not bad.

  10. Meh- I think vampires are the latest vogue thing for the ladies… I've been forced back to the classics, Heinlein, Asimov, etc. Thank God they are still on the stands.

  11. Yup, necrophilia–or vampire porn, if you prefer to call it that–is the Big Thing of the moment. Wonder what the Big Thing was in Rome whilst the Visigoths and Vandals were playing Katrina victim?

  12. Those are the kinds of books that sell the most copies, so those are what bookstores put on display first. But those kinds of books are nowhere near the bulk of fantasy books. Or at least not the fantasy books I read.

    I don't know what you look for in fantasy reading, but here's a couple of ideas, on top of what's already been suggested:

    I second the recommendations for George R R Martin (his series starts with A Game of Thrones), Jim Butcher (starts with Storm Front, his other series starts with Furies of Calderon), and Robert Jordan (Eye of the World).

    You might also want to look at Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, as well as his standalones, Warbreaker and Elantris.

    If you like science fiction as well, check out Michael Z Williamson's The Weapon. Enough firepower and sarcasm to satisfy even you.

    Hopefully this is a good beginner list for you to find some decent books. Let me know how you like them, if you pick any up.

  13. So it'a not just Germany where Science-Fiction means 75% Vampyres*, 20% The government is evil** (Also, will be stopped by girls plus sidekick) and 5% actually worth a read ?

    Good to know.

    *As opposed to vampires, as seen in Monster Hunter Inc.

    **Typical scenario: A *thing* ravages the *planet*, but *government* does nothing, only *hero* can save the world.
    I mean that government does not get even a reason for acting in such a manner.

  14. Never have liked romance fiction, but got hooked in by Evanovich's Stephanie Plum and Harris' Sookie Stackhouse.
    Unfortunately, both authors have now become formulaic, much in the same unfortunate manner as Jennifer Crusie.
    You can now know that sometime-or several times-in Evanovich's book that a car is going to get angled or a person is going to angle into the car. No one simply parks or opens the door and sits.
    And you can bet that fingers are going to get curled into jackets, blouses, shirts. No such thing as limply grabbing the guy/girl by the collar and laying one on him/her.
    And then there's Evanovich's non-grammatical fascination with the word 'couple.' I stopped reading her books when I discovered I was being distracted from the plot and counting 'couples.' Not 'a pair,' not 'twin' 'a duo,' 'a few,' or anything of the two persuasion; not only that, she seems incapable of using the phrase 'a couple OF.' OF, dammit, OF! Couple OF!
    Then there's the Sookie novels of which I really enjoyed about the first 4 or 5 and looked forward to the next. However, the stories have become so disjointed, with plot lines going in every direction, the books get bloodier and bloodier, and, like Rick Riordan, Harris seems to be compelled to knock off all the characters to whom we have become used, if not fond.
    And, like Riordan, I really regret the descent into mediocrity, but there it is.

  15. On my last visit to Borders, I suggested they separate their Fantasy from the Science Fiction. They declined. I next suggested they separate the Vampire/Werewolf books from the Fantasy. They told me the current events section was too crowded.

    I think I'm gonna use Amazon here on out.

  16. I'll toss in a recommendation for Neal Asher's Polity novels. Good old fashioned hard sf.

    Start with Prador Moon, it's the first in the internal chronology.


  17. Most of the better stuff has already been mentioned (Martin, Butcher, etc), so just adding one to the list.

    "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. First in a new series, very well written.

  18. Some suggestions:
    For fantasy, I recommend David Drake. He is known for his military science fiction. But, his fantasy is also pretty good.

    For hard SF, I recommend Travis Taylor. He is a genuine rocket scientists who picks up hard science PHDs when he gets bored. He will do his best to keep the science accurate unless it needs to be changed to make the story work.

  19. I would add L. Saintcrow's series to the chick-list list.
    Mike Williamson has a couple of good SF books out.
    Then there's "Oh no, John Ringo"'s stuff.

  20. I agree. Two standout female authors who don't fit that mold, however, are Karen Miller and Jacqueline Carey. I highly recommend them both!

  21. I've read a couple of these things my daughter brought home. I've read a couple of old bodice rippers just to see what the attraction might be (I still don't know).

    This whole series of little girl vampires/vampire hunters are nothing more than Bloody Bodice Rippers.

    As you say, cookie cutter right out of the box.

  22. Sorry, but anita blake's work as of late has been nothing but pure porn. depressing really.

  23. It's called Paranormal Romance, and yes, it's written by the same authors who write regular romance novels– usually under different names. Unfortunately*, it has become entwined with the Urban Fantasy (sub)genre, and it's often hard to tell the difference between the two– similar cover art styles, etc– so it's a toss-up whether bookstores shelve it in the Romance or SF&F sections.

    I'll third the Jim Butcher recommendation, if you want to read good fantasy.

    (*Disclaimer: not that there's anything wrong with liking the genre, it's just… not my thing.)

  24. There were a couple of novels written into "Known Space", Larry Niven's ficton published recently.

    "Juggler of Worlds" and …"Fleet of Worlds" , recommended if you like liked the rest of Larry Niven's stuff, though I'd read the earlier ones first, I've not read "Destroyer of Worlds" yet so no comment.

  25. That's about right, LD. Worse, this new genre teaches teenaged girls unrealistic expectations about The Perfect Man.

    There's a hilarious brief descriotion of it here.

  26. Check out Fred Saberhagen's Dracula series. AIR the first one is a one 2 one refutation of "Dracula"

    Did you know that Van Helsing probably killed Lucy Westenra (Mina Harker's friend). By transfusing the blood of three men into her. The book was written in 1897, blood types were not discovered until 1901.


  27. Looks like a post got lost in the ozone.

    Check out The "Warlock" series by Christopher Stasheff.

    Next try "Silverlock" by John Myers Myers (it just may be the single best fantasy novel ever written).

    Also Tanya Huff's vampire series. Starting with "Blood Price". Not only is the lead vampire the son of Henry VIII, he supports himself by writing Bodice Rippers.

    Last, while the Buffy Books are pretty bad, the seven year series is one of the best that has been on TV in a LONG time.


  28. Also from the lost post.

    "Darker then you think" by Jack Williamson. I first read this 30-35 years ago and my copy is in my personal "Never Sell or Trade" stack.


  29. several good suggestions here, including david drake. david weber is also good, as is the "chicks in chainmail" anthology series by, i believe esther freisner, which pokes good natured fun at the "brass bra" genre. among the classics try c.l. moore's "no woman born". jack williamson, definitely, "the old master" left a great body of work for us to enjoy, also i'm currently reading john ringo's "the last centurion" and it's almost prophetic, except the screw-up in chief is male. there's lots of the good stuff still out there, you just have to dig deeper, beyond the fad stuff

  30. "darker than you think" was that the one about a college professor and his wife against a coven of faculty wives/witches?

  31. Two authors that I really enjoy that haven't been mentioned here are Ann McAffrey and Mercedes Lackey. McAffrey's Pern series was fantastic. She took a break and is starting to come back with her son as a co-author.

    Lackey also did some really good early work and is coming out now with a newer series that has promise.

    Jim Butcher is one of my favorites too. The Dresden series is fantastic.

    Of course this is just my opinion.

  32. Barbara Hambly did some good stuff, though I haven't seen anything new at the book store lately. (Not that that means anything…. I've not been buying many books lately a trend which will continue for a long time if youngest child gets into the private school.) She had a vampire series, but the best of the of the beasties was at most an uneasy ally. And none were objects of love/lust for the humans.

    Also C.J.Cherryh, who's stuff is usually much closer to hard sci-fi than fantasy. And IMNSHO, her aliens are some of the best out there, not being psychologically just humans with different skin.

  33. David Weber's Honor Harrington series is good – hard SF, but with well-developed characters, which is something I have found is often lacking in hard SF.

    I enjoyed Sharon Shinn's series that starts with "Archangel" and also her series that starts with "Mystic and Rider." There's romance, but the worlds are also developed and interesting.

  34. For newer fantasy, I prefer the Dresden novels, and the Repairman Jack books.

  35. Charles Stross as well. Any author that makes his protagonist a computer geek working for "The Laundry" is okay in my book. 😉

  36. Another vote for Dresden Files.
    I also enjoy David Weber's Honor Harrington series.
    Oddly enough, he teamed up with Ringo to do an amusing little series that begins with "March Upcountry."

  37. I second the reading of John Myers Myers "Silverlock". It becomes a game to recognize the sources of almost every page. He also wrote a very readable history of the Mountain Men, "The Deaths of the Bravos".
    C.J. Cherryh never got the recognition for creating the Regul, which species Jabba the Hut had to be. I still read the Faded Sun trilogy every couple of years.

  38. I agree with most of the recommendations, and would like to add Lois McMaster-Bujold and her Vorkosigan books.

    Also, regarding the recommendation of Williamson's "The Weapon" – the first book in the series is called "Freehold".

    For hack-n-slash fanstasy stuff, Elizabeth Moon's "Paksenarrion" series is very good.

  39. My 2 cents:

    I need to second the recommendation for Michael Z Williamson. I've read The Weapon and Freehold. Both were good. Libertarian types should love Freehold.

    Tom Kratman is a another newer SciFi author that I like.

    The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell is a SciFi series I couldn't put down.

    I'll have to check out some of these other books.


  40. "Everyone to their own taste, as the goodman said as kissed the pig." But I agree with the majority for once.

    Modern fantasy is enough to send me back to Pratt and DeCamp. And scifi seems to written by people who have no clue to the meaning of acceleration of gravity.

    It makes you long for the John Campbell days, when there was plenty of decolletage, and thigh, on the cover and not a word about that subject inside.

    While there is some modern fantasy that does not trigger regurgitation, the shelves are very thin. Rereading Heinlein, Vance, and few others make up my scifi reading list these days.

    Although Glen Cook's Garrett, P.I. series is entertaining. Not for everyone's taste, though.


  41. I do enjoy the Dresden Files, but I recommend NOT watching the TV show, since once you read the books you'll most likely want to put a large-caliber hole in your screen.

    My favorite author these days is S.M. Stirling, who has raised the concept of alternate history to a heretofore unimagined level. Great stuff and worth a read or 10,000.

  42. Yep!
    And as much as we hate to admit it, the "Public" really decides what will be the next big seller.

    My wife, who is an extremely intelligent, as well as beautiful (tough combo to live with sometimes) business executive at a very large corp., just can't get enough of this stuff.

    It is laying all over the house, and as a Hemmingway, Howard, Burrough's, Poe, etc. etc. fan I find this "necro-genre" boring as all hell!

    It soon will pass, thankfully!!

  43. Frankly I blame Anne Rice … she turned vampire lore into chickified borderline homoerotic romance novels/soap operas.

    Then Buffy came along and made the genre profitable (coupled with "hot chicks kicking ass") and now Twilight shifting it down to tweenage girls romance fantasy.


    But lets be honest, from the late 70s through the early 90s the fantasy genre was geared toward pimple faced teenage boys that never leave their parents basement and don't get to touch actual women.

    Frankly I miss the golden age of pulp fantasy … thankfully Robert Howard and Edgar Rice Borroughs wrote a TON of stuff.

  44. I've got to put in a plug for my own book, Monster Hunter International, it still has vampires, but they're actual monsters instead of sexy glittering homo-erotic Fabios. I've got 3 more books in the same series coming out from Baen in the next 2 years.

    I get compared to Jim Butcher a lot, and I've read two of his now. He is pretty darn enjoyable.

    There is actually a ton of good stuff out there right now, but you've just got to get past the Twilight section.

    G.R.R. Martin's Song of Fire & Ice has been mentioned a bunch. It is really brilliant.

    If you are looking for good epic fantasy, check out my friend John Brown's new Servant of a Dark God. (from Tor) It is a great read.

    I think you guys would like just about everything from the Baen catalog.

    But Lawdog, if you really want something different, say the word and I'll send you the new thing I just sold to Baen. It won't be published until 2011. Think epic fantasy mixed with alternative history, a world where magic appeared in the 1850s, and now we fastforward to the 1930s. It is Raymond Chandler meets Robert Jordan with magic powers that are borderline super hero in nature.

    It has gangsters, the great depression, Imperial Japan as the bad guys, lots of guns, magic, more guns, a secret society led by Black Jack Pershing and John Browning, ninjas, pirates, ninjas fighting pirates, demons, Zeppelins, and bi-plane fights. Seriously.

  45. Edit, duh, I know Lawdog read mine already. He's one of the cover blurbs. The plug was for the rest of you. 🙂

  46. On the subject of fantasy/real world blends… Neil Gaiman has a slew of good books in that direction(Neverwhere, American Gods, and Anansi Boys are the ones I've read and recommend myself, especially Neverwhere). Also Norse Code by Greg van Eekhout is good.

    Then there's the odd sci-fi/fantasy mixes, like Book of the Dying Sun(5 parts) by Gene Wolfe, and the Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman.

  47. Everybody thinks they can do what Joss Whedon does, because he makes it look easy.

    But they are wrong.

  48. "Larry Correia said…

    Edit, duh, I know Lawdog read mine already. He's one of the cover blurbs. The plug was for the rest of you. :)"

    I'll second his book for anyone here that hasn't read it. Damn fine read! It was the LawDog referral that got me to read it and now I'm hooked hard!

  49. Only one vote for SM Stirling?and one mention of Lois Bujold that does not mention 'The Curse of Chalion"? I have read all but one or two of the writers mentioned but Larry's MHI was a real kick…A friend loaned me a copy,I read it and bought my own cop,loaned it out,did not get it back,bought another copy,loaned it out,did not get it back…and will buy another copy and keep it in the gun safe.

  50. Bujold, the Vorkosigan books are damn good. Eric Flint and John Ringo, sci-fi, good stuff.

    Dog, I know you already like Dresden and David Drake.

    The Mike Resnick books on John Mallory in the alternate NYEffin'C, fantasy detective stories, pretty good.

    Correia, you bastard, you start sending favored people early copies, I'll- well I don't know what but I'll do SOMETHING!

  51. But Firehand, but…

    He's The Lawdog!

    I can't leave him out there, unentertained with nothing good to read… Can you imagine what kind of trouble he might get into?

    But then he'd write about it in an entertaining fashion… Hmmm… I see your point.

  52. That's right! He'd let something out! You can't trust those- uh, he couldn't help himself, so don't do it!

  53. I dunno nuthin about fantasy, and don't want to know anything about fantasy, but I do know that SF has been all ate up with gurl cooties for years and years, now.

  54. count another vote for bujold and the "miles vorkosigan" stories, they're just plain fun, and don't annoy vor ladies, heads might roll.

  55. As a long-time SF geek, I can tell you a couple of things. Fantasy tends to be female-buyer oriented. By and large, they seem to be the ones who go for the stuff.

    Vampires are all the rage right now, and those books also tend to sell to a female audience. (MHI a notable exception.)

    Combine the two, and it's bye-bye dragons, hello vampires. I went book shopping with Daughter a few weeks ago, and my comment was that if I saw one more vampire book in the SF shelves, I was going to drive a stake through it.

    If it wasn't for people like Michael Z. Williamson, David Drake, Eric Flint and a very few others, I'd do nothing but reread old Heinlein, Niven and Pournelle novels.

  56. Another vote for SM Stirling, his alternate history/alternate worlds are the best fantasy/scifi I've read in a while. I especially loved Conquistador and the Emberverse series.

    Bujold McMaster is a master writer, The Vorkosigan, Sharing Knife & Chalion series are all worth rereading multiple times.

    Eric Flint is hit and miss, some good and some bad. He co-wrote a novel (Boundary)with new author Ryke E Spoor which reminded me of the golden age stories from the 50s. Well worth a read.

    I couldn't get into Freehold, much as I like to support fellow gunnies.

    Wen Spencer is an excellent author of fantasy, urban fantasy and straight sci fi. Tinker & Wolf Who Rules are a great blend of fantasy, science fiction and classic fairy tales. The Ukiah Oregon novels are again a great blend of detective story, horror and science fiction

    Another vote for Charles Stross as well, both the Laundry series and the Merchant Princes.

    John Ringo is a love him or hate him author, Google Oh No John Ringo to find out why. I just skip past the weird sex in the Ghost series but loved the books, could not get into the Posleen war series, The Council Wars series was OK and the Looking Glass series is fantastic.

    Not mentioned by anyone else is John Birmingham's Weapon's of Choice World War 2.1, basically a very well done rehash of the Final Count Down movie from the 70s, except the naval battle group from the 2020s stays in 1941 and changes history.

  57. Another Plug for Larry's Book Monster Hinter International. I am NOT-repeat-NOT a fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasy/HomoSucker Tales but MHI is fun, fast paced and has monsters and guns. I will also make an exception for Larry's Grimnoir Chronicles when they come out since they deal with twisting with an alternative World and it is an intriguing concept.

  58. Steven Brust – the Jhereg Cycle

    I can't believe that no one has mentioned Simon R. Green's Nightside series.

    Demons, angels, monsters, aliens, time travel, guns, and noir detectives….

    "where it's always 3 AM…"

  59. Big props to MHI, one of the best I've had the mitts on!

    Can I suggest Diana Gabaldon? She is not, I repeat, is not a romance writer. Get the first book Outlander and see what you think. Fantasy, history, action, and some of the most believable characters I've seen in a long time. Like MHI you can hear the characters in your head as you read.

  60. Yep, pretty much. Sturgeon's Law applies in fantasy as much as anything else: 90% of everything is crap.

    But there is some really good fantasy out that that isn't Buffy Goes to Visit the Queen (Victoria). Elizabeth Bear's work is worth reading. So is Lois McMaster Bujold's, and as a bonus her Barrayar series is even decent hard S.F.. Conversely, stay far, far away from Mercedes Lackey. Misty's fun to talk to, but her Valdemar books are best described as "My Little Pony meets Wicked Witch of the West".

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