Consider this a call for suggestions. While I do my best to catch up on reading, covering both classics and new material, I can’t be everywhere at once. And between my own writing and editing I don’t have a lot of time to scour the internet…

So: ten things I’d like to see more of in fantasy literature (some I’ve already mentioned but hey, if they’re still irking me, they’re worth mentioning again!).

  1. Gender bending. Why not? If I read one more fantasy novel with a deviant/evil homosexual character I might actually light it on fire. I mean, come on people. Fantasy is the most forgiving of all genres, and yet we’re still conforming to antiquated notions about sex, sexuality, and gender? Shame, shame!
  2. Women heroes that don’t suck. This is still an issue. Or if the women are heroes, they either resort to sex or violence to get what they want. Or they depend on a man for power. Or they are looking for a man’s approval. How about a woman just being plain smart? Or skilled? How about a woman with kids instead of some moody, love-stricken maven?
  3. Animals other than dragons. I’ve written about this before. And I like dragons, really, I promise I do. But it’s swords and sorcery, not dragons and sorcery.
  4. Creatures other than, say, vampires and zombies. It’s high time we give the less-known werewolves, manticores and minotaurs their turn, wouldn’t you say? Or at least if you choose the vampire/zombie type story, write them well. And please stray from sexy, cute, and/or sparkly.
  5. Really gritty battle. Fights that draw blood, that incapacitate, that leave scars mentally and physically. Even on heroes. Even on wizards. But not to the point of innards flying all over the place.
  6. Risks other than the Bad Guys Winning. Yes, I know that one of the comforts of the fantasy genre is the notion of good vs. evil, the light vs. the dark, and all that jazz. But hasn’t that been done to death? Aren’t we beyond that at this point? Readers need to be challenged, and as much as I love the old regime like Tolkien and his ilk, that model just doesn’t hold in our world anymore. Give me the gritty gray area!
  7. Realistic dialogue. Sure, writing dialogue in a fantasy world is tough. They’re probably not even speaking something remotely English. But the stiff, heightened, and often laughingly archaic language just cheapens the whole thing and often comes in the way of good writing. Chill out, use contractions, and make it readable!
  8. Settings that don’t look like England. Okay, I’m guilty as charged, but well, you know. Though I’m currently writing a story in a very Britain-esque world, I am hungering for something sweeping and foreign. A fantasy in a rain forest, or the steppes, or the Serengeti.
  9. Intriguing cultures. Not cultures based on real cultures. Not even necessarily human cultures. I want whacked out weird and above all, convincing cultures. Down to the food, the gesticulations, and the customs. Yes, I’m in a demanding mood. Why do you ask?
  10. Stories that make me cry. Epic and fantasy go hand in hand for me. But if the story doesn’t move me, is predictable, and leaves me scratching my head or checking to see if I missed something, it feels like one hell of a waste of time. And these days I don’t have that time to waste!

So how about you? Any fantasy genre gripes? Or good reading suggestions?