It is an amazing time to read fantasy

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an awful nerd who plays World of Warcraft. It is, in fact, the #1 way I interact with people I don’t know. Spending several hours in a voip server with 25 people you don’t know very well can be a harrowing experience, especially if things are going badly and there’s a lot of downtime while we wait for the main tank to get back from his 25th cigarette break. This is time I like to fill by recommending books.

See, I think that the number one reason people don’t read isn’t that they don’t like to. Most people like books just like they like any story medium, they’re just used to thinking of reading as a pleasure activity, and there’s very little out there in the way of book advertising. Book reviews are generally in newspapers and tend to favor literary, “good for you” books. Genre review websites are generally aimed at people who already like reading for pleasure and are looking for something new. However, there’s not much for people who are nerds, but just don’t know there’s fantasy out there besides Dragonlance and LotR. This last category especially applies to WoW players.

So, as someone who plays WoW and thinks books are awesome, I take it upon myself to spread the word. I tell people about awesome books I’ve read, and why they’re awesome. Generally speaking it works out well, and I actually get tells from people asking me for more book recommendations. The other day, however, I encountered something that sent me into furious nerd rage. I was in a raid that had stalled out, (imagine 20 bored people between 18 and 35 sitting at the computers with nothing to do, chatting over on screen text and via headsets), and I was passing the time by talking about Tim’s Marla Mason series (gotta give a shout out to mah peeps!) which I’ve been reading and loving. People were interested, as they usually are, and then this total ass (who’d been an ass all night, but that’s another story) opened his mouth.

“Fantasy is boring,” he said. “It’s all stereotypical dragons and elves.”

Needless to say, I couldn’t let that slide. Someone was wrong on the internet. But, as I laid out all the dozens of amazing, interesting books that did not fit his blanket statement but couldn’t be classified as anything other than fantasy, I realized something I hadn’t really thought about before.

It is an amazing time to read fantasy (or spec fic, or scifi, everything really!). Gone are the days of fantasy novels being the sole purview of the nerd in the corner. Thanks to videogames and other popular media that openly embrace fantastical elements, fantasy is cool again (maybe for the first time?). But even better than mainstream acceptance of the genre are the amazing stories coming out of fantasy authors. I mean, we’ve got Neal Gaiman, Ellen Kushner, Sharon Shinn, Naomi Novik, Jeff VanderMeer, China Miéville, Sarah Monette. We’ve got Harry fricken Potter. We’ve got the whole New Weird movement, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, epic fantasy, we’ve got subgenres we can’t even categorize. I walk into a bookstore (or, more likely, cruise over to Amazon) and I am literally stunned in place by the amazing variety of fantasy I can read. Sure there’s stuff I don’t care for, but the point is that there is just so much awesome out there, so many amazing, interesting, unique, inventive books, it’s almost impossible not to find something that grabs you.

In the end, I managed to convince the asshole to give Jeff Vandermeer’s Veniss Underground a try, since he said he liked Bioshock. I’ll probably never know if he read it, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is that somewhere in the wide world are 20 people who now know there are awesome things happening in the genre. The good word is spread a little further, and that’s good enough for me.

So, in the spirit of the post, what are you reading? Give me more books to be excited about!

6 Responses to “It is an amazing time to read fantasy”

  1. 1 tapratt
    March 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for the shout-out!

    Name, race, class, server?

    (My main is Hagge, undead fire mage, on Feathermoon. Though I’m a casual player and have only taken part in two 25-man raids, ever. The occasional five-man dungeon is about the most I can manage. And that last sentence could sound rather dirty to one who lacks context…)

  2. 2 tapratt
    March 27, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Oh, and as for what I’m reading: I’ve been on a Donald E. Westlake binge lately, reading the Dortmunder novels at the rate of about one per day. Which means I’ll run out soon; sad.

  3. March 27, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    The three books I ordered from Amazon, which arrived yesterday:

    “Thunderbird Falls” – book two in C.E. Murphy’s Walker Papers series. I picked the first one up at a convention and couldn’t put it down.

    “Spiral Hunt” – I read the first few chapters of online and MUST know the rest of the story.(/wave Margaret Ronald)

    “Something from the Nightside” – the first of nine books in Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. I’d read some reviews and thought it sounded like my kind of thing. I much prefer series to standalone books, because if I like the people and the world, I want a LOT more of it. 🙂

    For other reading material, I recommend the entire Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, “The Iron Hunt” by Marjorie M. Liu, and of course, Tim Pratt’s Marla Mason books.

    Next on my list to pick up are the books I don’t already have that are shown on the right side bar on the actual Magic District website. For those of you who read this in RSS, as I usually do, that’s “Mark of the Demon” by Diana Rowland and “Norse Code” by Greg van Eekhout.

    Speaking of the RSS feed, may I request that all of you include your name in the text of your entries? The information that appears at the top of each entry on the actual blog site (By, Categories, Tags) hasn’t made it through the feed so far, which means if we want to know who’s writing, we have to come hit the site.

    Thanks for your consideration!

    (Also: Summertree, troll, arcane mage, Silvermoon.)

  4. 4 rachelaaron
    March 27, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    I am PUMPED to see you all play Horde!! Good choice. I play on Dragonmaw, Horde side, and I play either my frostfire mage Mildmay or my resto troll shaman Badunkadunk.

    Mages represent!

    Next up on my list is Spiral Hunt (woo woo Margaret!), but it is about time for my weekly Amazon order, and I’m thinking about picking up the Dresden Files series, since I’ve heard so many good things. Now I have one more weight to add to the recommendation pile, I’m just going to have to take the jump.

    Also, I’m going to try and fix the RSS thing. There’s something wacky going on in the settings and I’ve just been too busy to give it the attention it needs. I’m going to look into it this weekend, it’s probably some setting I forgot to click.

    And Taerin, I’m totally with you on the series thing. If I love a world, one novel is never enough.

  5. March 27, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    If you come into a small pile of cash, you might also considering picking up some of the the Dresden books in audio format, read by the delicious James Marsters (Spike from Buffy and Angel.)

    I’ve been lucky enough to hear Jim Butcher read aloud from his books at conventions, and frankly I’d prefer him to be the official reader, except that James does such an amazing job. (What, me, biased?)

    They aren’t cheap, but there are free downloads to give you a taste here: http://www.buzzymultimedia.com/thedresdenfilesaudios.html

  6. 6 mentatjack
    March 30, 2009 at 4:23 am

    I’m reading the Hugo nominated novels at the moment … Just finished Little Brother and Zoe’s Tale.

    I’d recommend Little Brother to anyone whose ever wondered about the “hacking” subculture.
    Zoe’s Tale: Good story, great science fiction, strong teenage female protagonist.

    Before I jump back into Anathema (gave up on it last spring after about 150 pages) I’m reading The Burning Skies by David J. Williams (Mirrored Heavens, Williams’ first, is a MUST READ if you’ve ever wondered how to effectively write in present tense … and a VERY fast paced cyberpunk yarn)

    Incandescence by Greg Egan is on my list after that.

    My main is Byth, a death knight on Feathermoon /wave Hagge … but I’ve been reading much more than playing for the past few weeks and I like that trend.

    I like to suggest Iron Dragon’s Daughter when someone hits me with “It’s all stereotypical dragons and elves.” Cause even under that description you can get to some pretty wild places.

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