Fantasy-genre bandwagoners...

It's funny how many people are reading fantasy books these days. Who should we thank? Harry Potter? Or Frodo Baggins? Whenever I was at a bookshop back in Malaysia, I see a group of people gathering before the Lord of the Rings books, explaining the history of elves and dwarves, then exchanging insults in Elvish.



Of course it has to do with the films, what else could it be? Before the films came out, when I was still in high school, reading fantasy novels almost seemed like a sin. But then, in Catholic High, people were indeed BANNED from bringing novels there to read. There was once when I was sitting by myself, minding my own business, reading one of those lame Dragonlance books when some dumbass prefect came over and snatched it away from me, an expression of horror and righteous fury etched upon his unattractive features, to him, I seemed no different from someone who had just smoked pot, or set the school on fire.

I had to write a letter to get back my Dragonlance book, not because it was a good book, and I believed I've actually read the book once already. But because I was outraged that such an atrocious deed could be committed against me by these narrow-minded semi-literate fools. Who are they to shame me for merely indulging myself in such intellectual pleasures? Ah, yeah, non-intellects.

When I was in Form 1, back in 1997 (before Harry Potter-mania swept the world and have all kinds of people wanting to slash a lightning scar on their forehead, and long before the release of the LoTR films), I had just fallen in love with fantasy books. Unfortunately, my introduction to this genre happened to be the shitty Dragonlance series (which I recommend all of you to stay away from, except for the first six books written by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis), thus I was buying any Dragonlance book within sight, my usual shopping spree in Singapore consisted of me buying Dragonlance books. Thinking of it again, I realized how foolish I was.

Other than Dragonlance, I was also enjoying such fantasy books like the Narnia series, and yeah, Lord of The Rings, and George R R Martin's first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, Games of Thrones, which surprised me by its violence and sex scenes. They were such great books, I felt, so much better than the silly RL Stine and Chrisopher Pike nonsense I used to read! So much complex than the hundreds of Enid Blyton books I had! It opened a whole new world for me.

Alas, most people I knew were still reading the latest RL Stine Fear Street book, and the gal sitting next to me was telling me ceaselessly how great the Sweet Valley Twins books were. Whenever I recommended them some fantasy books that I've been reading, I was greeted by blank stares or dirty looks, or both simultaneously, although I have no idea how is that humanly possible.

During the end of the year, there was a class presentation for English, where I decided to educate my classmates about fantasy literature, of its history, of its social impact, of its symbolism, of its cultural influences. Well, I hoped I've done that, but I was only 13 then, so I was only capable of explaining about the races we see in fantasy books all the time, and then a brief review of Lord of the Rings book.

It was entertaining. I got 9.5 out of 10 from my teacher. My classmates cheered and clapped because unlike the majority of the others, I wasn't droning monotonously. But that was it. It made no difference. I remained the weird guy in the class, greeted by a mixture of pity and scorn... okay, it wasn't THAT bad. But the heartfelt emotionally-wrought oral presentation I gave was forgotten the next day. Sweet Valley Twins remained everyone's favourite book, along with the latest Fear Street book where teenager 1 heard of the death of teenager 2 and started freaking out when she was being stalked until she found out that stalker was teenager 3, a close friend.

I continued reading fantasy books, so many of them that I started getting more picky. I developed a distaste of Dragonlance and Terry Goodkind's 'Sword of Truth' series, remained one of the many poor fans who waited George R R Martin's newest instalment of the Song of Ice and Fire series for more than HALF A DECADE!!!! Went through the likes of fantasy (to a lesser extent, scifi) authors like:

Gaiman
Eddings (just his Redemption of Althalus book though, which turned me off from the rest of his stuff)
Pratchett (whose writing style is imitated by millions)
Feist (who peaked with his first book, and went downhill since then)
Hobb (Liveship Traders was good, but would be better if the ending sequences were reshuffled)
Pullman (read the first book when I was 12, read the rest of them when I was 19, amazing eh?)
Tad Williams (the Otherland series, not his fantasy one)
Moorcock (Elric books)
Terry Brooks (Shannara series are LoTR rip-offs, but that's common knowledge)
Mieville (guy's books can't be categorized, thus I agree with him calling his own works Weird Fiction)
Rowling (yeah, I read my sister's HP books)
William Gibson (read Idoru years ago, but finished Neuromancer just last week)
Neal Stephenson (Hehe, Snow Crash)

And many more by fantasy authors I can't remember, and neither would you actually care. But no, I never bothered with the Wheel of Time series, I was thinking of reading them when the whole thing is completed, but I have no idea WHEN will that happen, and judging by the comments of his ex-fans (or readers worldwide with the exception of his most loyal, apologetic fans), I doubt I would really want to read his stuff.

Discovered the incredible Malazan books by Erikson that, along with George R R Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series, raised the bar for fantasy books so much that I started becoming more selective on the fantasy books I read. Once I was exposed to the very best (in my opinion though) in the genre, the rest of the stuff just became formulaic and silly. Thus I moved on and experimented with books of other genre and other older more, er, highbrow stuff introduced to me by Justin.

Yet I find it funny how many people have jumped into the fantasy bandwagon during the past few years. Of course, saying 'fantasy' bandwagon would be rather inaccurate, maybe I should just say 'Tolkien' or 'Potter' bandwagon instead. It's a good start, but there are many fine fantasy writers out there waiting to be explored, it's just a matter of whether you want to give them a chance or not. (And the last few lines started sounding like a rehash of my broaden your horizons entry written couple of weeks ago.)

My genuine opinion of the Lord of the Rings books? Quite surprisingly, I happen to be one of those few who loved the movie much more than the books even though I read the books first. (I've been hearing too much "Bah! I just read the LoTR books after seeing how cool the movies are, but they suck!" from people). I found them boring and slow-paced, especially the Sam and Frodo parts (I already knew that they were gay then, so their portrayal in the films didn't surprise me), but the war scenes involving Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas were definitely more interesting. But ultimately, LoTR is something I appreciate for being so influential, and the efforts put in world-building were quite amazing as well (my favourite part of the books were actually the Appendix, where I get to read about the histories and backstories of people and places), but I wouldn't put a lofty 'best fantasy ever!' title upon it.

Narnia? Enjoyable stuff. Especially the ones with Edmund in it. After all, unlike his siblings, he ain't a goody two shoe, which is a good thing, considering my personal annoyance with goody two shoes. Hm. But that's a story for some other time.

Anyway, this was meant to be a 'Hah! I told you so' entry for the many people who made snide comments and scornful snickers at my face because of my love of reading fantasy books back then. But I realized that most of them don't really know about the existence of this blog, which is quite a waste. And considering the length of this post I've written, I'll be crazy if I delete it, so...

*Clicks PUBLISH POST button*