Since almost everyone reading me reads at least a fair amount of things in the science fiction – fantasy spectrum I’ve got some questions.

What creatures in fantasy (including urban fantasy) are you just plain sick of?

Are flashbacks annoying, sometimes needed, or just the most wonderifous things eva! ? (Ok, so i need to listen to my nieces friends less.)

Which is more entertaining to read about: The sappy sidekick supporting the substandard star or the reverse?

Which publisher is doing the covers that you think are most attractive right now?

  • I can't slam the creatures. But I might be teetering on being bored with the "chosen one." You know, the extra special super someone who isn't like anyone else EVER…
    But I love flashbacks. Blame it on six years of Highlander.

  • I'm tired of dragons, though it seems like a trope every BNA has to hit in at least one book. Elves would be a close second.
    Flashbacks are sometimes needed, and I do like them if they're long enough to enjoy (that showing, not telling thing) and it's obvious we're in the past (meaning the transitions are easy to see.)
    I don't go for sappy characters, so neither option is particularly appealing.
    Covers. DAW if it's by Michael Whelan and maybe a few others, EOS (I like the different texture of the covers; it's not the typical shiny cardstock covers) and Roc–I like their design. The one I like the least is Baen's–they tend to look comic book-ish to me.

  • Creatures of which I am bored — vampires, zombies, dragons, elves, and wizards (who are not creatures per se).
    Flashbacks — like any writing device — are only as good as they are well done. Lots of flashbacks I read (and I'm guilty myself of doing this — wait for the rewrite) are poor mimics of the movie device. Flashbacks work well in movies and tv because they are economical ways of explaining things. Highlander is a perfect example of flashbacks used well on the screen. BUT, on the page, flashbacks interrupt the narrative flow and pose a serious danger of kicking your reader right out of the trance state you're trying to get them (and keep them) into.
    Sap is never entertaining to read.
    And I've no opinion on the covers one.

  • I like dragons in general, but in fiction I'm tired of the 'common' dragon – i.e, the flying horse, the brutish beast or the riddling horder. I haven't read Temeraire yet (though I'm told I must) so I don't know if Novik's series is different, but I would like to see some critters with star personality for a change. A battle-scarred, disillusioned unicorn lead kicking ass and saving the day with his folkart-loving hobgoblin sidekick, for a change XD
    Admittedly I'm not big on vampire and werewolf novels but that's not for a dislike, more a case of that I haven't seen a title that I find interesting yet. I like weres and vamps in general though 🙂
    I think that all types of scenes have their place, as long as they're executed well. Sometimes something that is done to death can still not be out of place if the author pulls it off. Flashbacks included :3
    I think the most entertaining character to read about is the character that provides the most entertainment.
    I haven't been paying much attention atm to who is putting out what covers, but I'm a fan of matte covers for texture (fingerprints stick to glossies like flies stick to flypaper. Ick), but as far as presentation goes, I have always had a like for a cover that is illustrated/painted or minimalistic as opposed to one that is photomanipulated (though I have seen some very nice photo/photomanipped covers), but that could be my illustrator side peeking through there XD
    Dun duh duh 🙂

  • I am sick of romantic vampires. Not the scary sort, but the sort with the Tortured Soul Whose Not Really Bad Just Misunderstood who fall in love with some random mortal girl, etc & ad nauseam.
    Flashbacks are sometimes needed, as long as they aren't overused. They can also be confusing if not done correctly.
    I like very few scifi/fantasy book covers lately, so I can't say that there is one specific publisher whose covers I prefer. The only examples I can think of off the top of my head that I really have enjoyed are Neil Gaiman's Stardust and Coraline (published by Harper Perennial), and Susanna Clarkes books (published by Bloomsbury).

  • I'm sick to death of emo vampires. Jim Butcher is just about the only one doing vampires right now that I can actually stand. I also don't like elves, dwarves and most especially orcs, because they've become so much a part of the furniture in fantasy settings that they are there, even when there is no reason for them to be. I also have the dragon as magical flying horse that can breath fire. I like my vampires to be soulless blood drinking monsters, and my dragons to be surly, greedy, hyperintellegent and to think humans are crunch and taste good with ketchup. I'm also no big fan of the 'pack dynamics' in werewolf books. Mostly because it's usually done poorly, by people who've obviously never owned more than one or two dogs, and have no idea how a pack really works.
    I've used flashbacks in my own work, largely to avoid massive chunks of exposition. I do try to keep them to a minimum though, because it's easy to overdo it.
    I loved 'Inspector Gadget' and 'The Tick' specifically because of the sidekick propping up a substandard hero gag, but like anything else, it can be done well and it can be done poorly, but in general, I prefer both the hero and the 'sidekick' to know what the heck they are doing.
    Roc and Baen. I like some of Tor's covers, but they are more hit and miss.

  • Not a creature per se, but the "you are my twu wuv/destined mate/soulbonded and eventually you'll realize it" thing is really getting annoying.
    I'm also getting really tired of a questing hero who doesn't leave minor children, aging parents, housepets, or someone else who needs them to survive. Single adult heroes, fine and well and good. Where are the single PARENT heroes? Why don't they ever worry about their pet bunny/wolf/bloodsucking leeches/hungry iridescent pirhana/snooky-woogums chihuahua? Why don't they ever have to arrange to have their plants watered? Why don't they ever angst about their significant others bitching because the hero went off somewhere and didn't tell them?
    Flashbacks are sometimes necessary, but should be used sparingly.
    Depends on how the star is substandard. If the star is a straight man, or goes through maturing and becomes great, that's good. If the star's a caricature, ugh.

  • The Byronic porno-vampire bores me, but I never liked it, so it's not like not being over it; I was never part of the target audience. Other stuff I'll take on a case by case basis, but I think writers should think up new creatures of their own every now and then.
    I know flashbacks drive some people nuts, but they don't bother me if they're well done. The best parts of the Odyssey are the flashbacks.
    Sidekicks probably don't think of themselves as sidekicks; I'd like to see someone write about that.
    Tor has had some nice covers in the past few years. The look of the zombie-Dune series, in particular, has been very impressive. (This doesn't make any claim for the contents of the books, though. A title like "Zombies of Dune" might be the only thing that would get me to read a Dune novel, other than the original.) Among independent presses: Night Shades Books produces some beautiful books.
    But you know what? Nine-tenths of the new books I've bought in the past few years have been from online venues. In contexts like that, the cover of the book has much less impact: it's just a tiny squished little image smaller than the cover of a CD case. Here's hoping book cover art doesn't go the same route as album cover art.

  • Well, I don't think ANY fantasy cliche creature is so tired it cannot be given a new twist by a clever author, or even be a pleasure to read untwisted by someone who writes in fashion that made the damn thing a cliche.
    I like the clever sidekick, but there is a limit to my tolerance of bumbling heroes. Good repartee between the two is fun. Nix does that incredibly well.
    Covers: all I can say is one day I want one I love.

  • Please God no more dragons, fawns, orcs, wizards, maguses, lycans, ewoks, succubi, inccubbi, imps, demons-with-a-heart-of-gold and love-lorn vampires. Give me vamps with dastardly intent or give me nothing. I do have a novel idea about a thunderbird though, so they're cool, and I love the pterodactyl on "Torchwood".
    Flashbacks should be banned.
    I hate sappy, so kill them both.
    I like Roc right now, Kat Richardson's Greywalker covers for one.

    • Oh come on, you sound like the fawns have been done as much as elves/vamps/lycans. If that were true we'd be hipdeep in fawn-do.

      • Well you obviously haven't read my lonely-faun-arrives-in-a-parallel-universe-where-he-becomes-a-hip-hop-sensation novel yet. If you did, you'd be sick of them too.
        I'll forward it along.

  • Hmmm.
    1. I think I'm overdosed on vampires at present, although from the looks of "stuff I haven't read but have seen the cover copy for", we're due to be inundated with Pop-Culture-Literate Elves real soon now.
    2. As to flashbacks, all of the above. A well-placed flashback is a thing of beauty, but there are a lot of not-so-well-placed flashbacks out there.
    3. Given that choice, I think I'd take star-supporting-sidekick, but the character tags for both of them aren't inspiring.
    4. Hard to say. Both Ace and Tor have done some interesting things lately. Orbit's designers seem obsessed with white backgrounds and too-ornate typography, which gives them a distinctive look but has the potential to lose that distinctiveness quickly.

  • I'm sick of elves, dwarves, orcs, and goblins. I'm also sick of the fey. Of course, I recently slushed a story I absolutely loved about the fey, and Shawna bought it for Realms of Fantasy. So if you can make the story interesting enough, use whatever creatures you want.
    I don't mind flashbacks if they're done skillfully. They usually aren't. They're better suited to novels than shorter works. If they're in shorter works, it's generally best to keep them as brief as possible (and that's usually a good idea for novels too)
    No preference regarding the sidekick vs. the substandard star. Just make the characters interesting and I'm on board.
    Prime Books is actually doing a lot of interesting covers (and also for their magazines). That said, I tend to gravitate more to the particular artists than the publisher's brand of covers. I love Michael Whelan & Stephen Youll.

  • creatures / covers / flash backs
    Tired of dragons and vampires…
    Cover art, Baen has some good ones…
    Ralph's covers improved when he changed publishers to Signet and then again when his books hit USA bestseller list, they put a new artist on the job.
    Rough when the book cover doesn't match the storyline… I think the artist should read the story prior to drawing a cover for it.
    The artwork for Yasmine's Sister of the Moon series, the first two covers are great, the third I don't care for the hair or eyes.
    Flashbacks, no I do not care for them…
    I like a prelude if there is sudden jump in a time-line. A decent prelude can set the stage for a story-frame.
    If I do a flashback, like to have the character falling asleep and fade into it, end the chapter. Maybe start the next chapter with the flashback dream finishing and the character waking.
    Did a couple flashbacks in stories, then removed by doing a copy and paste into a new folder. Realized the flashback was good enough for story by itself at a later time.
    Instead of using a flashback, I often use a character recalling a past event and telling another of it. I believe that using a character to tell another character of a past event, that character is at the sametime speaking directly to the reader. Wetting the appetite of the fan for another novel in the series. Be a novel as of yet not written, or an earlier one the series.

  • It just depends how the creatures are done. And even stereotypes (noble elves, wise dragons,…) aren't too bad, if the story is good 🙂
    Flashbacks are good – but then I just love JC Grimwood books 🙂
    Sappy heros or sidekicks can be good if it's humorous or if the sappiness is done on purpose (to trick the bad guys, …)
    Covers? Some of ACE stuff isn't too bad (like Patty Briggs' books), but then I don't really look at the covers when I buy a book.

  • Anonymous

    Things I hate to see in Fantasies.
    White horses
    War horses that are sweet little pets in between fights.
    Animal-human mental bondage
    Human-human mental bondage
    Yes it's been a rough slush week. I think I'll take off and write up some telepathic, genetically engineered stallions. They will spend most of the mental energy getting out and leaving a trail of intelligent foals behind them.
    But they will not be white.