1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Worst Fantasy World Cliches

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Black Dragon, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. That’s complicated because I feel that a lack of women in positions of power is likely to result from women being oppressed and also to cause women to be oppressed. So I don’t know if realistically it could work. And of course, no one mindset is *going* to wholly dominate a society. We’ve had women speaking out for themselves and their rights for...forever.

    BUT, my message was in response to the idea that a misogynistic society is just one where women are limited in what jobs they can hold. There’s a *lot* more to it. That is, misogyny isn’t just “women can’t become knights.”

    And again, I’m not saying it’s wrong to create such a world (though, damn, I could definitely deal with fewer rape scenes and nothing will convince me otherwise). I’m saying that you don’t have to justify it if you want to do different; that is, a misogynistic world is not the default setting of all hypothetical fantasy worlds.

    And it would be *really really really nice* if people would stop treating it like “realism” means worlds have to be misogynistic, but gravity doesn’t have to work.

    And would like, even maybe write a few worlds that weren’t misogynistic. Because dealing with creepy men isn’t some kind of exciting challenge for us. It’s just life. :/
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Also, in some fantasy worlds, such as Tolkien's, the world was purposely shaped by powerful beings (e.g. Melkor/Morgoth and other Valar). So when things look unusual, in terms of geology, I'm OK with it if there is a reason for it.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I can tolerate it for non-human races, if it is explained. For example, orcs are elves who were corrupted by Melkor. There's a reason they're "evil" as a race. If you have a race of humans, it is problematic absent some very good explanation for it.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I'm of the views expressed above that nothing commonly consider a "cliche" is bad, per se. They're bad because of the way an author handles them in a story.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Also, to add to this (if you don't mind getting too much into Tolkien lore), when Iluvatar creates Men he gives them a new gift (according to The Silmarillion). The new gift is essentially freewill. The elves didn't have it (not that they couldn't make choices, but they were created with a specific nature). This further bolsters the argument as to why orcs are evil, because they're from elves and also lack that special gift mankind was given. Melkor couldn't give it to them, because by then he was forbidden from that kind of creation, which as I understand it is why he had to use elves in the first place. So you really have a lot of lore to back up why orcs are the way they are, and when an author does that I'm willing to go along.
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  6. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    Well, Mr. Malik has carefully crafted his sentences in way that avoids being all inclusive, and picks on those who are writing in a very narrowly defined way. I would disagree with him too in that I think he has mischaracterized patriarchy and the inclusion of rape scenes as solely for the purposes of titillation, but I find its his point of trying to end a trope that rings most unworthy to me. Many good and well intentioned writers deal with the issues he would like to see less of and these issues belong in their stories. In fact, many stories would be worse for not having them.

    You have revised your remarks to remove the statements about western culture, but I still feel you are trying to talk past the sale and hold on to the inference that the default setting, which is one based on European culture, is by default misogynistic. Western Culture is not the result of misogyny. That word is misplaced. When an author looks at well-established historical human organization, and decides to use them as a model because they seem most likely, and thereby most 'Realistic', that is not misogyny. Nor is a scene of rape when a rape scene would most realistically follow. Rape is a likely outcome to a female character in dangerous situations in a world where someone is trying to handle things in a realistic way. While I would never say "all", I will say almost non-existent are the writers who think, "wow, I really hate women, how can I write more rape scenes?" Misogyny is about hatred of women. Hatred is a misplaced word for these choices.

    I would take some issue with this statement. 1) I would not use the word Patriarchal. This word also feels misplaced. As if the choices were Patriarchy or not patriarchy, when the exercise was neither. It was simply to pick what would seem most likely, and the same is true for misogyny here again. The society is not by goal misogynistic. Hatred of women would not be the foundation of it. (or perhaps it could be, but that ought to be part of the point of the story -See handmaidens tale).

    And 2) I do think there is reason. Cause when one looks out at the historical ways societies organize themselves, they tend to be hierarchical. This seems a tried and true structure that has repeated over and over again. Hierarchies depend on competence, not gender. When they become incompetent, they fall. Genders play into this model because people of different genders tend to have different gifts to offer, and those gifts have historically caused more males to place higher on the hierarchical scale. This is not by accident, it’s a trend that would likely play out again and again. I assert it is the most likely outcome, and thereby the one that needs the least explanation. So, when something is not the most likely outcome, it needs a set of reasons to set it up. If the reasons are present, I'll buy it. If they don’t make sense, I won’t. (or maybe I will, sometimes I just let it ride).

    I could set out to write other visions of societies, or other visions of how female characters interact in it. I could have less rape scenes, or avoid them altogether, if I like. But the argument of realistic is sufficient to include these scenes, and more so if the story is calling for it. It is our choice to write stories that do not call for it. But when our choices become unrealistic, the story will suffer. So I cannot advocate for it.

    That we do not prefer these depictions is perfectly fine, but stories must stand on their own. I would not choose to hurt my own craft to artificially avoid harsh scenes. I would not want others to do so either. There is room for all types.

    Anyway...not likely to persuade anyone, and I've no wish to dwell, so...
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    The problem is less often that such scenes are included at all, but rather how they're handled by the offer. For example, such a scene may be used simply as a vehicle for character growth or motivation for a male protagonist. I can see how people would be put off by that, or consider it a cheap plot device that doesn't treat the subject matter with the gravity it deserves.
  8. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    Well, I can too. Mileage may vary. But we cannot hold as a requirement people handle them well before they get to write them, how else to gain experience? Those that do so poorly will win fewer readers.
  9. Crcata

    Crcata Acolyte

    Elves loving trees like hippies hahaha. Worsttt. Reminds me of that old RPG Fable hahaha.
    Chessie2 likes this.
  10. There’s a lot I could say here, but I mainly want to talk about the rape scenes: “Rape is a likely outcome to a female character in dangerous situations in a world where someone is trying to handle things in a realistic way.”

    Herein is my point: “realism” is suddenly not a concern when it comes to dysentery, armor, hairy armpits, dragons being able to fly, and wizards. But when it comes to women getting assaulted, violated and brutalized, it is suddenly important.


    If you truly believe that stories suffer without “realism,” then I expect some complaining about the lack of diarrhea from drinking bad water in a large number of fantasy novels. Why don’t authors devote a couple pages to the hero getting the runs every once in a while? After all, the argument or realism is sufficient to include these scenes...

    ...or maybe people *don’t like* to read extremely detailed accounts of your hero’s gastrointestinal distress because it’s *disgusting.*

    In fantasy, “realism” bends depending on what the author *WANTS* to include. This is true of all fiction, actually, but in fantasy you have godlike power to disregard what is “realistic.”

    If you’re referencing our world, well, we don’t have dragons, and we don’t have wizards. But they’re in the fantasy book, because the author had the power to decide to put them there or not. Because they’re writing the book. Even though these things don’t exist irl. So no. Realism is the solitary reason to include exactly nothing in a fantasy novel. The author chose everything they decided to put in the book. If there’s a rape scene, it’s because the author decided to write one. That’s it. That last bit is true of literally every genre, actually.

    And to be honest, we women don’t really know why fantasy authors are making that decision over and over and over, ad nauseum, with an incredible amount of frequency, to write about characters being raped, because rape is so abhorrent that you’d think people wouldn’t write about it just for funzies. You’d think people would be disgusted enough by it that they would maybe NOT want to have every single female character in their story raped. Why would you do that, when you could NOT do that? It’s like, why would you write about your character having explosive diarrhea, when you could just not? Why would you hit yourself in the toe with a hammer, when you could decide not to do that? That’s how it seems to us.

    Your female readers are about as eager to read rape scenes included purely for “realism” as they are explosive diarrhea scenes included purely for realism. But like, even less eager. It’s just too damn close to home, it’s disgusting, it’s abhorrent in a way that beheadings and murders and mutilations never will be because we don’t all know multiple people who have been mutilated by the dark lord’s minions. it’s not something we want in our brain space. I simply fail to understand how it can be dealt with so flippantly that the justification to include it is as small as “well, it just makes sense here.” It seems like it should be so much heavier of a decision. But that’s me being female, having a mom and a little sister.

    To put it even more bluntly: women who complain about rape in books don’t understand how on earth the authors can stomach writing about it in the way that they do, with the frequency that they do.

    And yet. Under certain circumstances, my argument would be a hell of a lot different. In a different world. Of course there are ways to handle rape in a fantasy setting. Of course rape sometimes needs to be written about. It’s something a lot of people have experienced, and so obviously there is ample room for it in literature. I’ve written things myself about characters with horrific traumas. So why am I heaping condemnation? Because I have yet to read a book that actually handles rape in a respectful manner. I have read so many damn novels with sexual assault and rape—of men and women both, actually—that I regret being literate. Many of them failed to acknowledge that it was rape at all, almost all literally ignored the trauma that practically one hundred percent of survivors experience, and many of them were totally irrelevant to the plot. Rape is more often than not used to make things seem more shocking or to make the story a bit darker. That’s it. It’s horribly tone deaf and disrespectful, but no one cares. That’s why I don’t trust authors with rape.

    If authors didn’t include sexual assault for no reason at all in their stories? If they didn’t use it as a cheap plot device? If they actually bothered to address how sexual assault affects people’s lives? If they gave their characters any dignity whatsoever? If they actually showed a minute mote of respect for rape survivors instead of exploiting their pain to shock audiences and make their story “grittier,” or worse, to get off? If I’d read a *single* book that wasn’t totally horrible in the way it handled everything? I would be less harsh. But those if’s haven’t happened. And sexual violence in fantasy is just *so* common that I don’t feel super eager to defend anybody’s right to write more of it. We could honestly do without it for a little bit. I know I could.

    So I guess what I earnestly implore you to do is to consider the fact that the topic of rape is far, far, far less abstract to many, many people than it is to you. If you leave the house at all, you’ve met a survivor. It’s almost guaranteed. And it’s real, devastating stuff. It’s hard to pick a subject that has more horrible relevance to more people. It’s so, so far from being some kind of aesthetic decision or plot device or Realism Shot or whatever. Like, really really far from being anywhere close. Talk to women. Read about abuse and trauma. Get to a point of empathy with their experiences. It’ll start to make sense why these discussions are so upsetting to people.
    Firefly, Steerpike, Malik and 2 others like this.
  11. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

    A loser from our world gets transported/reincarnated in a magical/fantasy world where they are the coolest most badass person.
    Usually this cliché is accompanied with other "lovely" tropes like lazy world building, the chosen one protagonist and bland main characters.
    I once read a story with a similar premise which also had a bland damsel in distress. :sick::sleep::censored::yuck:
    Firefly likes this.
  12. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    Okay. Two things here. First, women were, for the overwhelming part of history, not considered property at all by anyone. There's a good reason for that. Guys don't tend to like to think of their mothers, sisters, or daughters as someone's property, which is why I'd like to see a source for the claim that a runaway Colonial wife could be charged with theft of herself. From what I know, it would be Victorian women and it would be the theft of the items (including clothing) on her person, and not herself. Coverture was really bloody stupid and it got progressively worse as it got closer to the 19th century.

    Second, on divorce. While it's true that not being able to escape from a toxic situation is bad, the prohibition of divorce was actually more a good thing for women. In a society of serial monogamy where women are disadvantaged economically, being an older woman sucks because her husband will most likely divorce her for a younger wife and leave her in poverty or at least, with a much lower standard of living than she used to enjoy.
  13. The first thing was from a book I have. I might have misremembered. Idk man.

    The second thing, well...I’m not even sure what your point is because the only reason divorce would be bad in that circumstance is, as you say, because women are disadvantaged economically. I’m not denying that a lot of women would have starved without their husbands to support them. That’s not exactly a good thing though.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  14. Idea: person who is extremely special and important in our world gets transported to fantasy world where they are the only one who can’t do magic.
    Nighty_Knight likes this.
  15. This whole sexism conversation is confusing tbh, because it seems like everyone is trying to say that the societies/social structures in question are not actually misogynistic, but then saying that rape of female characters makes sense and is realistic given the circumstances.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  16. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

    Mysogyny is a word too watered down by modern politics to be useful.
  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I think it's as much about defending worldviews than critiquing writing. I think if you held up examples there would probably be much more agreement.

    I've read only a few books which went into rape, but they were crap, and I will readily skip those books. Aside from my own opinions, I feel that those kinds of scenes are disrespectful to readers who aren't looking to put themselves through those experiences, which they might because it's a little too close to home.

    Game of Thrones threatens rape a few times, holding it over Sansa's head for instance, but I don't think it ever actually happens (edit: I just remembered there are scenes from different POVs, so kind of nevermind) . Jessica Jones deals heavily with the aftermath of a trauma which also included it, but never featured it. So I think there's plenty of room to deal with the "realism" of these kinds of issues without needing to traumatize portions of your audience.
  18. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    I believe we're coming to a point where everyone's arguing against things that the other people in the discussion aren't arguing in favour of, leading to a muddled conversation with frustration quick to follow.

    If people want to continue discussing this topic, I think it's best to open a separate thread (or two, who knows) with a centrally focused question, instead of a number of assertations on the vague topic of rape in fantasy fiction.
  19. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I also recommend, strongly, that folks leave ad hominem rhetoric off the keyboard.
  20. That would be quick to turn into a dumpster fire tbh, because it’s such an incredibly sensitive topic that is highly personal to a large number of people, and yet no one has the ability to decide who writes what.

    I particularly have strong opinions at the moment because last year I blundered into a whole nest of books that handled rape in a terrible manner, and I feel like nuking the entire trope after all that.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.

Share This Page