3 Things I Hate in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Today I’m going to be a rebel.

Talking about things we love comes as naturally as breathing. We can go on for hours about our favorite movie, sing the praises of a stunning book we’ve read, wax eloquent on the movie soundtrack we’ve been listening to for the past three weeks.

What about the other side of the coin? What about movies, books, characters, or anything else we detest?

If you know anything about me, you know I’m a massive sci-fi and fantasy enthusiast. A geek to the core. I’m not naturally long-winded—unless I’m writing—but get me started into superheroes, fantasy worlds, or magic systems, and I can run the like the energizer bunny.

Believe it or not, there are things about my favorite genres and stories that I hate.

Clichés that make me want to pull my hair out.

Characteristics as worn out as a ten-year-old pair of jeans.

Asian man with shocked expressionOddly enough, this isn’t hard for me to talk about. I readily admit science fiction and fantasy aren’t perfect.

Gasp and horror.

I think their general epicness shines like the sun when compared to other genres, but even so, problems grow like thistles.

For a different spin on my generally glowing opinion of science fiction and fantasy, here are three things I hate.

1. Overly Protective Heroes

This one’s like politicians during election season—you can’t get away from it. If I had a dollar for every time the hero told someone he (or she) was only trying to protect them…I’d still need a job, but I’d have a heck of a lot more money than I do now.

The excuse is so old. Every time I hear it, I want to scream, sigh, bang my head against something hard, and slap some creativity into them.

All at the same time.

Eventually, after hearing it over and over, it becomes a numbing irritation—like the buzz of a fly in a quiet room.

Dudes are usually the guilt party with the “I’m trying to protect you” line, so I get it. I really do. It’s natural to want to protect people you care about. But at the same time, it’s foolish to carry the burden alone and selfish to shut out people who care about you just as much.

Can we have a new flavor, please? Different motivations? Different responses?

I don’t know about you, but if the hero keeps on insisting he only wants to protect people by lying to them, hiding things from them, or making endless excuses, I might take up flying lessons…without a parachute.

2. Women’s Fantasy Armor

Or lack thereof. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about—the hot warrior-chick garb that for some inexplicable reason passes for suitable protection against slashing swords and stabbing spears.

You’re headed into battle against the vicious Cut Throats who would like nothing more than to soak the ground with your blood. Would you feel safe throwing yourself into the melee in what amounts to a leather and steel swimsuit?

Maybe you’re a kick-butt warrior whose skill is such that the enemy’s steel can never touch you…but still. Is it worth the risk?

The point is, armor is for protection. To cover your body and so prevent you from being hacked to pieces. It’s not about looking hot or appealing to an unwritten dress code that makes no sense on the battlefield.

3. Chosen One Stories

Please…please…please…I’VE HAD ENOUGH.

Stories in which the hero is the chosen one—by prophecy, destiny, providence, whatever—are as old as top-of-the-line wine.

And they don’t get better with age.

This is a particularly nasty blemish in the sparkling crown of fantasy. Tales of the chosen one are as numerous as Catholic rabbits (did you catch that reference? *wink-wink*), and twice as annoying. If done with imagination and a reckless disregard for tiresome clichés, they can work. But why keep going to the same almost dried-up well when there’s a river of originality ten yards away?

This isn’t as large of a plague in science fiction circles, but it exists and I’m tired of it.

Instead of chosen one stories, why can’t we have characters who act because they see a need? Who oppose the villain not because they’re bound by prophecy or directed by destiny, but because it’s the right thing to do?

Okay, mini rant over, and I feel much better.

What pet peeves do you have when it comes to science fiction and fantasy? Are there any that are a burr under your saddle? I would love to hear your thoughts.


3 Things I Hate in Sci-Fi and Fantasy — 14 Comments

  1. lol #1 reminds me of Arrow – one of the myriad of reasons I dropped the show halfway through the 3rd season…
    As for #3, to me the best stories are when they go through the trouble of coming up with a reason. He’s the chosen one? Fine. What is it about this person and his life and circumstances that make him uniquely qualified to be the savior? I thought Harry Potter did this well.

    • Yes! I had Arrow in mind when I wrote #1.

      Excellent point about chosen one stories. If there’s a logical reason why the hero has been chosen, it strengthens the story and the purpose of the character. I haven’t gotten through all the HP books yet, and none of the movies. I’m looking forward to seeing how the chosen one model plays out.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. AMEN. Specially that “chosen one” point. In a Christian ideology, we act because we see a need and because it’s the right thing to do. Sure we’re chosen, but…. God doesn’t NEED us. We choose to heed the need, the call. The world usually won’t fall apart if we don’t do something. BUT we will miss out on a heck of an adventure and have to reckon for our laziness and lack of courage later… Since fantasy helps me see my life more clearly because of the story elements, I thoroughly agree a more realistic view in fantasy would be sweet! I need to remember this for future writing projects. ;P

  3. Haha, I just posted a question about tired tropes on my writer page today, and #3 was one of my answers too – the prophesied savior one. I thought SparksofEmber had a great point, though…there has to be a good reason. Harry Potter had a fantastic backstory to explain all that. I’m also tired of teenage females who save the world (again, why them?) and the same ‘ol classic fantasy that just tries to be another Tolkien or Lewis without putting a new spin on the genre.

    • Awesome, Bethany. Great minds think alike. 😉

      I think the prophesied savior routine is getting old for lots of people. Apart from Hunger Games, I haven’t read too many books with teenage girls saving the world, but I know there are a lot out there. Yes! Tolkien and Lewis spin-offs. So annoying. *cough* Eragon *cough*

    • I think the “teenage girl saving the world” is happening because teenage girls read more than teenage boys, or at least that was what I observed when I used to work at the library. When writing a character, it’s best to have one that is similar to the intended reader, which means if the target audience is a teenage girl, the book will most likely be about a teenage girl. Of course, this leaves boys who read without many characters to relate to because a fair amount of boys don’t want to read about a girl.

      • That’s a great point, Jessi. Hadn’t considered that, but it makes sense. Personally, I don’t mind reading books with girls as the main character, but I also enjoy a balance. The Blood of Kings Trilogy by Jill Williamson comes to mind. It switches between Achan and Vrell, appealing to both sides.

  4. Good points. I haven’t noticed the chain mail bikini thing much of late. Hopefully that means people are catching on. I saw a piece of art that showed an elf girl, wearing too little armor to be modest, shot full of arrows.
    The Chosen One is also pretty old. I like Sanderson’s YA novels, which have done a good job of using an unlikely hero. Unlike most books, the hero isn’t even special.

    • Thanks, Jessi. Glad you liked it.

      Yeah, elves and lack of armor seem to go together for some reason. At least the picture was accurate.

      Yes, to Sanderson. I haven’t read much of his YA, but what I have read I LOVE. He blows my mind on many levels.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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