We all read sci-fi/fantasy primarily for entertainment but also because it’s an escape from all the rubbish we have to deal with on a daily basis. I’ve just had a pretty awful day at work and the first thing I did when I left was to dive straight into ‘Shadowbred’ (by Paul S. Kemp, I’ll be reviewing it tomorrow) where I exchanged a world of office drudgery for a world of swords, sorcery and high adventure. By the time I got home things were already much better.
The thing that struck me though is that while we all want to escape into these fantastical worlds, we all moan if these worlds are lacking in realism in any way. My pet hate is names that blatantly look as if they have thrown together using the left over pieces from a game of scrabble. For example, “Qualhurg sank a pint of werghiz, stroking his battleaxe ‘Unfelliaz’ whilst watching the Trilladan in the corner”, a line like that is pretty much guaranteed to have me crumpling an otherwise decent book into a ball and throwing it out of the window. I’ll bet you’re the same, it may not be names but I’ll bet there’s something that makes you think, “that’s just not realistic”. My point though is how much realism is it appropriate to expect from something that (at best) may only have a very tenuous link to reality? Should the reader expect something that they can identify with on some level, something that grounds them and prepares them for more fantastical elements. Or should the reader be expected to just completely suspend their disbelief and take whatever comes?
What do you guys think? What do you hate seeing in genre fiction? Should a writer write with the reader in mind or should they stay true to the vision in their head and to hell with the consequences…?