Twenty Things People Hate About Fantasy

I adore fantasy, and let’s be honest, so do you.

Fantasy is the best-selling genre of all time.

But there are people who hate fantasy titles. Yeah, really there are…

So what is it about fantasy that drives people away?

I did a little research into this and I discovered twenty things that fantasy haters don’t like about this most popular of all genres…

What can fantasy authors learn from this list, shared below? Well, maybe they can ration some of the worst stylistic elements and features. Maybe they can listen to the criticisms and make reasonable modifications.

Or, quite the contrary, perhaps they should cram their stories with even more of what those haters hate! After all, they’ll never get it…  but the genuine fans will love those qualities!

Either way, it’s good to know the flip-side of opinion…

20 things people hate about  fantasy

1.      Too little romance or too much romance turns people off. Fantasies seem unable to bring that comforting balance of “just enough” romance
2.      Some think “only children” are instinctively drawn to fantasy worlds, so they have pre-decided that fantasy is “not for adults”
3.      Some people dislike stories that are told without rules or limits
4.      Some find the language (terminology) of fantasy somewhat inaccessible
5.      Some feel fantasy fiction does not focus enough on human experience and individual problems
6.      Some don’t like stories with so many characters to follow
7.      Some dislike prose with so much fussy detail
8.      Some do not have the imagination to immerse themselves in fantastic worlds, it’s just the way their minds are hard-wired
9.      Some do not feel their life requires the escapism that fantasy offers
10.  Some dislike the flowery prose of fantasy

[with thanks to Tom Gaul]

11.  Some dislike the arbitrary power an author extends over character and plot development (i.e. inconsistent rules or ill-conceived magic systems)
12.  Some are unable or unwilling to  “invest” in the span of stories that make up an epic fantasy series… some fantasies tend to go on-and-on
13.  Some  believe fantasy fiction is geared towards the male reader
14.  Skeptics (that’s to say, people who doubt  something is true and useful) say magic is unscientific
15.  The same skeptics say that magic is unrealistic
16.  Worse still, those skeptics say magic is not intellectual or sophisticated enough for them
17.  Recycled tropes are a bore
18.  For some, the sheer size of a single fantasy novel is intimidating (let alone a series of stories)
19.  Fantasy romance is considered unrealistic
20.  Conventional rules of reality can easily be bent or hot-wired by the author; this is seen as short-cutting plot and character development, and so this is “unfair”

Thoughts or comments? Tweet me @neilmach

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Listen to this topic on the Myth & Magic Podcast

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Myth and Magic EP 14 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 14 SHOW-NOTES

Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Fifteen: 28M

This week I seek the definition of a wizard. I examine the origin of Merlin and see how he is curiously connected with all later wizards — both imaginary and real — from Faust to Nostradamus, to Doctor John Dee and Sir Edward Kelley — and onto Gandalf, Dumbledore, The Doctor (Who) and even Obi-Wan Kenobi. Also in this episode look at The Staffordshire Hoard and see how this discovery might explain dragon gold.

Edward Kelly

The Greatest Wizards

During Halloween week one of the guys I follow on twitter asked her followers to share their favourite wizards. Although Gandalf came up a few times, on the whole most of the characters on the list (there were hundreds of replies, by the way) were witches. But what’s the difference between a witch and a wizard?

In the famous 1960s TV show “Bewitched” male “witches” are described as warlocks. So why not describe them as wizards? Why is Harry Potter a witch, rather than a wizard? Before you write to remind me that Hogwarts is a school for witchcraft and wizardry let me give you (one) good & reliable definition of what a wizard is: Think of Gandalf, who was a member of the Istari i.e. The “Wise Ones” > Here’s the definition I use: a wizard is wandering being who resembles a human man but possesses far greater physical and mental power.

Do Harry and his friends have great physical and mental powers? Are they men? Are they wanderers? Or are they they (special) humans who work on perfecting their witchcraft & potions?

MERLIN of the Arthurian legends is probably the first wizard to be mentioned in poetry and text and could, actually, be the one-and-only true wizard… I’ll come to that later.

Myrddin Wyllt ( Merlin the Wild ) a Welsh bard, was first mentioned as early as 573 in writings, This curious old poet is said to have lived in the deep forest, he lived like a wild-man, with the animals, and it’s said he’d been blessed with the gift of prophecy. Myrddin was mentioned in the The Annals of Wales, a primary source of history about King Arthur. And it’s important at this point to underline the fact that Merlin (and Arthur) if they ever existed at all, must have existed long before the medieval period that we often associate with these characters. In other words, long before knights rode around in armour and performed chivalric deeds. These earliest tales of Myrddin are Roman or (probably) pre-Roman in origin. Our notions of Knights in shining Armour and damsels locked away in towers come (mainly) from Tennyson’s writings… which I’ll turn to later.

Myrddin’s legend closely resembles that of another north-British figure called Lailoken (LAYLE OCKEN ) which appears in Jocelyn of Furness’ 12th-century Life of Kentigern, an important founder of the post-Roman church in Strathclyde, who was said to have died in 612. Lailoken was said to have been a wild-man who lived in the Caledonian Forest, in the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde and there have been (later) claims that Lailoken was also known as Merlynum (MER LI NUMB) – coincidental? And there’s a famous poem titled “The Conversation of Merlin and his twin sister Gwendydd” where she refers to Merlin by the pet name: Llallogan (Clagh Loghh An ) is this the same word as LAYLE OCKEN? In Welsh this word means: brother, friend and also (curiously) TWIN-LIKE which makes sense because he’s her twin… or is she referring to another twin?

Myrddin Wyllt

Myrddin Wyllt – with the Lady of the Lake or with Gwendydd?

A ninth century Welsh monk named NENNIUS wrote a “History of the Britons” in about year 828 and this was the first source to mention a military leader named Arthur, and academics point out this this work is probably the only historical basis for the knowledge of King Arthur that we have today. His history includes reference to a wizard.

But the more modern depiction of a Merlin character that we might recognize as the first great wizard comes from Geoffrey of Monmouth and his book Prophetiae Merlini – very much inspired by the “History of the Britons”. This tended to be a collection of the prophecies made by the Welsh figure of Myrddin (MERRH THIN) whom Geoffrey called Merlin. Like the history by the monk NENNIUS before, this was written in Latin. The book became “published” around 1130. Geoffrey of Monmouth (born, himself, around 1090) suggested that his book is based on old Brittonic tales, some of them passed down by word of mouth, as well as the accounts of the monk Nennius. One story of Myrddin’s prophetic talents tells the tale of how a King asked the wizard to interpret the meaning of a vision he’d had. Two dragons fought, one red and one white. Merlin explained that the Red Dragon was the British race, the White Dragon was the Saxons. The Saxons would win. This was an accurate prophecy.

It’s not know why Geoffrey of Monmouth changed the spelling of Myrddin (MERRH THIN) into “Merlin” in his Prophetiae Merlini but it’s possible (as a French speaking Norman) that he didn’t like the original name to be associated with the vulgar french word “merde” even though the text he used was largely Latin. If you don’t know what MERDE means, by the way, I’ll leave it to you to look up!

Prophetiae Merlini

Prophetiae Merlini

Tales such as “Culhwch and Olwen” and “The Dream of Rhonabwy” found within the The Mabinogion and are the earliest prose stories of Britain. The stories were composed in Middle Welsh in about the 12th–13th centuries and were taken from earlier oral traditions and have interested scholars ever since those early dates because they preserve the oldest traditions of King Arthur and, therefore, the figure Merlin. These works inspired later writers.

But it’s really Thomas Malory’s late 15th-century prose “Le Morte D’arthur” that brings us the glamour and adventure we normally associate with the Arthurian legends and the highly-dramatized account of the Wizard Merlin… brought to us as a character who begins as a wild-man of the forest and ends up advising Uther Pendragon (Arthur’s father) and eventually becoming the prophet of the Holy Grail and who is later tragically fascinated by the mysterious Lady of the Lake who entombs him (forever) inside the trunk of a hawthorn tree.

Witches' Tree by Edward Burne-Jones (1905)

Witches’ Tree by Edward Burne-Jones (1905)

It’s not known how much of Malory’s work influenced (if at all) the French astrologer, physician and wandering clairvoyant, Nostradamus (1503-1566 ) who was a man of science and religion yet dabbled in horoscopes, necromancy, scrying, and good luck charms (such as the hawthorn rod that he used as a wand). He’s famous for his long-term predictions, and you’ve no doubt heard of his world famous Almanacs. He was very much influenced by Chaldean and Assyrian magic which went back hundreds of years to the very earliest civilizations, and, if you met him, you’d have to describe him as “a wizard” i.e. he had a black cloak, black hat, long white beard. In addition to his almanacs, he also published books on potions. Is he another embodiment of Merlin?

A little after Nostradamus, the sixteenth century advisor to Queen Elizabeth 1st JOHN DEE ( you might have heard of him, too) was a wandering philosopher, alchemist and spy-master and one of the Queen’s favourites. Of Welsh descent his family claimed to come from Welsh royal blood. (coincidence?) When Elizabeth took to the throne in 1558, Dee became her most trusted advisor on astrological and scientific matters, choosing Elizabeth’s coronation date for her (for example.) DEE is known to have attempted to contact the spirit-world using a “scryer” or crystal-gazer, and took a great interest in the tales of Merlin, and used Arthurian legend to help promote an enlarging ‘British empire’ abroad. As he became more involved in occult practices, he drifted further from the church and science, and into the occult. It’s understood that he considered himself able to communicate with angels/demons. He was happy to claim he was a “new” Merlin.

A contemporary of his, Sir Edward Kelly, was also able to summon spirits or angels in a “shew-stone” or magic mirror and he allegedly knew the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone. I have added an engraving of Kelly into the show-notes (top of the page) because I wanted you to see that this guy is every-inch what you and I would describe as a Wizard in the Merlin tradition.

Both these wizards — DEE and KELLY — seem to have based many of their ideas on the works of the German Renaissance itinerant alchemist, astrologer and magician known (in English) as John Faustus. Many of Faust’s magical tales were sold and re-hashed in what was known as chapbooks back in the 16th century, these were a type of cheap street literature printed for the consumption of ordinary folk as small, paper-covered booklets, kind of the first ever “Penny Dreadfuls.” Nevertheless, DEE and KELLY were influenced by Dr. Faust who lived in Bavaria in around 1480 and was described as a philosopher, alchemist, magician and astrologer. He died in an explosion after an alchemical experiment went wrong, in about 1541. There are several grimoires or magical texts attributed to Dr. Faust. Presumably, some of these spell-books were owned by Dee and Kelly. Is he also a Merlin figure?

Dr Faustus

Dr Faustus

The Tudor playwright Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Dee and Kelly, portrayed Faust as the archetypal adept of Renaissance magic in “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus” from about 1590. A 1620 woodcut illustration of Doctor Faustus (above) shows him to resemble a “customary” wizard, book in one hand, long staff in the other (no doubt made of hawthorn) and standing inside a protective circle wearing a magicians hat and fur-trimmed cloak… with a long white beard and white hair.

Much later, English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892; Poet Laureate from 1850, re-told the stories of King Arthur and the tales of his fatal love for Guinevere and the stories of the Knights of the Round Table in the 12 cyclical poems that made up the “Idylls of the King” published 1859 and 1885. These are a very Mid-Victorian read and tend to study the embodiment of the ideal Victorian “male” hero (the Prince Albert type father figure) and also contain explicit references to Gothic interiors, as well as Romantic appreciations of nature, and society’s growing anxiety about changing gender roles. The poems also tell of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake. Tennyson based these writings on the works of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and the 13th century Mabinogion.

Is this figure… the eternal material body of Merlin, and also the fictional character-image of Gandalf, perhaps even Obi-Wan Kenobi and Dr. Who, and certainly Albus Dumbledore who “knows pretty much everything” … are all these figures the same person?

Are all these eccentric wanderers and learned beings (beings that resemble human men but possess far greater physical and mental powers) these alchemists, philosophers and wise-men… are they all reincarnations of the once and future MERLIN?

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CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Fourteen of MYTH & MAGIC 28M

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Myth and Magic EP 16 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 16 SHOW-NOTES

Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Sixteen: 25M

This week I visit Dozmary Pool in Cornwall to discover why The Enchantress, Coventina, Vagdavercustis, Ceridwen, Viviane / Nimue and even Saint Brigid of Kildare might all be the same character: Is she the mysterious and ancient being – Lady of the Lake?


My visit to DZAMOR’S POOL in the Duchy of Cornwall. November 2019

Who or what is the LADY OF THE LAKE?

Those of you who enjoyed and have followed the universe portrayed in the story of DC Comics Suicide Squad in particular Amanda Waller’s Squad will be familiar with the complicated character known as ENCHANTRESS. In one account June Moon stumbles across a magical being known as DZAMOR who can be materialized with the word “Enchantress”. But is there such a creature? Is the enchantress based upon any real-world myth and magic?

Earlier last month I traveled to the place where the ENCHANTRESS is said to have lived.
And it’s NOT a castle. It’s a lake.

Yep, she lived in the bottom of a lake! Weird yeah?

Are all these characters one-and-the-same? Lady of the Lake?

Are all these characters one-and-the-same? Lady of the Lake?

First we have to learn about a mystical goddess known as COVENTINA. She’ll help us understand where the enchantress comes from and from there we can attempt to age her.

Coventina was a Romano-British Pagan goddess of wells and springs. She is known from multiple inscriptions at one site in the county of Northumberland, England, an area surrounding a wellspring near Carrawburgh on Hadrian’s Wall.

I have touched upon this area of the UK before because it is a magical region. Nearby is a MITHRAEUM. This is a man-made structure built to resemble a cave and designed to be an “image of the universe” in which a soul descends and exits. The MITHRAEUM was likely used as a place of initiation into the cult of Mithras. So it serves as a temple of the mystery cult to the astrological Roman god Mithras. MITHRA is one of the oldest GODS and is known across religions. In Indo-Iranian culture his name MITRA in Sanskrit means “eye of the light” though it can also mean COVENANT or contract, perhaps alluding to the “contract” that new adherents enter into on initiation into the secret sect.

I’ll go deeper into MITHRAS in another episode but just to say that MITHRAS is an incarnation of Orion, and he is often seen portrayed killing the bull Taurus that is found beside him in the night sky. I might also add that this powerful GOD is often portrayed as a lion-headed man too and may be one of the earliest Hindu deities and very, very ancient indeed. You might be interested to learn, in passing, that MITHRAS was born from the rock on December 25! Curious, huh? It’s only recently been established by a new analysis by scholars that the ancient temple to MITHRAS at this site aligns with the sunrise on December 25 – in other words it aligns with the birth of Christ (the light in the world) on Christmas Day. Without wishing to distress or annoy Christians, it’s worth pointing out that 25th December is the first date following the Winter Solstice (the symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun) that the day lengthens (by a minute) and the early Christian church probably co-opted the Mithras and Sol Invictus “Festival of the Rejuvenant Sun” as the birthmark of Christ the Saviour to establish ascendancy over the long-held Pagan beliefs. From an astrological point of view: the Sun is reborn on the 25th December, is then visited by three wandering planets, and becomes surrounded by the 12 constellations of the zodiac As a schoolboy I was taught in Sunday School that the early Christian Church took over the pagan sites, beliefs and important dates to show people that the old gods had no power.

But back to the Northumberland MITHRAEUM. This is probably the only MITHRAEUM where artefacts depicting the Celtic war goddess Vagdavercustis [ VAG DAVER CEWS STIS ] have been found and the only known artefact of Vagdavercustis outside Germany. It was customary for Roman officials in their provinces to honour local gods as a way of maintaining local goodwill… but this seems a stretch, maybe. Because why honour her inside the temple to a mystery cult (where normal folk don’t have access) surely, if they wanted to honour her as part of some diplomatic/political act they’d have done it “out and loud” in a public place? Anyway, not much is known about Vagdavercustis [ VAG DAVER CEWS STIS ] other than she’s associated with trees and forests and is said to be the “protector of war dancers.”

It seems that, at some stage during the Roman Occupation of Britain, a second Mithraeum was built over the earliest part, using materials from the Shrine to the Nymphs. And in around 128-133 AD a new Mithraeum was built, on the remains of the earlier two, dedicated to goddess Coventina. It’s interesting that she shares a place and position with some of the earliest known Gods including a connection with the EYE OF THE LIGHT.

This place of worship became known as Coventina’s Well and CONVENTINA herself is depicted in nymph form – reclining, partially clothed, and associated with water. In the book titled “The Skystone” by Jack Whyte , the author represents Coventina as the LADY OF THE LAKE.

While considering Vagdavercustis at the MITHRAEUM is is also worth touching on the sorceress character mentioned in the Tale of Taliesin, set in Wales, and known as Ceridwen. KER ID WEN was a dawn goddesses and a white fairy, and became a pagan goddess and part of the Celtic [KELTIC] pantheon. She was known to be a shapeshifter (she could turn into a fish or an otter, as well as a bird) and she abided in a castle BENEATH the rather beautifully serene and (perhaps) fathomless Bala Lake, in Wales.

But we know the enchantress known as LADY OF THE LAKE (she has a name, by the way, I’ll come to that in a moment) from the legend associated with King Arthur. This mystical non-human creature plays a pivotal role in many of the Arthurian stories: she gives ARTHUR his sword, she enchants and traps MERLIN and she raises Sir Lancelot. But what do we actually know of her?

The enchantress named Viviane (pronounced VIV-ee-uhn) or Nimue (pronounced neem-OO-ay) also lived in a castle under a lake (like Ceridwen, so might be the same creature). She shares similarities to the dawn goddess and pre-Christain irish Goddess known as Brigid (pronounced BREED or BRIDE) whose birthday “The Day of the Bride” is celebrated as the first day of Spring, 1 February. She is associated with sacred wells and celebrated by modern Pagans along with her male (counterpart) the HORNED GOD. By the way, Saint Brigid of Kildare – the patron saint of ireland and perhaps an abbess or nun – may or may not be the same BRIGID! That’s because the tradition of BRIGID was assimilated and merged by Christians – syncretized into one myth. There is very little historical evidence that a “real” Saint Brigid ever existed (this suggestion is a bit controversial, I know.)

But back to VIVIANE – because she lives and exists in an underwater realm she’s a symbol of mystery and magic. And that’s probably why she inspires poems such as The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott (later an opera by Rossini.) And becomes a main character in The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

But first The Lady of the Lake began to appear in French chivalric romances during the early 13th century. In these romances she aided humans (like a fairy godmother) and helped them fulfill their quests.

Later, in Sir Thomas Malory’s 15th-century definitive Arthurian tales Arthur and Merlin first meet this Lady of the Lake when she holds Excalibur out of the water and offers it to Arthur if he promises to fulfill a request from her later.

There are a number of locations in Great Britain that are traditionally associated with the Lady of the Lake, Bala in Wales (mentioned earlier) being one. The most famous and most recognized is DOZMARY pool. I was lucky enough to visit this place earlier last month. It’s on the remote and wild Bodmin Moor, in the DUCHY of Cornwall, on the South West peninsula of England, and close to JAMAICA INN (a real place and the inspiration for Daphne du Maurier’s 1936 novel and HITCHCOCKS 1939 feature film.)

The POOL is very strange (see the video I took at the top of the page). It’s likely that it hasn’t changed since the last ice-age and is an important ecological site because of this. In legend, it is here that King Arthur rowed out to the Lady of the Lake to receive the sword Excalibur. When King Arthur lay dying after the Battle of Camlan, Sir Bedivere casts the mystical sword back into DOZMARY POOL … to be returned from whence it came.

Llyn Llywenan ( in English: Yew Tree Lake) is a lake in western Anglesey, Wales. Anglesey is an island odd the North West tip of Wales and I’ll probably return to it in another show because it’s home to the druids.

The lake is situated in an area that has been settled since the Stone Age, and right through the Neolithic Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

There are uncommon aquatic plants growing in this silty lake that has a hazy island in the middle. Two neolithic burial mounds sit beside the lake. These probably date from about 3100BC (about the time that the second Scorpion King ruled Upper Egypt and Stonehenge began to be built.)

Finally, I have already mentioned this in an earlier show, but it’s worth repeating: The full French name of the University of Notre Dame, founded in 1842, is Notre Dame du Lac. This is translated as “Our Lady of the Lake.

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CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Sixteen of MYTH & MAGIC 25M

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