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Scifi / Fantasy News > 10 Tropes Involving Fantasy Weapons That Should Die In A Fire

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message 1: by Andrea (new)

Andrea (tigerr) | 32 comments http://io9.com/10-tropes-involving-fa...

I wasn't sure where to put a discussion like this..but what do you guys think? As a new reader to fantasy (I don't like scifi as much as I thought I would) these tropes don't bother me as much as they probably should.

But what do my fellow readers think?


message 2: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments I'm not taking advice on cliches from anyone who says "die in a fire".


message 3: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8768 comments I'm actually doing a science fiction version of most of that list for my NaNoWriMo. Finding ways to duplicate those Fantasy tropes with technology is fairly easy, finding a reason they should exist is a bit harder. "You brought a knife to a gun fight?!" kind of thing.


message 4: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 701 comments Meh, I think it's a rather poorly written article, and a lot of the examples she uses are actually *good* examples of the use of the tropes so I don't really see the point.

I admit that I sometimes roll my eyes when reading about Epic swords of Epicness when used poorly, but that's mostly something I encounter on story sites and the poorer examples of self published fiction (when I still bothered sifting through that.)


message 5: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments I'll agree with the author on Reforged Weapons (aren't they more likely to break?) and Race-Specific Weapons (lazy characterization). The ultra-sharp knife isn't one I've really run into as much as some of the others.


message 6: by John (Nevets) (new)

John (Nevets) Nevets (nevets) | 1594 comments Actually re forging if done correctly makes a lot of sense, especially in the pre industrial times that most fantasy is set. The thing that makes steel strong is the qualities of other materials besides iron added to it. Getting this combination correct is a science now, but back in the day was probably more art and luck. So, if you had a sword that was once great, it probably had a good combination of materials added to it. Thus it would be easier to recycle it, then to get that combination right again. But, it would still have to be melted down compleatly and re forged, and crafted by a master sword smith.

That being said, the reason it gets used in stories is not practical, but metaphorical, and it is very blunt at doing its job.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

kvon wrote: "I'll agree with the author on Reforged Weapons (aren't they more likely to break?) and Race-Specific Weapons (lazy characterization). The ultra-sharp knife isn't one I've really run into as much as..."

I guess I haven't read enough fantasy to have come across many of these tropes, but some of the complaints rang more true to me than others. The race-specific weapon one actually had me scratching my head the most though. Why wouldn't different races (or even different nationalities or ethnicities) use different weapons when that's often the case in the real world? Norse warriors would have different weapons than the Southern European countries they would mount raids against. Japanese warriors were still using swords and bows when the Europeans they were in contact with had guns. If you read a book that takes place during the Vietnam War, it's not lazy characterization if all the Americans are using M16s and the North Vietnamese are using AK47's - it's just factual history.

It seems like it would make even more sense when you're dealing with different races that are probably even more culturally distinct from each other than the examples I gave above. And then there are physical traits that might come into play as well - maybe it's just easier for a dwarf to swing an axe than a sword.

I don't see race-specific weapons as a trope that writers turn to out of laziness or a lack of creativity; to me, different fantasy races would have different weapons because of course they do.


message 8: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8768 comments I think the real problem is that they've been reading a lot of Extruded Fantasy Product where these tropes are used badly.

I read one of Brandon Sanderson's books which had a sword that was simply a lazy rip-off of Elric's sword Stormbringer (who is pretty much all of those tropes combined, isn't he?) and, worse, it felt like it. You see enough of that C-list stuff and you start to roll your eyes.

The first couple movie monsters created by nuclear testing are fine, but 40 years and 100 bad sci-fi/horror movies later you start rolling your eyes.


message 9: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 701 comments Elric's talking sword is hardly the originator of that trope.


message 10: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Andy wrote: "Why wouldn't different races (or even different nationalities or ethnicities) use different weapons when that's often the case in the real world? Norse warriors would have different weapons than the Southern European countries they would mount raids against. Japanese warriors were still using swords and bows when the Europeans they were in contact with had guns. If you read a book that takes place during the Vietnam War, it's not lazy characterization if all the Americans are using M16s and the North Vietnamese are using AK47's - it's just factual history. "

The Vikings, southern Europeans and Saracens were all using swords -- different types of swords, sure, but still long bladed weapons meant for stabbing and slicing, and the AK-47 and M-16 are both automatic rifles.

As for the Japanese, they adopted firearms as soon as the Portuguese introduced them, though it took a while for them to become a useful battlefield weapon, just as had been the case in Europe (the English famously won Agincourt with longbows even though guns were already in use). Firearms played a major role in battles of the late Sengoku period, though they fell out of use during the peace of the Edo period before coming back into style during the Meiji period when Western contact resumed.

The problem with the trope in fantasy is that instead of different races using variants of the same kinds of weapons, as happens in the real world, each race has one weapon that is specific to them. Dwarves typically get axes, elves bows and arrows; in the Wheel of Time, the Aiel are all spear carriers, etc. This makes sense for an RPG where you can use units of different species for specific purposes, but in the real world each race would have a wide variety of weapons that are equivalent to what everyone else is using, or else they'd be at an advantage or disadvantage to everyone else.


message 11: by Kevin (last edited Nov 02, 2014 02:09PM) (new)

Kevin | 701 comments Sean wrote: "Andy wrote: "Also if a book is good then spoilers won't affect your enjoyment of it is my personal feelings on the matter. "

The Aiel exclusively using spears has a reason. It's a pretty big part of their history and culture. That's not just some random racial weapon "just because".


message 12: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8768 comments Sean wrote: "The problem with the trope in fantasy is that instead of different races using variants of the same kinds of weapons, as happens in the real world, each race has one weapon that is specific to them."

Someone needs to get a time machine and go tell those Australian aboriginals to stop using their boomerangs, because it's implausible! After all, the Romans are using spears and short swords while the Native Americans are using tomahawks and bolos.

Snark aside, I think there are plenty of historic examples of people using a specific type of weapon which other cultures don't adopt even after being exposed to them.

Again, I think what the article writer is really reacting to is bad writing.


message 13: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8768 comments Kevin wrote: "Elric's talking sword is hardly the originator of that trope."

I didn't claim it was. Just that Sanderson is a huge Moorcock fan and the sword he wrote about is so clearly derivative of Stormbringer that there's no point in talking about antecedents.


message 14: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Kevin wrote: "The Aiel exclusively using spears has a reason. It's a pretty big part of their history and culture. That's not just some random racial weapon "just because". "

Yeah, it's totally believable that a civilization of several million people spread across an area the size of the United States would all adhere to a taboo for 3000 years without any kind of schism on the subject, or any attempt to work around the rule.

Totally believable if you have no knowledge of Jewish legal history.



Trike wrote: "Someone needs to get a time machine and go tell those Australian aboriginals to stop using their boomerangs, because it's implausible!"

Actually, they're a perfect example of why the cliche is stupid. In real life, Aborigines used a wide variety of weapons, including spears, axes and shields, but the boomerang is the one that catches people's imagination, so in popular culture it's become the aboriginal weapon. If Aborigines were a race in an extruded fantasy novel, you'd have whole armies of them armed with nothing but boomerangs, the same way dwarves never have anything but axes.

Also note that boomerangs aren't unique to Australia -- they were used throughout the world up until the early historic era -- it's simply the place where they continued to be used the longest, thanks mainly to it being an isolated weapons ecosystem.


message 15: by Ben (new)

Ben Nash | 200 comments There's another problem here. Dwarves and Elves don't equate to Mayans and Aboriginals, they're more like humans and apes. Is there one weapon that is *the* human weapon? It's related in my mind to other monoculture issues. All Klingons have the same issues and that curved weapon of theirs (can't remember its name right now) is what they all aspire to. As fun as it is, I wish they'd show the diversity that exists in real cultures. Stories are much more interesting and complex to me that way.


message 16: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) "Again, I think what the article writer is really reacting to is bad writing. "


Yep, i think so too--for the most part. The article writer is arguing that these 10 tropes should be considered clichés and I disagree with all except for 2 of the proposals. For example, the "legend in your back pocket" demonstrates a weakness in plot and is not even really a trope. Similarly with "unusually plot-specific ability".

Personally, the bigger the sword, the better! I also think that the author missed the all-too-obvious phallic symbolism.


message 17: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 701 comments Sean wrote: "Kevin wrote: "Yeah, it's totally believable that a civilization of several million people spread across an area the size of the United States would all adhere to a taboo for 3000 years without any kind of schism on the subject, or any attempt to work around the rule."

The spear thing is the result of a schism and is itself the work around of a rule somewhere during those 3000 years. The Aiel as depicted in the era of the WoT books are a result of a cultural evolution of 3000 years. And a massive cultural schism in the Aiel is a major part of the plot in the middle books.

Does is take into account all the sociological issues that would be in effect in the real world? No of course not. But if you're really going to make a point of that you might as well stop reading fantasy because there are a lot of books, even those with more "literary" approval by critics, that do a lot worse than WoT.


message 18: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 701 comments Trike wrote: "Kevin wrote: "Elric's talking sword is hardly the originator of that trope."

I didn't claim it was. Just that Sanderson is a huge Moorcock fan and the sword he wrote about is so clearly derivative..."


At least Moorcock himself seemed to enjoy the tribute:

"Brandon Sanderson has written an heroic fantasy depending on originality of character and plot.His heroines and heroes are outstanding -- especially Vasher, the Warbreaker, whose special relationship with his sentient sword is both sardonic and sinister. The mysteries of life after death, of identity and destiny, the politics of magic, are unveiled through three-dimensional characters.

"Not only has Sanderson drawn a freshly imagined world and its society, he has also given us a plot full of unexpected twists and turns. In subtle prose, notable for its quiet irony, Sanderson tells the story of two sisters and the god they are doomed to marry. Anyone looking for a different and refreshing fantasy novel will be delighted by this exceptional tale of magic, mystery and the politics of divinity. It's fair to say Warbreaker might even take your breath away!"


message 19: by Sean (new)

Sean | 353 comments I think the "race specific/favored weapon" can work, as long as there's an explanation as to why they favor it so much, rather than "just because".

Maybe elves use bows because they find hand-to-hand combat barbaric. Maybe dwarves use axes and hammers because they don't have a standing army, so they rely on militia instead.


message 20: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4075 comments Maybe dwarves use axes because they're low to the ground and use brute strength, whereas elves have a more wiry lengthy body that works well with bows.

When I read LOTR, the choice of weapon seemed logical to me.


message 21: by Dustin (last edited Nov 03, 2014 08:38PM) (new)

Dustin (tillos) | 365 comments Read through them and I only agreed with #8 on principle and I've only seen that in The Hobbit. I'd guess that was written by someone who hates the fantasy genre almost as a whole except for one or two books and just hasn't realized it.


Rusty Weapons. What's worse than an orc stabbing you with a sword. An orc stabbing you with a sword that's gonna give you tetanus even if you live. Its kind of hard to imagine orcs or demons spending the time to care for their weapons.


message 22: by Clayton (new)

Clayton | 2 comments I hate saying this, as I've been a big fan of io9 for a while, but I've been extremely turned off by there recent posts. It seems a good majority of what they publish are just articles complaining about things. I've actually stopped reading articles from the site altogether - it was getting too obnoxious.

That being said, am I wrong in thinking that tropes exist for a reason? Should there be more of an effort in literature to develop new ways to express various truths in the story? Definitely. And yes, there are bound to be authors who have used those tropes very poorly. But that doesn't mean that certain tropes don't have their place in fiction. Each one was initially developed or a reason, and most continue to serve that purpose today. As someone pointed out in an earlier post: tropes are often used as a metaphor. There will always be things in stories that authors will use to get a point across, because those particular techniques are familiar to us and allow for proper description through imagery where words are often ineffective.

Trope-like techniques are common in all art for that simple reason. Take theater: certain lighting sets a certain mood that the director/writer wants you to feel. That is universal. Music uses certain chord progressions that are common to that particular genre to guide a listener through the song. Painters use shapes that are smooth/curved or sharp/rigid based on the effect they want to have. These are all "tropes" in their respective art for the reason that they are effective in portraying what the artist wants to get across.

All of that to say this: tropes are a very useful literary technique, and, while authors should always strive to create their own voice in their work, there are advantages to relying on the effect that certain tropes bring to the story. If used properly, tropes can be a tremendous help to relay what simple explanations or dialogue often cannot.


message 23: by Olaf (new)

Olaf | 31 comments tl;dr list of literary tropes that are grating when they are used badly.

who would have tought.

Clayton wrote: "I hate saying this, as I've been a big fan of io9 for a while, but I've been extremely turned off by there recent posts. It seems a good majority of what they publish are just articles complaining about things. I've actually stopped reading articles from the site altogether - it was getting too obnoxious."

I don't think io9 became that bad. I agree that there seems to be more badly written articles but I still find their site interesting and inspiring me to check out new things (sometimes the articles listings things that are 'bad/wrong/should die in fire' make me want ot check out those things)


message 24: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments I like that of all 10 of those, none of them apply to Gene Wolfe.


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