Greeting, and welcome to the anti-Fifth Sorceress site, a set of pages dedicated to the worst book of all time. Here you'll find reviews and discussion, as well as pointers to better fantasy authors. But first, you might be asking why I'm bothering to spend time on such a website. Surely my effort would be better spent praising the best authors rather than trashing the worst ones, right? Well, let me explain.
I am a fantasy fan. Actually, I read all kinds of books ranging from classic literature to nonfiction to mysteries to science fiction. But ever since I first discovered the field of high fantasy, it's been a favorite of mine. One critic described fantasy as "the novel given wings", and to me there's no better way to express it. In this genre, authors are free to create any world that they can concieve, to populate it with any characters that they can imagine, and to tell stories that go beyond what is possible in books that are confined to the real world.
Now for those of us who follow fantasy literature, the last ten years or so have been a very exciting time. We've seen the emergence of very talented new authors such as Robin Hobb, Martha Wells, James Stoddard, and Elizabeth Haydon. Authors who have already made their names and earned their reputations in others areas are starting to turn to fantasy. Examples of this trend include George R. R. Martin, C. J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Neil Barrett, Jr. At the same time, we've seen a revival of interest in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and others classics. The number of readers who enjoy fantasy is growing, critics are giving the field more serious attention, and publishing companies are satisfying the demand by setting up separate fantasy divisions and contracting with more authors.
So, life is good, right? We fantasy fans look to a glorious future where we'll choose from the works of an ever-increasing pool of talented authors, right? Actually, wrong. The fact that fantasy publishing is turning into a big business, and attracting the attention of companies that wish to turn large profits, is not necessarily a good thing, and we're seeing a significant number of negative trends in the field right now. First of all, there's the insistance on producing series that appear to go on forever, and of making each book extremely long. The business rationale for this is simple; the more text you produce, the more money you get. The problem is also simple; authors who work on carrying out just one story for one volume after another frequently reach a limit to what they can do in the one scenario that they have created, and don't have the chance to exercise their imagination by creating entirely new worlds. Furthermore, they have a tendency to bloat their books with filler material just to make them longer. Of course, there are a few authors who have been able to write entertaining sagas that last for thousands of pages, but they're the exception rather than the rule.
More importantly, though, is the fact that the methods by which publishers find new authors have changed. A few decades ago, each publishing house had a huge staff of editors who worked with literary agents to judge the manuscripts submitted by aspiring authors. Once a work was accepted for publication, a relatively small number of copies would be printed in paperback and sent to bookstores. The author would then sink or swim based entirely on how well the book sold. Nowadays, things have changed. The publishing companies don't have huge editorial staffs; instead they have gigantic marketing departments. Rather than reading thousands of manuscripts and filtering out the very best, there are some cases where the companies consider a much smaller number of possible texts and the obvious result is lower-quality work. Then gigantic advertising campaigns are used to hype new books, often published in hardback, since the companies are convinced that they can turn any novel into a hit. The obvious result of this is the production of a huge amount of crap, while truly imaginative and talented authors struggle to be noticed. Lest you think that I am exaggerating the threat, I would point you to the example of the romance genre. When it was taken over by Harlequin and other companies that were only interested in producing long sequences of cheap, shoddy work a few decades back, the volume increased but the quality decreased. There hasn't been a single decent romance novel written for fifty years. The same thing has happened to the Western genre and the horror genre. It would be a true tragedy if this phenomenon also struck high fantasy.
The final worrisome problem is the use of pervasive and graphic sex in fantasy novels. Of course, this is hardly a new development. Almost since the genre's origins, there have been authors who basically used the fantasy label as a thin excuse for writing pornography. Whether this has actually increased in recent years is tough to say. But we certainly see sex used more and more in marketing campaigns, and more and more claims that erotic scenes are necessary to make a fantays novel adult and realistic. In point of fact, most good adult fantasy doesn't contain any sex at all (some of you may have heard of a novel called Lord of the Rings, for instance), and too often the sex scenes in today's fantasy novels seem to be tossed in just to appease a horny teenage audience.
So the bottom line is that while good fantasy authors are proliferating, we're also seeing a tidal wave of bad works hitting the shelf. Unfortunately, there's so much poor fantasy out there that one cannot takes up arms against all of it simultaneously. Instead, I'll use this page to explore the one author who stands as the worst example of all of these trends, and indeed has produced the worst book that I've ever had the misfortune to stumble across.