Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Rating: WARTY!

So the Twelfth and last Day of Christmas reviews is finally here! Yeay! My last ever! That's not to say I won't ever back to, perhaps, fix a review if I find a mistake in it, or maybe even add a note or an idea here and there if inspiration strikes me, but the grind of reading and reviewing, and writing and posting reviews is at an end, and it's such a relief to know I never have to do any of this again! From now on I read purely for pleasure. So this final day is a wish list if anything, and it's a wish for tired tropes and clichés to be banished from novels, TV shows, and movies. So this last day is a look at novels, plots, and genres which are essentially trope to the max.

Some tropes are expected in various genres - it's what genre really means I guess, but there's a difference between generically following conventions in a genre and in outright retreading previous stories that have already been done to death. Even the accepted standard tropes need to be busted to keep things fresh, and there's nothing I despise more than an author who robotically writes a cookie-cutter story that's really no different in any substantial way to anything that's gone before.

I was decided on this topic when I tried to read the novel titled Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet recently, and it makes for a great finale to my twelve days. The novel was a grim reaper sort of a story where the reaper is a woman instead of the usual guy, and apparently there's more than one reaper.

The story reminded me a bit of Spongebob Squarepants which my kids used to watch. Though the stories in that TV cartoon concerned only sea creatures and it's set on the seabed under god knows how many fathoms of pressure, the characters all act and behave exactly like humans who live on land with an atmosphere of air - and they have day and night! Spongebob works at a restaurant where they cook food - on a flame...underwater! A viewer should expect kids' cartoons to be goofy like that, but this novel was for grown-ups, yet it was still that kind of stupid.

So this reaper has a ship - which she bought - bought - from a pirate with her co-owner, who is another female reaper. They have to ferry their charges across an ocean to an assortment of ports, so they're really the ferryman...woman, not the reaper. The ocean has pirates. Heaven has Saint Peter at the gate. Why is anyone needed at the gates of Heaven? Just asking. But every single trope is included and there's nothing fresh at all.

This is why I could not for the life of me understand the mentality of an author named Kimberly Frost - of whom I'd never heard - who claims this novel is "darkly comic and wildly imaginative." In fact it's neither. It's not remotely funny and it's as unimaginative as it's possible to get. This does have the advantage of informing me that I need never read anything ever written by the apparently delusional Kimberly Frost, so thanks for that heads-up at least!

The Harry Potter series was yet another fictional creation of this type, where women are witches and men are wizards and ne'er the twain shall meet! They all carry little wooden sticks which they wave while chanting two Latin words to create something out of nothing, and no matter how much magic they do, they never incur any cost for it. I guess that's what magic is, right: the ultimate free lunch, but if there's no risk and no cost, then where's the danger? Where's the excitement? Where's the compulsion to read? Fortuantely for Jo Rowling, she added enough new and original stuff that despite all of the tired trope, the stories were engaging - to millions! There's a lesson to be learned there.

You know the thing that's always fascinated me about this free magic crap in her stories, is that those who do dark magic typically seem to have to pay a price - using blood or even a severed limb, so it makes me wonder, which is the real evil side here: those who are willing to pay a price to achieve their ends and those freeloaders who take all their magic and don't pay a penny - or anything of value - in return for it?! I have one remaining question: if magic is achieved by saying spells in Latin, how the hell did they ever perform magic prior to Roman times, and before Latin ever became a language?

We see this same kind of garbage in vampire stories. The vampires are pretty much always timeless and ageless, with fantastical charms and winning ways, and it never costs them anything. They often have hierarchies and councils and all of them fall in line! There are no rebels. The older vampires are always depicted as more - never less - powerful. Why is that? Is it from the number of victims they take? Is it the sheer amount of blood they've drunk? Or is it merely the passage of years? It seems to me that if it's anything other than years, then any new upstart vampire could readily surpass an older one if he or she were willing to really go for it in drinking blood from numerous victims. No writer ever explores this because...we're gonna have to face it they're addicted to trope! (Apologies to Robert Palmer).

The werewolf novel writers are no different. They have the same tropes. Wolves are always in a hierarchy with an alpha male. This isn't how humans typically work. They tend to be much more democratic and cooperative, particularly females, so why are writers (and very often female writers at that!) always having females kowtow to the males? And how come the wolf part of them is so much stronger than the human part, in that they behave more like wolves than like humans - or even than a fifty-fifty mix of human and wolf? And why are these were-writers too cowardly to break these rules and write against trope? Is it because they're really were-chickens? Or is it because they write for an audience that's so brain-dead they swallow these tropes uncritically like a bunch of sheep doing grass in a meadow? You know, even sheep will surprise you when you find out more about them.

If any genre is irrevocably chained to trope, it's fantasy. Dwarves are always short, bearded and irascible. Elves are always tall, beautiful, ageless and skilled archers. Trolls and orcs are unevitably ugly and violent. Fairies are never to be called fairies - they're always 'fae'. Do these authors not know that 'fae' is a Scots word that is merely a variant of 'foe'?! It's also half of 'faecal' in the British spelling!

Another trope is that names typically have an apostrophe in them. Why? This same thing happens in sci-fi novels, but an apostrophe means one of three things in a word. The first of these is that there are letters missing, and the apostrophe marks the gap. A lot of writers of one sort or another, make the mistake of using 'your' as a contraction of 'you are'. The missing letter is the 'A' in 'are', and so 'you are' is contracted to you're. The apostrophe marks the absent 'A'. So 'your' is entirely wrong, unless you're using it in speech or in a text message sent by an illiterate, which would be fine because uneducated - and even some educated - people do that. It's a serious error to use that in your descriptive writing. The question here though, is why would anyone have letters missing from their name?

There's only one case where that happens, and that is, for example, in an Irish name like O'Conner, where the apostrophe marks missing letters of a sort. The origin of such names lies in the fact that this person is the daughter or son of Conner, and so is 'of Conner' which is shortened to O'Conner. But to randomly put apostrophes in a person's (see what I did there?!) name for no reason is the mark of a moron.

The third case of apostrophes comes from some languages where there is a glottal stop in a word, which when transposed into English will employ a question mark to identify the stop, or some other character. Hebrew employs the aleph ⟨א⟩ to achieve this aim. In some cases, like in the translation of Arabic into English, an apostrophe is used, but none of this applies to names used in fantasy stories so W'T'F?! It's pathetic and pretentious, and frankly? Stupid.

Private dick stories is another genre where tired trope (read tripe) flourishes. Despite the fact that he or she is brilliant, unsurpassed, and miraculous in solving the most intractable cases, the private dick inevitably has issues which for the life of them they cannot solve. The story can never be about a successful detective agency because the writer then has to actually do some work to make their story outstanding, whereas if they make their private dick exactly like all other dicks who've come before it makes it a lot easier to ejaculate trope on top of cliché, and never actually have to do any of the real work of creating a unique and inventive story.

Another fine trope is the police detective, or alternatively, the special forces guy - always a guy - who has retired, but is so fucking capable and unique, and so utterly indispensable that no-one - and I mean no-one on the entire planet can hold a candle to them. So he - it's nearly always a he for the detective, always a he for the spec forces dude - has to be pulled out of retirement to solve a case or to fix an injustice because every other motherfucker on planet Earth is useless. Despite this, the special ex-retiree stellar credentials dude has issues just like the private dick. It's the one that got away, or the brother-in-arms he lost in battle who is on the spec dude's conscience; all tired, over-used and worn-out tropes.

What about sci-fi? Here, it's the trope of a small renegade group of space pirates or other such rebels which always has, and I quote, "a misfit crew." Immediately I read that in a book description, that's the end of all of my interest in that book! You know that, just like in the Firefly TV series, and in the Star Trek TV series for that matter, the misfit crew is going to be perfectly brilliant. The best pilot in the galaxy, the best engineer running the engines, the best military guy in charge of weaponry, etc. It's farcical - and it's boring. There's never anything at risk or even any excitement because you know for a fact before you even start chapter one or watch episode one that, in the words of Bob Marley in Three Little Birds, "...every little thing gonna be all right."

Star Trek is particularly pathetic because it's always the heroic, Mary Jane of a captain who goes. They always send all the senior officers on every away mission, which is frankly fucked-up in the head stupid, and begging for disaster. There's never anything at stake here, because you know that these pompous, self-satisfied dickheads will never come to harm. And where are the drones and robots? Despite society today being replete with robots and drones, Star Trek has zero robotics. Why is that? What are they afraid of? The closest they came to having one was the idiotically-named Commander Data, and he was turned into a running joke. Clown-mander Data, who is supposed to be trying to become human like Pinocchio, yet he has an 'emotion chip' that he can turn on and off at will? LOL!

Star Wars, the other dumb-ass space opera, took this clown robot feature to another level, going entirely the opposite direction by having numerous robots, yet making every one of them invariably be a complete numbskull. I can't think of anything more useless or laughable than the Laurel and Hardy pair of stand-up comedians that deservedly aren't even given names. Here's the weird thing though: when they made a living version of C3PO that they ridiculously-named Jar Jar Binks, then this character, which in every way was exactly like C3PO save being biological rather than mechanical, it was universally reviled. Go figure!

I don't watch Star Trek or Star Wars because they're such a tired joke, but I would watch a Star Wars where the first thing that happens in scene one is some impatient tough-guy blasting C3PO into smithereens as soon as he opens his stupid mouth, thereby eliminating that worthless piece of tedious trash permanently from the cannon. I'd pay money at a movie theater to see that Star Wars!

Moving on, the local interest story set in a village with a cast of 'zany' characters is the same thing as the sci-fi 'misfit crew' story to me. For me, it's a huge no-no when it comes to deciding whether to read a novel. I have zero interest in reading about a 'zany' group of eccentric people and there are so many such novels published that it's truly tedious.

Believe it or not, I actually enjoy a good romance story, but there are so few original and engaging stories out there as compared with the hoards of such books that seem to be nothing more than rubber-stamp versions of all previous novels, and which have tired tropes stacked-up to the ceiling. The woman who loses her job and her fiancé/boyfriend on the same day and goes running back to her home town is a piece of shit that's been done ten billion times too many. Even the very first one of those 'weak woman' stories was one too many. Another is the guy who comes back into his ex's life to win her back, and it's such a pile of horse dung that those books need to be burned if any books do. Yeah, he treated me like shit, but this time it will be different is a tragic lie women in dire need of psychiatric help tell themselves. It's called codependency. A variation on this is the regretted lost love, such as two that were in a recent audiobook flyer - the same flyer, essentially the same story: Sweet Talk by SL Scott has it that "Once college sweethearts, Danny and Reese eventually went their separate ways. Now, Danny is a top model who would do anything to win back the girl who got away." Barf! Kiss Me in Christmas by Debbie Mason claims that "Actress Chloe has locked lips with A-list Hollywood stars — but when it comes to her high school crush, Easton, she feels like she’ll always be an awkward schoolgirl. Can a little holiday magic change how he sees her?" Yuk! A third, and perhaps the most evil, version of this kind of story is the woman who is trapped somehow with the very man she hates, and yet inevitably falls in love with. Stockholm Syndrome anyone?

So here's my Christmas wish: please, authors, ditch your tropes and write something truly original, truly inspiring, and truly new and fresh. Pretty please?