I’ve read a lot of stories with fantastical elements—magic, time-travel, telepathy, kindly mothers-in-law—and I’ve been dissatisfied with so many of them that I’m about to give up on the genre entirely. It’s not the fact that they can’t be taken seriously that annoys me, although most of them can’t. Carefully examined, time-travel (just as an example) doesn’t make sense unless there’s no such thing as causality in the universe, but that’s all right. I’m willing to believe in time-travel for the sake of a good read. What annoys me is that, the fantasy elements aside, so many of the stories don’t meet my usual criteria for a “good read.”
Making an incompletely-drawn character a warlock or time-traveler doesn’t complete him. If a witch is depicted as altering present realities by means of spells and hexes, I still think the author has an obligation to provide (or ideally, to inspire the reader with) insights as to how being able to alter reality has impacted—possibly defined—the witch’s character. Does she revel in her powers, or does she take them for granted? And if she’s all “Bwoohahaha-die-my-pretty,” then—why? A flat character is a flat character. Even one who has a magic wand, a time-machine, or the ability to read minds needs a good backstory and convincing motivation.
I don’t always want to be reading so-called “literary” fiction. For one thing, there’s less and less of it being published; and for another, there’s usually not a lot of action in a work of literary fiction. Mostly, somebody realizes that something isn’t quite as simple and straightforward as they imagined it would be, and though they’ve already spent more than half the pages of the book thinking, they end it by resolving to think some more—only in a new, more mature way. But please, will somebody recommend something with some real action—a battle or two; maybe a dragon or some werewolves; but not vampires. I’m sick of vampires—in which the characters have, but are not obsessed with, an actual interior life? Because so far all I’ve got is T. S. White’s The Once and Future King, and my copy is just about worn out.