There is a fun little challenge over on the fantasy reddit called Fantasy Bingo that I’ve opted to participate in. It basically gives you a bingo card and you fill it in with fantasy books (mostly) that match each square’s category. There isn’t really a prize for making a line or filling the whole thing out, at least not one I’m aware of, but it’s fun simply because it gives your reading schedule some structure and let’s you nerd out with other fantasy hobbits.
I haven’t actually read much fantasy in the past decade. In high school and throughout college, and then beyond that some, I read fantasy almost exclusively. I devoured it, and wanted myself to become a fantasy author. At some point, I caved to the genre-snobs of the literary world and decided that I should be more tasteful with my reading. This was not a bad choice as it expanded my vision greatly, and I read authors that not only stuck with me but that likely changed my life. I may never have read Murakami or Cormac McCarthy or Zadie Smith had I stuck to my fantasy roots.
Sometime last year, I can’t really remember when, I decided that I still wanted to become a fantasy novelist. I think I always did really, but I had very long droughts of writing in the late 2000s, and becoming any kind of novelist seemed outlandish and silly. Even in that drought of both writing and fantasy books, I still found my way back to the swords and sorcery genre. Video games are chock full of it, and I am always drawn to the ones with high adventure and sword-slinging more than any other.
There must be something in the roots of my reading habit that make fantasy such a draw. The fact that my first real love of reading launched with my first read of The Lord of the Rings probably accounts for most of it. There is something about chasing that first love that we do in many ways throughout our lives. Perhaps every time I read a fantasy novel, I am simply aching to feel what I felt watching Frodo walk around with that ring. It’s been a long time since I read through the trilogy, and it feels due for a re-hash.
I started this Bingo thing back in April, and it has truly rekindled my love for the genre. This is much to the dismay of my girlfriend, who watches me order book after book and wonders where I will find room for a collection that always grows quicker than it shrinks. Since filling in my card, I have read more fantasy than I had in the past few years combined. I believe there is purpose to this consumption because I have begun writing what I think could be a truly great fantasy epic, the kind that spans books and attracts devotees and potentially sets me up to write for a living. It is character based with a unique creation myth and really powerful, gnarly, super-cool dragons. And yes, swords. So look forward to that!
Here’s the actual Bingo Card list that I’ve selected. These are subject to change as availability dictates. I plan on reviewing what I read from here out, mostly as a writing exercise but also because I feel like writing about a book always solidifies its plot and characters in my head. Sometimes I think that I’ve forgotten more of the books I’ve read than remember them.
Any r/Fantasy Goodreads Group Book of the Month – Senlin Ascends, Josiah Bancroft
Graphic Novel (at least 1 volume) OR Audiobook – Saga Volume 1, Brian K. Vaughan or Berserk
Time Travel – Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey (finished, did not like it at all)
Published in 2017 – Kings of the Wyld, Nicholas Eames
Debut Fantasy Novel – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (finished, liked it and will continue this series!)
Fantasy Related Non-Fiction – Road to Middle Earth, Tom Shippey
On ‘To-Be-Read List’ For Over a Year – The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch (finished, loved it)
Award Winning Fantasy Novel – Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson (currently reading)
Dystopian / Post Apocalyptic / Dying Earth – A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller (finished, loved it)
r/Fantasy 2016 Underread / Underrated – To Ride Hell’s Chasm, Janny Wurts
Horror Novel – The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – H.P. Lovecraft
A Desert Setting – The Blue Sword – Robin McKinley
ANY Previous r/Fantasy Bingo Square – The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie
Self- Published Fantasy – The Grey Bastards – Jonathan French (this will likely have to change as his book was taken off Amazon to be republished in 2018)
A Non-Human Protagonist – The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle (finished, loved it)
Not the First Book in the Series – A Betrayal in Winter, Daniel Abraham (finished, did not like it that much, probably won’t continue the series)
r/Fantasy AMA Author OR Author of the Day – Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb (finished, loved it!)
Fantasy of Manners – Swordspoint, Ellen Kushner (finished, liked it more than I expected to)
Dragons! – The Summer Dragon, Todd Lockwood
New Weird – Authority, Jeff VanderMeer (finished it and the series, pretty good)
Seafaring – Inda, Sherwood Smith
Steampunk – Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
An Older (50+) Protagonist – The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
r/Fantasy Appreciation Post Author – The Ruins of Ambrai, Melanie Rawn
Five Fantasy Short Stories – Dragonfly, Ursula LeGuin; The Hedge Knight, George R.R. Martin; The Sea of Little Fishes, Terry Pratchett; The Wood Boy, Robert E. Feist; The Burning Man, Tad Williams (these are all subject to change!)