The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Undisclosed Desires by Muse.

Besides creating strange and wonderful worlds for me to discover, Diana Wynne Jones left me another legacy, this one with far more practical application. If you couldn't guess from my blog's title, I am a writer. And if you didn't guess from yesterday's post about Howl's Moving Castle, I love fantasy. I love the idea of having possibility at your fingertips. The problem is, many stories of pure possibility fall into ruts.

Who has ever heard of the knight saving the princess story? Or how about the young, poor boy who falls in love with the princess story? I'm sure there are some more than a few ruts about pirates, prophecies, and heirs to the kingdom stories too.

That is where The Tough Guide to Fantasyland came in.

I've heard from quite a few sources that this was originally meant to be a companion book to her novel The Dark Lord of Derkholm. But it has since become something of an underground bible for fantasy writers.

It navigates you through almost every trope and cliche in the fantasy genre. And it is hilarious. I dare you to read this and not be on the floor gasping for air by the end. (Seriously, if I'm ever having a bad day, I pull this out and read a few entries. I feel better almost immediately. It's like cure-all).

Just like a travel guide brochure, it tosses you right into the action. With OMTs (Official Management Terms) and helpful cross references marked in CAPS for easier accessibility, it is a breeze. The Management (the author) has made this available to make your tour (the novel in question) easier. And from that you begin.

I'm not going to speak any more, because you'll know from the entries why this has become an underground gold mine for so many.

Incidents should happen at regular intervals on every tour. You should not be able to travel more than fifty miles without something happening. Usually the start small and work up to big,
1. Small Incidents include: AMBUSH (by BANDITS or LEATHERY-WINGED AVIANS); BETRAYAL, arrest by Imperial GUARDS; attack by prehensile TREES; SEX with a Tour Companion; an encounter with a WIZARD/DRAGON/MINION OF THE DARK LORD/Fortune Teller; bad WEATHER; crossing a RIVER; an arrow shot suddenly from nowhere (it will miss everyone and stick in a tree); stealing something from a MONASTERY/TEMPLE; a near-fatal visit from VAMPIRES in the night; stumbling into QUICKSAND...

Government in Fantasyland is another word for KING or TYRANT. Most AVERAGE FOLK seem to get on perfectly well without any of it.
See also POLITICS.

Weather is always wrong for what you are doing at the time. It varies from heat/drought, if you must travel quickly, to heavy rain, if you just need to travel. If you need to sleep rough, there is always a frost; invariably, if you have to cross MOUNTAINS, there will be a thunderstorm or blizzard. Some of the reason is that, despite obvious drawbacks, the Management nearly always arranges for Tours to set out in late autumn or early winter (see SEASONS). The rest is natural perversity. Weather is, too, remarkably apt to reflect the emotions of the Tour party. It is sullen and gray if the party is quarreling among itself, bright and springlike if everyone is happy. It is also very susceptible to MAGIC, particularly at sea, where STORMS can be raised in instants (see STORM CONTROL), and in DESERTS, where dust storms can be created almost as quickly. The general advice here is to keep smiling and avoid annoying WIZARDS.

Stew (the OMTs are thick and savory, which translate as "viscous" and "dark brown") is the staple FOOD in Fantasyland, so be warned. You may shortly be longing passionately for omelette, steak, or bakes beans, but none of these will be forthcoming, indoors or out. Stew will be what you are served to eat every single time. Given the disturbed nature of life int his land, where in CAMP you are likely to be attacked without warning (but see BATH) and in an INN prone to be the center of TAVERN BRAWL, Stew seems to be an odd choice as staple food, since, on a rough calculation, it takes forty times as long to prepare as a steak. But it is clear the inhabitants have not yet discovered fast food. The exact recipe for Stew is of course a Management secret, but it is thought to contain meat of some kind and perhaps even vegetables. Do not expect a salad on the side.

Legends are an important source of true information. They always turn out to be far more accurate than HISTORY... But no matter how improbably the story, it will always turn out to be the exact truth and only by following it accurately can you hope to succeed in your QUEST. The Management will never allow anyone to tell you a Legend unless it is going to be important for you to know.

This book at one time was not widely available. I had to pay an obscene price for an old 1996 copy. But in 2006 they released a revised and updated copy, though I must admit I am quite fond of my old cover.

So again, thank you Diana for making my life lighter, my writing better, and teaching me that High Priests are always evil, water is almost always safe to drink (unless given to you by an enchantress), and that everyone thankfully speaks the same language or a "Common Tongue." :)


Avery said...

This sounds hilarious! Thanks for sharing Heather!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing...although now I'm almost afraid to pick it up, as I might be crushed and bleeding on the floor ala Adam. Does it mention faeries, perchance?

Tere Kirkland said...

Love this book, but I don't have a copy of my own. The entry on horses is particularly enlightening!

I was sad to hear of her passing. I guess now is a good time to read those books of hers that I never got around to.

Vanessa said...

I need to own this book now!