Okay, so I was tempted to title this Narratives That Can Go Fuck Themselves, but then remembered all the times that a zombie novel has surprised me or that an author with serious chops has taken the formulaic thriller and turned it into something that’s fun to read. Those experiences, along with reading authors who deliver the goods no matter what they do, convinced me that the title I’d first thought of was probably inaccurate. Some of the narratives on this list need to fuck off and disappear forever, but others may or may not become amazing stories in the right hands. What? No, I’m not telling you which are which. Hah. Anyway, here they are:
– White savior narratives (especially for novels set in Africa)
Last year I started reading a novel for review and stopped reading after about 70 pages. When I read African literature, I read books by authors from Ghana or Zimbabwe or Cabo Verde or someone born in an African country who currently lives elsewhere. Maybe they are black, but maybe they are white or some other color. I don’t really care; what I care is that they tell me their story. That being said, when some white person from San Diego with an MFA from Daddypaid Uni(no di)versity writes about some doctor or priest or hypermasculine adventurer or young woman with a heart of gold going to Africa to save some people from whatever, I’m really not interested. The same goes for novels that take place in the Caribbean or places all across Asia. I want to hear diverse voices, not the same voices telling stories set in places they deem “exotic.” Seriously, fuck white savior narratives.
– Private investigator/detective comes back to small hometown to solve crime of missing children or some shit and is forced to deal with her/his past and maybe encounters a bully from his/her high school days
I often find those exact words in the back copy of a book and I stick it back on the shelves with the quickness. There are other ways to have characters deal with childhood memories and trauma, so please stop with bringing fuckers back to solve cases at home. Please. (NOTE: I read a very good book about something like this in 2017, so that proves that some authors are great regardless of what they do.)
– Novels about old churches, Knight Templars, religious mysteries, and weird deaths
Yeah, you can blame Dan Brown for this, but y’all need to chill with that crap already. Don’t get me wrong, much like the novels mentioned in the intro, I read an occasional gem, but most of these are just rehashed ideas that bring nothing new to the page. Religion is full of dark stuff and unanswered questions, we get it, but please ask some new questions or try to answer those that have already been asked a million times. I don’t even care if it’s aliens, just give us something new or, better yet, drop this stuff for a half a decade or so. We can try again in five or six years. You can do some research in the meantime.
– Alternate history that’s not that alternate (aka “I really wish the Nazis had won” novels)
I think about 80% of these narratives come from obese older men who won’t put a woman or a POC as a main character if their lives depended on it. In any case, you know what I’m talking about: science fiction books where Germany won the war and racism is cool. Most of these are nothing but thinly veiled white supremacy fantasies filtered through a slightly futuristic lens. It’s really just Nazis in space or some other horrible incarnation of that. I see you, fuckers, and I’m taking names.
– Sad daddy narratives
Daughter gets kidnapped/family gets murdered and daddy, who usually kicks more ass than Rambo and Macho Man combined, goes on a rampage and makes everything okay. No more. Seems like hurting a wife or girlfriend or daughter is the only thing that turns regular men into heroes. Listen, we’ve had enough of these. Really, just stop.
– Brilliant lawyer takes on a case that goes much deeper/higher in the food chain than s/he ever expected
I yawned while typing that and have no desire to spend time discussing it. Oh, and John Grisham is an asshole.
– Young, straight, wealthy white man struggles to find himself in New York
Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! *punches the wall*
– Haunted house stories about houses being haunted
Great horror is about people, not houses. People in a haunted house going through weird, scary stuff is awesome. I love the genre, seriously. Sadly, a bunch of authors also love it, and a few of them think that a house being inhabited by an evil presence is enough to fill 300 pages. It’s not. Just because you have an excuse (and some of these writers don’t even share that excuse with us) to write some scary stuff doesn’t mean that you have a novel in your hands. Do some research. Expand the genre. Mix it up a little. Don’t be afraid to innovate. If you don’t want to do any of that and wish to write about this house where some horrible murders happened or a girl was tortured and thrown down a well or that was built on top of burial grounds…don’t.
BONUS: I want to send a very special FUCK YOU to every new horror book/movie out there that features a scene with a young lady getting naked and taking a bath in a white bathtub…and then something scary happens. *both middle fingers up*
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS (Broken River Books),HUNGRY DARKNESS (Severed Press), and GUTMOUTH (Eraserhead Press). His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist. Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbcide, and many other print and online venues. His story ‘Gods in the Blood’ will be appearing in in the upcoming CLASH Books anthology, Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey & Sylvia Plath. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias