Wednesday, May 4, 2011

30 Days of Genre - What Is Your Guilty Pleasure Book?

The Sleeping Dragon by Joel Rosenberg

Once again, this question was somewhat difficult for me to answer. I am an unapologetic science fiction and fantasy fan. If you are going to try to make me feel guilty about reading Asimov or Niven or Norton or even Rowling or Coville, well, you are pretty much wasting your time. I've read Austen and Tolstoy and Shakespeare. I simply prefer the genre fiction ghetto - and in many cases I think the writing produced by genre fiction authors is superior to mainstream fiction. Give me Delany over McInerney and Heinlein over Bronte any day. So coming up with a book that would fit the bill as a "guilty pleasure" took more than a little bit of thought.

So to come up with a guilty pleasure book, I had to think of books that had truly goofy premises. I considered choosing one of Christopher Stasheff's Warlock of Gramarye books such as The Warlock Unlocked or King Kobold Revived, with its obsession with spreading democracy in a pseudo-medieval world, karate belt rankings, and pseudo-science fiction explanation for the fantasy setting. But at their heart the Warlock books are just a fairly standard science fiction series. I also considered choosing Bill the Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison, but that is out and out parody, and I don't feel guilty at all about loving it. No, what this question called for is something that was truly silly.


So I settled on The Sleeping Dragon by Joel Rosenberg. In reality, though I am naming The Sleeping Dragon, it is only the first book in the Guardians of the Flame series, all of which are just as silly as the first. And the reason for this is the central premise of the series: A collection of role-playing gamers are transported into the fantasy campaign world that they were set to play in and transformed into their characters. Once there, they first fight to find a way to return to their safe, comfortable twentieth century lives (which requires sneaking past a sleeping dragon), but circumstances compel them to return to the fantasy world permanently and take up the fight against the powerful Slaver Guild.

Of course, once they take up residence, the collection of transplanted heroes set about doing what every group of gamers has tried to do at least once in their gaming career: import twentieth century technology and ideas into a medieval setting. They set about creating gunpowder, building an armory, establishing a representative government first via an elected mayor and later a constitutional Monarchy, emphasizing the rule of law, and so forth. And yes, this eventually does result in elves being handed flintlock muskets. And of course, just like gamers sitting around the table, the transplanted gamers make regular cultural references to modern day Americana - using the Big Mac song as a password or referencing popular movies and actors for example. The only thing that is really missing is a steady stream of Monty Python quotes. And so, for taking the gaming cliche of having players actually transported into their fantasy selves, and then giving us wizards with gunpowder and a pet dragon to boot and translating this into more than a half a dozen books, the entire Guardians of the Flame series is my guilty reading pleasure.

Go to Day 3: What Genre Novel Do You Think Is Underrated?
Go to Day 5: What Character Do You Feel You Are Most Like (or Wish You Were)?

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