The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
Diana Wynne Jones
Disclaimer first: if you haven’t read a lot of fantasy, this book probably won’t be too funny. If you have, it’s absolutely hilarious. Presented in the form of a guidebook for Generic Fantasyland, it’s a delightful skewering of all the cliches which infest modern fantasy. You know, the Imperious Woman and the Vestigial Empire and the horses which never require food or rest. Plus there’s a guide to the color-coding of eyes and hair, and speculation on how apostrophes are supposed to be pronounced. “Few names in Fantasyland are considered complete unless they are interrupted by an apostrophe somewhere in the middle.”
Elves appear to have deteriorated generally since the coming of humans. If you meet Elves, expect to have to listen for hours while they tell you about this–many Elves are great bores on the subject–and about what glories there were in the ancient days. They will intersperse their account with nostalgic ditties (songs of aching beauty) and conclude by telling you how great numbers of Elves have become so wearied with the thinning of the old golden wonders that they have all departed, departed into the West. This is correct, provided you take it with the understanding that Elves do not say anything quite straight. Many Elves have indeed gone West, to Minnesota and thence to California, where they have great fun wearing punk clothes and riding motorbikes.
Given the nature of the book, it has no real moral content one way or the other. A few entries talk about the less-than-reputable cliches in fantasy novels, but it doesn’t get too raunchy.