Seinfeld Is Unfunny/Literature

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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  • Amadis of Gaul is the most important knight-errant Chivalric Romance of all time, but today it seems dated, to the point that it has been all but forgotten and replaced in importance by its extremely angry Deconstruction, Don Quixote. Note, however, that Amadis of Gaul is saved from the fire for its merits in the chapter where the library of Don Quixote is being burned.
  • Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. is seen as a pretty tame book by today's standards, but its frank discussion of puberty and religious issues were controversial in the 70s when it was written and resulted in it being banned from many schools.
  • Ball Four, a 1970 book by Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Bouton, was so controversial that MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn called the book "detrimental to baseball" and tried unsuccessfully to make Bouton sign a statement saying the book was fictional. Today, its revelations about the behind-the-scenes activities of major league players, which made Bouton extremely unpopular among many in the baseball community for violating the "sanctity of the clubhouse", don't seem nearly as shocking. One particular example is the book's revelation of widespread amphetamine use by major league players, which seems quaint compared to the steroid scandals of recent years.
  • The Catcher in The Rye: J.D. Salinger's novel started a Wangst revolution in literature that it's never come out of. As a result, those who've read similar-style books before reading Salinger's book often write Catcher off as okay at best, a poor man's Chuck Palahniuk at worst.
    • The use of a casual, first person writing style definitely contributes heavily to making it dated as well. The use of slang and turns of phrase that are alien to newcomers makes it strange to a reader.
    • Wangst has been a part of literature ever since Wuthering Heights or even Romeo and Juliet, it was just presented in such eloquent language that it seemed more legitimately emotional.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia nowadays seems just like a lot of other books you've probably read several times by now. Kids discovering a mysterious pathway to another world, finding their arrival to this strange new world to be predicted in prophecy, some of the residents are pleased to find them while others want them all dead, and soon everyone embarks on a large adventure to save the world... Yeah, it doesn't sound too original today. It almost sounds kind of like some children's stories, shounen manga series, a few video games, and a typical Fanfic plot. Oh, and as for biblical references? * Yawn* . Name something today that doesn't draw from The Bible heavily.
  • Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Their hard-boiled detective fiction certainly qualifies.
    • The same goes for the inventors of "classic" detective fiction, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie in particular. Many of the stories and novels by both are stuffed with clichés and twists that a modern-day reader has seen a bit too often - but they invented them.
  • The Discworld novel Equal Rites was originally a subversion of the "witches = bad, wizards = good" trends in fantasy. However, the conventions used have since become so commonplace that today the book just sounds preachy.
    • Terry Pratchett was amused to be told he was 'following in the grand tradition of J. K. Rowling', given that he's been writing and published for two decades longer.
  • Dr. Seuss. When he started producing books for children featuring nonsensical word usage and surreal art, he was considered both genius and highly controversial, which tends to go right over the heads of modern readers.
  • Dracula being the ultimate vampire Trope Maker, has been so thoroughly ripped off, parodied, retooled and revamped that even many Goths are sick of him.
    • To a lesser extent, this happened to Dracula's precursor, Varney the Vampire, which invented the idea of a vampire with fangs, puncture marks on the throat, and the sympathetic vampire. However, despite its influence it was never a particularly good book to begin with.
    • Dracula is an interesting case, in that he has become so Lost in Imitation, those who read the original novel are generally shocked by his inhuman appearance, total amorality (Stoker's Dracula never showed any signs of guilt or love), and clever schemes, rather than the endless tales of tragic beauty and Vampire Vords that he is incorrectly remembered for.
  • Dragonriders of Pern started the Dragon Rider trend in the 1960s, and you would be hard-pressed to find current fantasy writers who don't make dragons a Bond Creature in some way.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons books. People new to it (and in particular the Forgotten Realms novels) and who scoff at Drizzt being the emo badass rebel from an evil society don't realize just what hot shit those books were in the early '90s--and that they inspired a lot of the clichés they deride the books for using. Author R. A. Salvatore has even had readers come up to him at conventions to say "A good duel-wielding Drow ranger? How cliche!"
    • Dragonlance suffers from this trope as well, alas. Reviews exist of the original Chronicles that tear them apart on the premise that it's such a cheesy/overdone/cliched setting and cast of characters.
  • Ernest Hemingway. Read any other novel or watch a movie on wartime experiences before reading A Farewell to Arms. It'll end up looking like just another run-of-the-mill war story.
  • Howard P. Lovecraft. Compared to some of the tropes they've arguably spawned, certain stories of his can come across as charmingly old-fashioned and not necessarily all that horrifying to the modern reader. Or, in the case of his obvious racism, not-so-charming.
  • Jane Austen and to a lesser extent the Bronte sisters suffer from this. Their novels have had a massive influence on romance novels to the point that they may appear hopelessly clichéd and even a bit low brow because of the countless imitators.
  • The Joy of Sex and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex* * but Were Afraid to Ask weren't trite when they were published.
  • Lensman. E. E. "Doc" Smith's classic saga can seem like a Cliché Storm of Space Opera tropes, but, of course, it started most of them.
  • Lost Souls. While Poppy Z. Brite's novel probably didn't originate of a lot of vampire clichés -- bisexual, seductive vampires, New Orleans, Goths, Ho Yay -- these tropes were a lot fresher when she and Anne Rice wrote their books.
    • Rice's Vampire Chronicles suffer from this even harder, if only because she was more prolific than Brite and she's much more well-known in the mainstream. Lestat in particular is the poster child for this. The "sexy Eurotrash rebel-without-a-cause in literal leather pants" character is so cliche in modern vampire fiction that people groan when they see it. Somewhat hilariously, it was a major criticism of the Queen of the Damned movie.
  • JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: This book popularized most of the cliches found in fantasy today, but modern readers may well find it unspeakably boring, purely because everything in it has since been subverted, inverted, parodied, and otherwise done to death. Aside from that though, it also has lots of Unbuilt Trope which are actually not like what non-readers think the book contains.
    • Tolkien might be an aversion to this trope. While there is no question he was influential in many regards to fantasy, very little of how he described various parts of his fantasy world actually survive in what is now considered generic fantasy. This also isn't factoring in that Tolkien was very inconsistent with a lot of his own lore. Depending on what you were reading, orcs and goblins ranged from being different words for the same exact creature, different tribes of the same creature that are identical, different tribes of the same creature except the goblin tribe was slightly shorter on average, two related species, or completely different and unrelated creatures.
      • But this still leaves us with, well, defining the stock races as mostly used today (elves existed prior in many different forms in different mythologies, from little wingy tinkerbells to something you'd call a dwarf in modern fantasy, while now everyone thinks "pointy ears"; orcs were new, at least the name; elf-dwarf relations; dwarfs as always bearded miners) as well as other more general formulae. Actually, quite a bit survived, especially in the common aspects of most fantasy.
  • Michael Moorcock. A good bit of his work falls into this, especially The Elric Saga. Like Lord of the Rings he created or expanded upon many fantasy tropes that are commonplace now. Hell, even one of the introductions to the new paperback collections of Elric's tale states this. Also all that crazy-ass, sexually deviant, creature-of-their-time, lone wolf super spy stuff (different from the way James Bond does it, mind you)? Well, that's Jerry Cornelius, possibly Moorcock's second most famous creation.
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson was hailed as a radical departure that overturned science fiction with its noir mood, gritty realism, and dystopian outlook. Now Cyberpunk looks old-fashioned and passe to some, and Shiny-Looking Spaceships are back in vogue as unironic extensions of modern consumer products.
  • The Neverending Story. Similar to The Chronicles of Narnia, it can seem an awful lot like a rather standard read, albeit a long one for children. A child finds a mysterious book that appears to be a gateway to another world. He appears to have found himself written into the story of this mysterious new world, and finds himself embarking on all sorts of adventures in a realm of fantasy powered by human imagination, becoming part of it all along the way, then finally departing home at the end after almost losing himself to his own fantasy and defeating the Big Bad. Even if the entire story wasn't replicated too too much (Final Fantasy Tactics Advance comes close, however), a lot of the book's themes seem a bit...well, cliché. The plot itself doesn't seem to be anything new either.
  • Paul Clifford. Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton's fifth novel, was an immense commercial success when first published. Today, it is remembered only as the origin of the notorious "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night".
  • Sherlock Holmes. Some argue that he qualifies as a "stock character", arguing that even though he was the origin of various clichés, to a modern reader they are just clichés.
    • There was a Holmes story in which Holmes is sure that he got the right guy, but the guy has an alibi. What could possibly be going on? Can you figure it out? Turns out the guy had an identical twin. Bet you never saw that one coming, did you?
    • Holmes is a fleshed-out version of Edgar Allan Poe's Auguste Dupin. Dupin can extrapolate from tiny clues, scoffs at the clueless police and has a narrator friend who worships him. There's actually a Lampshade Hanging on this in the very first Holmes story.
  • The Snow Crash physical manifestation of the internet can come off as either a brilliant, eerie prediction of the future or a "I know this already" unsurprising setting depending on whether you read it before or after Second Life proved everything.
  • "A Sound of Thunder", a short story by Ray Bradbury, was about time travelers who went back to prehistoric times, killed a butterfly, and accidently caused a fascist candidate to win the presidential elections. Which was a really original plot, when it was written. However, those story elements are so trite now that when the movie loosely based on the story was made, it was criticized for using old, tired cliches.
  • Stephen King's books have fallen into this due to so many modern horror writers copying his style. When he first published 'Salem's Lot and Carrie, the idea of bringing horror out of gothic castles and into average New England towns revitalized the genre.
  • Stranger in A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein features a Jesus-like human from Mars who can perform telekinesis, telepathy, and miracle healing simply by meditating. He spends most of the novel trying to "understand earth behaviour" and ends up bringing his followers sexual liberation. Most people nowadays tend to forget that Heinlein wrote the novel in the fifties but that it was published in the sixties, It was deemed publishable only when the hippie movement was already well on its way and ended up as a huge influence on the mentality of the '60s and '70s (predating Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by over a decade). Many attitudes in modern New Age philosophy are taken directly from Heinlein's work, often disguised as ancient Eastern wisdom.
    • A lot of Heinlein's works have ended up as this simply due to the sheer amount of influence he had on science fiction at the time. Starship Troopers and The Puppet Masters are two especially good examples.
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin: The characters seem incredibly stereotyped to modern eyes because the popularity of the book -- and the minstrel shows inspired by or at least named for it -- established those very stereotypes.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: This book heavily influenced geek humor during the 1980s but now the humor seems too cerebral to today's audience. Also, Douglas Adams' humor doesn't translate well from the written page to the spoken-out-loud format due to his verbosity and the lower attention span of the modern audience. That would explain the 2005 movie which either didn't include most of the iconic lines from the book, altered them to sound more American, or substituted visual humor.
    • Notwithstanding that the book was originally an adaptation from the Radio series.
  • The Shannara franchise, particularly The Sword of Shannara. People today tend to look at it and see a blatant rip-off of The Lord of the Rings. At the time, people wouldn't have, due to Brooks' other innovations, including Elves that were human and fallible, a Mentor who was a whopping example of Good Is Not Nice, the aversion of Exclusively Evil, and of course, the twist ending (The Sword convinces The Big Bad of his Dead All Along status), and the After the End setting. Nowadays all those things are so common that modern readers tend only to notice the flaws and the similarities to Lord of the Rings, instead of the differences.
    • Tolkien's Elves were fallible, plenty of his characters (including mentor types like Gandalf and especially Thorin) exhibit Good Is Not Nice, he subverted and deconstructed Exclusively Evil, and LOTR has two twist endings. There might be bits buried in the Shannara books not ripped off from Tolkien, but those aren't among them. The After the End setting cropped up years later due to Canon Welding rather than any particular piece of creative insight.
  • Annie on My Mind. The villains are one-dimensional, the romance develops in a short time (a month or so), and the heroes, Woobies or not, make some stupid decisions. These tend to turn people off the to the book. They forget that this was the first book to portray lesbians in a positive light, without having them turn straight or die.
  • Science fiction in general. Technologies that used to be completely fantastic tend to become Truth in Television decades later. See also Technology Marches On.
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) has fallen victim to it. It was one of the earliest Time Travel novels, and the protagonist's efforts to introduce "modern" technology and values in The Middle Ages was groundbreaking on its own. However this idea was followed in (among others) Lest Darkness Fall (1941), which was itself influential in the Alternate History genre, The Cross Time Engineer series, the 1632 series, and Timeline. While The Man Who Came Early (1956) by Poul Anderson served as an influential Deconstruction of the concept. Nowadays its hard to realize what was unique in the original novel.
  • William Morris (1834-1896) attempted to revive the Chivalric Romance genre with novels The Wood Beyond the World (1894) and The Well at the World's End (1896). Creating "an entirely invented fantasy world" as their setting. These works and his earlier Historical Fantasy novels influenced writers such as Lord Dunsany, Eric Rücker Eddison, James Branch Cabell, JRR Tolkien, and CS Lewis. Problem is that they are among the founding works of Medieval European Fantasy. And had a noticeable influence in the development of Heroic Fantasy, High Fantasy, and even the Cthulhu Mythos. There is now nothing innovative about creating an invented world, and his works were considered dated by The Seventies.
  • The Great God Pan (1894) was a prototype Cosmic Horror Story, notable for "the cumulative suspense and ultimate horror with which every paragraph abounds". It was cited as a major influence by H.P. Lovecraft, and (more recently) Stephen King. But part of the suspense is killed for the modern reader, who knows what to expect from the genre.