And now, some less obvious observations on the findings from my investigation into generic fantasy-fiction titles. But first, for anyone that wants it, here’s a spreadsheet with my raw counts (OpenDocumentSpreadsheet [.ods] format).
The first column is the word or concept being counted (if it’s got parentheses around it, it’s a label I made up for a concept. If not, it means that specific word.) The second column is the number of times the word or concept was found in the list of over 2500 book titles (actually 2533 if I remember correctly – I automatically threw out repeats of exactly the same title, I think I had a total of 2600 actual results including those duplicates). The third column, when it has anything in it, is just a note about what the word or concept refers to. Anyone ridiculously bored who wants to look it over and find all my addition mistakes and point out concept-categories I’ve inexcusably forgotten to include is welcome to do so.
And now, some random observations:
Colors: Obviously, “black” is by far the most popular color to mention in fantasy titles, because darkness. As one might guess, the next most popular color is red, presumably “because blood.” After black and red (red, scarlet, and crimson combined show up 22 times, “red” by itself shows up 16), are blue, white, silver, green, “golden”, indigo, gray, “gold”..and that’s it, unless I missed something scrolling through the words that only appeared once. (I can confirm that “brown”, “yellow”, and “orange” were all entirely absent at least). “Silver” is probably an inflated rating since I haven’t gotten around to checking how often the word refers to the metal and not the color. Same goes for “gold”, but I’m pretty sure we should count “golden” as a color. I was a little surprised that grey/gray didn’t show up much sooner, but I guess gray isn’t “hardcore” enough to sound “cool” nowadays.
Sexism?: It makes sense that if you’re going to mention the existence of an unnamed person in the title of a work of fantasy fiction, to be eye-catching and dramatic you should use a word that emphasises that the person in question is somehow exotic, special, and “different”, so you use exciting words that describe that the person controls awesome supernatural powers, or has risen from the grave as a bloodsucking monster, or has ladyparts, or rules a kingdom, or…wait, back up. Yes, apparently just being “female” in a fantasy novel title is noteworthy in the same way as having magic powers or being a vampire or being a king. “Generic” words for “female people” (i.e. “woman”, “women”, “girl”, etc.) show up long before similarly “generic” words for “male people”. Variations on the word “witch” show up nearly as often as “generic female person” words, and surprisingly (to me at least)mmuch more often than the next specific “magic person” word in the list (“mage”, which I originally would have guessed would be the most common one before I did this experiment). The implication that more than three quarters of a century after “Conan the Barbarian” showed up in print media, publishers STILL consider “This book has GIRLS in it!” to be a good marketing scheme in a title suggests the genre still has plenty of room to evolve.
Friggin’ Vampires: I haven’t checked, but somehow I can’t help but think this is all Stephanie Meyer’s fault. Ever since the media went nuts over “Twilight” (which as far as I can tell is a heartwarming tale of supernatural romance, wherein a vampire and a werewolf compete for the love of a zombie), vampire crap is everywhere. Make it stop. (A check of “vampire” titles by date would confirm or disprove my assumption. If anyone beats me to checking that, please let me know.)
Wolveses: Overwhelmingly appearing in fantasy fiction titles more often than any other “normal” nonhuman creature. I blame Stephanie Meyer for this, too. Actually, I’m pretty sure the popularity of wolves predates Stephanie Meyer by quite a long time, but I’ll blame her anyway.
Body Parts: I blame Vecna™. Remember the classic “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”™ ancient-evil-wizard-bodyparts, the “Eye of Vecna” and the “Hand of Vecna”? “Eye” and “Hand” are the only body parts that showed up in titles more than once. “Mouth” showed up once, as did “Potbelly”(I was compelled to look that one up: “
The Improbable Adventures of Scar and Potbelly: Ice Terraces of Crystal Crag“, which is apparently not a “print” book but is only for the “Nook” ebook reader). “Arms” actually showed up 3 times, but those all appear to be references to “weapons” rather than “the connector between shoulder and the hand” and therefore not a body part. No other body parts showed up in the titles that I could find.
TwoWord Neologisms:I haven’t done a specific count of these yet, but I noticed a lot of “words” that were made by mashing two other words together. “(something)born” seems to be a popular one, but it’s far from the only one.
Okay, that’s all I can remember at the moment. I’ll do another followup if I think of anything interesting or someone asks me a question that needs a whole post to answer.