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Feb 24, 2023

Laterpress Tournament of Tropes: Round 2, Part 1

The round of 32 begins! Vote now to decide the fate of 16 of them. Who's moving on?

Nate Gillick
Nate Gillick
Person about to start running

The Laterpress Tournament of Tropes is heating up! Inspired by “March Madness,” our first community event of 2023 features 20 books from independent authors, representing 40 different tropes, all facing off in a bracket where readers and authors alike can vote for their favorites. What trope will walk away with the crown?

You can view the full bracket HERE.

With the first round complete, the field of 40 has been shrunk to 32. Now, we’ll be saying goodbye to half the field every round. Round 2 is split into two voting periods. Half of the matchups are up for voting now, the other half will be up for a vote on Monday, February 27th.

Read on to learn more about the tropes doing battle today, and if you like them, check out the book representing them! Laterpress is not using affiliate links for this community event. All proceeds from any sales go directly to the authors!

When can I vote?

Mark your calendars! All voting rounds begin at 1pm Eastern, and close at 11am Eastern on the day the next voting round begins. 

Round 2, Part 1 - Now! Keep reading!

Round 2, Part 2 - Monday, February 27

Round of 16 - Friday, March 3

Round of 8 - Monday, March 6

Round of 4 - Friday, March 10

Championship - Monday, March 13

Round One Results:

Results shown as the percentage of the vote earned.

Heists 45% vs. Multiverses 55%

The End of the World 15% vs. Secret Worlds 85%

Science Wizards 76% vs Age Gap 24%

Never-Ending Quest 67% vs. PTSD 33%

Royal Palace Intrigue 74% vs. Arranged Marriages 26%

"Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" 29% vs. Lost Knowledge 71%

Rescue Missions 40% vs. Galactic Empires 60%

Breaking the Fourth Wall 57% vs. Mysterious Benefactors 43%

Round Two, Part One Matchups:

All books in the tournament represent two different tropes, so you will see some books show up more than once below. In those cases, the book's blurb will only be posted the first time they're mentioned.

Matchup 1: Small Town Romance vs Breaking the Fourth Wall

As the name suggests, Small Town Romances are romance stories set in small towns. The setting almost becomes a character itself in the story. Everyone knows everyone, so the appearance of anyone new moving into town is an event. Any drama and gossip tends to be known by everyone in short order, and it can be tougher to keep secrets. These stories may also dive deep into cliques and small-group dynamics.

If you’re looking for a new small town romance read, check out Covered, by E.A. West.

Lacey's abusive father is out of prison and more dangerous than ever. The Hawthorne Guardians, a local motorcycle club that protected her as a child, is her only hope for safety. Some of the faces have changed, but the credo is the same: protect the innocent. One Guardian, Ratchet, takes an interest in more than her safety. He wants her heart.

Breaking the Fourth Wall means the story is self-aware enough to know it is a story, and either makes fun of itself or addresses the audience directly. A character may exclaim, “Of all the books I could have been written into, why did it have to be this one? The author’s crazy!” Some cinematic examples of this would be Deadpool or She Hulk.

If you like Fourth Wall breaking meta humor, check out 1001 Episodes to Literary Godhood, by Eldritch Thundergod.

I thought I'd be king of the world on the fiction platform Zella, but when my magnum opus about a telepathic cuttlefish and his pet human flopped, I was desperate for a way to climb the ranks. When I bought a magic lamp at a garage sale and the djinn offered me a wish, I thought I was set. But magic comes with a price, and the $10 I paid didn't count. To ascend to literary godhood, I must write 1,001 episodes with features dictated by authors and readers... while using this stupid pen name. (Published under the name Eldritch Thundergod.)

Matchup 2: Family Secrets vs. Pawn to Cosmic Powers

Family Secrets - A prominent family in the story is hiding something. It may be the protagonist’s own family, or a family they care about. The main character may be tasked with helping keep the secret, lest scandal rip the family apart. In other stories, the protagonist may learn some dark, previously unknown secrets about their family, changing everything they thought they knew about themself or the ones they love.

Looking for family secrets? Check out The Beginning of the End, in which Daphne discovers she didn’t know as much about her parents as she thought she did.

Daphne is the last person on earth...or so she thinks. After a deadly disease wipes out all of humanity, she learns family secrets and must travel across Canada in search of answers to why she survived...and who she really is.

Pawn to Cosmic Powers - Also known as the “Cosmic Plaything.” With this trope, characters are pawns on a game board of cosmic significance, dancing to the tune set for them by a much more powerful being. This dynamic may be known to characters early on, or not revealed until much later in a book or series. Much of Greek mythology involves characters being pawns to the schemes of gods. Other examples include the Ellimist in the Animorphs series (as the meddling power) or Kalidin in the Stormlight Archive (as the pawn). 

Ready to tangle with cosmic powers? Check out Anti-Villains: One Night in Harlem, by Andrea Stanet 

In this version of 1938 jazz-era Harlem, Ella Daniels has been down on her luck. At the unemployment office, she meets the mysterious Nathalie who in an act of kindness invites her and two others for a night of séance, self-discovery, and spiritual awakening. The 3 participants have secrets that could threaten their existence. Strange events, the opulence of Nathalie’s home, and the discovery that they can’t leave all convince Ella that the invitations weren’t an act of kindness but something nefarious. The guests become pawns in a battle of wills, deceptions, revelations, and tough choices that threaten to lay the three women, especially Ella, bare.

Matchup 3: The Reluctant Hero vs. Galactic Empires

The Reluctant Hero - Often, when a hero undertakes a quest, they do it because they feel a calling to the task. In other cases, their life may depend on it and they have no other choice to proceed. But sometimes, our hero is perfectly cozy and content with their life, but the course of events drags them along on an adventure (though they would have preferred to just stay home). Those are your reluctant heroes.

You’ll encounter a reluctant hero in The Adventurer’s Guide To Shopkeeping and Sidequests, by Elle Wilson

Strange magic, uncharted territory, danger at every turn. Adventuring is never easy. For Evadne, it means giving up the life she's built to embrace a legacy she never wanted. Pricing is for early access while I draft, but it will be made available for purchase when finished at a lower price.

Galactic Empires are a popular trope in science fiction. A government has become large and almost all-powerful as it expands its influence over many planets. Most of the time, this empire is an antagonistic force that characters have to either struggle to work around, or must fight and defeat. The most famous example of this, no doubt, is the Empire in Star Wars.

If you're in the mood to take on an empire, check out On the Outward Edge, by C.P. Night

Her galactic empire is in turmoil. Will her attempts to save it push it to the brink of collapse? Princess Serina is out for revenge. Driven to destroy the rebels who slaughtered her family, she risks her declining health to prioritize her deadly mission. With enemies filling the surrounding shadows, will her faith blind her to the danger?

Matchup 4: Animal Companions vs. FTL (Faster Than Light) Travel

Animal Companions come in many forms, and their capabilities vary depending on the setting. They could be well-trained but otherwise ordinary animals, such as a wolf, bear, or fox. They could be mythical animals, like a unicorn or phoenix. They may even possess unique abilities, such as the ability to talk, or communicate telepathically. What doesn’t change is their unwavering devotion and loyalty to their companion. If a character has an animal companion, it’s typically rare for the two of them to be separated.

You’ll encounter animal companions in The Adventurer’s Guide To Shopkeeping and Sidequests, by Elle Wilson

The universe is a vast place. When it can take light years to travel from Point A to Point B, how are people supposed to get anywhere? That’s where Faster-Than-Light travel comes in. How does it work? Don’t worry about it! The whole galaxy / universe opens up for exploration when you remove the real constraints of traveling such vast distances. It’s very nearly a requirement if you’re writing Space Opera. 

Target 10: A Space Adventure by C.P. Night will have you zipping across the cosmos at FTL speeds.

Abandoned planets. Alien artifacts. Teeny-tiny living spaces. Three explorers with their own agendas. What could go wrong? Reby, Jemy, and RJ are cruising way out beyond known space. They've got a list of targets to scavenge for alien artifacts and debts waiting for them when they get back. If they get back…

Matchup 5: First Contact vs. Lost Knowledge

First Contact is a classic science fiction scenario. Humanity comes into contact with a previously unknown lifeform (or lost civilization) for the first time. Is this new species friendly? Hostile? Are there communication barriers to navigate? Can the two species coexist peacefully? Star Trek and Stargate told many first contact stories across their various series, usually hand waving away communication issues with a Universal Translator (or everyone just conveniently speaks English despite living in isolation from each other for hundreds of years). Instead, they focused on cultural differences.

Expect first contact with the unknown in Target 10: A Space Adventure, by C.P. Night.

Lost Knowledge - Knowledge one commonplace is now rare or extinct. This may be because of a cataclysm. Perhaps a spaceship crashed and the survivors don’t have the knowledge or means to reproduce their technology. An evil wizard may have wiped the information from everyone’s minds. Sometimes, rediscovering lost knowledge is core to the story’s plot. Other times, it’s used as a backdrop to explain the current state of the world.

Check out Thomas and the Girl from Another World by E.R. Zanes for an example of the Lost Knowledge trope in action.

It's a universal truth that magic is long gone. Yet everything changes when Thomas meets an impossible girl at the epicenter of a bizarre incident. She's in need of help, especially with the unexpected threats that emerge the moment she arrives. In aiding her, he'll have to leave all he's ever known for a road fraught with relentless pursuers and ancient mysteries that demand resolution.

Matchup 6: Magic is Dangerous vs. Fish Out of Water

In universes employing the Magic is Dangerous trope, magic is as deadly as a loaded gun. Or nukes. For stories employing this trope, magic isn’t all fun and whimsy. Its misuse can lead to serious injury, or even death. It must be used sparingly and carefully. The use of magic may be considered inherently evil, with any magic users feared or shunned by society. Narnia, this is not.

Be ready to approach magic with caution and respect while reading Dead Lands Rescue, by E.R. Zanes

Dangerous exploration into the dark unknown runs in Aer's blood. She's spent her adult life denying it. But when strangers come asking for her help, she's forced to pick up her family mantle and return to the Dead Lands. With cursed, blood-chilling creatures lurking within, survival is anything but guaranteed. Drawn into the old mysteries once again, will she only find familiar pain, or the desperate answers she didn't know she needed?

The Fish Out of Water is a very popular trope with portal fantasies, Isekai stories, and LitRPGs, but can appear in any genre. A fish out of water is a character plucked from what they know and placed into a radically different situation, where they have little to no idea what is going on, or their skills are ill suited for the task at hand. Because the characters are clueless about their situation, the trope provides a natural way for authors to educate their protagonist and readers simultaneously on how the world works, making this trope handy in stories that are heavy on worldbuilding.

In Welcome to the Nexus, Serena discovers her world is just one of many in a vast multiverse, filled with beings she's never heard of. She's in way over her head against ancient forces of evil.

Epic Multiverse Portal Fantasy - A pyromancer, a dryad, and an elven warrior join forces on an epic quest across the multiverse to eliminate an ancient evil.

Matchup 7: Sentient Buildings vs. Royal Palace Intrigue

Sentient Buildings (typically houses) are living entities with minds and desires of their own, able to think and act independently of any owner they may have. The house gained awareness through magical or supernatural means, not technology. In horror stories, the house is often a malevolent force, trapping and killing anyone who moves in. They’re not all bad though. TV Tropes notes that Castle Glower from Jessica Day George's Tuesdays At The Castle frequently adds new rooms and passageways to itself, or rearranges the ones that are already there. It doesn't speak, but can use this ability to communicate with and help the people that it likes, as well as to further its own agenda.

The sentient house in A Wreck of Witches by Nia Quinn is quite friendly. It just longs for some companionship.

When you're a witch juggling a sentient house and a magical plant nursery, you already think life is about as crazy as it can get. But scary things start happening in my mundane neighborhood when my friend goes missing. It's up to me and my ragtag group of witches—oh, and the ghost dogs—to get things under control before the Unawares figure out magic's real.

Royal Palace Intrigue relates to the schemes and maneuvering of royal characters. These high-stakes power games can be played for any number of reasons: politics, power, prestige, money, love, religion, diplomacy, war. Often, there may be a whole combination of reasons in play. With the power and influence royal characters have, the outcomes of their struggles will influence the lives of many innocent people.

Need a story of high drama and intrigue within a royal family? Check out The Stars & Green Magics, by Novae Caelum

Dressa has no wish to be the heir, but she's falling for her sister's betrothed. Two heirs, one kingdom, and with the title comes the bride. When rulers can shapeshift and masquerade as each other, who will rule? A Robot Dinosaur Press serial. S1 is [Complete].

Matchup 8: Magitek (or Magitech) vs. Alien Artifacts

As the name hints, Magitek (or Magitech) represents a fusion of magic and non-magical technology. It may take the form of airships, which function like airplanes, but are powered through magical means. It could be immense robots or other construction equipment, again powered through magical means. Magitek creations show up frequently in the Final Fantasy games. In the Oh My Goddess! manga and anime, the magic powering the universe is described in terms of computer programs and code. 

You’ll find Magitek in action in Ocean of Dreams, by R.L. Ehrick

Esar and Kelsam's quiet life is thrown into disarray by the appearance of two teenagers from another world. One of them has dangerous untrained magic that can rend reality asunder, bringing about the destruction that Esar has seen in his prophetic dreams. But that power might be the only hope for defeating an even more dangerous foe.

Alien Artifacts are a popular science fiction trope, where explorers encounter some relic or piece of technology from a lost or vanished alien race. The Stargate franchise is filled with alien artifacts, from the Stargates themselves, which allow for travel across the galaxy, to lost deposits of knowledge, and even the lost city of Atlantis itself. These artifacts don’t always push humanity forward though. In the Dead Space games, alien Markers lead to madness, death, and nightmarish transformations. 

You can find alien artifacts in On the Outward Edge, by C.P. Night

Good luck and have fun everyone!

Voting remains open until 11am Eastern time on Monday.

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