Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Breaking New Ground

A few weeks ago, I had an experience that I’m sure every genre fan’s had more times than they can count. You mention that you read; they ask what; you say SFF. From there, whether they’re a reader or not, they’re likely to sneer. What I really hate, however, is those snap judgments that are dished out by people who have never read it. “It’s all just a Lord of the Rings rip off.” (I know, City of Saints and Madmen practically plagiarized the scene at Mt. Doom!) “Anything can happen, so it’s just stupid.” (Exactly, like that high-magic Song of Ice and Fire everyone’s talking about.) “It’s all just pointless violence, nothing but popcorn reads.” (Yeah, because Gene Wolfe’s known for his special effects.)

And yet, I do it too.

Romance? Boy loves girl; they fight about something; they make up. That’s it, same story every time, only differentiated by the amount of gratuitous sex. Paranormal romance? Cleaned up romance that’s meant for teen girls to swoon over, led by a book whose quality and popularity are so inverted I’m half convinced that the entire human race is just playing a joke on me by saying they like it. Urban Fantasy? Chicks in tight leather killing some stuff and fucking the rest, differentiated from Paranormal Romance only by the body count. Graphic Novels? Books for people who lack the imagination to make their own sound effects (pow!). Young Adult? I didn’t read it when I fell within the demographic, why would I start now when there are real books out there to read? Shared World? You just saw the movie/played the game and want to fit in with the grownups. Etc.

Now, I know that each and every one of those is just as stupid as hating fantasy because it’s all big manly barbarians saving wenches from dragons, but I have a hard time getting over my gut reaction to seeing bare tattooed backs on cover after cover. (Though I will point out that, before you all leave due to me insulting your favorite genre, the above examples were fairly sarcastic. Those’re all genres that I don’t understand, but it’s not to that pooh-flinging degree, okay?) So, what am I going to do about all of this? The same thing that I’d tell someone who won’t read epic fantasy due to the hooded figures on the covers: I’m going to get reading.

Now, I’m not doing Romance, whether Paranormal or vanilla. Sorry, I just can’t do it. Maybe another time. Nor am I doing Young Adult, or Shared World, simply because I’m not in the mood for those at the moment. What I am doing, however, is Urban Fantasy and Graphic Novels. So, in the next few days, get ready for more detailed posts on those genres, but I figured I’d announce the whole thing now.

I’m not going to turn the reviews themselves into pieces on what I think about the genre, because I’m a big believer that you should be able to read a review and have it make sense without needing every word I’ve ever written for context. Instead, I’m planning to write a short piece after each book to say, in a much less formal setting, what I thought of it and what I’m thinking of the genre as a whole at that moment.

This is, I should probably point out, not going to become the entirety of what I read. I’m planning on doing a minimum of five of each, without a set timeframe, and the mainstay of my reading is still going to be the same mixture of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, with a smattering of occasional literature, that it’s always been.

Just so I have a nice handy escape built in from the beginning, I’ll throw it out there that I have the ability to quit at any time. If the first twenty-two Urban Fantasies I read revolt me, there ain’t gonna to be no twenty-third, but at least I’ll have tried.

Anyway, I think it’s time to get this started. Which means I should probably open up that Graphic Novel on my desk…

Breaking New Ground: Urban Fantasy

Breaking New Ground: Graphic Novels

Breaking New Ground: Crime

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