I’m worried I’m losing my taste for Fantasy.
There was a time when my fiction reading was a fairly even split between SF and Fantasy. ‘Fairly even’ as in SF probably edged out Fantasy, but it was likely on the order of 55-45.
If I look at my reading notes from the last four or five years, the ratio is more like 80-20, and this year has pushed that further so that of the 51 fiction books I’ve read so far this year, only 7 of them qualify as fitting into the Fantasy genre.
While I’m not sure it’s fair to talk about the World Fantasy Award winners in this vein (although they are part of my long-term quest to read all of the novel-length winners of the major English-language awards), but of the 52 novels that have won the award since its introduction, I’ve attempted 24 so far and they shake out like this:
- Loved = 1
- Enjoyed = 6
- Decent Read = 1
- Meh = 9
- Did Not Finish = 7
- No chance I’m going to read that = 3. (One is outright Horror which is just going to make it a DNF anyway, one completely didn’t appeal to me based on a reading of cover copy and general themes, and one sharing themes with another book I barely got through – and hated – by the same author and on this same quest.)
Not the greatest ratio for 27 books.
I’m not sure what’s shifting in my tastes or when it started, but nearly every fantasy book I read the synopsis on or lift to read the cover copy, I get the impression that it’s something I’ve already read something very much like, or that it’s not bringing me anything fresh or exciting. Whether that’s a fair impression for any given book or all of the books I’ve put back down without reading (and that includes some books that are already in the house which seemed attractive at the time) doesn’t really matter, it’s what the Fantasy genre is doing for me lately, which isn’t much.
And that’s weird.
I won’t say that I discovered Fantasy before I discovered Science Fiction (see previously disclosed early memories about watching Star Trek with my Dad), but it was pretty early. I remember reading The Hobbit for the first time at about age 7, and The Lord of the Rings at 8 (my Uncle gave me an all-in-one-volume copy during a long summer visit to keep me quiet for a while – it worked, but not for as long as he’d hoped it would), and I’ve been tearing through both genres ever since.
Except, well, not so much tearing through Fantasy anymore as poking it with a stick and mostly from a distance.
And that feels unfortunate. I don’t get the same sense of wonder out of entering a new fantastic world as I used to, and Science Fiction still gives that to me. There’s more to it than just that sense of wonder, though. There’s something else Science Fiction gives me that most Fantasy doesn’t seem to: it makes me think.
The more, ahem, mature I get, the more I’m interested in being stimulated intellectually by my entertainment in addition to emotionally. I absolutely want to connect with the characters – caring about them helps drive the story forward for me – but I want the story to make me think at the same time.
And most Fantasy doesn’t seem to do that for me anymore. There are great characters to be found, and amazing worlds and conceived realities, but so often it seems to be some version of a quest or adventure or an exploration of the world and the strange cultures that the author has built or even just a telling of events happening to those characters in that setting. It’s offering me fresh vistas, but not fresh thoughts or ideas.
So is that a problem with me or with the genre?
Or is it not a problem at all and just a changing preference?
Maybe I’m just not finding the right Fantasy lately.
I’m open to suggestions for the coming reading year. Stay safe and be well, everyone.by
by As part of the Days of Geek podcast (which, yes, I know I’m supposed to release an episode of today, but I’m not nearly finished editing it yet), I’m doing a Star Trek re-watch. The Original Series. As in, the series that originally ran before I was born.
I grew up watching Trek. One of my earliest memories is sitting in my father’s lap in that old green chair watching “The Immunity Syndrome”. As a three-year-old, the idea of a giant space amoeba eating whole planets was hard to wrap my mind around, but it was pretty cool. I watched every episode of the show over and over as a kid. As a teenager, it came on about 5 minutes after I got home from school for most of my high school years. That started to shift after The Next Generation kicked in, but it didn’t make the move to only early Saturday mornings until just before my first year of university. I kept watching.
As an adult, with cable and a science fiction network, I made it my mission to capture all of the episodes in order on VHS (a mission I’d later extend to TNG as well).
With the exception of the very first one, I’ve seen all of the feature films first run in the theatre. I have seen Star Trek: the Motion Picture on the big screen, but it was many years later in a review theatre.
You might figure out that I love the show. Honestly, Star Trek was a huge influence in my watching and reading habits as a kid and teenager, and is certainly the reason I’m a geek. It’s also at least part of the reason I developed a brain as a teenager when a lot of people around me seemed to be actively trying to avoid using theirs.
I’ve never tried to force feed my own kids the things I love. There’s a lot of variety and I want them free to choose their own path in all things, and that has always included what to watch. I’ve been far more likely to watch what they’re into than watch what I want.
My son thinks I should have made him watch more Star Trek as a kid. However, he’s seen every Trek movie in the theatre that’s released in his lifetime. And he’s watching a fair bit with me lately.
My oldest daughter claims it’s too late. She likes Fantasy better than Science Fiction. But she’ll sit through episodes if we’re watching as a family.
My youngest doesn’t mind and is happy to watch with me. She likes some of the episodes and rolls her eyes at others. I think she likes TNG better.
Thinking about getting my daughters into Star Trek, I’m a little wary of the lack of strong women in the original series. They’re there, but only one on the regular cast and she’s underused a lot of the time. It’s better in TNG and Voyager. I should give DS9 another chance for the same reason. (Never got as far into it. I felt a lot of what was being done on the show, Babylon 5 covered better. With a little time and perspective, now I think I might have missed some good storytelling, especially in the later seasons.)
But if all of my kids aren’t Trekkies, they’ve all caught the spirit of Trek: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, and a bright future for the human race. What more could a dad hope for?
But the re-watch. That’s where I started, right? I’m less than half way through Season One watching things in order, but I’ve also handpicked episodes for the family to watch for Spocktoberfest. My success rate is high for those. That said, my son has requested “Spock’s Brain”.
Okay, so there are a few not so good episodes (although “Spock’s Brain” is interesting in its own way), but you can learn a lot from them too. Negative examples are still examples. But the good examples from the series tend to be really good, even 47 years on.
It’s all about the stories and the characters. Star Trek, The Original Series, did both of those very well.by
by So as I look back through my writing log, I find that there’s been about exactly 275 words of new fiction since I finished a flash piece on May 29th. Oh, I’ve written. Blog posts in the main, at least recently. Book reviews, scripting and show notes for Days of Geek. But not fiction.
The summer was weird, though it did have a fair bit of editing involved, most of it on a single project that’s now only a handful of days from being finished the third draft. I’ve got lots of other things to edit, too, but I suddenly, finally, desperately need to work on something new.
So I dusted off the fragment of an idea I had a while back and turned it into a super bare bones story kernel. Beginning, a handful of major plot points, and end. Stretching that out, I filled in a few phrases in between to get a very rough scene breakout. Voilà, a 255-word outline.
Okay, not exactly an outline, but the beginnings of one. I took a little time each day in the back half of September to turn that basic framework into a real outline. Over the course of the last two weeks, it’s grown from 24 Chapters to 26 and some of those will get broken up because I’ve settled out to 37 scenes and usually like those to be self contained chapters.
It’s now a 5200-word outline for a Science Fiction novel with a working title (Manifest Destiny) and I’m going to start writing it tomorrow. The catch: I want to finish the first draft by the end of the year.
My estimates show about a 60,000 word short novel. Based on past experience with my estimates, it should actually come in somewhere between 66 and 69k. So let’s assume the upper end of that 69,000 words / 92 days = 750 words per day. In the past, when I’m struggling to get the words out, that’s about 45 minutes. I think I can cover it.
I hope I can cover it.
Wish me luck, because I’m still doing the podcast thing while I’m at it and I have lots of editing to do. And plotting the next project. And a full time job, and three kids, and… well let’s just say a life.
But the next three months are a test. Can I get back into the groove, and can I get far enough into it that I go back to working on more than one project at a time? (Sooper Sekrit Projekt still a possibility).
The reason I need to know that is that I want to get to the point where I can replace some or all of my income through creative endeavors. Yes, I know that’s everyone’s goal, but I’m not getting any younger (who is?). Enough waiting, enough stalling, enough excuses. Time to get to work.
If the next three months are successful, I’ve got a serious year planned for 2014.
Manifest Destiny begins tomorrow.by