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Old 12-31-2012, 06:58 AM   #1
Liosse de Velishaf
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Is SFF too eager to please?

Stumbled across this article recently:

http://damiengwalter.com/2012/11/05/...ger-to-please/

Some of it seems like jealousy, but maybe a bit is true?
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:25 AM   #2
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I don't believe that, no. I'm not sure why people are saying some of these authors are "too eager to please." So, it could be I'm missing the point entirely.
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:31 AM   #3
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Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?

I have to agree, jealousy.

Look, if you make money on creative writing, you're in the entertainment business. Be entertaining. (And that's coming from me, and I hate business talk)

SFF allows the writers to do what this wish, without limits.
We can be creative and entertaining is ways that surprise the reader.

I do have to agree at some points in books when things get a bit out of hand. That the writer stopped and thought, "How do I make this more enjoyable? How do I turn the knob up to 11?"
Like in the Prince of Thorns, they find a nuclear bomb and destroy a city.


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Old 12-31-2012, 07:38 AM   #4
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I really found myself wondering why there are so few writers in the fantasy genre producing work of the kind of quality creatively, intellectually, technically that Le Guin has produced throughout her career.
Because we're not Le Guin?
I wouldn't even want to write like Le Guin. I like her works, but I don't want to be her.

For some reason I thought Le Guin was dead. Hmmm, maybe I'm thinking of the woman who wrote that list of things that fantasy gets wrong, like how long it takes to cook soup. Also wrote a two-part fantasy series heavily revolving around gryphons.
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:42 AM   #5
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I think it has some interesting points, but then, I write literary fiction with a speculative bent.
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Old 12-31-2012, 07:43 AM   #6
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Eh, it sounds like the author is cranky because stuff he's not fond of is getting published.

Despite the fact that stuff he's fond of is also getting published (and winning awards, too).

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Old 12-31-2012, 08:11 AM   #7
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I can think of examples in my recent reading that might support his points, via many of the same authors he mentioned. But challenging, quirky writers are also getting published and lauded, so I think the problem may only be in the groomed 'mega bestseller' field of sf&f.

The broader conflict may be in the 'copies of copies' response of our sampled culture. It's easier and cheaper to have re-runs, reality shows, reboots, and other cut-and-paste products than to truly push outside the box. A recent self-blow job program by the Syfy Channel was a great example of the trend, but not in the way they probably meant.

As the big mass-market publishers consolidate further, I expect to see less and less exciting fare from them.
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:19 AM   #8
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Well, Twilight hasn't helped the image, but I think SF/F is so popular that people thinks its easy.

For me, I am very selective about what I read, in any genre, and I don't think any of them are easy to do well.
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:28 AM   #9
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For some reason I thought Le Guin was dead.
She's alive and well, and comes to speak to the students of the Fantasy class at Portland State University each year. She really impressed me the year I got to speak with her as part of the class. She was wise and kind.
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:54 AM   #10
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Shocker. Authors are eager to please readers. What an astounding concept!

Some readers read for deeper meaning. I do every now and then. But most of the time, I want an entertaining story about interesting characters doing interesting things. If it has deeper meaning, that's great, but it isn't a selling point for me.
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:03 AM   #11
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I'm still trying to wrap my head around Patrick Rothfuss being a copy of a copy of a copy. Not where where the EFF that came from.
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:15 AM   #12
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Quote:
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I'm still trying to wrap my head around Patrick Rothfuss being a copy of a copy of a copy. Not idea where the EFF that came from.
Well, I think that part kind of depends on your opinion of Rothfuss. Which isn't the important issue here.

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Old 12-31-2012, 10:33 AM   #13
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Hmm. Seems like a really sulky, bitter rant. That's a writer having a bad day, poor guy.
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Old 12-31-2012, 11:09 AM   #14
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Um, if you're reading a book outside of some sort of work or school requirement, is that not called "reading for pleasure?"

Some people take pleasure in reading stuff that does something new or makes them think. Others take pleasure in reading stuff that's straightforward or they can predict. To each their own. What's the point in getting angry that a bunch of people like stuff that you don't? Buy stuff from the authors you like and don't buy stuff from the authors you don't like. Pretty simple solution, really.
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Old 12-31-2012, 11:47 AM   #15
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Science fiction/fantasy is a huge ocean of ideas, some bits are deep and mysterious, some shallow and fun to paddle in. It all depends on what you want.
Apparently, Damiel Walter likes it deep and complex and challenging. Yippee for him.
There's stuff for him, there's stuff for me. I prefer the shallow end of the ocean. I have toy boats to sail, and shells to collect. This need not deter him from taking his submarine down to whatever depths it can stand.
I looked up the book he was so fond of: 'Osama'. Based on the descriptions, it sounds exactly like the kind of book I would avoid.

Aside from his assumption that 'challenging' is praiseworthy in itself, I kind of take exception to his remark about 'the deep and complex relationship an author has with a reader' . That rather depends on the author and the reader. In most cases this consists of 'you write'em, I read'em'. Unless he thinks we all write letters to, or papers about, writers?
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Old 12-31-2012, 12:00 PM   #16
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Okay. I feel a little bad saying this, but . . . I think I kind of see what the guy means. I don't think he's stated it particularly well, but . . . well, here's my interpretation. I'm going to use movies, because this is an author-supportive community, and I don't want to diss any particular author.

Take one of my favorite movies of recent times: Avengers, which I saw twice in the theatre (and usually I only go to see 2-3 movies in the theatre per year, total) and have watched multiple times on DVD. I LOVE this movie. It does what it means to extremely well. It's well-written, with snappy dialogue, amazing characters, fantastic acting, and effects and cinematography that are off the hook.

But it doesn't say anything deep, does it? It doesn't go anywhere thematically we haven't seen before. Again, I'm not knocking Avengers -- I LOVE it. It isn't *trying* to be deep. It's trying to be fantastic entertainment, and it succeeds magnificently at that.

But I think you'd agree that there are plenty of superhero movies that try to do the same thing and do it badly, or at least mediocre-ly. Some of them throw a lot of special effects at the audience along with some shiny characters we know and love, and those movies make a lot of money. They're not necessarily well-written or well-done movies. They're not deep. They are entertaining, to a certain degree.

Now take a movie like District 9.* District 9 grabbed my understanding of the world and wrenched it. It did, in my opinion, what the best scifi does -- it held up a mirror to our world through speculative fiction, and it made us think, and it made us feel. My friend and I walked out of that movie shaking and saying, "This is what scifi should be."

On the other hand? I've never rewatched District 9. Because it's not madcap entertainment. But it is a much deeper movie than Avengers.

I do feel like we see the same thing with books. There are some books that are groundbreaking. That wrestle with difficult themes. That strive for incredible characterization, and fantastic self-consistent worlds with twists and conceits we've never thought of before. I'm sure you can think of plenty of these.

And there are also books that just set out to be fun. And that's great. I have no problem with that. And some of them do it incredibly well. They're some of my favorite books.

Then, there are the people who try to copy both those sets of authors. Sometimes they do it well. Sometimes they do it badly. But look how many books feature Tolkienesque orcs/dwarves/elves. And I feel like one in five fantasy books I pick up these days is trying to be George R.R. Martin.

And I do think more people are going for writing "fun" than going for writing that's deep. Again, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, and I don't think it's impossible to find deep books in SFF, either! But . . . ack, I feel like I'm not expressing myself too well either. But I do feel, COMPLETELY anecdotally, that there are certain . . . trends? . . . that people try to jump on. And maybe they're not directly copying them, but they're trying for that same type of book.

I don't think this is because they're trying to please readers, though. I think it's because that's what they discovered they like to read, so they wanted to write something like that.

I DO think it's possible that publishers are looking for certain "types" of fiction they've seen do very well recently, however. It would be a foolish business decision not to.

So if the author of that article likes deep/new SFF, I can see where he'd be frustrated. As another poster said, in a way it's just that what's being published and recognized "isn't what he wants to see" published and recognized, but I do have a certain sympathy for him if he wants more District 9's and the majority of what he sees coming out strike him as pale copies of Avengers that sell well because they have lots of special effects and tropes that are familiar to readers. So to speak.

::please imagine all of this said in a reasonable/speculating tone of voice; I'm just contemplating here::

* If you disagree with my opinion on District 9, insert your own deep scifi film here. I know some people disagree with me on how good it is, but I'm just trying to make a point.

p.s. -- And I was going to say I don't get why he wanted to blog so angrily even if he did feel this way, but I sort of do, because . . . well, my friend and I just spent all evening tearing apart a certain new movie** and obsessing about why anyone likes it. We're both invested in it being done well because it was a big part of our childhoods, so we *do* have an emotional response when we see something with that much importance to us wrecked (in our opinion) -- it's not as simple as just saying, "well, we won't go see it, but who cares if other people do." I'm not saying it's rational to have that response to other people's tastes, just that as a not-always-entirely-rational human being, I get it.

** Not going to say what as that's not the point and I'm not trying to derail the conversation (and there are at least two movies out right now it could be).

EDIT: I feel I should make it clear that I have absolutely no problem with people who choose to read for fun and prefer light brain candy. Like I said, I love Avengers. I'm just sort of contemplating here.
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Old 12-31-2012, 02:28 PM   #17
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Quote:
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For some reason I thought Le Guin was dead. Hmmm, maybe I'm thinking of the woman who wrote that list of things that fantasy gets wrong, like how long it takes to cook soup. Also wrote a two-part fantasy series heavily revolving around gryphons.
You're thinking of Diana Wynne Jones.
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Old 12-31-2012, 02:38 PM   #18
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Meh

Heard this one before, way to often (it often goes hand in hand with reader voted awards that are 'just a popularity contest'. Well, yeah, cos people vote for the book they liked the most, which is probably the one they think is 'best'. And? Apparently this is wrong.).

My take i this

We all read for pleasure, but the form that pleasure take is different for all of us.

Some like to deconstruct a dense text, take pleasure from reassembling the themes etc.

Some want fiction to say something deep about humanity and take pleasure in finding it.

Some just want excitement, adventure and really wild things.

Some want to escape this world for an hour or two.

And some think the last two are bad reasons to read, or the sign of a not so educated mind or whathaveyou but *raspberry* to that. I know a High Court Judge who sees enough realism and grit every day thankyouverymuch, and so reads fluffy romances to escape. My brother has a job that entails a lot of hard brainwork, so to kick back he reads James Bond rather than anything that may break his brain cells.

As long as there are all types of books available for all these types of readers (and there are) I don't see a problem.

People read books in the way that gives them pleasure. Different people read/get pleasure differently. This doesn't mean one is objectively 'better', though it may feel subjectively so. That's not really news....
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Old 12-31-2012, 10:03 PM   #19
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No.

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I have to agree, jealousy.
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You don't have to be the Michael Bay of writing, but write what entertains you because there is a good chance it might entertain me.
This. I don't read fiction, especially not SF/F, to be Enlightened, or Guilted, or Morally Judged, or whatever is the latest highfalutin' topic. I read to be entertained. We'e all entertained by different stuff... so write whatever variety floats your corpse, not what you're told is Pleasing, or Correct, or Beloved of Critics.

"Critics have learned all they know from listening to each other." -- Jack Vance
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Old 12-31-2012, 10:24 PM   #20
J.W. Alden
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Ugh, what a bad taste that put in my mouth. I suppose I should go chastise myself for being one of the sheeple that enjoys Sanderson and Rothfuss now.

Hey news flash, everyone! Books written for wide audiences tend to sell better! And some authors like to give their readers what they want! For shame, for shame; how low we have fallen!
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Old 01-01-2013, 01:05 AM   #21
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It strikes me that the article has an inherent contradiction in its...hmm, well, 'reasoning' seems like too strong a word, but for the sake of argument, let's say reasoning.

Point 1: successful SFF authors are only successful because they are calculatedly writing novels that are crowd-pleasers.

Point 2: you can't please the crowd because they don't know what they want anyway.

Ummm. Go to the bottom of the class in logic, anyway.
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Old 01-01-2013, 01:35 AM   #22
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As other posters have noted, this reads more like Bitter Author is Bitter.
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Old 01-01-2013, 04:22 AM   #23
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I'm never fond of anything that criticizes the books I like to read. It's one thing to criticize authors for writing what they want to write, it's even worse to chastise a reader for reading what they want to read.
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Old 01-01-2013, 04:37 AM   #24
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The answer is a fine balance between original, unique and thought-provoking storyline and commentary, in addition to a hyper-jump thrill ride that doesn't require a ticket to intellectualism. Why can't it be both profound and fun? That's what I strive for. Sf editors are demanding something different and ground-breaking, but that's always been the case. The trick is to make lobster taste like cotton candy. I suppose that goes for fantasy too.

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Old 01-01-2013, 04:42 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LOG View Post
Because we're not Le Guin?
I wouldn't even want to write like Le Guin. I like her works, but I don't want to be her.

For some reason I thought Le Guin was dead. Hmmm, maybe I'm thinking of the woman who wrote that list of things that fantasy gets wrong, like how long it takes to cook soup. Also wrote a two-part fantasy series heavily revolving around gryphons.
That might be Diana Wynne-Jones? (spelling approx.)
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