The Woven Ring by M.D. Presley @Matticus Primal

Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Elvira, Dec 11, 2016.

  1. Theophania

    Theophania Ran bridges next to Kaladin

    Oh, bless. Poor babies.

    I do think it's interesting the way people form 'in-groups' with the sole purpose of defining other people as 'outsiders'. You'd think people would be happy to have more people reading fantasy - more readers = more books. But no, let's preserve it as a little in-group and sneer at newbies who want to join and don't know all the in-jokes.

    Makes me tired. I like to read. I like it when other people like to read. I don't care what they read, even if it's books I think would be suitable for what's been referred to as 'the most menial use to which paper can be put'. If someone is a reader, you can generally find enough in common with them to have a conversation. Why try to be all us-and-them?

    Re Harry Potter, I think one reason for its success was what tradpub was publishing in the way of kids' books in the nineties. As I recall, the majority of it was depressing 'realistic' books about teens dealing with drug addiction and parents divorcing, and so on. According to publishers, Kids Today didn't want to read about made-up crap about magic and wizards, and they definitely didn't want to read about posh kids in a boarding school. They wanted to read about Kids Like Them, who were dealing with Important Issues. Lately, there have been a few radio programs talking to the many publishers who rejected HP, and why they bounced it. "We didn't think it would sell," they said.

    To me, this says two things:
    1. Tradpub has no idea what will sell. Until something sells, then they publish another twenty of essentially the same thing. (My personal view, for which I have no evidence whatsoever, is that they select their people from a small pool of Guardian-reading English-lit graduates who all read the same kind of thing, which is not the same kind of thing that everyone else reads.)
    2. Everybody likes fantasy of some description, whether it's got magic and dragons or whether it's swept-away-by-a-hot-guy romance, or being-an-international-secret-agent spy thrillers, or even celebrity tell-all books. We all like to think that there's something beyond our 'drab, dull, everyday lives', even if we personally don't get to participate. But fantasy is basically fantasy, and it's a bit ridiculous to sneer at other people because you think your fantasy is better than their fantasy. Not that being ridiculous stops people most of the time.
    I've heard it said that books aren't competing against other books - they're competing against films and Pokemon Go, and all the other things people could be doing. I think there's something in that - so if someone's reading, it's good. They're supporting the book industry and helping to make sure there will be more books in the future. Maybe some of them will have dragons...
     
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  2. Matticus Primal

    Matticus Primal Became a Faceless Man

    Damn is there so much to unpack in this and agree with line by line. My favorite of the many favorites is "Tradpub has no idea what will sell. Until something sells, then they publish another twenty of essentially the same thing." I love this one in particular because you could replace "Tradpub" with "Movie studios" and be no less true.
     
  3. Peat

    Peat Ran bridges next to Kaladin

    I can only speak for my own experience but Harry Potter seems fairly popular and respected among those I talk to. Twilight less so, but the objection to Twilight is not so much it did something new with fantasy, but is a romance genre book in fantasy clothes with all the logic of the genre that looks so strange to those of us outside it. It is that specific thing which is mocked. The exasperations with Potter, such as they are, focus more around the flimsiness of the plot, Rowling's attempts to claim Harry Potter isn't fantasy, and people gasping at the originality when wizards' schools are far from unknown.

    I think there's something to what you're saying here Matticus, but I'm not sure how much. Song of Ice and Fire is pretty damn trad and is doing perfectly fine at capturing a non-fantasy audience. Maybe the distinction should be between Fantasies that about Fantasy, or Magic, or Mighty Events, and Fantasies that are about People. The latter has a fairly high crossover appeal (Potter, SoIaf, Discworld etc.etc.), the former less so. Fantasy about People probably shouldn't be called Pop Fantasy though as some of its pretty high-falutin' and complex stuff. Indeed, Atwood's sci-fi stuff comes in here, not that everyone regards it as sci-fi. Doesn't get more crossover than people thinking its not even of the genre! *looks at wiki* Ah yes. Speculative fiction. The graphic novel of SFF.
     
  4. Matticus Primal

    Matticus Primal Became a Faceless Man

    I think another facet of the pushback against Harry Potter and Twilight is, as you sort of pointed out, that neither is straight fantasy and both bring a second genre/ literature type along for the ride. And that was the Young Adult novel (oddly enough, both are referenced in the wikipedia page on YA Fiction). So while I'd personally categorize these two as YA series with fantasy aspects/ overtones, the general populous unfamiliar with the fantasy genre believe these series to typify the fantasy genre as a whole, complete with the YA DNA. Which is where the pushback comes from: Those familiar with the fantasy genre clearly recognize these YA novels as oranges while the general populous is trying to cram them into our shelves that are clearly meant for apples.

    Okay, that was a bad analogy, but the influx of a lot of other genres with fantasy overtones (Romance, I'm looking your direction) being considered new mainstays of the fantasy genre are pretty obnoxious. When I did my most recent giveaway for my book, which is firmly in the Historical Fantasy subgenre, I was looking at the other most popular books sharing space with mine and realized that Historical Fantasy is really just code for Romance. Seriously, go give 'em a look. Even the Paper Magician, which I'm reading now for research within my subgenre, is quickly discarding its fantasy elements for a coming of age story that I fear is about to devolve into a romance.

    Now that is an interesting point. For the most part I care little for hard sci-fi because I find it fairly pedantic and delving into worlds that don't affect me. But give me some Ray Bradbury, who used sci-fi as a backdrop to explore his characters/ situation, and I'm freaking hooked. Also part of the reason I think Ender's Game worked (character based) and the next two in the series didn't (world/ culture based). Same probably holds true of fantasy: I've never cared for LOTR, but that's because it was more plot/ world/ "fantasy about fantasy" based than character IMO.

    So huh, maybe characters are the most important aspect of stories, independent of genre.

    I honestly laughed out loud at this. Well played, sir.
     
  5. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    I always deemed LOTR to be one of the fantasy series that managed to merge all those facets (plot/world/history/characters) together remarkably well. I'd argue that this is perhaps the reason why LOTR has been, and still is, a very successful fantasy franchise.

    I think you have a point, but I think we're missing the most important factor here: snobbery. I know, because I sometimes catch myself doing it as well.

    I've given some examples of this before in another thread some years ago. It's when you see some rock enthusiast welcoming a like-minded spirit. Conversation:

    "Hey, which bands do you like?"
    "My favorites are Metallica and Nirvana, but I also like AC-DC"
    "Haha, you're joking right? We're real rock fans here, never heard of blablablabla?"

    Or gamers looking down on people who call themselves gamers while they 'only' play Farmville on Facebook or they play Pokemon Go on their mobile.

    Or 4Chan meme-masters referring to those a bit later to the party as 'normies'.

    Or me asking my new colleague whether he's into fantasy, it turns out he is, I ask him which series are his favorites, he says he's read all Eragon books and he also read some books about this Shannara thing and I feel the disappointment rising up in me like bile because I thought he said he's a fantasy fan, but he probably thinks Malazan is a football club from Tunisia and First Law is a concept in law school, and I shouldn't feel that way, but I do, and I try not to show it, but it does show and the dude sees it and I feel like an ass because of it, and Seven Hells how where and why have I become this snobbish about such a stupid thing as which kind of book a person reads for entertainment.

    I'm of course overreacting, but I think you catch my drift.
     
  6. Tanniel

    Tanniel Became a Faceless Man

    Oh God no, don't tell me that

    Phew, that helps
     
  7. Matticus Primal

    Matticus Primal Became a Faceless Man

    Yeah, snobbery is such a hard trap not to fall into. Hell, I used to live by the concept "you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a man by the books on his shelf," and even as I try and be more inclusive/ open minded, there are just certain books/ bands/ movies that trigger the ol' gag response and bring out a ladder so I can properly look down on the person in question.

    But what is it exactly, that thing that shifts it from "hey, I found this really cool new [book/ band/ movie] you should check out" to your "Haha, you're joking right? We're real rock fans here, never heard of blablablabla?" What switches us over from early-adopters that want to share to snobs that look down on others for not having nearly as an esoteric knowledge?

    When is it that thing that we love becomes not something to share, but to separate us?

    Wait, why is it you chose those bands? I think that everyone pretty much objectively agrees that they're the greatest triad in rock. Ever.
     
  8. Tanniel

    Tanniel Became a Faceless Man

    Like you say, @Silvion Night, people looking down on other people exists in every variety. I think sometimes it is an individual feature, i.e., some people feel a need to be condescending towards those they deem lesser fans - probably masking some kind of inferiority complex. But those people would act this way regardless of whether we're talking books, music, hobbies etc.

    The other instance of this happening is the type that can happen to us all, when we are really heavily into something that is perhaps niche; we know the masterpieces of this particular niche and why they are masterpieces, but there is no recognition from mainstream culture (and thus no recognition of us and our interests). So when new people arrive, it can easily trigger that reflex you mention, because they haven't delved as deeply into the fandom as we have, and their frame of reference is still small; they arrive at the fandom via what mainstream culture has adopted and are unaware of what else is offered. We in turn feel that they cannot be true fans if they only know what is broadly known - and once again, there is no recognition of the masterpieces or ourselves as fans of said works. We feel slighted, I suppose, although the slight is only perceived. So don't feel so bad, it's a reflex that happens to every one of us (myself included). Nothing to do but accept that people arrive at a fandom at their own pace, and one reader's favourite work is another reader's DNF.
     
  9. Elvira

    Elvira Became a Faceless Man

    In my opinion, you all are talking about the same concept: tribalism. Intrinsic to human nature since walking erect. A need for social division, which can easily overcome reason and morality.
    Except when it applies to supporting Real Madrid football team. This is not tribalism at all but plain common sense because they are simply the best!
     
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  10. Silvion Night

    Silvion Night Sir Readalot Staff Member

    @Matticus Primal: regarding the examples - Being the best rock triad ever, they popped up into my head first.
    @ Elvira regarding Real Madrid - I have to agree with you there. And very astute on the tribalism part. I had not thought of it like that, but you are of course correct.

    @Matticus Primal, @Elvira & @Tanniel: I feel as though this might make a great subject for Tanniel's periodical blog. What do you think? :p
     
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  11. Tanniel

    Tanniel Became a Faceless Man

    @Silvion Night: You had me at the word 'blog'. Okay, so technically, that was also at the end of your suggestion - I mean, sounds interesting. Need to churn out a few posts on the topic of heroes first, then I'll put the old grey cells to work, if this is anything I might have anything illuminating to say about.
     
  12. Peat

    Peat Ran bridges next to Kaladin

    I don't want to dismiss the influence of snobbery and tribalism here - there's certainly some of it around - but it can't all be laid at the door of these delightful twins. To borrow Silvion's metaphor, its like you meet someone who says they're really into Rock music and you ask them who and they say "Outkast"

    "Err, aren't they hip-hop?"

    "Nah mate, listen to that solo in Bombs over Baghdad, its really great rock..."

    Being told that the apple is in fact an orange is enough to annoy most people. When you really like apples, its even more annoying. Which is not to deny the right of Twilight and its ilk to exist in the Fantasy genre but if one was to look at the public perception of Fantasy and believe it was all Twilight and what not, that would be quite vexatious. One must hastily add that, insofar as can be seen by and large, it would take quite a departure from consensus reality to arrive at such an opinion. However - if you look at this year's Goodreads Fantasy awards, it is dominated by Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, with trad fantasy barely to be seen. It could be the future.

    Which would suck and would deserve a backlash completely free of snobbery and tribalism (although those would ramp it up tenfold). The potential scenario reminds me of when I was a lad and I wanted to know about metal and the world would only tell me about nu-metal while saying "Look, its metal". And while a certain amount of snobbery informed my disdain of nu-metal, there's also the fact that it arguably didn't have enough of the genre conventions to be considered part of metal (although that sort of thing is somewhat subjective). It certainly didn't deserve to be all of metal as the mainstream music press wanted me to believe, just like Twilight & co don't deserve to be all of fantasy.

    I am fairly sure I'm talking about a hypothetical here. Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings are still pretty big shizzle. Still, this is subjective, and maybe others do believe different. Its very difficult to believe in the UK though, where Discworld is also pretty big and just about everyone knows someone who was a Warhammer player as a kid.

    Also - note - I'm focusing solely on the infiltration by Romance. Harry Potter mixing YA with Fantasy is nothing new. A lot of the genre's greats are YA. Anyone who wants to think a lot of Fantasy is YA isn't a hundred miles from the truth.
     
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