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The Story Experience

I have a few new books on hand to read. Normally this would be a cause for much rejoicing, but instead I find myself reluctant to commit to the next one in the queue. I've been disappointed in the last bunch of novels I read, so it feels likely that I'm going to waste a day and be disappointed again. Meh.

Note that this is VERY UNUSUAL FOR ME. I am an utter book addict. I normally pick up the next book within about a minute of finishing the last one. I have to limit my supply of novels on hand, or my cat and husband will both die of neglect. I am not terribly picky. Really, any sort of basic fiction will do.

Where am I finding these disappointing books, then? I'm getting them for free (through Amazon) because the publishers think they're sure-fire awesome, and worth spending big money to give lots of ARCs away.

This leads me to believe that (at least certain) publishers have a vastly different idea of what makes a novel awesome than I do... and considering the number of highly successful books I've adored over the years, I'm disturbed.

These novels I've been reading are all literary SF/F, often debuts. They all show great voice, great settings, and a lot of fine detail. No question the authors are very talented.

Unfortunately, these novels are also convoluted, disgusting, and/or depressing. THIS IS NOT WHY I READ. I want to be thrilled and entertained and swept away. I don't want vivid descriptions of bodily fluids, no matter how much artistry is employed. I really, really don't.

Without any evidence at all, I suspect that this kind of writing is what really wakes up a poor, jaded, slush-reading publishing-person. And I totally get that... but... it's making this reader not want to read any more.

It seems like all the fun stories with heart have moved to the YA shelves.



( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 13th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
I've barely read any decent fiction in forever. Butcher, Brust, and Coe seem to be my only likes these days. It's not like when I was younger, and could find a million things to buy in the bookstore. Has the market shifted that bad, or have my opinions altered?
Feb. 13th, 2010 05:10 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure the market has altered, because I can still pick out about any reasonably popular SF/F/H novel from before -- I don't know, around 2000? -- and I am almost certain to enjoy it.

I'll make a more extensive survey if I get the chance.

In the meantime maybe you can write something for me. ;)
(no subject) - dragonoflife - Feb. 13th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amberdine - Feb. 15th, 2010 01:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 13th, 2010 05:33 am (UTC)
I know how you feel. I have a hard time persuading myself to try a new novel, and the most recent one I enjoyed was actually a rather old novel -- Captain Blood -- that my husband shoved into my hands and promised me I would love (he was right).

YA novels are likelier picks than adult ones by far. Older novels are likelier picks than newer ones, by far.

I read a lot of nonfiction these days.
Feb. 15th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
I recall a few years ago when you mentioned the trend of random weird sex scenes appearing in all sorts of novels. Fortunately, that trend seems to have died off. (Gee, imagine that not being popular. Who would have thought?? *eyeroll*)

I wonder if other genres besides SF/F are faring better. Surely mysteries and thrillers must still have some plot.
Feb. 13th, 2010 06:08 am (UTC)
I've been having trouble finding the 'awesome' books since the 90's, that's when I noticed the the Fantasy genre had changed.

"Unfortunately, these novels are also convoluted, disgusting, and/or depressing. THIS IS NOT WHY I READ. "

You left out boring and too much smut.

"I want to be thrilled and entertained and swept away. "

Meeeee too! I'll admit it, I read for escapism.

"I don't want vivid descriptions of bodily fluids, no matter how much artistry is employed. I really, really don't. "


I was wondering if it was just me growing older and having my tastes change on me.
Feb. 15th, 2010 01:30 am (UTC)
Oh yes, the boring and the smut. *SIGH* The smut, at least, seems to have to been consolidated in the last few years into smut-specific books (with obvious covers.) I don't generally come across novels with one random bizarre graphic sex scene in them anymore. Boy was that an annoying trend for a while.

Have you read any Brandon Sanderson? He's very reliable for satisfying fantasy.
Feb. 13th, 2010 08:18 am (UTC)
Maybe that's why i'm enjoying this Cordwainer Smith antho so much. It's just old fashion good.
Feb. 15th, 2010 01:55 am (UTC)
I wouldn't be surprised. Fortunately there has been so much great SF put out over the years, even if everything published from now on was crap (which it isn't) there would still be plenty to read!
Feb. 13th, 2010 12:30 pm (UTC)
More than that, I think. It sounds to me as if these novels are missing "story" which is considered acceptable in literary fiction, but not in genre fiction. If there's story, you'll forgive a lot of other things. But if it's missing, all the pretty execution in the world won't make the novel worth reading, IMO.

Feb. 14th, 2010 12:52 am (UTC)
(no subject) - amberdine - Feb. 15th, 2010 02:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 13th, 2010 01:28 pm (UTC)
I never mind the convoluted, but I dislike the depressing....
Feb. 15th, 2010 02:05 am (UTC)
I'm generally pretty happy with convoluted, so long as I'm not already suspicious. But if I keep getting reminded that the novel is "artsy" and "sophisticated" it just makes it that much harder to flow with what story there is.

Currently reading The Dream of Perpetual Motion which is a steampunk debut from St. Martin's. It's well written, and interesting... but it hops around in time and has lots of short chapters, sometimes just a paragraph. Every time I come across a hop or a short chapter I think, "Oh right, you're so clever with all these tricks, I bet this novel isn't even going to have a real ending, is it?"

We'll see...
(no subject) - j_cheney - Feb. 15th, 2010 02:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 13th, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
I got recently turned off a book that seems quite popular because it opened with torture, and I just dislike torture scenes. This story seemed to really dwell on it, and ugh. From what I hear, that TV show 24 is responsible for our society's current fascination with torture. To that I say, let's bring back The Cosby Show, because torture sucks and it is NOT entertaining.
Feb. 15th, 2010 02:08 am (UTC)

Ugh, and people watch that?? I mean, reading is bad enough, but live-action-torture is just hideous. What is wrong with people? *shudder*
Feb. 13th, 2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
I think that what you're describing came as something of a reaction to the books you're describing. I enjoy sweep-me-away stories, but they are as trite and boring after a while as convolution, disgust, smut, depression, etc. These things go in cycles, though, so don't expect the sweepers of feet to stay away forever. :-)

It seems like all the fun stories with heart have moved to the YA shelves.

Perhaps the authors who write the type of stories you like have realized that there's rather more money and a larger audience to be had in YA. That's the undercurrent I've encountered in many discussions of this.
Feb. 15th, 2010 02:23 am (UTC)
Oh, I do appreciate a certain amount of grit, complexity, and realism. Not all novels need be the literary equivalent of popcorn. Ideally, at any time, a reader ought to be able to easily find the kind of experience they're looking for. Though I still think a proper novel ought to have a plot and an ending, whatever its other qualities are. :p

I guess I'm more confused at the motivations of the publishers in promoting these weird, plotless books which require a refined taste, and don't seem likely to ever be mass-market popular. They're putting a lot of money into giving out ARCs, and all they're getting out of it is bad reviews. Do they really not know what they have? Do they really not know what most people generally want to read? I honestly don't understand.
Feb. 13th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
I thought it was just me! I've been having a lot more fun lately reading my MG and YA ARCs. Then again, I never really left the children's section.
Feb. 15th, 2010 02:27 am (UTC)
I don't blame you! I imagine there still are good, entertaining adult genre books being published, but it's unreliable, and the worst ones seem to get the most promotion. So weird.
Feb. 13th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
I swore I commented on this. o.O

I'm not sure how relevant my opinion will be on this, as I'm still in the target demographic for the YA crowd. However, I did start to branch out, and was sad to find that I wasn't captivated by what I read. YAwas never disappointed me, and I'm content in sticking with it.

(Thanks for the message, by the way--it helped. I've reached out to my chaplain and confessor...we're gonna work on it.)
Feb. 15th, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
The ways of LJ are mysterious. O.o

It's a little sad... when I "graduated" from YA to adult SF/F/H books, 25-30 years ago, the only consistent difference was the age of the protagonists, and the length of the books. That was why I switched, actually -- the YA books were too short.

You're not the only one hesitating to make the transition, BTW. Some publishers are working to create a "New Adult" genre which has the same enjoyable feel as YA, but aimed at older readers. Of course, they only need to do this because they messed up the adult genres with boring, nasty content!
Mar. 28th, 2010 03:37 am (UTC)
Hey, I noticed you added me as an LJ friend but I don't know who you are; did I meet you in Tokyo through Ai or something?
Mar. 29th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)

Sorry, I meant to introduce myself earlier. No, I don't think we've met. I added you because I'm a friend of Jenny's -- didn't have any idea at the time that you knew Ai and Doug! (Met Ai when she was in the US last summer, I've been friends with Doug for years.)

Anyway, hope you don't mind my reading. I've been enjoying your posts. I'm hoping to get a chance to see a baseball game in Japan when I visit this summer. :)
(no subject) - dr4b - Mar. 29th, 2010 02:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amberdine - Mar. 29th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dr4b - Mar. 30th, 2010 03:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amberdine - Mar. 30th, 2010 08:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )