The OF Blog: Why do you bother visiting this blog when I don't care to cover "core genre" fantasy/SF anymore?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Why do you bother visiting this blog when I don't care to cover "core genre" fantasy/SF anymore?

It is a question that I have thought for some time.  I just glanced at my February 2012 reading list.  I finished 33 books that month.  Only three would most people agree are "core genre" fantasy/SF:

  • Saladin Ahmed, The Throne of the Crescent Moon (which was a very good debut novel)
  • Ian Cameron Esslemont, Orb, Sceptre, Throne (a weaker effort from him)
  • Eduardo Jiménez Mayo and Chris N. Brown (eds.), Three Messages and a Warning:  Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic (it was not a good anthology at all; very disappointed with virtually all the stories)
I just don't like what is being produced that much outside of weird fiction, which I often tend to separate from the various fantasies (epic, sword and sorcery, urban) and SF.  The writing, especially for more recent works, tends to be dialogue-heavy with a "cinematic" feel to it.  I hate most Hollywood productions of the past two generations for their formulaic approach to storytelling and I feel more and more the same way to see what I'm seeing published from the main genre imprints.  I don't want to read about another "gritty" badass that lives in "shades of grey" (as if that really means something in a technicolor world), spouting off tired clichés that are meant to be appealing to the callow at heart.  I really don't want to encounter what I consider to be reactionary social positions regarding class, religion, gender, sexuality, nationality, race, etc.  When I read fans of certain writers arguing that certain groups (insert group of choice here) "have to be repressed" because "it is realistic," I just want to shake my head.  Or I want to just walk away from it all.

So with that growing antipathy for a certain segment of publishing occurring, why do people bother to visit here when I am becoming much more interested in weird fiction, realist novels, and especially poetry?  It does confuse me to see that I have almost as high of an audience now as I did 2-3 years ago when I did cover more of the newer "core genre" releases.  Am I covering something different that people want to read?  I don't know.  It's just something that's puzzling me, so I thought I'd just ask those reading this who have followed this blog for a while, why do you still read this blog when my focus has changed so much over the years?


Eric M. Edwards said...

I never read, I just look at the (squirrel) pictures.

Lsrry said...

Squirrels make everything better.

Heloise said...

Actually, I have been wondering about why I still bother myself, although not for the reasons you suspect or pretend to - my own reading is all over the place as well, and a greater variety of books covered makes a blog more, rather than less, appealing to me.

What does increasingly gall me, though, are posts just like this one where you imply that you surely nobody but you can be interested in anything off the beaten path, and that while His Special Snowflakiness perambulates the solitary heights and inhales their refined atmosphere, us poor stupid sheep are left down in the valley, content to graze genre trash all day long.
Or, to put it somewhat more succintly, this blog has been steadily turning into something like "Larry's Fantay Hotlist for Wannabe Intellectuals" and that is soemthing I do not think I want to read.
I am sorry if this should come across a bit harsh - but I always enjoyed this blog for its open-mindedness, its intellectual and literary curiosity, and I at least am seeing less and less of these qualities here.

Roland said...

1. You write well.

2. You open my eyes to books and authors that I never would have encountered otherwise (Zoran Zivcovic and Minister Faust for example).

3. Reviews of old classics. This gives me an idea of which classics I might enjoy.

4. Alternate and interesting takes on books that are reviewed elsewhere. A Dance with Dragons, for example.

Liviu said...

Actually since you started writing again about books you enjoy rather than whining about how much you dislike the sff genre of today, this place has become quite interesting.

I am not that much into S. American and Southern writers (French, Eastern European though not really Balkan ones and Japanese tend to be closer to my sensibilities) and I think the Weird as it evolved today (and where its roots are) is too close to horror which I generally do not like that much, but I like the breadth of books mentioned, discussed etc

Also there is this fallacy that to "fight" stuff you do not like in books/genre/etc you have to be "critical" and nasty, where imho the best attitude is to ignore them as in "no mention" and highlight what you like, what you think works well, the alternatives if you want.

Bestsellers and genre orientations are not made by "us" the people who read tons of books but by the casual reader who reads maybe one a month, and most such won't visit any book blog anyway to be "persuaded" while of course publishers follow the money, but a more obscure book you think does things well may have a shot of being read by enough people to be noticed if you highlight it here, someone else highlights it there, etc.

In short rants get tiring soon, interesting, varied stuff finds its audience

Neth said...

I've asked the this question to myself a few times as I cull my blog list.

It comes down to three main reasons:

1) For whatever reason, even though you state your interests lie elsewhere, without fail, you alway return to blogging about SFF and in particular, the state of SFF blogging/fandom. Honestly, most of those posts irritate me and IMHO often make you look as bad as your target, but I do like to keep abreast of what's going on the SFF blogosphere and it sometimes makes a nice enough diversion from work for a few minutes.

2) Reviews. I do like to see the 'alternative' view point you often bring some SFF releases that you review. I also like to see the occaisional weird recommendation that sounds good to me. Though in all honesty, I only read/scan maybe 10% of your reviews.

3) We've 'known' each other for around 10 years now and I'm genuinely interested in what your up to, even when it's not really something I'm interested in.

And something completely random - the words Google wants me to type to prove I'm human are

ellitai hommissa

For some reason I find that entirely appropriate for a blog by you:P

Anonymous said...

Why do you assume readers are only here for genre fiction? The evidence clearly indicates that there's an appetite for everything you've been posting.

Richard Morgan said...

Actually, I think Heloise might have a point here, Larry. This post reeks either of unforgivable posturing, or of some kind of internal crisis of faith - personally I'd like to believe it's the latter, in which case the question you're really asking here is to yourself and it seems to be why am I increasingly disenchanted with the core SF/F fiction I used to read so much of?

The funny thing is, that's not a question that requires any answer - your tastes are changing, so what? Happens all the time, to anyone who isn't violently resistant to the process. But you do need to detach from the idea that this is something that the current state of genre publishing has done to you. Because that just puts you in the same camp as all those sad Dad-rock types moaning about how there's no decent music anymore. You are the one changing - the genre is merely continuing on its endless journey of flux and recombination.

As to why I (sporadically) come by here, then as now, it's because you're intelligent, extensively well-read and know how to express complex ideas in writing - qualities which, sadly, are not all that common in the blogosphere. I do think you have a tendency to preen as well, but hey, I have a tendency to rant - we're none of us perfect.

Anonymous said...

Your eclectic tastes touch, for me, the sense of wonder that draws me to SFF. My own tastes have shifted toward the Weird as well, partially because of the offerings you and others associated with WFR have masterfully cultivated.

At the same time, I still love SFF and the potential the genre has to entertain and explore. Heck, I just bought Book 1 of the Fionavar Tapestry.

I also don't want to ever get to comfortable in my tastes, so I read OF for the places we differ as well as where we agree.


Bibliotropic said...

I still read this blog because even though you can come across as pretty high-minded and sometimes rather arrogant, you're an intelligent person who's got an interesting taste in books. I don't think I need a reason beyond that, if truth be told. It's nice to see some variety in the content of blogs, after all, and even if I don't have an interest in every book you read and make commentary on, there's enough content here that I do enjoy that makes me think your blog is worth keeping on my reading list. My blog may focus on fantasy and speculative books, but that doesn't mean that's all I read, and it doesn't mean that's all I'd ever want to read about. I've found out about some pretty good academic books from this blog, and I'm not about to cut that out because our tastes don't match 100%, or becase your focus has changed over the years. I'm more interested in what you do say than what you used to say but don't anymore.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Lsrry said...

Posts like this often look real good when insomnia has set in and cringe-worthy after sleeping for eight hours. Yeesh, yeah I do have a bad attitude some of the time (and I do appreciate having that stated in a polite, constructive manner – no offense taken!) and it is good to hear that.

It was a bit self-centered, but I did really want to hear more from readers here as to what they enjoy so I could gain a better perspective of what this blog is worth, as I have divided my attention across three blogs/sites this year and I fear all that is left here is the snark, the frustration, the ennui. Maybe blogging about what I like rather than what irritates me, at least on this blog, might be a healthy approach to combat the negativeness that I do have in spades here.

Thanks for the responses, everyone.

Eric M. Edwards said...

Humour is always a poor substitute for wit.

So. I value the window into your translations, and your explorations of other countries literary and genre efforts. Especially the later, because I don't think there is enough world SFF and weird fiction permeating into traditional Anglo-American SFF.

Most of the core of the genre is turgid, wretched stuff. There are sound reasons to feel frustration with it, and I'm disappointed in those who would try to belittle this very honest confession on your part and others who are not so pleased with it, by their claims of snobbery and egotism.

Genre has big problems. And one is that it is extremely thin skinned about criticism, and yet endlessly bemoans that the literary world does not take it seriously. You can not have it both ways, and to demand that, endlessly demand it, is depressingly juvenile.

Why should you, Larry, or anyone, have to apologize for caring passionately about the state of books? The amount of work you do in reviewing, discussing, and yes, stirring up people about books is a thankless task especially when people snipe and sneer at you for providing this service. It's the work of a whole squirrel army and most blogs don't do a fraction of the heavy lifting I've seen you expend on a regular basis.

I think it's pretty rich that people accuse you of being sneery, and then whine and sneer about how you make them feel small.

Because that's what it says to me, when I read some of these responses. People feeling small, and not liking how that makes them feel. "Don't be mean spirited, don't talk down to us." You don't: you just show people that the world is bigger than they previously thought and not everyone is going to thank you for that.

And the idea of only showcasing what one finds positive, only what is *nice* makes me just shake my head. You are always civil and I've never seen less than an honest attempt to understand what you're tearing apart as much as when you praise and shout "you must read this!"

Both of these impulses are valuable to us all, genre fans or just lovers of books, and to say criticism has no place? Bewildering, truly.

Say what you like about people not liking rants, but they are performance pieces ignited by passion. And they draw in viewers like nothing else. Which is fine. Which is great, because after the dust clears, everyone has learned something new and been engaged on both sides of the argument. Books, even crap books, sell on the backs of withering distain as much as praise so everyone in the end goes home happy, and richer for it.

There is no shame in wanting to read more and more widely beyond the often narrow confines of a limited and oft self-limiting genre. It's a genre that needs to get its act together or else is fated to keep producing its piles of poop.

My money is on the poop, but that's no reason not to keep trying.

I do hope you'll keep up the good work and even if you sail off from genre for a while, all the better. You may come sailing back someday, refreshed and ready again to discuss the kind of books we all love, or love to hate. I just hope it doesn't take you as long as Ulysses. ;)

rreugen said...

I read fantastic literature but I don't read core genre, and also I am not interested in the pulp tradition, golden age of sf, lovecraftiana, heinleiniana, etc. I like other books. My childhood readings included lots of fantasy and adventure but of a completely different kind, from Nosov's Adventures of Idontknow to Chiriță's Cherry Kids, books like The Tiger of the White Amur, and so on. I have 0 nostalgia for the books Westerners remember fondly. Probably I would have liked them as a kid, but now I certainly don't, and I don't want to read critics or reviewers who write on the assumption that I admire, or at least know about some "classic" books that don't even look interesting to me.

Besides, I don't read only sff, in fact now I'm reading Murakami's 1q84 (it makes me feel good inside), Pamuk's Museum of Innocence (it's my third Pamuk book and the first I have difficulty getting into it) and Steyngart's Super Sad True Love Story (core sf? it's a satire, no? :D)

rreugen said...

By the above comment I wanted to say that my reading habits and my attitude (very biased) towards western core sf make me read your blog.

But your attitude when it comes to the race and bigotry discussions in the fandom was what made me bookmark your blog.

(I had to post another comment because the word combination this time is SUPER EASY. I bet I'll get it from the first try.)

Aidan Moher said...

I'm trapped in the inescapable gravity created by your planet-size ego.

Gabriele Campbell said...

My reading tastes have been all over the place since I started that habit at the age of 5, and you've come up with some interesting books to check out I would not find on other blogs.

Solved some of those What to Get My Father for His Birthday-problems, too. :)

Unknown said...

The reasons I read:

1) I don't need you to tell me about core genre. There are 20201983401802981034810938013985098 other blogs for that. I follow 15 of that lot already, so I think I'm covered. Plus there's Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and all the other things I'm attached to from which I can get win of core genre titles (of which I will probably read a handful).

2) You sometimes expose me to texts that don't get discussed in SF/F circles which should be "core genre," but aren't for one reason or another. These are those "weird" texts you mentioned. Stories which are technically science fiction or fantasy, but take a very different approach to it (let's call it "literary" for now; no, I will not define what that word means, so don't ask).

3) While I am a genre person at heart, I do like the occasional non-genre book. Since you don't talk about ONLY non-genre stuff, that means I can get a little of both out of you, some of which might be of interest to me from a research perspective (I'm a postcolonial scholar, so world lit = interesting).

4) You write well.

5) You talk about "issues" I care about. That means you rant about books and stupid people, which means you have endeared yourself to me.

6) There's probably another reason, but I'm tired and in another country with my girlfriend, so you'll have to settle for 5.

I hope that covers it.

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