Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Dead Until Dark" and "Guilty Pleasures"

I read these books on a whim, spurred partly by a Chuck Wendig post in which he solicited recommendations for urban fantasy. These two series came up a few times, as did the Dresden Files. I had already read a couple of the latter and didn't care for them, but never gotten into what you might call the Sex With Vampires sub-genre, so over the past couple of weeks I read both of these.

I... am not the target audience, is the nicest thing I can say about them. Maybe I'm sheltered, but I was taken aback by how bad the writing was (even the theoretically sexy parts, which I assumed to be one of the selling points for both series).

I'm not going to write a long post reviewing these books. I suppose there's no harm in reading or writing them. It frustrates me some that books I consider to be so much more worthy of reward languish in unpopular corners while these sell millions of copies, but that's just how things are.

It does make me wonder a bit about what it is that I'm trying to do with writing. I wouldn't call my work so far highbrow or literary. The latest one is chock-full of references to Byron's poetry and Arthurian legends, but it's an adventure story, with no aspirations beyond that; the references are there mostly because they amuse me. The one before that, well, Gothic science fiction sex-fantasy mystery novel did not aspire to literary virtue as well; it was supposed to be a fun break from Trunked Grimdark Fantasy.

But you can write lightly and not be bad at it. A story can be a trifling bit of fun and still have coherent characterization and a plot that makes sense. I don't think it would have been that hard to fix these two books. Would they have sold less well? Failed to touch whatever popular nerve made them blockbusters? I'm going to reread some older Neil Gaiman next, I think; his books are also immensely popular, though I don't know the precise numbers to compare. Are the same people reading all of these? (I am, so... maybe?) Maybe this will be part of the work I have to do this year, coming to grips with this issue.

I was tempted to write about the Paul Kemp thing. However, I am sick, and sick and tired of essentialist bullshit, so I will refrain from doing so today.

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