There’s been a ration of poo slung around this spring/summer regarding women in fantasy fiction and, more recently even romance. I kind of have to shake my head at these posturing potential potenates…. who don’t realize that if the conversation were fictionalized and thrown into a fantasy setting… well. They would not be the hero. Oh, no. They would definitely be the evil wizard/king/crybaby trying to force everyone into their own way of thinking. You shall not pass.
I mean really. Are you truly trying to tell me that Robin Hobb, Lynn Flewelling, Carol Berg and Mercedes Lackey are… lacking? Shame on you! Don’t like the new crop of fiction coming out? Don’t read it. But don’t presume to know what’s good for me.
What really saddens me is that these kind of arguments have been going on for a very long time. Because something is popular with them, the masses, women it must be inherently bad.Suck it up, buttercup, cuz those readers are still going to read the books they want to. They will buy them in droves, propelling them UP the NYT Best Seller list while your own languishes in the stacks.
Oh, and by the way? Shakespeare? Wildly popular with the masses. All those bawdy jokes, don’t you know.
While I was at CSU, I often hid what I was reading due to jack asses. Fantasy was fine, but let someone catch me with a romance? I cringed at the thought. Until someone tried to book shame me, in my creative writing class, and the professor said something to the effect of… well… You can support yourself with that sort of writing. Live very well, if you have the talent.
This was the same instructor who told us on our first day not to even try genre fiction (especially horror or sci-fi / fantasy) in his class. I was terrified when I went up to speak with him. But I write fantasy, I said. “Prove it,” he told me. Turns out he’s not against the genre, just the bad habits of new writers. I wrote my first novel under his guidance, a work of fantasy fiction.
A lot of what I read and write has to do with belonging. About taking what you’ve got and making it work. Finding a way through the darkness. There are books who have held me up (Anne Bishop) during the worst time of my life, and others that echo those days and reinforce that we are survivors (Cathy Lamb). There’s the joy of love (Eloisa James, Julia Quinn), and family and friends.
If you’re so afraid of women in fiction, then I kind of have to ask. What are you so afraid of?
No matter the answer, keep your mitts off my reading material. I don’t need that sort of help.
Ogres need not apply.
Last week, I spoke a bit about my problems with Barnes and Nobles. One of the books that I’ve been looking for was Infinity Gate by Sara Douglass (published by Harper Voyager). Two. Years. It but I finally got the final book in the series and I have to tell you I was sooo happy!
And even happier that the writer is good enough that A. I did not have to go back and re-read the other two books (Serpent Bride and Twisted Citadel) and also that I didn’t get/need B. great big info dumps. You know the ones, where one character tells another “Well, you know…” Some of the information was included in different parts of the book. But it was seamlessly added~ maybe a sentence here and there. Too many authors do not take the time to do this. Or, they’ll give a huge long “Our story so far” as a prolog. If done well, there is no need. Remember? Two years since I read the first two.
Of course, having memorable characters helped a lot.
As much as Ishbel and Maxmillian are the “heros” of the trilogy, this novel is about Axis. Brought back from beyond death to fight the good fight. He has his ups and downs as a heroic character. Axis is, well, human. Except not. But it is his struggles that power most of the story, even if we get peeks into other characters. Axis is the one who is transformed by the end, and it is satisfying.
This book was so worth looking for. Do I wish that I had rushed out and bought it online? Yes, and no. Yes, because that would have taken care of my need for speed. I’ve only done that with one book (the last of the Alera novels by Jim Butcher— I tore through those so fast. Well.) No because I relished the reading of this. Because I finally won one.
Also on their shelves on Monday? Breathe and Bone by Carol Berg, as well as the other book in that duology. Powerful reading, that. If I could find my copies, I’d re-read and post up here. Might do that next time I run out of books.
When I was going to college, I worked in bookstores. The first one was an itty, bitty local store. I then graduated up to Crown Books, and into management there. My next book job was at Media Play, which (when it opened, at least) had a full book, video and computer program section (and probably others that I no longer remember.
Even still, I can still remember the first Barnes and Noble book store. I know! I felt like… Finally! Here were people who understood me. I was in graduate school, working at Media Play, and still it took my breath away.
Since then, I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with B&N. Because while they understand the love of books, they still suck in 2 respects. (Please keep in mind that I am ONLY speaking of my local store).
They have people who do not know their alphabet shelving books. It’s a relatively simple process, people. It is so frustrating to have the temptation to take down a shelf and re-shelve all the books in the right order while in a store. Or even worse—I shouldn’t have to pocket a book you have 4 copies of! If you have 4 copies, get it cover out! PLEASE!
The Science Fiction and Fantasy section sucks. If a new novel comes out, how about stocking the previous books in a series? They only seem to stock X amount of any given author. Carol Berg is one of my favorites, but I don’t really care for her current series. She has much stronger work in her backlist, but they have maybe one title at a time. Anne Bishop, Lynn Flewelling and others are not kept at the levels they need to be. Romance is the same way—Eloisa James has a book called “Pleasure for Pleasure”, and I look for it EVERY BLASTED TIME I GO IN. They have the other books in the series. But not this book. And if it has sold out each and every time, maybe B&N should order in more than 1 copy at a time. (Please don’t bother telling me that I can get it online or on my Nook— I hate my nook and it’s the principle of the thing now.)
Now, there are some really bright spots. They poached one of my Borders’ Boys. Borders was great because they loved books and could make actual recommendations. The local Barnes and Nobles seems to be going more that way: I’ve actually had discussions with some of the workers about books. Before, I’d get blank stares if I asked if they had heard anything about a book. (Really? You work in a book store and you’ve heard NOTHING about this book that is number 1 on the NYT list? Huh.)
People who sell books should love books. Or at least like them. I know it’s a really snobbish thing, and I know everyone is trying to save money. But trust me on this. All those little girls running around reading Twilight and all those other books? They will grow up at some point. And if we want to nurture their love of reading, we need to give them something more than the paranormal romances that are so prolific right now. Because some will want to continue on with that, and some will want to expand their horizons.
Broadening those horizons is good for all of us in the book world. Readers, writers, publishers and bookstores.