Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Best Flavor

I am finishing up Michael J Sullivan's Riyria Revelations and am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story.  While I wholeheartedly endorse the series, the more interesting thing to me is the author's interview.  Most specifically, this:

           "For years now I have heard few...lament that repetitive theme....they are tired of the same old hero-               
            vanquishing-evil and want something new.  Something more real, more believable.  Which to me 
            sounds like someone saying they love chocolate, the just wished it wasn't so chocolatey and that it 
            tasted more like vanilla."

Having an established genre author admit to the feelings he describes is akin to NASA spontaneously admitting that we faked the first moon landing.

"Are you sure the wind rippling isn't going to give it away?"

It drives me insane that every new speculative fiction I pick up spends a thousand pages developing a deep, resonant theme that parallels the real world.  And there will be no MacGuffin.  If I found myself wanting to read Atlas Shrugged again, I would gouge my own eyes out with a rusty spoon.

As seen in the last reasonably tolerable Kevin Costner movie.

So, you see, I don't want to read it, I get suckered in by Tor's shield on the spine.  Then I read 300,000 words of political intrigue, conspiracies, and judiciary debate about the rights of the parasite wurms of Arenon IV.  All I really wanted was a wizard burninating some orcs.

Sullivan goes on to defend his own work, which makes his Oz-like unveiling a little less impressive.  But ultimately, the idea that someone can't just write a boring old hack n' slash novel is depressing.  Joseph Campbell described thousands of concurrent mythologies that all feature similar elements.  They endured because they were entertaining and popular.  We can read them today because they are always fun.  No, KJ Parker's Engineer trilogy isn't better than Brook's Shannara work.  But it is worth spending the few days it will take to finish the books.

Similarly, the constant quest to destroy any hope we might have that our future generations will even know what a poem is has become mindbogglingly stupid.  I've got a list, here's the order of the list that it's in.

It goes Reggie, Jay-Z, Tupac, and Biggie, Andre from Outkast, Jada, Kurupt, Nas, and then me.
1)  Poetry can rhyme
2)  It can even be iambic
3)  Nothing on your tumblr can be considered poetry.
4)  Poetry does not have to be spoken in front of an audience of students with suspect scruples.
5)  If you are doing a "slam" or "reading," keep in mind that talking like William Shatner does not turn your 
     diary into poems.
6)  Punctuation was invented for a reason.*
7)  No one likes an ampersand.

*This.  This is why.

I'm thankful that the bow-legged, greasy, bastardized version of poetry exists at all, but I'm not going to invite it in for dinner, because I don't want it to mess with my kids.  I don't have kids.  I once wrote a fifty page critical evaluation of Frank Herbert's Dune so I know all about sucking the fun out of a good story.  I just don't want that to become the only real way of interacting with a book.

The way the publishers and the market treat stories with too much cliche isn't like complaining the chocolate is too chocolatey, it's like banning chocolate and forcing everyone to enjoy their damn vanilla.

"You will like it, or you will be forced to keep publishing on Smashwords."

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