So I gather there’s been another fuss where someone in the media has fired off their opinion that certain kinds of entertainment are not ‘adult’ and therefore people who enjoy them are contributing to the downfall of society. This argument seems to bubble up fairly regularly, although the frequency also seems to be ticking up a bit lately, perhaps because of the perception that certain kinds of stories have been growing in popularity in recent years, and that this is somehow indicative of the world’s onrushing demise.
There have already been a lot of good responses to this, but heck, I don’t have a better topic for the blog this week. I also do read a fair bit, and much of what I enjoy falls into the categories that tend to attract criticism. Many of the movies and TV shows I watch are similarly positioned. And then, of course, there’s what I write. So sure, it feels like a shot across the bows a little bit, as well as (I’m pretty sure) just driving me slightly insane on general principles.
I do think that you should probably try a bunch of different types of book (likewise for movies, music, whatever) to expose your mind to a wide range of experiences, challenge yourself and also because you might discover new stuff that you hadn’t known you like before. Like, you can’t possibly know that you like Ethiopian food until you try some. (Which I did, and it’s delicious) You absolutely should read more than one thing, but I would give that advice to someone who only reads cap-L literature just the same as I would to someone who only reads four-colour comic books.
But then, having done so, there’s nothing at all the matter with focusing on what you love. If your absolute favourite thing in the world is to curl up with a hardboiled detective story, then enjoy (schweetheart). Life is too short, and the world too full of stories, to waste your time on ones you don’t enjoy.
Presumably the people bellowing about the need for people to read ‘more challenging’ work are also out there on the weekend screaming at people out for a stroll about how they should be running a marathon. Look, anyone can. Not everyone wants to, and who the fuck are you to dictate what people ‘should’ be doing? I can read Middle English, but I don’t do it when I sit down to unwind the day. Most times, I want a book I can lazily settle into like a nice warm bath. There’s also the argument, which I have a good deal of sympathy for, that if you tell your story such that it’s hard for your reader to understand, maybe what you’ve done is written a terrible goddamn story? Or at least, it’s not better for having been made a chore for your audience.
It’s also true that this whole thing about absolute levels of quality always existing between different types of story (or music, or, or) is bullshit as well. To paraphrase Pat Rothfuss (and tip o’ the hat to Brandon Crilly for pointing this quote my way), there is some terrible SFF out there. But there is also SFF that I will put up against anything written by anyone, anytime, ever. Similarly, the stuff that gets published as cap-L literature includes some fantastic writing. It also includes some hideous drek. Repeat for every genre out there.
If someone asks you to recommend something to read, then whole different ballgame. Give that person your best advice. But if no-one’s asking? Stop trying to fluff up your ego and reputation preening about the perceived value of whatever it is you read. In general, I try to keep my advice to myself (honest), because ultimately giving advice when it isn’t wanted is a) annoying and b) really about ego. I sure have ideas about what I think people should be reading. I surely know most people don’t care what those ideas are just the same.
Ok, that got at least rant adjacent. Thanks for reading, and go find the good stories.