So Anna told me a story that made me do this:
Anna works in a bookstore. The other day, she waited on a customer haunting the Paranormal Romance section. She approached, asked the lady if she could help her, and the woman insisted “she’d read all of them”. Before I go any further, I want you to ponder how much vampire pron that must be – all of the paranormal romance. Anyway, so Anna (being a friendly Anna) strikes up a conversation. The end result was something like this:
My son is lazy and doesn’t work and blah blah blah, and he needs to grow up. I mean, he reads SCIENCE FICTION for crying out loud.
BRAKES. RIGHT NOW. VAMPIRE FUCKER LADY IS PULLING TASTE SUPERIORITY OVER A SCI-FI FAN.
VAMPIRE FUCKER LADY IS PULLING TASTE SUPERIORITY OVER A SCI-FI FAN.
W. T. F.
First things first, I used to read a lot of romance. I adored bodice rippers, and I ate up Teresa Medeiros, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey, and Jude Deveraux. As I consider myself a pretty smart lady, I’d like to think I’d fit in well with these gals over here. I am not turning my nose up at Paranormal Romance Woman or Sci Fi Fan. What I’m wondering, though, is how did Sci Fi dude – in Paranormal Lady’s humble estimation – rank any higher on the ridiculous scale than she does?
She reads ABOUT VAMPIRE FUCKERS.
(Okay, done with the vampire fucking thing now. I swear.)
This whole debacle comes hot on the heels of the Game of Thrones controversy from last week, wherein two generally well respected reviewers (Gina Bellafante from the NY Times and Troy Patterson from Slate) took huge swipes at not only the fantasy genre, but its fan base too, essentially being condescending in tone and delivery. Bellafante decided she’d speak for all women – always a mistake – about how HBO was cow-towing to them with that whole romantic QUASI-RAPE THING, and Patterson decided to let us know that he canceled a date in college with a girl who went to Ren Faires (fuck you, dude, I look pretty smokin’ hot in a bodice) because Ren Faire people are odd and strange and . . . whatever.
Okay, getting it over with now: it’s okay to not like something. It’s not okay to pull intellectual and . . . I dunno, nerd superiority? Over HOW PEOPLE SPEND TIME IN MAKE BELIEVE LAND. That’s what we’re all doing when we pick up a book, ain’t it? Strapping on a hat and prancing off to Make Believe Land with Mr. Rogers. My Make Believe Land has a lot of vampires – even vampire fuckers – and a few gods, someone else’s has an ex-CIA agent with a lot of guns. Someone else’s has a triceratops, and someone else’s has tentacle aliens from the unknown. And don’t think for one second Make Believe Land relates just to fiction: historical re-enactments from the civil war send people back a hundred and fifty years. Titanic books put people under the sea, and books about planes? Send ’em up in the air, piloting like a son of a bitch. Sure, that stuff’s real and Swamp Beast From Hell is not, but until we have:
– time machines
– the ability to go below the sea with Greg Ballard
– the funding to purchase our own private jets
Guess what? WELCOME TO MAKE BELIEVE LAND. Your imagination is taking you somewhere you can’t be, regardless of whether said brain fodder left a carbon imprint on our world. (A side note, sometimes your non-fiction ends up being more fabricated than your fiction anyway. Thanks Greg Mortenson! You ruined everything! But that’s a post for another day. /grumble)
Books exist to entertain. Books exist to feed our brains. Take us away, Calgon: fiction, non-fiction, if a book is purchased for the purpose of entertainment, its primary function is to shepherd us Elsewhere. So why do people feel the need to point at another person’s Elsewhere and go “Nah, that’s silly, but this book here about the history of golf is A-OKAY”! Fuck you, that’s why. No, not you Reader With A Clue, but everyone who takes a stab at a genre and dismisses it as ridiculous. If you don’t like something because it’s not compelling to you, fine, but shitting all over an entire section of your local bookstore or library is self-inflated and stupid. It’s also taking slaps at the fans of those genres. From my own experience? Fantasy and sci-fi people are polite, nice folks. They’re well read, they’re smart, and if something’s good they recommend the hell out of it to their friends. That bolsters sales and keeps publishing going. I don’t see why that’s a crime. As an aspiring author? I won’t see why that’s a crime. Oh, and just so we’re clear? I don’t read a lot of fantasy, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a sci-fi book, but I respect their fans because they’re a gem of a community. Other fan bases could learn a lot from ’em.
I’m probably preaching to the choir on a lot of this stuff, and that’s okay. Most people with a clue don’t actually sneer at others based upon their romance/sci fi/horror tastes (unless you’re Nicholas Sparks, who apparently got his panties in a twist because someone dared categorize his books as romance. HOLY CRAP, YOU WRITE LOVE STORIES AND PEOPLE CALLED IT ROMANCE? NO WAY.). However, if you do find yourself about to turn on the “OH MY GOD WHAT A LOSER (S)HE IS FOR LIKING _________” . . . please. Please, please, please stop. Don’t try and pretend your shitty taste and opinion is somehow better than anyone else’s, or that a genre leaning makes you cool. Liking intellectual literary fiction doesn’t mean you’re Aristotle. It means you read literary fiction. That’s it. I’d say the same thing for Sci-Fi fans who cop attitude: reading fiction about space doesn’t make you Mr. Hawking. It means you like spaceship books. No one is more or less because of their tastes.
As for those professional reviewers, well, if you have a bias towards a genre going into it? DON’T REVIEW IT. If a reviewer can’t fairly compare and contrast a book/show/movie to similar offerings without sounding like a twatwaffle, passing on the review and reviewing something more in their wheelhouse is likely the smart thing to do. You know, instead of making yourself sound like a Hatorade drinking douchebag. And for the Paranormal Romance lady who thinks her son’s a weirdo for reading sci fi? Well, babe, I dunno what to tell you other than I hope you feel all self-assured and superior when you get down with that questionable werewolf beastiality stuff. Uhh. Sing it, Sister. Or something.