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Marissa Lingen

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No longer startling, actually. [Dec. 17th, 2013|11:25 am]
Marissa Lingen

Several people do “first line of each month” memes at the end of the year, but the fact that I do book posts early in each month makes this less-than-scintillating blogging. (Especially since my book posts are not done chronologically, so I can’t use them to determine first book of the month.) But I went back through my archives just to see, for my own interest, what was what.

The moral of the story is that I need to stop being surprised by how many books I bounce off. I get books from the library on a pretty speculative basis–”someone but I forget who” is good enough for a recommendation when it comes to library books. “Maybe I’ll like this” is often enough followed by “okay, cool” to be worth my extensive library use, but it’s also very often followed by “orrrrr not, ew.” So: I will try to stop expressing surprise that the thing I expect to happen has happened quite so much. Really. Sorry.

But I really think this is a feature. I feel the same way about food: if you’re not trying stuff you don’t like, you’re not trying enough stuff. You’re missing stuff that would be on the borders of what you think you like but could turn out to be awesome. On Twitter last night, Jonathan Strahan asked if there was too much sff being published, if/since readers couldn’t keep up with it all. And that struck me as–how do I put this politely. Hmm. That struck me as filled with some quite wrong assumptions. It is not a problem if the world is filled with more wonderful things than I can ever behold or taste or read or learn or do. That is what we call a really good thing.

Also, we don’t all like the same stuff. If there’s just exactly as much sff as “a reader” can read in a year, there’s not nearly enough sff to keep me personally happy, because I will not like great swaths of it. I read faster than most people (which is not a statement of moral superiority but just a fact), and many of them like things I don’t like. Which: hurray for them! As we used to say in the dark and flannel-clad days of the nineties, rock on with your bad self! Eat my share of the pineapple while you’re at it!

And then if I miss sff that I would like that’s published right now, it will be there later for me to find later, when TexAnne or RushThatSpeaks or Papersky says, “You haven’t read Thingy? READ THINGY!!!”* And then I will! And there will be rejoicing over the reading of Thingy! Hooray! See? This is a good story with a happy ending.

I get that poor Mr. Strahan is probably feeling overwhelmed reading for Year’s Best purposes. I do. But a) that experience is not at all generalizable; b) there is no great advantage to everyone reading the same thing; and also c) nobody put a gun to his head and made him do this job as far as I’m aware. Oh, and also d) anyone who treats editors of any volume of Year’s Best as though they are idiots or jerks or whatever if they didn’t happen to get to Particular Story X is themselves being an idiot or a jerk or whatever. Don’t do that. Editors are humans. They will give it their best, but any “the best of” volume should be automatically prefaced in your mind with “SOME OF,” and on you go, not hassling the editors of same.

While I was writing this, XKCD popped up a post about reading every book. Heh. Lovely timing, internets.

*It might be someone else. But let’s be realistic here.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: wshaffer
2013-12-17 05:06 pm (UTC)
Once in a while, I'll meet someone, and despite the fact that they're a keen reader of SFF and I'm a keen reader of SFF, it'll become apparent that we have barely any significant books in common. And I'll feel a brief pang of nostalgia for the days when the field felt small enough that you could pretty much guarantee that everyone had read the same stuff*.

And then I settle down and get some reading recommendations.

*I'm not sure that the field ever really was that small in actual fact - I think it was more that my friends and I were selecting our reading matter out of the same school library and the same Waldenbooks at the mall. This created a stronger sense of a common canon than actually existed.

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-17 06:00 pm (UTC)
You know, even when I was in junior high/high school, I had not read all the same books as my friends. I know I'm younger than you, but I'm not that much younger than you--I have a hard time thinking that the age gap is enough to be a significant factor in this, so I think it must vary significantly from social group to social group.

I think part of it is that all of my groups of friends that were composed significantly of readers were composed significantly of readers who had already come upon the stuff we were reading independently and then become friends. In my sixth grade year, we had all come from other schools (and in 3/4 of the cases, other towns) right before that year. After that, we'd all started reading adult stuff separately and only sort of shyly converged on doing stuff as a group and talking to each other about it. So everyone always had things no one else had read.

There was one moment we all remember pretty clearly, I think. I was 16, and I was in the nearest used bookstore SF section with several friends, and we were saying who should read what next. (Um. Mostly I was saying.) And this middle-aged guy came up to us and started talking about how great it was that kids were knowledgeable and reading the SF classics, just great! made him so happy! and were we school chums?

He didn't want anything of us except to express his happiness, and it was really rather sweet. But he actually said, "School chums." The words "school chums" came out of his mouth apparently without irony. In 1995.

We agreed that we were indeed school chums.
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[User Picture]From: wshaffer
2013-12-17 06:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, thinking back on it, I think my junior high/early high school social group probably did an unusually large amount of book swapping among ourselves. I had a few friends in my circle who were constrained in their ability to buy books, for either financial reasons or, more often, because of misguided attempts by parents to keep them from reading "junk". So, we ran an informal SFF book smuggling ring, like you do.

"School chums"! I...boggle.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-17 07:00 pm (UTC)
We got to that in mid-high school, and then I got another round of it in college, but in early high school/junior high, every (SF reading woman and) man was an island.
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[User Picture]From: davidgoldfarb
2013-12-17 08:42 pm (UTC)
It might be someone else. But let’s be realistic here.
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[User Picture]From: txanne
2013-12-17 10:01 pm (UTC)
That may be the nicest compliment I've ever gotten.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-17 10:26 pm (UTC)
Let's work on that.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2013-12-18 12:36 am (UTC)
Nodding like a nodding thing.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-12-20 05:17 pm (UTC)

Re: OT

Let me scan the shelves. I would say that Jesse Byock is one of the best authors on the period, and if you can get his stuff on any topic, do, it's lovely. Else Roesdahl is also fine if I remember correctly.
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