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Marissa Lingen

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Everybody bubble [Oct. 25th, 2015|03:38 pm]
Marissa Lingen

Four times this week I’ve run into people being plaintive about how everybody is excited about something or likes something except them.

Three of those times I wasn’t excited or didn’t like the thing either. But the thing is–I don’t tend to announce, “I am unexcited about the World Series!”  There are people who are excited. They can go ahead and be excited.  If I am directly asked, I will indicate that, no, it is not taking up much of my attention, but even then I will try to refocus to what I am really interested in right now is this other thing here. And I know lots of rules parents make for their kids about this with food.  “Do not yuck other people’s yum” is the most common phrasing I’ve heard. Some parents say “do not harsh other people’s squee” or various other things not to harsh. But basically: if it’s not morally offensive, if the flaws in it are not things you want to analyze for a reason, if it’s just not your thing, there’s no reason to get in the faces of those who are excited.

I think sometimes in a particular subculture it’s hard to get perspective, though. Two of the times above were about the new Star Wars. And it’s easy to see how someone could feel that their entire Twitter, their entire Facebook, all their nerd friends in person–eeeeeverybody was excited about it! But no, there are plenty of people who went to your high school who are excited about college football instead of Star Wars (in addition, of course, to the ones who are excited about both)–who are excited about a reality show that premiered last week, or frozen concentrated orange juice futures, or the campaign of some presidential candidate, or anything else, really, that is not Star Wars.

And this is even more worth remembering when it comes to novels.  Because the novel that “everyone” was excited about? Will probably reach fewer than 40,000 people worldwide. Probably far fewer. Its author, while a household name in my household and probably, if you read this blog, yours, is famous in such a complete bubble that my next-door neighbors–who like books enough to put up a Little Free Library on their corner lot–are guaranteed not to be able to identify the name as an author rather than a musician, actor, or dental hygienist.  And so complaining that “everyone” thinks their book is so great while you are the brave truth-teller who sees that it is not bad, not morally reprehensible, not even mediocre, just–not your cup of tea?  Does not tear down the rich and famous.  It just points out what that author already knows: that fame and glory has only arrived to them in a tiny, tiny pinpoint of the universe.

This is why I’m not using the author’s name. It would not be fair to focus on them as the “popular” kid who is not “really” that great when that’s not my point at all.  What is my point?  Perspective, perspective, perspective.  There is almost nothing that is universally adored, so if you’re feeling surrounded by people who like a thing you don’t like, who are excited by a thing that doesn’t excite you…does it actually hurt you?  Can you go somewhere and talk about a different thing completely?  Because there often is a reason that other people are not speaking up to say, “I am not excited! I don’t like it!”, and it’s not cowardice, it’s courtesy.

Does this conflict with my willingness to give harsh or mediocre reviews? Eh, I don’t think so. I think going out of my way to single out a thing to say, “Not excited!” or, “Not that great!” is not the same thing as more context. But if you think I’m wrong, go ahead and tell me why you feel I’m wrong, I’m interested in discussion.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: wshaffer
2015-10-25 09:53 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I feel vaguely guilty and also envious of all the people who are getting excited about the thing that I'm not excited about. Like I'm simultaneously falling down in my nerd duty and wishing that I could have all the fun that these people are having. When I've succumbed to the temptation to go around announcing that I'm not excited about stuff that other people are excited about, I think I've mostly been looking for validation of (or absolution from?) those feelings.

I've found that a much better way of coping with those feelings is just to imagine that for the people who are getting excited about that thing, it's the equivalent of something that I was/am really excited about. If I go around thinking, "For all these people, seeing the new Star Wars is going to be just like seeing Vallenfyre in concert for the first time!" then I just get stupidly happy about what a good time everyone is going to have.

And, yes, I think this is completely different from giving harsh or negative reviews. If someone is reading a review, I think they probably want the author's honest opinion, or at any rate should be prepared for an opinion that differs from their own.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-26 11:05 am (UTC)
Yeah, that kind of empathy is very useful. I wish that "good for you" had not gotten so thoroughly taken over by snark and sarcasm, because sometimes it is what you literally want to convey. "You have found a thing you like! I am happy for you without it being a particularly happy thing for me! but in no way do I wish for this to convey any aspersions upon your character!"
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[User Picture]From: minnehaha
2015-10-26 03:38 am (UTC)
Perhaps these people wanted you to understand how rarified or unusual their tastes and interests are, and were being plaintive about how hard it is to fit in to the common herd.

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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2015-10-26 08:12 pm (UTC)
I think a lot of people just don't think. I tweeted that I wasn't excited about SW. Why? I don't know. It was a thought that came into my head ... I need to be better about that though.
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[User Picture]From: asakiyume
2015-10-27 05:17 am (UTC)
Regarding books that people in our (relatively speaking) small circle enthuse about, I'm struck by how very, very much it's here today, gone tomorrow. Briefly briefly people get a moment in the limelight--the small limelight of their circle, or, if they're lucky, the wider SFF circle, or if they're even luckier, maybe the wider press--and then everyone's on to the next thing. It's all so brief.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-10-27 02:25 pm (UTC)
It really is. This is part of why people get on the "book a year" or more cycle: because a single moment in the limelight is so easy to sweep away.
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2015-10-28 07:39 pm (UTC)
The only thing is that sometimes the excitedness gets to where it's actually intrusive. I can opt out of Star Wars discussion pretty easily, even when it's allover FB and Twitter - in fact, I've been doing that and hadn't even noticed I was doing it, since I'm not that excited about it either. But I've had times when half the office was being VERY LOUD about Sunday's football game for what felt like all of Monday. Or when the three guys I shared a lab with were obsessively quoting Snakes on a Plan (which I've still never seen). Maybe the difference is whether you are voluntarily or involuntarily in the space where all the squee is happening - if you can choose to withdraw, it's a lot less annoying.
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[User Picture]From: rubel
2015-11-02 09:57 pm (UTC)
Most times I feel like this, there is an element of "y'all are talking to me or around me in an inclusive setting...could we maybe switch to a topic where I can contribute something?" You're right, it can get intrusive, so sometimes this is a mere reminder that "we're not all on the same page all the time." I've been immersed for long periods of time in groups that want to talk about beer. As a non-drinker, someone who finds the smell of beer kind of off-putting, and even a non-foodie, none of the discussion appeals to me. I might try to move things in a different direction from time to time, but sometimes a reminder is useful.

However, there is also the phenomenon of saturation-driven backlash. This happens with any trend, where Some Particular Thing (or SPT) becomes all the rage or Maslow's Hammer (to which all problems appear to be nails), and people just get sick of it. I usually mention the synthesizer in the 80's as an example: people wanted to use it for practically everything, or the music that was heavy with it was blasted out to all and sundry. Next thing you know, people are talking about "using real instruments" or "getting back to roots" or whatnot, and there's a backlash. Eventually when people have both reactions out of their system (i.e. "this is the best thing ever!" and "this is the root of all evil"), the process can flow on towards that tool or event or whatever taking a functional, integrated place where it is used appropriately (neither overblown nor undervalued).

That backlash is important in societal terms, but it's also natural. Backlash is the cry of those who feel marginalized--it signals a boundary, as well as some perceived significant encroachment of it. The notion of applying this to trends and tastes isn't really all that different in principle from applying it to politics and religion. Indeed, every stage of human development prior to Maslow's "self-actualized" stage has a documented natural tendency to try to replace all previous stages with its own, and you can probably see how that leads to this very phenomenon in more trivial matters. It's like another version of a teenage rebellion with each growth stage--part of disidentifying with the previous one, as part of the ongoing process of fusion-->differentiation-->integration.

Of course, some people just want to inflict their own feelings about something on others for more selfish reasons, or even just to mark themselves out as "different" (which is usually rooted in conformity/community needs). I try not to go on about it myself.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-11-03 11:07 am (UTC)
So I feel that when you're dealing with synthesizer, there are two modes I prefer to "UGHHH SHUT UP WITH THE SYNTHESIZER" and "Am I the only one who doesn't like synthesizer?"

The first is to go make something awesome that doesn't involve synthesizer.

The second is to come up with specific critiques: "I feel that the synthesizer overwhelms the melody here because x," or, "I feel that this song would be more resonant/interesting if they'd used the following instrumentation because y." "Too many people are using synthesizer" doesn't address actual problems any more than "ugh I am sick of pirates" would give you action items in your particular manuscript.

(I am not sick of pirates. I am sick of zombies. But "lots of plot points in this manuscript correspond to Mike Carey and I am worried that it is too derivative" or "this part seems aimed at being scary but instead just bored me" would be more useful critiques than "Mris does not like zombies.")
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[User Picture]From: rubel
2015-11-03 06:03 pm (UTC)
Well, it isn't meant to address the problem. It is meant to express the frustration. When you feel overwhelmed with something, the backlash is more like an escape. It's like a claustrophobic running out of an enclosed space. The running out doesn't address the claustrophobia, but it's often an action that can show you that you have it, and helps give you the distance from it to come back and rationally approach the problem. Often much later, though many people aren't actually interested in addressing the problem.
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