I never intended for this to be just a book blog even though much of my posts are about the books I’m reading. I started this blog as a way to help prod myself into working on my writing more and contributing a small bit to the SF community. It happens. I’ve gotten some readers and I’ve given some high fives out to authors I like and gotten some back. In writing about the books I’ve been reading, it helps me to be conscious about the things that are working and what I like about the stuff I read.
Talking about books is something that’s been working for me. I’ve had a very good string of books of late and I’ve had huge amounts of positive things to say. I don’t want people to think that I’m out to say only positive things which are unmerited though. It is very important to make a difference between reading from a critical point of view and a fan’s point of view.
This concept came up a lot back when I was in film school and I don’t think everyone reconciled the two. When doing this kind of thing it will skew your perspective like no one’s business if you can’t separate the POVs. An quick and easy example from my film school days is the first Spiderman movie. Nerds went apeshit over it and it made a giant pile of money. But if you go and watch it, the CGI was horrible. Seriously god awful horrible. Spidey looked like Gumby. It’s not even in a “ten year old movie” kind of thing, they were awful watching it for the first time. But for someone who can move back and forth between the two sets of eyes, it’s possible to zoom in and analyze something and see it for all its flaws and merits, but also be able to step back and simply enjoy.
So I need to be able to see flaws in a book I’m reading. That doesn’t mean I’m in the business of badmouthing people. There’s a difference between being critical and being a tool. Being critical is a balancing act sometimes but mostly it comes down to when things bother you as a reader. Say there’s something about a story you don’t like. Maybe it’s a character’s dialect, or the setting just doesn’t pop the way it should. Does it detract from your reading of the book while reading it? That’s really where the big distinction for me is in separating the two points of view. I can be critical and nit pick all I want when I’m done, but as long as those things don’t come up until after the fact, then the book will always be a success from the fan’s point of view. No matter how cheezy or dated or corny a book can get, if you can have that inner fan cheer even a little bit, then what you read is at least a little bit successful.
Think of it like watching a crappy SyFy Channel Saturday afternoon movie. You’ve just got to shut off your brain until the credits roll and you can enjoy the worst movie ever. But you have to wait until it is over and then you can analyze to your heart’s content. Being able to shut off the critical voice is important though, because otherwise it will drown out the fan’s voice and you rob yourself of simple enjoyment.