Problem of the Popular and Fun

Posted: October 20, 2013 in Genre, Reading
Tags: , ,

Nerds were disliking popular things before it was popular to dislike popular things. It’s like nerds are hipsters about being hipsters.

Does that sound stupid? Yeah it does. And it is. People really need to just like what they like. For some reason in the SFF world, the popular gets a really bad rap. Tie in novels, in particular, seem to have this huge reputation to overcome. But they still sell oodles and oodles. They’re like dirty movies, no one admits to having ever seen one. For some reason the genre has these weird notions of itself.

This started noodling around in my brain back at the end of the summer and a twitter conversation I witnessed between Sam Sykes and Scott Lynch. One of them called it the “consternation” of liking popular things. And then today Sykes dropped a blog post about Drizzt books and fun. Fun is considered a Bad Thing in fantasy, especially when it’s popular fun. GRRM is popular, but everyone dies so there’s gravitas. All the classic tropes of high fantasy going back to Tolkien are poo-poo’d because Tolkien did it first.

When I was fourteen, I would look at them and think: “Damn, I like that.”

When I was twenty-five and starting to read blogs and learn more about fantasy, I would think: “Man, stop.  You shouldn’t like that.”

And now that I’m twenty-nine and slowly losing patience and brain cells, I think: “Wait, why shouldn’t I like that?”

-Sam Sykes

Back in film school, I saw a very similar thing with horror movies. As the genre aged and made more dollars, it was looked down on more by the “serious” creators. By the time I hit the end of film school I felt that same lack of giving a fuck Sam does in his above quote and I got tired of talking up all the stuff film kids were “supposed” to like.

People should just like what they like. The popularity and marketing of something hitting a critical mass doesn’t change what it is. Need an example? Forthcoming! Here’s a popular sci fi book I’m going to summarize.

An alien race with very insubstantial bodies takes over other cultures by latching on, pod people style, to other beings. They co-opt the bodies of humanity and treat everyone as almost like a living zoo. The aliens like to experience different cultures and whatnot. One of the last members of the human resistance gets caught and an alien gets dumped into her brain. Except this woman’s consciousness doesn’t fade away. There’s an alien and a human residing inside the same noggin now and they’ve got to come to terms with that pretty damn fast because they’re being pulled by the human resistance that wants to save the woman and the alien officials who aren’t really keen on double-people.

That’s sounds pretty fun right? Pretty damn cool with pod people and such. Spies and resistances. Two people in one head is something I always find fun.

Well guess what?

That’s The Host. You just thought a Stephanie Meyer book sounded interesting. One of the most ragged on authors of all time who has made a metric ass ton of money in the process.

Yup, I read it. Didn’t know who the hell she was way back then. My wife read the book and she said “Hey I think you’d like this” and since she doesn’t usually read SF, when she does there’s got to be something pretty damn nifty about it. And yup, there was a little bit of smooching in it. She writes in a very …. even style, to pick a word that doesn’t come with built in negative connotations. But it got the job done. I enjoyed it well enough and had fun reading it.

Oooh there’s that scary word again. Fun.

Fun comes in all different forms for all different people. When it comes to genre tropes, the fact that they’ve lasted long enough to even become tropes for us to poke fun of (while we secretly keep buying all of it) means that people must like them. As writers and readers, we should never be stagnant and stale in our use of tropes. They’re a tool and shouldn’t be a limiter. But don’t treat fun as a dirty word. Fun should be why you’re reading. Fun should definitely be why you’re writing. To quote Ben of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

We should all give less fucks and just like what we like and have fun with it.

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