Soft Books For Tough Times

When I’m not particularly happy, I can’t seem to read any new stuff.  Because books require emotional involvement and I am already “full up” on emotional involvement, I start drifting towards “comfortable” stuff.  This is normally stuff I’ve read before, so I know it ends well, or stuff that is like stuff I read before and therefore feels familiar and comfortable.

Right now, I’m floored by what friends have called “the Death Flu” when it was their turn.  Mine seems somewhat milder, which BTW is still pretty bad.

Of course I still want to read.  I always want to read.  I read whenever I’m doing anything but write – except that having been yelled at for getting stuff on the books, I’ve been told to only LISTEN to audio books while cooking or gardening or other less than tidy jobs.

I actually want to read MORE when I’m stressed.

Bad days I take an audio book on speaker into the bath, to listen while I shower.

One of the ways I think traditional publishing has been wrong for many years is the love of the “new and shiny.”  Mind you, when most of the current editors came in – when this stuff actually was set in stone in their minds – there was a huge wave of youth, and youth were the ones to court, and the culture of the times was the new-new thing.

Things have changed since then.  One of the things that would make me laugh, only it hurts when I laugh, is our generation getting shafted out of the publishing calculations TWICE.

What generation?  Oh, those say forty to fifty five now, who of course are sometimes claimed by the boomers, at least in part but who frankly have none of the boomer experiences or markings.  I call us “We Came After.”

We were kept out of publishing two ways: first, when I was trying to break in in my thirties I was REPEATEDLY told that you had to be at least forty five to have anything interesting to say.  (Weirdly that whiplashed once the echo boomers turned twenty something and suddenly I was too old.  Yeah.  It’s that way.)  And we were kept out as readers.  We were reading stuff about heroic/interesting boomers, whom the books were marketed to, WAY after the characters in the books could have been boomers.  (Kind of like TV series show parents my age talking about anti-Vietnam demonstrations in their youth.  Unless they’re drinking formaldehyde or were attending in diapers… no.)

Sometime when I was hitting forty, about ten years ago, I got informed that what publishing REALLY needed to do was attract the young because that was the future.

Mind you, up till then they’d be marketing to the middle aged – which makes perfect sense actually.  When the kids leave the house and you have money and mind-space your reading tends to pick up.  The kids haven’t left yet, but I can see it from here, sort of.  You also have fewer distractions. – but suddenly it as all about “speaking the language of the twenty somethings.”  (Which these desiccated fossils did as they do everything else, by shouting sixties shibboleths at the poor kids, and promoting the kids who parrot it back.)

Anyway – yanks rant back to the point – the thing is that because of this obsession, it never occurs to them that people have comfort books, just like they have comfort foods and comfort  music.  For instance, when I’m really, really, really (REALLY) stressed, I read  Agatha Christie.

I have toyed with the idea – now that there’s indie – of doing a sort of Agatha Christie fanfic.  Not the same characters, of course, but the same small-village Britain between the wars, the same sort of interpersonal relationships, the same sort of murders.

Of course, the problem with that is finding time to do it, so I wish someone else would do it.

I found Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrimple (Sp) mysteries and they’re okay, but of course they’re traditionally published, so they have all sorts of “relevant social” stuff about women’s liberation and what not.  Also, they’re not…

Well, my favorite Christie’s are things like The Moving Finger and Peril At End House.  Dunn seems to go more for the “It was the war that messed his mind and—“  Or “Greedy businessmen who—“  You know the thing.

So, to conclude the meandering post in search of a point – and go back to bed till the flu gives up – if any of you have comfort books and would like to write what amounts to “fanfic with names and details changed” – I bet there would be a market.

And don’t let the traditional houses tell you otherwise.

18 thoughts on “Soft Books For Tough Times

  1. When you have more energy, I suggest there might be one or more blog posts of material on the subject of filing the serial numbers off from fanfic.

    My current work is not actually fanfic, but more like fanfic once removed. I revisited a favorite childhood work and discovered as an adult that it is laughably, almost irredeemably broken. The core premise is as cool as when I was a kid; but now I see how even that core premise is executed in a way that makes no sense at all. So I thought about how to fix that core premise; and unexpectedly, an entire novel plot fell out.

    It’s not the same story. It’s not even close. And yet the core premise is close. So now I’m torn between filing serial numbers off and just writing the thing on one hand, or going and writing something with no hint of fanfic on the other. So some thoughts on fanfic filing would interest me.

      1. That’s not always a bad thing. I told Tony Daniel from Baen I worried that my novel idea would turn out “too Heinlein”. He just looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong with that?”

  2. I’m in the same mood, if not the same physical state, which explains why I started re-reading my entire collection of Judith Merkle Riley. (marvellous historical novels, part of my “never loan, not even to family” collection.)

    1. Heh. Nice to know I’m not the only one with a “never loan” collection, though mine is very small. There are two Elliot S. Maggin Superman novels that are in my “buy on sight” collection: if I see them in a used book store, I buy them just in case my copies ever wear out. And just in case I want to loan them to a trusted friend. Due to complexities of copyright and corporate politics, these are virtually certain to never get published again.

      1. It’s more than just “never loan” I don’t even loan them to people I share a house with. We have Balkanized bookcases here 🙂 I admit that’s my fault, but you can’t expect me to loan to people who crack bookspines, do you?

  3. :: Sob! :: I’m 5K words into a news company reporting on the Dinosaur Apocalypse. And it got triggered on your blog, so it’s all your fault.

    :: Sob! :: ” . . . reporting live from San Francisco where police baracades were overrun by a mob waving signs that read ‘Walk Like A Dinosaur’ and ‘Free Dino Love’ . . . “

        1. Um, you might want to re-label the story as horror, Pam, depending on which White House staffers and politicians revert in front of the cameras. 😉

  4. When I’m most stressed, I find I prefer short stories. No long concentrated periods. And generally amusing, not serious ones. Retief is often a good break from the real world.

  5. My comfort books tend to lean towards Louis L’amour and Tom Kratman. I’m sure the fact that I find the idea of just shooting the bad guys instead of having to deal with them comforting puts me on a list somewhere 😉 Kate’s Impaler goes on the same must reread when needing light comfort reading list, for the same reasons. Now if there were just more of those books…hint, hint.

    1. Yes, which I why I bought Vathara’s zines when they were briefly available. (This was almost ten years ago. And even then, the very idea of media fanzines was intensely retro….) I wish she’d pub that fantasy story over on the other non-fanfiction site, because even though I disagree with some of it, it’s still well worth reading.

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