I recently had minor surgery (at least assuming that the stuff sent to the pathologist comes back clear, it will stay minor) and am experiencing one of the very rare side effects of the anesthesia used.
This is fairly normal. I mean that I experience the rare side effects, not the effect itself, which apparently strikes one in several million: I’m suffering from hypogeusia.
Strangely, this doesn’t mean I’m low on geusies (or Jerseys) or that I am doing something with horses (that would be hipo, anyway.)
It means a diminished ability to taste.
This means I can taste sweet (somewhat), salty (a lot) and everything else is much of a muchness, kind of like your ability to taste feels when you have a very severe cold.
So, basically I can eat very salty or vaguely sweet cardboard, or alternately very salty or vaguely sweet glue.
It’s amazing how much this diminishes your interest in eating even when you’re hungry. At most, if I’m really really hungry, it propels me to taking a bite or two of something, and then eating becomes a horrible chore and I usually give up around bite five.
Now, don’t get two worried, because I could lose half my body weight and only be slightly underweight. Also, for at least half the people the effect goes away after six months, so it’s possible this is temporary.
Also, during this time, it will make it easier for me to “eat right.” Sure, I’ll be eating very little, but as well down protein powder in water as strawberries and cream if they’re going to taste the same. As well have salad as ice cream.
Which brings us to the parallel with reading/writing/editing.
Years ago the tendency of editors to prefer the outre and strange or the preachy and “good for you” to the things that readers prefer.
Having done the job of editor — briefly, for a tiny magazine — I can tell you right now that you very quickly acquire hypogeusia of the reading “palate.” I only did it for a year and a half, then got catastrophically sick and had to stop, but that was long enough to realize that I was looking more for “something out of the ordinary” than “something amusing.
The difference, of course, is that what seemed ordinary to me after reading fifteen similar submissions was not necessarily ordinary — or boring — for people reading for fun and because they want to.
I never got terminally jaded, but jaded enough to imagine what doing the job year after year and day after day forever would do.
Which explains several crazy things that NYC publishing does/did: for instance deciding that Space Opera, the work-horse of science fiction, the main leader in sales for subgenres was “not selling anymore.” (Mostly because it was getting exactly zero publisher support in distribution and publicity, which in turn…) Or the sudden proclamations that cozies “aren’t real mysteries” (later walked back, when the bottom line collapsed, with craft mysteries, which are cozy mysteries with the craft “special knowledge” thrown in (and the early ones bloody stupid, showing editorial contempt for the audience.)) Or later that “no one wants to read historical mysteries.”
While all these were proven “true” in numbers after the pronouncement, numbers in trad pub are so inextricably linked to whether the publisher thinks it will sell that it’s impossible to tell if failure is due to that. (Success OTOH requires both push and a decent writer, as some publishers are finding more and more as push works less and less.)
In fact, we have some proof that all these “decisions” by oh so very jaded traditional publishing editors were in fact a function of some sort of crazy in their brains, perhaps brought on by too much reading of submissions. The genres that they whacked at the knees are the ones selling best for indies, with the additions of heroic fantasy, mil sf (which for years got you told to send it to Baen, unless told from a very progressive POV) and traditional (no sex. Think Heyer) romance.
Now, yeah, some of this was political or at least ideological. At least the rejection of mil sf was that, as was probably Space Opera (feel good exploration of space? Un-possible) and likely no-explicit-sex romance, because as my brother used to tell me, romance (by which he meant romantic feelings, not pages and pages of explicit erotica) is “the opium of womanhood” and keeps us supposedly pliable, barefoot and maybe even pregnant.
But most of it was hypogeusia. As I said, when you can’t taste much, you don’t know what things taste like to other people. It’s easy to concentrate on things that don’t offend you (for some reasons salty cardboard is much worse, in my mind, that vaguely sweet cardboard, or more likely, vaguely sweet mush, possibly because I’ve always liked vaguely sweet mush.) or on things that you believe are good for you (like health food.)
In the old days, the best we could say was that editors should keep in mind that this happened, and try not to impose their tiredness with normal stuff on the world. (Particularly in genre where the “vaguely like others in the genre” is a feature, leading to “popcorn books” consumed serially by super readers.)
Now, we have the ability to just buy books. Even very silly books. (While sickish and out of sorts, I’ve been consuming Pride and Prejudice variations. (i.e. Fanfic.) Which means that some of them, yeah, are bad enough they get metaphorically “walled” after three pages, but the ones that are just vaguely sweet and like every other one get read one after the other (thank heavens for KULL))
Meanwhile traditional publishing, blythely disregarding their editors’ hypogeusia, continues to push books that are “health food” and “good for you.”
They forget that, unlike food, people don’t have to read. More importantly even the compulsive readers (like me) can re-read and re-savor past-enjoyed books. And now, of course, people can read new books that just happen to never have seen a gatekeeper’s desk.
Which means for those of us who can still taste the “health food” is getting increasingly pushed to the side of the plate, even while getting bought by the big houses, and publicized and distributed everywhere because “it’s important.”
The publishers are welcome to keep thinking that this health food can be shoved down our throats, but it’s the road to ruin.
Because we say it’s aragula. And we say to h*ll with it.