It is often said that bad times make for hard men, who make good times, which make soft men and soft men make for bad times… I wonder if and how this translates into books, or at least the buying thereof.
Certainly, from my own experience, when life is slapping me around at ten minute intervals, my taste in books is clearly reflected. I want books that make me feel better about life. And my desire for new books (or new authors) is inversely proportional to how much strife I am in. If I am only reading Louis L’Amour, Pratchett, Heyer… things are very grim indeed. When it’s down to Fallon, Pyramids, Moist von Lipwig and The Toll-Gate… things are dire. Those books are like old,solid, reliable friends, and also encapsulate characters to whom I feel a strong affinity (Jerry Chirk, not Captain John Staple. I like the latter, but I am anything but large.) I suppose the characters are all tricksters of sorts, who find themselves in dire situations and ‘build’ their way out. They may be tough or deadly, but it’s their heads that get them out… and all of them are hard men, and create good. They’re comfort reads and things I need to believe in, when things are dark.
When things are comfortable and good, I am a lot more venturesome. I still don’t like bleak endings and unremitting misery in my books, but that may be that as I have seen enough of it, I don’t need to go there. I don’t need books that tell me I am shit and my culture stinks either. Sometimes I am, and sometimes my culture did. But individual humans rise above both of those things, and I’ve seen that too.
I think we’ve been – in the first world – heirs to good times (economically, socially) made by those hard men – with the inevitable conclusion, and I think we’re about to start reaping the ‘benefit’ of what followed hard men.
My goal is to write books to help make those bad times seem beatable. They are. To write books which have courage and hope, and leave the reader feeling that they can build their way out of bad times, and that the size, power and intractability of the foe doesn’t mean they have to win. It just means we need hard men who can out-think them too, and who will build on their ruins.