I’m always amused when someone refers to me as an intellectual. I mean, I suppose it is true, in a way, for a definition of “makes her living with her mind” and “sometimes the stuff she says actually has an influence on people who have more influence than she does.”
But growing up, intellectuals were people who …. The men smoked pipes, the women smoked little cigarettes, they were invariably communists and passionate — passionate — I tell you about
robbing from everyone to enrich the state inequality, and sexual freedom, and other things they imagined would epater les bourgeois. (Judging by my parents which might not be a good metric but isn’t that far off, instead of finding their behavior epatant, the bourgeois mostly rolled their eyes so hard that there should have been full time, paid eye-finders to catch the ones that rolled under furniture.)
The point is, intellectuals read deep books. Mostly non fic. Okay, I do read a lot of those, but usually as a guilty pleasure, and mostly because something in the title or description caught my eye. So I will read books about oh… grain production in the middle ages, or oh, yeah, that’s a good one, “how to train a dog.” I haven’t had a dog in going on thirty years, and there are no plans of having one for at least four or five. But I bought like five books on training them because it was interesting. But intellectuals read non-fic books on…. oh, The Epistemology of Bees. Or Critical Race Theory in Underwater Diving.
And if they read fiction at all, the fiction they read is “acclaimed” and “important” and “the essential book of the year.” It usually has a rate of 5000 words per nugget of information (that could be conveyed in three) and sex apropos nothing. (But not like in erotica. Sex has to be written in a way that’s not sexy at all. Long descriptions of goose flesh, a pimple on someone’s butt, and — oh, yeah — no one enjoying it.)
Much to the despair of everyone who tried to make an intellectual out of me, it didn’t take.
I mean my degree is known to be a hang out of intellectuals, but mostly the books I was assigned bored me to tears. They were also, behind all their high fallutin’ nonsense super-boring and repetitive. I developed a method of skimming, which allowed me to sound like I’d read it for exams.
The stuff I actually did read were Shakespeare and Austen (which I liked long before college) and I actually sort of liked Effie Briest, just because German Romantics were such a hot mess. And I kind of liked Tess D’Ubervilles because it reminded me of the radio soap operas I’d listened to as a child. (You couldn’t avoid listening to them. Every woman in the village was blasting them full volume.)
Which brings me to my low tastes.
Did I enjoy those radio soap operas? Well, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to listen to them. They are not my preferred mode of word-drug. But there were parts of them I enjoyed, and parts my young brain analyzed, like the puzzling fact even people at my parents economic level had servants in the soaps.
And let’s face it, as stupid as most of the plotting was (lots of crying, screaming and carrying the idiot ball) they were interesting, and things happened. Which was better than the crazy-*ss stuff intellectuals read. It didn’t put me to sleep.
For years I thought my ability to enjoy new science fiction and fantasy had dulled, and I no longer had the “sparkle fun” reaction to books, except for a few like Pratchett, or F. Paul Wilson, or Dave Freer, or Larry Correia, John Ringo, Dave Weber. But those I could count between two hands, and most of the new stuff I read left me quite cold.
Then some years ago, I started what was supposed to be a trip through memory lane. You see when I was growing up there was only one book publisher in Portugal that did SF — the infamous Argonauta collection — and over time I must have read most of their issues, usually out of order, since they were short printed and always insufficient for demand. (Though I found them unsold, in beach side stands, decades later, and would buy them with sunbleached cover and all. Or I found them in a friend’s father’s closet, when I was helping the family moved, and got a box of fifty with the casual “Oh, yeah, those were my dad’s. Do you want them?”)
Anyway, because I was trying to read them I started at the beginning. These books (when I could find them) were often from the 20s and 30s. Their science is outdated. They subscribe to the “heroic pencil-neck” school of writing. The aliens are contrived or giggle-worthy. The politics, when they’re there, manage to be stupider than on recent books. (And equally leftist.)
But they grab. The techniques pulp authors used were next level. They told the story not to impress or baffle, but to grab the reader and get money.
And I found I was still grabbed and kept reading to the end.
Now, you have to understand, I have low tastes. I was talking to a friend yesterday, and realized almost all of my fun read series are pulp, whether they mean to be or not.
I remember the joy of falling into a book or series, and realizing this was going to be a fun ride. Even when the opinions not so subtly peddled were offensive to me, if the story was fun enough. (And some of them are not offensive at all.)
(Note this is a small list. There are people writing and publishing today who are pure pulp. I’ll do a list next week, if you want me to. Some of it might be considered self dealing, as some work for this blog.)
I’ve found with indie and people publishing themselves that the ones who do well still have that same exact “pulp” feel. Now there are even books teaching you to write the pulp way.
Okay, so if you are a real intellectual, you probably shouldn’t. Me? I’m not. I just like to have fun. And I have low tastes. I like things that are fun.
The rest can go take a long hike off a short pier. Frankly, I don’t care enough about the bourgeois, or the normies, or whatever the bad word is this day, to want to shock them.
I read because it is my drug of choice. And I want to enjoy it.
Life is too short to read boring books.