Recent Surfing Results: Bad writing, Medieval dudes, and the reality of fiction

Reviews by Jessewave is one of the largest and most influential m/m review and discussion websites around. They review an exhaustive (and exhausting) number of books, and they regularly post thought-provoking columns. On Sunday, Wave wrote about her frustration with the vast amount of dreck (my word, not hers) that passes for new fiction in the m/m genre. It was a brave column that put into words what some of us have been talking about on twitter, email, and comment threads for a while:

Are readers wrong to expect that M/M books would continue to be exciting rather than rehash old ideas? We’re buying these books in unprecedented numbers apparently but are we reading them? M/M used to be this fresh, bright light in the industry so much so that many writers are flocking from print publishing to try out the new kid on the block. However, my computer hard drive and Kindle are full of DNF books because the quality just isn’t there. When I discuss books with other readers and some of the guest reviewers on the site many of us seem to be suffering from apathy. I keep hoping that this is a temporary aberration that will be resolved soon but it’s been months and my mojo for these books seems to have walked out the door. I don’t think increasing the number of sex scenes can cover up for the fact that there’s really no plot in a lot of the books, and while many readers love M/M stories because they are erotic, there’s a huge difference between erotic stories and erotica which is PWP.

You will not be surprised to hear that it took less than a dozen comments for people to tell her that it’s her own fault for only reading m/m and therefore being burned out (she reads widely); that familiarity breeds contempt (ah, the cliché that never fails to fail); and my personal favorite, that her negativity is spoiling the site and she should go away for a while (it’s her site). But there are also a lot of of readers (and even authors) who agree with her. There are over 200 comments at this point, but as they say, it’s worth reading the whole thing.

The post provoked a lively discussion on Twitter as well as a terrific, concise post by jmc that summarizes precisely what my problems are with much of the current m/m output. So I’ll spare you more of my verbiage and direct you thither.

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Moving from the serious to the silly, that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad book is the gift that keeps on giving. Joanne Renaud was persuaded by Dhympna (and the Nook’s lending feature) to read it, which seemed evil of Dhympna, but the result is a hilarious and wonderful review. Joanne even found  … I can’t spoil the surprise. But go read! And then tell me that you don’t want your next medieval-mashup hero to be named “Terry of Carthage.”

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If you enjoyed reading my Bouchercon posts, Keishon has a great post about a recent book signing event she attended, featuring Colin Cotterill, Stuart Neville, and James Benn. She makes some very good points about the economics of supporting favorite writers and indie bookstores. I see why the rules are there (as does Keishon), but it does seem to be increasingly more difficult and expensive, in these tough economic times, to come out and show support.

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Finally, the New York Times philosophy column, The Stone, is one I frequently pass over, as part of the general superfluity of the Times‘ expanded yet oddly diminished opinion pages. But this past weekend there was a terrific post on the way fiction shapes our view of real life. The author talks about Shakespeare and Cervantes and Stephen Colbert. Among his many astute observations:

The fictional worldview, then, is one in which we are able to divide our selves to assume simultaneously opposing consciousnesses, and to enter and leave different realities at will, all the while voluntarily suspending judgments concerning their relation to an ultimate reality. This worldview has had an extraordinarily powerful impact on the modern world; in some interpretations it is the very epistemological signature of modernity, affecting equally our thought and politics as thoroughly as it does our art and literature.

The author makes some telling points about our current political climate, but I think his observations apply as well to the genre’s ongoing debates over historical accuracy and authenticity.

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2 thoughts on “Recent Surfing Results: Bad writing, Medieval dudes, and the reality of fiction

  1. I didn’t really persuade, she just didn’t feel comfortable giving money for such an exercise–LendMe to the rescue. I pointed out it had LendMe, curiosity got the better of her, and review genius was born. *grins*

    All right, part of it was evil and I wanted to share the historical pain.

    I am waiting for the Terry of Carthage character sketch. heh.

  2. Thank you for the links and thinking they have engendered. I read Wave’s article and the responses and agree that the issue is not over-familiarity but lack of depth and meaningful complexity (in the world building and the characterisations) in the story-telling.

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