My Path Through Genre
I began as a fantasy reader. I could not get enough of it. I got hooked on the old TSR Choose Your Own Adventure books, a series called Endless Quest. My mom picked a few up at a yardsale when I was eight. Dragon of Doom by Rose Estes and published in 1983 was my first taste of non-fairytale fantasy (and it also led me to Dungeons & Dragons a few months later). After the CYOA gateway drug, I talked with my school dealer, err librarian, and found The Hobbit. Lord of the Rings, several Chronicles (Prydain, Dragonlance, & Narnia), Conan, and a few hundred D&D setting books (Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Mystara, Ravenloft, & Spelljammer) soon followed. I was was big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, Andre Norton, and Anne McCaffery.
Then came horror. I read Dracula and Frankenstein in middle school. I watched the classic Universal Monsters, Night of the Living Dead and a hoard of budget horror films when our local TV horror host, Sammy Terry (R.I.P.) would present them. Then I found Stephen King by way of Eyes of the Dragon and his Dark Tower series and then dove into Salem’s Lot, The Talisman, and Creepshow. Then I read Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire.
I had enjoyed science fiction films, and Star Trek had certainly been a television staple (my dad loved the original series), but I was never an avid reader of the genre (unless you count X-Men comics) until I was enlisted in the Marine Corps. I had read some of Asimov’s Foundation in high school and found it somewhat disappointing. However, while I was a Marine I picked up Starship Troopers (the film adaptation had released while I was in the School of Infantry and we had a screening of it). Then I read Stranger in a Strangeland, Ender’s Game, Slaughterhouse 5, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, discovering how awesome the genre could be.
I also delved into the techno-thriller during my stint as a jarhead, I started with Rainbow Six but I eventually found the genre (well, at least Tom Clancy) to be a bit tedious. Maybe when you have detailed knowledge concerning the operation of firearms, you get burned out the super-detailed description of the operation.
My Genre Preference Today
My time for entertainment is a lot less than it used to be, what with an active eight-year-old, my wife, the house, and my career, thus I tend to be very picky. If I start a book, movie, or serial and it doesn’t immediately grab my attention, I chuck it. If I find I’m not enjoying it at almost any point in time, I no longer tough it out in hopes that it gets better and I bail. I have discovered that the stories that I find most compelling contain specific elements. These days I won’t even give a story a shot unless it contains these elements (or it comes highly recommend from a trusted source). I simply cannot afford to do it any other way.
Today I read a mix of things including fantasy, horror, science fiction, thriller, westerns, and non-fiction (something I wouldn’t dream of doing as a teenager), but science fiction and thrillers comprise the lion’s share. I find that my taste for fantasy has dwindled since my formative years. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I’ve lost my enthusiasm for fantasy, but I think it must be some combination of burnout and a growing sense of disbelief in how fantasy worlds function. Seriously, what would the socio-economic impact of magic really be? How can the varying length of seasons in A Song of Ice & Fire be explained? I know, I’m applying science and logic to imaginary settings, but I can’t help it, these things break my suspension of disbelief.
Now I specifically look for hi-tech transhuman sci-fi (think Eclipse Phase RPG or Old Man’s War), modern thriller-westerns (Walt Longmire series), and current-day or near-future military sci-fi/conspiracy/horror (Joe Ledger series or the Laundry Files). I’d like to find a series of novels in the vein of Sons of Anarchy, but there is definitely a dearth of 1%er motorcycle club fiction that is not romance. If you have any recommendations, let me know.
Image Credit: DanilLovesFood on DeviantArt
Listening to: Powershifter – Fear Factory