Monday, February 07, 2011

Is it only me?

(Sorry for stealing your line, Kris!)

I've been doing a lot of book browsing lately, probably due to this beastly winter we're having, and I've noticed a growing lack of nuance in the fiction spectrum.

Or is it just my imagination?

Sturm und Drang

Some stories rely on heavy doses of Sturm und Drang in characters' lives. (I remember that phrase from German lit and rarely get a chance to dust it off and parade it around.) It means "storm and stress." I mean turmoil and angst, all kinds of OUCH stemming from miserable childhoods, physical injury or impairment, and/or psychological trauma. I mean, Holy shit, what more can happen to this poor individual? The plot ends up being soap operatic, a Murphy's Law melodrama in which all kinds of over-the-top stuff can go wrong . . . and does. Or could've gone wrong in the past . . . and has. Maybe with a little PTSD thrown in for good measure.

The BDSM Cure

Other fiction is larded with sex, presented as a tonic for whatever ails one or both of the main characters. Usually of the BDSM variety, the sexual relationship is, in fact, the story's pivot. "Are you troubled for some reason, any reason? Here, let's fix that by devising a Dom/sub arrangement. It will prove oh-so therapeutic, and then, of course, we'll fall in love -- tra-la!"

Oh, Honey, Honey

Finally, some stories seem sugar-coated throughout. The sex is sweet, the feelings are sweet, the dialogue is sweet. Conflicts are easily resolved, so they don't jarringly interrupt the flow of feelgood.

Maybe my mood has been colored by the weather and I'm not seeing things clearly, but it sure strikes me there's a plethora of fiction right now that falls into those categories. Has anybody else noticed this lack of subtlety and originality, or do I just need to sit tight and wait for spring to adjust my perspective?


Teddy Pig said...

UM yeah BDSM Therapy Romance should just not be a genre. Please no.

Teddy Pig said...

You have been reading my Goodreads reviews feed again.

I tell people don't do it.

Ignorance is bliss.

Kris said...

What TPig said. The theme of BDSM cock therapy (a phrase borrowed from Kassa) is a personal peeve of mine and, yep, it's pretty damned prolific.

And my veri word is 'wines'. How appropriate. :)

Chris said...

Would this be an appropriate place to rant about the overabundance of stalkers in m/m romance?

Teddy Pig said...

Chris I am "reviewing" not stalking.


Chris said...

Someone has a guilty conscience. *coughteddypigcough*


K. Z. Snow said...

Stalkers. Hm. I didn't encounter any stalkers while I was book shopping. But from the sounds of it, I probably will.

Shee-it, the BDSM cure is everywhere, though! If it's so efficacious, I'm surprised the Mayo Clinic hasn't adopted it. :)

Tam said...

I find things seem to come in waves, unintentional most of the time as I'm sure all the publishers don't get together and conspire to publish 10 vampire novels in a month. Similar things happen with movies and tv shows. I also notice totally unintentionally I will pick 3 random books out of the 50 in my TBR and then realize ... WTF? I picked 3 books out of all those with the same theme? Or I manage to find 4 books with characters named Matt and read them all at once? Perhaps it's some kind of subliminal things.

So I'm sure at certain times it seems like there are a plethora of books with a theme, but I think sometimes we just become aware of it. I'm not a fan of the magical healing cock, whether in a BDSM context or any other. Suffering from a broken leg, cracked ribs and a concussion I think means sex should be off the table for at least 12 hours. *eye roll*

K. Z. Snow said...

Tam, you mean you never felt glum and thought, Maybe being hog-tied would perk me right up...and help me find true love, to boot?

Tam said...

Hmm. Can't say I have. Maybe hog-tying someone else would be a pick-me-up. :-D It's true love if they never leave you right? Chains notwithstanding.

K. Z. Snow said...

You've got a point there. Heh.

Jenre said...

The 'honey honey' story lines tend to come from a certain group of authors and so, as it isn't my thing, I avoid those authors. Occasionally I get caught out with a new author but then I only have myself to blame if that happens for not reading the reviews first :).

I quite like angsty books so the first one doesn't bother me as long as I don't read several in a row cos that's when I start getting impatient with the characters and wanting to dunk them in a well until they see sense and get their emo shit together.

Yeah, the second one is crass. I've seen it done well, but only very rarely.

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, Jen! I'm actually quite fond of angst, so that category is a touchy one for me. Of course, how I react to it depends on how it's handled.

Stories obviously need conflict. Unless they're comedic or the conflict is purely external (and both of these approaches run the risk of producing shallow characters), some psycho-emotional struggle must take place.

BUT, I hate when suffering is heaped on and seems unremitting, and/or comes from a whole grab bag of sources (e.g., let's give this guy a disfiguring injury and fill him with self-doubt, and then throw in a difficult family situation, and then make his love interest the victim of gay bashing, and then and then...) Ack!

The BDSM cure? Doing it well is all fine and good, but it's just been done far, far too much.

Tam said...

Ha! Jen made me laugh out loud. I am so going to be thinking about dunking someone in a well now when I want to slap them silly.

K. Z. Snow said...

But remember, Tam: Don't drown the poor saps; dunk them only long enough for them to get their emo shit together. :-D

S said...

Like to wiegh in here with a tale just read

Vampire is held hostage and tortured for CENTURIES
Vampires escapes and is recluse for CENTURIES
Vampire meets sweet loving fellow
Wham Bam Thank you Man
All is hunky dory with them
but I am languishing in a sugar induced coma

Jess McAlister said...

I was feeling just like you. Slightly underwhelmed by whats on offer, I felt that there was nothing different on the market. I read alot so its not often that I read something fresh.

I recently read Acquainted With the Night by Tymber Dalton. Have you read it ???

It is well written, refreshingly original and it both disturbed and enthralled me. It kept me up till 3am when I had to work the next day but I knew I couldnt go to sleep without knowing the ending.

Have you got any hints for books that you have read lately. I love that feeling you get when you read a great book and it plays on your mind for days???

((I think I have read most of Teddy Pigs comfort reads that he posted))

I love a great recommendation :)

Jess McAlister said...

I should warn that the ending left me gobsmacked (and most likely you to) but when I thought about it the next day I realised that it was perfect. The book stayed with me for days.

Lex Valentine said...

A friend pointed this post out to me today and I have to's not only you. There are authors that others tout as must reads whose work falls between the lines you've just drawn and I can't read them. The stories are just so completely implausible. Even the paranormal ones. (Although, some of that can be blamed on a lack of believable world building.) One of the parallels I've found in the books with this flaw is that the authors seem hell bent on some kind of publishing record. They seem to have some sort of goal of writing a gazillion books in a year as if they are in a race with each other to see who can produce more of this meh stuff than the other. You'd think they'd never heard of quality over quantity.

Thanks for saying what I've been thinking.

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, S, and welcome!

Amazing what a little good lovin' can do, eh? I'm glad that poor vampire is finally happy. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, Jess. Nope, haven't read Tymber's book. I'll have to look into it.

The m/m novel I read recently that impressed me most profoundly was Whistling in the Dark. I realize it's been out for a few years, but I finally got around to snagging a copy. It was absolutely wonderful -- a truly transporting read.

I'm a horror addict, too, so I'm looking forward to getting lost in Rick Reed's A Demon Inside and Victor Banis's Dead of Night.

K. Z. Snow said...

Yo, Lex! Nice to see you here.

It's actually kind of a curse being a picky-ass reader, don't you think? I get irked with myself, because it seems I often ask the questions you raised: How the hell can any discerning reader adore [insert title] so unreservedly? How, and why, does [insert author name] produce stories at an assembly-line pace?

Then the old editor in me says, Hey, there's nothing wrong with having your own tastes and nothing wrong with having standards.

As a reader, I abhor two things above all others: shoddy craftsmanship and lack of originality. People who write to get published should be expected to deliver in both areas, I believe. I'm more flexible when it comes to plausibility, since all fiction requires some suspension of disbelief and would likely be damned boring if that weren't the case. But...yeah, sometimes the stew boils over the top of the kettle. That's when a story starts alienating rather than engaging me.

Thanks for your input!

Jess McAlister said...

Hi KZ,

Thanks for the recommendations, I will definitely read them, I think I might go and get whistling in the dark now.

I don't think your a 'fussy' reader. I can read 20 generic romances in a row and I can handle it. But if I dont get something original or a book that at least explores emotions in depth then I start to pout.

I was just talking about one author (no names) with my friend. One of the re-occurring themes of her novels is daddy troubles. Either the men in the book have no dad or their dad died or they have an evil daddy etc.

But both my friend and me have lost our dads due to illness. As readers we know how gut wrenching it is to lose a great dad. So when we read her novels she never addresses the emotions behind the lack of father - son relationship.

I believe Lex is 100% right. There is a bazaar need for some authors to produce alot of books quickly when another 10,000 words would turn it into a great book.

As a reader I will say this: If an author takes the time to write a great book then I will publically and via email with friends promote that book. I sing its praises.

a so-so book gets nothing from me. If its particularly bad I even tell my friend via email not to bother.

Am I raving? I go off on tangents sometimes *blush*

K. Z. Snow said...

I don't consider that a rant at all, Jess. In fact, it's nice to see people presenting their opinions and taking the time to explain them.

Isn't that what blogs are for?