I’m surprisingly wordy today, even though I seem to have caught some kind of bug. Because after the lengthy harassment post, here are some other links too good to pass up:
Aliette de Bodard has a great post on the prevalence of US tropes in storytelling and how they often crowd out local patterns. I don’t agree with every single one of her points, e.g. I quite like superheroes. But US-specific ideas and assumptions being treated as the worldwide default drives me up the wall as well, for example when US sexual or behavioural norms are applied to international works (e.g. Torchwood whose characters were so much more interesting before they became monogamous and monosexual and confined their misbehaviour to torturing and killing people). Or when American critics blast Stieg Larsson’s books for being full of endless discussions of Swedish politics that don’t interest anybody (except, you know, Swedes). Or when Americans complain that the leads in British cop shows don’t carry guns and refuse to comprehend that British cops don’t bear arms. Or when there are complaints that underage characters in foreign films or books are shown to have sex and drink alcohol, even though both are perfectly legal and normal in the country the film or book comes from. Or the fact that space opera, a subgenre I used to love, inevitably has to involve the military and in particular a military modeled after the US marines.
This also ties in with my post on international writers, because any refusal to adhere to American moral, linguistic and storytelling conventions will make it that much harder to get published. So you end up making compromises, you cut adverbs, rephrase passive sentences as active, you cut out bad words, you cut this lengthy descriptive passage or that rambling dialogue which doesn’t directly advance the plot. You try to sound like Hemingway, even though you neither are Hemingway nor particularly like him. You do your best to give characters agency, even though you are not quite sure how to do that, considering they are chained up in a dungeon. You up the age of your protagonist from 16 to 18 so you won’t be accused of writing child porn, when he or she has sex, you change the beer in their hand to Coke, because Americans are paranoid about teenagers drinking, you cut the paragraph that hints at necrophilia, because some things are taboo, even if they are realistic under the circumstances. And yes, I have done all of those things at some point.
And even if you self-publish, some worries remain. Do I keep my British spellings or use US spellings? Do I add in a paragraph in which my POV character makes an observation that an actual person in the time the story is set would not have made, but that modern day US sensibilities require? Do I lose sales because I refuse to adhere to certain US cover design trends that I find hideously ugly?
Talking of covers, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books compares the US and UK covers of various Lisa Kleypas books. In my opinion, the UK covers are decent and period appropriate, while the US covers exemplify pretty much everything that is wrong with historical romance covers today with their wholly anachronistic clothing and colours that didn’t exist in Regency times, because the dyes were not invented until decades later. Still, a lot of American readers seem to like them, because they look fun and sexy.
Really, one of the things I like best about publishing my own stuff is that I don’t have to deal with having cover horrors like poor Lisa Kleypas inflicted on me. And yes, the covers of my two historicals are very different from the gaudy dresses and corset covers so popular in the US. And wait till you see the next one. It’s monochrome. And neither gaudy nor sexy. And also very subdued, for a story that’s my most violent yet. That is, it’s subdued until you take a closer look and see what it actually depicts.
At the Clarion blog, Mark Lawrence, whose debut novel or rather a review thereof sparked off a not so flattering post about the current state of the fantasy genre in this blog a while ago, talks about his journey of becoming a published writer. I still have very little interest in his book (really not my cup of tea, sorry), but his story of breaking into the publishing industry under extremely difficult conditions is both touching and inspiring.
At the Book View Café, Deborah J. Ross offers a stirring defense of escapism, literary and otherwise.
Over at Pegasus Pulp I have a new post up chock full of writing and publishing links, death of publishing handwringing and fiction-writing computers. I also have some interesting alternative energy links at the ABC Buhlert site.
Finally, as hinted above I will have a book announcement tomorrow or the day after, depending on whether Kindle Direct Publishing breaks down again on me.