I’m a tough audience

Back at the start of the year I wrote about how I never get excited any more about the cool new books coming out. There’s simply so much good stuff coming out and so much already out I haven’t read, that “oooh, more books!” doesn’t do it for me. Even being selective doesn’t help — I’m not even sure how I’d go about selecting so it’s better to just pick at random or on impulse.

Another aspect of that, I think, is that I’m a much tougher audience than I used to be. Harder to please. More critical. I can still get lost in a good book and read happily all the way to the end, but I’m also more likely to downgrade it as stuff I’ve seen before, same-old same-old, and such. It made me think of Eric Flint’s comment that there are two kinds of specfic readers: the ones who want a good story, well told and the ones who are fed up with that. The latter kind want tropes subverted, metafictional commentary, literary style and substance.

I’m definitely in A more than B — I read for a great story, though that can include political criticism, metafiction, literary style, diversity and so on. But I can sort of understand the view of the hypothetical B reader that there’s nothing new under the sun and I’ve seen it all already. Except that doesn’t stop me enjoying a well-told tale or rereading my stockpile of Silver Age comics with pleasure (there is, obviously, nothing new under the sun in comic books of the 1960s). Paradoxical, huh?

Part of it is also that piling up more books than I read just seems wasteful; much as I like buying books, if I can’t get to them, what’s the point? Comics play a role, too: there’s lots of great stuff available and I’ll often spend my spare cash on a TPB rather than a novel (even with comics, though, I can’t afford to buy everything good).

I think all of this is one reason I don’t follow series with any fervor any more. It used to be I’d buy the new Harry Dresden paperback (they started out that way) whenever it hit the shelves, budget be damned (no wonder I had money troubles). The new one came out this year but I’m not rushing to buy it; I’m looking forward to it but not the way I used to. I buy my friends’ books mostly when I see them at cons. I’m often as happy rereading old stuff that I’ve forgotten rather than buying new.

Perhaps it’s partly age, one of those things where the passion of youth slowly ebbs to gentle embers. And it’s partly money: as part of a two-income family with TYG I’m much better off than I used to be, but expenses are higher (dogs need a lot of meds) and my freelance income, while steady, isn’t so steady I can just blow it on fun stuff.

While obviously none of this rises to even a first-world problem, I do kind of miss the all-consuming enthusiasm of my youth.

#SFWAPro. Covers top to bottom by Mark Mariano, Richard Powers and Jack Gaughan. All rights remain with current holders.

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