Genre snobbery is a bitch

 

thoughts orangutan

I feel like it’s a becoming a biannual tradition for me to point out “sorry, you don’t get to dictate taste”. Sadly, there’s a reason this keeps coming up: every so often a member of the literati pokes their head above the parapet to denigrate genre fiction. Today’s “inspiration” is a famous literary fiction author who decided to give genre fiction a go, only to (rather hilariously) state they don’t like that particular genre… cos that makes sense. Now, without naming names, this is almost part of the course for literary fiction writer’s foray into genre fiction- they assert “but I’m not a genre fiction writer” in the same way one might say “I’m not a prostitute”. Well, as a genre whore, I take offence to this kind of language 😉 Aside from the blatant hypocrisy, I don’t think genre snobs have quite thought this through…

spaceFor starters, there is unfrickin-believable-out-of-this-world genre fiction. One of the funniest parts of this person’s argument was that they didn’t think that genre fiction explored humanity with any depth- LOL! Clearly, they’ve never read genre fiction cos there are *far too many* examples for me to list. The crux of this criticism is that they seem to think you can’t simultaneously write well and develop your world building- which is about as logical as saying you can’t eat a banana and ice cream at the same time 😉 The two are not mutually exclusive (in fact they go together rather well). So, if you’re going to judge a book by its cover, the joke’s on you. Especially because…

the greatest of all timeToday’s “genre fiction” could easily be tomorrow’s classic. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but realism doesn’t always win out in the end or make it into the canon. And some genres (romance novels, gothic literature, even fantasy etc) do better than you think. Literary fiction stands the same chance of going down in history as one of the “greats” (regardless of whether the publisher slaps “modern classic” on the back or not).

you're not wrongThe customer may not always be right… but they’re not wrong! Let’s be real: you can’t be wrong about your own taste. Not only that, but most readers read genre fiction. The idea of going after the consumer is becoming increasingly popular- yet it doesn’t make it any less futile. A word to the wise- no one will be convinced to pick up your book just cos you said they shouldn’t pick up some other person’s book (in fact there’s a strong chance of reverse-psychology-ing them into picking up the one you told them to avoid).

party on dudesPlus, us genre sluts are having a lot more fun than the genre prudes. We’re not tied down by immature “you need to grow up” arguments levelled at adult YA readers; we’re not threatened by a bit of flirtation with genre bending books. We just dive straight into the whorehouse of endless tastes- otherwise known as every bookshop/library/personal collection ever- and glut ourselves on whatever’s on offer. Gotta say it’s liberating to let go of your inhibitions and just join the party. Don’t be shy, you know you want to 😉

Im outThat said, if you’re still taking yourself too seriously after that analogy, I have one last truthbomb to drop: no one is the GOD EMPEROR OVERLORD of taste. No one’s taste is infallible; no one gets to act like an authoritarian hack when it comes to literature. And I’m not gonna apologise if that’s hurt any egomaniac’s feelings for saying that. I’d say “anyone who truly believes that they know best about what people should be reading needs to take a long hard look in the mirror”, but that’s probably what they do all day. I’m sure their hand is sore from patting themselves on the back 24/7. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t have much time for anyone who thinks like this anymore 😉

And with that, I’d like to ask you guys what you think of genre snobbery? And are you a genre whore like me? Let me know in the comments!

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Addressing “Entitled” Fans

 

thoughts orangutan

Am I the only one that thinks this whole “entitled fans” debate is getting old already? For those of you who haven’t seen this phrase bandied about, well first of all lucky you, and second of all it’s basically becoming a catch-all phrase to describe disgruntled fans. A couple of years ago it was used to describe Star Wars fans for not lapping up the trash that was The Last Jedi; more recently it’s been dug up again to sling at those of us who are unhappy with the ending of Game of Thrones (more specifically for a petition that I don’t feel the need to go into cos it’s much the same as any other petition on the planet).

A lot of the time, this argument seems to be a way to shut down criticism- which is never a good look for a creator. Aside from the fact it often seems like people with MASSIVE platforms going after the little guy, let’s just say throwing your weight around shouting “HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE ME FOOLISH MORTAL” makes something else seem a little bit inflated… 😉

That said, the creator isn’t necessarily wrong for standing up for themselves. After all, if they had a vision for their work and the audience doesn’t like it, that’s not their fault, right? And harassing the author/creator/whatever isn’t okay. No matter how much we might love something, we don’t have ownership of it. And in the words of Mick Jagger:

you can't always get what you want

So, I actually do get that a creator really shouldn’t have to do what their audience wants. That’s why I say REVIEWS ARE FOR READERS– they’re made after the fact and aren’t designed to make the author change their ways. Still, while it may be true that “art is not a democracy”, it doesn’t then follow that “ergo I never have to listen to criticism”. Nor is “I don’t have to listen to you because you’re just a fan” a great argument. Because here’s a little secret: FANS WANT THE PROPERTIES THEY LOVE TO SUCCEED. That’s why they’ve poured their time/money/hearts/souls into these projects. And to forget that is to forget what made success possible.

This is particularly significant when looking at modern, commercial art. When we’re talking about huge franchises like Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Harry Potter etc, we’re not talking about its creation in a vacuum. These hugely successful properties owe more than a little to their fans. The fact is, shows/movies/books even are being treated more like products; likewise, creators have been willing to treat fans more like customers. And that’s fine- but then it doesn’t stand for writers/producers to still say “it’s art, we can do whatever we want!” Because you can’t expect to act that way when taking people’s money AND get no complaints if you miss-market said product. As a fan, I might be more forgiving if things don’t pan out exactly as I want; as a customer, I won’t be as happy. For instance, if I go into a restaurant and order pizza and you give me ice cream, I’m not going to be happy (no matter how much I love both). Customers rarely want subverted expectations. Which brings me onto one of the biggest areas of debate…

elephants game of thronesNow, here’s the thing: subverted expectations aren’t always a bad thing. Game of Thrones in particular was known for it- and known for doing it well. There are times when I wish the creator had gone the unexpected route. And some art exists in that beautifully comedic and meaningful sphere where art breaks all the rules. Some of my favourite works exist in this bubble: Guards, Guards, Carry On and even the Alan Partridge books! Fans don’t always want to be serviced, if you know what I mean 😉 But, in the case of the elephant (or lack thereof) in the room/Seven Kingdoms, trying a bold manoeuvre like subverting expectations has to be well executed.

Funnily enough, a lot of criticism like this is actually fairly technical. Mary Sues, subverted expectations, fanservice are all terms that existed for a long time- and yet they’re being brushed aside for causing “offence”. Ironically, this feeds into the idea that there is a right and wrong reason to criticise art nowadays (or to criticise criticism). With call out culture waiting in the wings, (often verified) journalists are able to rile people up and simultaneously forbid regular consumers from questioning creative “genius”. This doesn’t seem like they have the audience’s best interests at heart: it seems like thinly veiled elitism, pulling up the drawbridge and gatekeeping competition.

That could just be my sceptical brain going into overdrive though 😉 To be on the safe side, let’s just engage in honest discussions, not resort to stifling conversations by throwing around ad hominems and stop calling fans “entitled” for voicing opinions.

So, what do you think of the “entitled fans” debate? Do you think fans go to far? How do you think creators should respond? Let me know in the comments!

Misconceptions of Negative Reviews

 

thoughts orangutan

A few weeks ago, I saw something that has become the norm online: a famous author (who shall remain unnamed) saying why people shouldn’t write negative reviews. Now, not only is *criticising criticism pretty hypocritical*, it also comes across as someone with a fair amount of power trying to stifle conversation- and let’s just say I don’t approve. But going beyond this individual’s fame and success, there are a lot of people who hold similar views. Personally, I don’t have a problem with people choosing to only do positive reviews, but I think negative reviews get a bad rap. Sometimes I just think people don’t understand why people do them and assume motives that aren’t there. So, I thought I’d break down where I reckon these misconceptions are coming from:

meanMisconception #1: Critical reviewers are MEAN. Well, that could be true, who knows? 😉 Just kidding- I think this assumption is reading wayyy too much into things. Beyond the fact it’s probably not a good idea to psychoanalyse strangers on the internet, I also think that it’s not taking into consideration that people are different and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some reviewers are blunter than others, some are snarkier, some are funnier- because that’s their personality. Not to go all Big Five Personality on y’all, but (and I can’t believe I have to point this out) being more agreeable (for instance) doesn’t make you inherently a better person. For goodness sakes- you don’t have to like everyone’s way of doing things, yet I think we can all agree that how you review isn’t the next Great Moral Debate!

the devil hocus pocusMisconception #2: We want to upset authors. Also known as the “reviews are meant to help you improve” idea. Ermmm no. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: reviews are for READERS! That means whether the review is positive or negative, it’s not designed for the author. Frankly, I’m too shy to @ authors when I’m being entirely positive- but I definitely would never do that if I had even a smidge of criticism there.

never happyMisconception #3: We’re hard to please… okay this one is totally possible. And I did see a really great video about critical reviews, which suggested there’s a possibility you’re reading the wrong books for you 😉 HOWEVER, while this could be true, most reviewers will have a mixed bag. I know I do. And the thing is, even positive reviews can hold criticism- which leads me onto…

throw booksMisconception #4: We don’t love books. Pahahaha- so because we don’t like your book, we can’t like any books?! I mean, this is just plain silly. Why dedicate hours and hours to a passion if we secretly don’t like it? Really though, this feeds into the idea that we can read *everything* *all the time*- which is daft. Encouraging people to read endlessly is preposterous. So much so that even positive reviews should point out the downsides- and vice versa. For instance, while some people are put off by slow books, I’ll be perfectly happy to give it a try. Even when I’m gushing, I don’t aim for mindless POSITIVITY- for me it’s primarily about getting people to be able to find the right book for them. Sure, this isn’t always possible, but it’s worth a try!

stop reading

Almost didn’t put this meme in cos it personally offends me!

Misconception #5: Negative reviews are to stop you reading! Again, negative reviews are often pretty nuanced. They’re written to explain why someone may/may not want to read something; they’re not explicitly designed to deprive other people of pleasure. A great review helps readers make informed decisions (see above about not having the time to read everything ever written). BTW people who read reviews also aren’t braindead- *SHOCKER* readers are smart and can make up their own minds whether to trust the reviewer thank-you-very-much! As someone who watched and read reviews long before I got into doing it myself, I think it’s safe to say I know how to read a review without losing my sense of self. It’s quite possible to see a negative review and say “I’m going to read it anyway!” Which brings me onto…

im-right-youre-wrongMisconception #6: We think WHAT WE SAY GOES! We’re not gods or always right (that’s why I did a post about how not to review). Reviews are biased, they’re not objective. You don’t have to listen to them all the time and you can come away thinking something completely different.

Misconception #7: We’re playing 4D chess… Cos right now there is this idea that you will get ALL THE VIEWS if you get a little snarky. While I don’t deny this can be the case for some people, I’d say I have the same stats on negative and positive pieces. Plus, this is a good opportunity to come full circle in the piece and say PEOPLE ARE A BIT MORE COMPLEX THAN THAT. You can’t just bottle up people’s reasons for doing things in simple “oh they’re just looking for attention” terms. I for one didn’t start my blog for just one reason (and I can tell you when I started attention wasn’t even a remote possibility on my radar). So I think it’s time to finish off my piece with some age old wisdom:

when you assume

And with that I’d like to know what you think- do you reckon people have misconceptions about negative reviews? Or do you think any of these are spot on? Let me know in the comments!

Having a Grand Old Time in Ireland!

orangutan librarian and monkey baby0002Not to be confused with my trip to Northern Ireland 😉 That’s right, I took another trip to across the sea, this time to Dublin’s fair city! (it’s actually a long story how I came to make two trips, but we’re gonna skip right over that 😉) I went with my sister, the Monkey Baby, and as you might have gathered from the title, we had a lot of fun. Not least cos there’s great sights, food, music (and Guinness is amazing!) We definitely didn’t run out of things to do. 

 

I absolutely loved the Irish patter too and the streets were so steeped in stories. I learnt a lot in the short time I had to spend there. One of the absolute highlights was the Long Room (the library) at Trinity College 😀

Plus we stumbled across a couple of famous people…

Beyond the literary heroes and history, I also got to go to the Wicklow mountains and saw some scenes that looked like they were out of a fairy tale!

And that’s all for my touristy-brochure style post! 😉 If you actually want a great list of things to do/itinerary for a day trip to Dublin I really recommend Nyx’s post from Hurricane and Drizzle books– cos I drew a lot of inspiration from that when planning this trip!

Monkey at the Movies: TV Roundup!

monkey at the movies 2

Don’t worry, for all of you who are afraid of more Game of Thrones rants, I’m pressing the big PAUSE button on that! Instead, I wanted to talk about some shows I’ve watched in the last few months that I actually liked. Now, it takes quite a bit for me to finish a series/continue watching a programme these days (I’m a serial TV show quitter) so it’s no surprise that what I did finish got *all the bananas* from me! Starting with…

The Last Kingdom (Series 3)– once again, I am half monkey, half Dane! It’s no secret after my post last year how much I FRICKIN LOVE THIS SHOW! It is an excellent example of an adaptation done well. Still, I managed to forget how much this packs in. The story is both eventful and emotional and just keeps getting better and better! Certain promises from the writer in earlier seasons (though not all) are delivered with fatal blows. *This* is exactly how you give the audience what they want; this is the best example of set up and payoff in TV right now. It was even more twisty and exciting than the first two series- and that’s saying something, given how much I loved those too! Once again, the characters are amazing and worth getting invested in. I especially love that Uhtred doesn’t always do the right thing- he’s smart, but impulsive, and he often pays the price for that. It does wrap things up rather well, implying there wasn’t going to be another series- but luckily for us, it’s been renewed and there is plenty of room to continue. Forgive my boundless enthusiasm, but this is the kind of show that makes me squee every time! The only *frankly appalling* thing about the Last Kingdom is that every season comes to an end and I WANT MORE. No doubt I’ll be renewing my Netflix subscription just in time for season 4 😉

Umbrella Academy (Series 1)– this was one hell of a wacky, fun, bonkers ride- and I loved every minute of it! I don’t even know where to start with this show. The moment I knew I *had to* watch this series was when I saw the dance like no one is watching clip on Youtube. It so aptly sums up what makes this show so bloody marvellous- the humour, the poignant emotion and the characters. My goodness- the characters! They are so fabulously original and I think everyone can find someone to root for here- my favourites were poor old Klaus and dubious Diego. Oh and 5 is awesome!  From the hilarious script, to the brilliant soundtrack and world-ending plot- this is definitely one of Netflix’s best new additions. Definitely worth checking out if you like superheroes/are looking for something a little bit very different.

The Good Place (Series 3)– this is another show I’ve mentioned on my blog before. I discovered it through Kat’s amazing blog and I REGRET NOTHING. I will freely admit it’s not as good as the first season, or even the second, but it is always worth a watch regardless. Super thought-provoking and funny, this is one of those rare shows *everyone* (and I do mean EVERYONE) can get something out of- and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve seen people of all different backgrounds and beliefs coming together over this philosophical sit com- and that is quite the testament to what a work of genius it is. I’m also incredibly proud of myself because I figured out the twist for this season 😉

Angel (Series 1-2)– this might come as a bit of a *shocker* but I haven’t actually seen this before- despite rewatching Buffy many times. I know, I know, I should’ve given it a chance sooner, but I never cared much for the character of Angel or had much interest in the (seemingly) minor ways it linked up with Buffy. Well, I stand completely corrected. This show is great! It ended up being super emotional, action-packed and with fab characters! All those people you think “eh what do I care about them?” after they leave Sunnydale, suddenly get a new lease of life in LA. I really liked the evil law firm as Big Bad as well (and the minor antagonists along the way totally work!). I’m glad I finally watched this and look forward to sinking my teeth into series three!

So, have you seen any of these? Do you plan to? And have you watched any amazing TV lately? Let me know in the comments!

*Every day I’m going to possess strangers and stalk you till you love me*

 

every day love story

So I watched the movie version of Every Day and *wowwww* I had thoughts on it- so rather than doing a review, which would inevitably get me in trouble with book-stans, I thought it would be more fun to do my own honest version of this “super progressive” horrible story- ya know, to get myself in EVEN MORE trouble with book stans 😉 For people that don’t know this book, the basic plot is that a spirit called A takes over a body every day- there’s a bunch of complicated rules for this, but all you really need to know is A can possess anyone in the same age category- which sounds like an okay premise… until you realise it’s YA so there *has to* be a love story. Cos of course. Now you can probably see the problems that might arise here- however for the sake of entertainment (and in case you can’t see the issue), I’ve decided to rewrite this with a relatively sane human being as the female lead (I know, that’s so out there, it’ll  almost make this story almost unbelievable). Enjoy! (or ya know, throw rocks in my general direction cos SATIRE IS EVIL!)

maleficent laughing

Day 1

“Oh hello there, I didn’t see you. Wait- why are you staring?”

“Because I am your boyfriend.”

There is a peculiar glint to his eye and glitter in his hair.

“Er, yeah, I know. What’s the matter with you? Did you dress up as Edward Cullen today?”

He smirks at me, like he knows something I don’t…

“Do you want to skip school?”

“Erm- what?”

“Is this what we usually do together?”

“You’re being weird.”

He bends his head to kiss me and I decide to just go with it- after all it wouldn’t be the first time and it seems like a better idea than talking at any rate. He stops and pulls away, gawking at me with peculiar intensity.

“Can I tell you a secret? I am not your boyfriend- see ya!”

His eyes roll into the back of his head. There’s a gurgling sound in his throat, like rattling chains. Then he looks up at me, the picture of innocence.

“Wh-what just happened?” he asks.

“You tell me,” I reply shakily.

But he does not have an answer.

Day 2

The barrista is giving me side-eye. She seems to gulp several times, perhaps on the words can I take your order… but then she does something unexpected.

“I have something to tell you,” she murmurs in my ear, her voice unnaturally hoarse, her eyes carrying a red glint.

I blink. “Do I know you?”

“You did yesterday.”

“Excuse me,” I say, but the weirdo is already walking away.

I can’t be sure- but I think I see glitter in her hair.

EdwardCullenSunlight

Are you scared yet?

Day 3

I was in Chemistry when it happens again.

“It’s me.”

The bloke in front of me has one of those forgettable faces- maybe that’s why he looks like a total stranger. Or maybe he’s another wacko. I hedge my bets by saying nothing.

“Let me formally introduce myself. My name’s A. I’m a spirit that jumps from body to body.”

“Righhhht,” I say, edging out of my seat.

He blocks my path.

“Oh I know you don’t recognise me. But that’s okay- I know you. I’ve been… seeing you around a lot lately.”

I half laugh. “Next you’ll be saying you’ve been watching me sleep.”

He stares at me pointedly, a red gleam in his gaze.

I kick him in the shin and flee- what else was I supposed to do?

Day 4

A is a girl today. And yes, I’ve decided to just go with the whole A thing- if I’m being punked it’ll make for better TV. Besides, there’s that whole red-eye thing.

“Do you have a type?” she/he/it says.

“I’m not attracted to you,” I reply flatly.

“Who cares! I’m attracted to you. Are you too up yourself to be with me?”

I roll my eyes so far back into my head I feel I must look like the scary one. If only.

eye roll

Day 5

A does not bother me today. Thank god.

Day 6

“I’m sorry I wasn’t around yesterday, the kid I was in was having a lung operation. Wait- why are you running away again?”  

Day 7

I track down one of A’s victims. It was all over the local news: boy wakes up in ditch and claims he was possessed by a demon. They’re saying he’s crazy, looking for attention. I know the truth.

“I think he might have been the devil,” the boy whispers.

“You’re probably right,” I reply incautiously- then look around. I grab a pen and scribble a note in case it’s listening: “It’s stalking me! Send help!”

Day 8

“Do you not like me cos I’m fat today?”

Day 9

“Do you not like nose rings? At least I have a great butt!”

Day 10
ali g

Day 11

“BIGOT!!!!”

Day 12

It’s inside me. I watch from behind my eyes as A stares at my naked form in the mirror. I am helpless, exposed, furious. Perhaps it feels it too. A opens my mouth and screams:

“WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME!”

Mum comes upstairs.

“Sorry, I’m not available to chat right now,” A hisses with my stolen tongue and slams the door in her face.

Boy, am I going to pay for that later.

Day 13

“Look I’m sorry I landed you in a psych ward. I may have taken things too far.”

“It’s okay,” I say, even though my hands won’t sit still. “I’ve spoken to someone about… you.”

“Is this the part where you tell me you never want to see me again?”

I close my eyes, remember what the priest told me and repeat it word for word: “I’m asexual,” I say with as much confidence as I can muster.

The shock is visible on the demon’s face; the red glint and glitter instantly begin to fade.

“Forgive me, I should have a-s-k-k-k…”

But it’s too late. I’ve said the magic words. The gender-bending demon is banished by the supreme power of progressive top trumps. The end!  

curtsey

NB this isn’t a critique of the book cos I haven’t read it and NOT GONNA READ IT- even if you pinky swear it’s better than the adaptation. And, having read reviews, both the book and movie seem to believe that having the protagonist say “but you stalked me and kissed me against my will” somehow makes it a-okay. Sorry, no. Pointing out a problem doesn’t fix it. Ultimately, the creepy spirit violated many, many people’s consent. And no amount of pointing that out is gonna erase it. If you love this book, then fine, I’m sure I won’t convince you otherwise- but, yeesh, this went so far over the line for me. I’ll get off my soapbox now 😉

How (not) to write a book review- for dummies! #likeaboss

(emphasis on the dummies part)

Okay so a while back I did a post about how (not to) criticise a book blogger. And now I thought it would be fun to do a connected post… this time on how to actually write a review! Disclaimer, I do believe in the “your blog, your rules” mantra (phrase courtesy of Drew), but I thought it would be entertaining to address some of the ways we as book bloggers *may make mistakes* (I know, shocker, we’re not all perfect deities incapable of blunders 😉). And if you think I’m letting myself off the hook, this will be a confession post of sorts, cos I’m gonna admit to doing a ton of these!

shocked face

  • spoilersNot putting any spoiler warnings- just lay on all the spoilers! No one will mind. In fact, the best thing to do is to put a helpful tag at the top that says, “this book contains” with all the spoilers. That way, no one will miss it!
  • Don’t tell people what it’s about (*coughs awkwardly*- yeahhhh I’ve done this- though, in fairness, I try to put a one line synopsis these days)
  • I will automatically tell you it’s good because: it’s my taste, it’s got diversity, it’s by a minority/woman/by another human being. In fact, I’m not going to tell any information about this book except give you a laundry list of worthy traits. This is not a review, this is an opportunity to virtue signal.
  • guiltUse lots and lots of exclamation points and ALL CAPS and bold and italicising (guilty as charged of all of these)
  • *Insert nitpicking rant about things that will interest no one but the reviewer or people that read said book and hold the identical opinion* (guilty again)
  • Say something disagreeable and then beg forgiveness immediately after (c’mon we all do it- it’s like a retroactive “no offence but…”)
  • Complain about the book for the entire review- but gotsta get those arcs, so give it 5* regardless! (to be fair, I’ve only ever seen this on booktube a while ago, but it grates on my nerves to this day)
  • guilty judgeJustify the rating to the point of absurdity. Just keep going and going and going- repeating all the points until the reader is exhausted and has no interest in what you have to say anymore (*ahem* yeahhh I have been known to waffle)

Annnnd that’s all I’ve got for now! I’m sure I’ve sufficiently offended plenty of people/exposed my failings to the world- so I’ll let you be the judge now- do you have any awkward blogging faults? Or is your blogging technique perfection? (in which case, TIPS PLEASE!!!)