As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an awful nerd who plays World of Warcraft. It is, in fact, the #1 way I interact with people I don’t know. Spending several hours in a voip server with 25 people you don’t know very well can be a harrowing experience, especially if things are going badly and there’s a lot of downtime while we wait for the main tank to get back from his 25th cigarette break. This is time I like to fill by recommending books.
See, I think that the number one reason people don’t read isn’t that they don’t like to. Most people like books just like they like any story medium, they’re just used to thinking of reading as a pleasure activity, and there’s very little out there in the way of book advertising. Book reviews are generally in newspapers and tend to favor literary, “good for you” books. Genre review websites are generally aimed at people who already like reading for pleasure and are looking for something new. However, there’s not much for people who are nerds, but just don’t know there’s fantasy out there besides Dragonlance and LotR. This last category especially applies to WoW players.
So, as someone who plays WoW and thinks books are awesome, I take it upon myself to spread the word. I tell people about awesome books I’ve read, and why they’re awesome. Generally speaking it works out well, and I actually get tells from people asking me for more book recommendations. The other day, however, I encountered something that sent me into furious nerd rage. I was in a raid that had stalled out, (imagine 20 bored people between 18 and 35 sitting at the computers with nothing to do, chatting over on screen text and via headsets), and I was passing the time by talking about Tim’s Marla Mason series (gotta give a shout out to mah peeps!) which I’ve been reading and loving. People were interested, as they usually are, and then this total ass (who’d been an ass all night, but that’s another story) opened his mouth.
“Fantasy is boring,” he said. “It’s all stereotypical dragons and elves.”
Needless to say, I couldn’t let that slide. Someone was wrong on the internet. But, as I laid out all the dozens of amazing, interesting books that did not fit his blanket statement but couldn’t be classified as anything other than fantasy, I realized something I hadn’t really thought about before.
It is an amazing time to read fantasy (or spec fic, or scifi, everything really!). Gone are the days of fantasy novels being the sole purview of the nerd in the corner. Thanks to videogames and other popular media that openly embrace fantastical elements, fantasy is cool again (maybe for the first time?). But even better than mainstream acceptance of the genre are the amazing stories coming out of fantasy authors. I mean, we’ve got Neal Gaiman, Ellen Kushner, Sharon Shinn, Naomi Novik, Jeff VanderMeer, China Miéville, Sarah Monette. We’ve got Harry fricken Potter. We’ve got the whole New Weird movement, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, epic fantasy, we’ve got subgenres we can’t even categorize. I walk into a bookstore (or, more likely, cruise over to Amazon) and I am literally stunned in place by the amazing variety of fantasy I can read. Sure there’s stuff I don’t care for, but the point is that there is just so much awesome out there, so many amazing, interesting, unique, inventive books, it’s almost impossible not to find something that grabs you.
In the end, I managed to convince the asshole to give Jeff Vandermeer’s Veniss Underground a try, since he said he liked Bioshock. I’ll probably never know if he read it, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is that somewhere in the wide world are 20 people who now know there are awesome things happening in the genre. The good word is spread a little further, and that’s good enough for me.
So, in the spirit of the post, what are you reading? Give me more books to be excited about!