The Emperor Has No Clothes! - When you just don't get the hype

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Thor, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. ChrisW

    ChrisW Banned

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    Hrm, all the hyped/buzzed authors that i've read in the last few years I've enjoyed. Lynch, Abercombie, Rothfuss and Ruckley have all become must buys for me. Rothfuss in particular. Guess I'm just easy to please:) I don't actually listen to the hype content but if a name is mentioned enough i'll give it a go so mb my expectations arn't inflated by hype. I just want to see what all the fuss is about and add my 2 cents.;)

    Going back awhile though, Perido Street Station for me was a complete waste of money for me.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2008
  2. Neffalathiel

    Neffalathiel Obviously up to something

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    First thing that came to mind (and I think I've seen it mentioned somewhere else in this topic) is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. Ghaw. That was aweful. I couldn't finish it. In fact, I think I stopped reading about halfway through, about 50 pages after I figured that the exiting part was not finally beginning after all.

    And, of course, the usual suspects (although you should also know that I tried reading these when I was younger and only read translated work, which is terribly bad here in The Netherlands):
    - GRRRRRRR Martin
    - Feist
    - Goodkind
    - Zimmer Bradley

    I actually thought of retrying Goodkind, but I'm a bit reluctant to waste money on books that I might not like. Especially when I know that I did not like them before.
     
  3. Starson

    Starson Registered User

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    Hype is something that I avoid at all costs. Not the books & authors that are hyped, but the hype itself. I had actually never heard of Patrick Rothfuss or Name of the Wind until I went into a bookstore, saw the paperback on the shelf, read the back cover and bought it. Beacause of this, the hype had no effect on me and I enjoyed the snot out of this book. I wasn't even aware of the fact that it was a series until i reached the last page, & swore out loud that I'd have to wait.

    I learned my lesson about hype many years ago with China Melville's "Perdido Street Station." Everyone praised the hell out of this book. I thought, "it must be wonderful!!" I was dead wrong.

    I learned my lesson about hype a couple of years ago with Donaldson's "Convenant" series. It praises were sang from the highest mountains. I read the entire first trilogy in one long weekend. Afterwards, I felt my time would have been better spent digging a ditch with a spoon.

    I learned my lesson about hype a couple of years ago with anything written by Neil Gaiman. Other than "Stardust", which almost doesn't count, I found eveything he wrote felt like a bad smell permenantly stuck under my nose.

    I have actually found my "hype" experiences to be so profound that I have a hard time actually trying some the authors recommended on these threads. I am sure I would be missing out on many novels and series that I would truly enjoy, but I am tired of spending both time and money on novels in which the hype was nothing more than the subjective opinions of people who share a wide variety of tastes. (Not an insult, merely a point of fact.)

    Now that I think about it, I can't think of a single novel or series that I have picked up solely on hype and thoroughly enjoyed. I picked up a first edition "Game of Thrones" thinking it was historical fiction before I knew anything about it. (Just think how much that book would go on eBay!!) I read HPatSS before it became popular based solely on the blurb on the cover. I read Hobb before I ever came to this, or any other web site. I also notice that many of the authors I do read, most on here dislike (Goodkind, Douglass, etc.) So, I guess that means most of your "hype" sucks!! ;)
     
  4. Irrelevant

    Irrelevant Registered User

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    I will say that one problem with hype is that it's generated by people who genuinely like a book or author. Take Perdido Street Station, which I like, though I admit there was something off about the dialogue. Nevertheless, a lot of people like the book and are going to recommend it thereby creating more hype. In other words, popular books are popular for a reason.

    Someone earlier mentioned that he was told Martin's work was the greatest fantasy ever, then said he'd only put it in his Top 20. Now if you think Martin is over-hyped but still fits in your top 20, unlike Perdido Street Station, which doesn't even make your top 100, imagine how many people place Martin right at #1 in comparison to Mieville.

    It makes sense to me that people place Martin so highly. Very few people actually hate his work and you're only going to out of your way to talk about an author if you love or hate him. No one goes out of their way to say he's ok.
     
  5. Ranke Lidyek

    Ranke Lidyek Guest

    Interesting thoughts here. I think the distinction between hype and buzz is important. What readers think of a novel is buzz, while what the promotional, marketing blurbs drum up about a novel in advance, is "hype"--in other words, people with vested interests trying to sell books. I have no problem with buzz, even if I disagree. I have a problem with dishonest, hyperbolic hype--it does no one any favors except the author and publisher (initially).

    Your second statement about Martin brings me to my second point (where I criticize hyperbole and people complain that these things are purely subjective; they are not). Good writing is identifiable--and so is poor writing. Sure, tastes play into the equation (generally when overlooking flaws), but when a novel is flawed on basic, objective levels, then it is fair for a reader to point it out. There are real, quantifiable faults in Lynch's first novel and to Rothfuss' Name of the Wind, flaws that exclude them from "classic" consideration or even "best fantasy in 30 years" hype. Even fans of these novels admit this. Does that mean that people shouldn't "buy" them? Not at all! There are flawed books I love. People willing to overlook those flaws certainly should go out and buy those books. Few novels are truly "classic", and some manage that status inspite of their flaws for a select audience.

    Now, Martin, by most accounts, can arguably figure into the upper echelon of fantasists (though I contend he's not so much a fantasist as a deconstructionist; and the spate of historical buffs masquerading as fantasy authors has begun to hurt the genre, in my opinion, just as the recent bevy of scientists has drained the life from science fiction). While I don't think Martin's the greatest fantasy writer working today (and certainly not "ever), with the exception of his disappointing last novel, I can objectively point out that he's certainly a worthy candidate in any discussino of the best fantasy novelists/series. I might not agree wholeheartedly, but I can understand the sentiment and the logic behind it.

    So, I argue that judging authors is not that subjective--not when one understands fictional craft (and more people do than most will admit). I haven't read all of Perdido Street Station (pertaining to your Mieville comment), but I do find that many people feel that Mieville doesn't write characters so much as situations and doesn't write stories so much as social allegories--all of this is fair criticism and it would certainly turn me off from his novels. That, and his prose is very mannered and not as "stylistic" as many claim. Style should be transparent, a tone that serves the story rather than distracts. From what I have read of him, I felt distanced from the story itself and that's where my first complaint would fall. However, I reserve the right to change my mind should I ever finish one of his novels.

    Either way, I think this is an important discussion. I have no problem with hype if it FITS the novel involved. There ARE books that deserve the hype. And there are those who do not.
     
  6. RAD

    RAD Registered User

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    C.S. Lewis. I can see why he'd make an impression on young, unformed children, but his romanticized totalitarianism, celebration of death, hatred of humanity and contempt for and dismissal of all human achievement and intellectual curiosity that can't be harnessed to the service of his all-encompassing worldview are definite turn-offs. As is his targeting of defenseless young minds. A story's not a soapbox.

    But he's got some skill with words and for beautifying his ideology with the borrowed feathers of other myths.

    I feel much the same about LeHaye, Jenkins and their ilk.

    And those Twilight books from Meyers make my skin crawl.

    Not too fond of Philip Pullman either. The third book of the His Dark Materials trilogy was a major letdown. The storyline strayed all over the place and the established characterization and plot points all fell apart. Ditto the soapbox comment. His preaching gets dull after awhile.




    Vote Kellhus in '08!
     
  7. molybdenum

    molybdenum Analyze That

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    Here is what's frustrating me about what you're saying, Ranke. You are talking as if flaws in a book are objective, and that everybody sees the same flaws in books, and places the same importance on these books. You claim that Name of the Wind is obviously flawed, and there's no way, in the history of the universe, anyone can ever consider it the best book they've read in the past 30 years because of these so-obvious flaws.
    People see flaws different ways. Something you see as an obvious flaw, someone else might see as a strength. The editor in question claimed that this book is the best she'd read in 30 years. Could she be lying? Certainly. Is she lying? As soon as someone reads her mind and tells me that she was lying, then I'll believe.
    Whether or not the statement is completely true, the editor must have held the book in very high regard. A well respected editor such as herself cannot make such a claim about every book she publishes, or even more than a couple. I think it's entirely possible that she either saw the things you saw as flaws, and said they were strengths, or they really weren't very important to her. I could give you a list of flaws for every book I've ever read, but I still have personal favorites.
     
  8. Bear

    Bear I eat fish.

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    Who gets to decide that? You? Critics? Popular vote?

    And are you implying that classics don't have flaws, and that's what makes them classics? I can point out plenty of classics that I think are intensely flawed. Doesn't stop them from being classics. And what about a book like Catch 22 that did not fare so well at launch but, in paperback form, became a hit, with people discussing it and referencing for years to come with no real marketing push. The initial reviews were very mixed, with some critics saying it was too flippant and heavy-handed, but others claimed it was terribly witty and deft in execution. But who was right, and when?

    I disagree with what your saying here. I do think there is objectivity in writing, but it doesn't reach much further than grammar and punctuation. Style, content, thoroughness on particular subjects -- just about everything else is subjective.

    As for classics, I'd argue they develop that status by simply outlasting. They make a splash with the people of the time, then continue to be purchased, recommended and discussed for long after. They pass the test of time. Sort of like slang. Some words are only around for a few years, but the ones people won't drop and continue to use long after their conception eventually find their way into dictionaries.
     
  9. Ranke Lidyek

    Ranke Lidyek Guest

    I respect your opinion. Here's why you're wrong.

    If you were correct, then every film ever made would be flawless (no grammar or punctuation there, my friend). You CAN judge a work based on things other than punctuation (it's called structure, dialogue, plot, stimulus/internalization/response, characterization, etc.--things that are harder to "see", but things that experienced readers and especially writers are privy to). NotW is OBVIOUSLY flawed. Read it again and think on these things (grrr, I hate having to pound on one novel--a novel I enjoyed, actually).

    One: lack of stakes (stoned dragons as your climax?). Two: the third person was spotty and redundant (if I hear Bast try to fellate "poor" Kote one more time--we GET it already!--this served no purpose and diminished Kote's character). Nothing interesting happened until about page 200. The opening was amateurish. Three: the pace was too slow with too much repetition. Hit your mark and move on. It's a tenet of screenwriting that can and should be applied to prose. Yes, a PLOT is important, folks. Four: Kvothe is a "Mary Sue" (he does EVERYTHING better than everyone else and most of the other characters aren't even foils, but "furniture" for Kvothe to sit on). My main issue is that great writing consistently does one thing: make every word count. NotW failed in this regard.

    I'm not implying that classics are flawless (I think no work truly is), but they DO possess outstanding characteristics that make them rise above their flaws. However, most classics don't have quite so many flaws as NotW. Do I think Wolheim lied? Honestly, YES. No way in hell she hasn't read a better fantasy in 30 years. It's a ridiculous statement. I sure have.

    Do I think NotW is a bad book? Hell no. I enjoyed it, for the most part. And I'll buy the second novel. I do understand why people would recommend the book. I feel people should buy it myself. But I'm not going to say with a straight face that it's a "classic novel or the best fantasy I've read in 30 years" because it simply isn't. Instead, I'll enjoy it for what it is. A good, sometimes very good, novel. What's wrong with that?

    So there you go.
     
  10. Avi_stetto

    Avi_stetto Initiate

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    As a media professional, I think this example's flawed. Films do have an incredibly nuanced grammar about them that's been developed over the history of cinematography. It's just a different iconography than those we see in literature that's made of lighting, colors, edits, pacing, dialogue, and mis en scene, just to name a few points. One very much can judge a film based on its own grammar and punctuation, but you have to judge within the language that is used. One example of a bad movie, in my mind, is Bu San. The pacing is terrible, there's no real plot, it's colors are overly dark, and the editing is just mindless. I'm judging it not just on a good/bad scale, but I'm looking at the technical merits of the piece to form my opinion.

    On the topic of books and hype, I've never been terribly impressed by Neil Stephenson's work in general. I typically find the stories to be quite enjoyable, characters are practically smothered by the world building. Also, many of the plots that he writes feel too large for one volume. He crams so much in that character development and natural feel in the pacing is lost on me.
     
  11. Ranke Lidyek

    Ranke Lidyek Guest

    But, you mention plot in there. Many of the grammatical (technical) elements of filmmaking are less known by movie-viewers than the elements involved in prose, which are seen. The "grammatical" elements in film are unseen, for the most part. They are "technical". The STORY (and style) are the director's and excluded from judgment or consideration according to Bear (and others). This does not equate to grammatical criticism in literature as a more apt comparison to grammar in filmic terms would be "composition" within a scene (framing), lighting, etc. Those are elements that "set" the world within the framework--they are not encompassing of the script or the story told within (in most cases). The argument Bear made prior to this is that one cannot judge story--only grammar.

    It's patently absurd.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 29, 2008
  12. Hide & Reason

    Hide & Reason Registered User

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    Classic status doesn't mean flawlessness. Beethoven's ninth symphony has an overlong finale, and Tchaikovsky's Manfred symphony's finale is piss-weak.

    What makes a piece of art timeless, or emblematic of its times or genre, is that its strengths make the faults dissolve into irrelevance.
     
  13. Fruitonica

    Fruitonica Registered User

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    To think that you can objectively judge a novel (or any art form) is pure arrogance. Any criteria you set for the judging will be inherently subjective based on what you value in a text.

    To judge something objectively it must be concrete fact. If you are an objective judge then you are essentially declaring yourself the arbiter of good taste, and that anyone who values texts differently from you is wrong.

    I disagree with your assessment of Mieville writing situations not characters, I found with characters to be generally well rounded and interesting. I guess my opinion is wrong, huh?
     
  14. Ranke Lidyek

    Ranke Lidyek Guest

    Apparently there is an issue with reading and comprehension on your part. I'm not saying one person is the ultimate arbiter of taste. I'm saying you CAN quantify good writing (though it's easier to notice the bad). Yes, there are some things (usually tied to thematic elements or authorical conceits/devices) that are more subjective, but writing can be analyzed on many levels, just as critics analyze films.

    People like you want to say there is no difference between good writing and bad (if your argument is carried out to it's inevitable conclusion). I say that's ridiculous. Certain tenets of good (or bad) writing exist; it has NOTHING to do with me at all. I could care less if you agree with me on anything. In reality, I'm probably more forgiving and less likely to catch flaws in many novels as I want very much to enjoy the journey, but I'm not going to sit and dismiss fair criticism of any work, even my own.

    However, criticism doesn't mean one isn't allowed to enjoy a novel. It depends on what, as readers, we're willing to overlook.
     
  15. dsw13

    dsw13 Registered User

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    I think you meant 'I couldn't care less.' Your post, my friend, is no classic. ;)
     
  16. Joe Abercrombie

    Joe Abercrombie Registered User

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    If I've learned one thing in the last five years it's that the way in which different people read, the things they value or enjoy or consider 'good writing', vary to a degree you wouldn't think possible. Truly, one man's meat is another man's poison.

    Ranke,
    It just isn't true to say that there's such a thing as objectively good writing. Or that there are some kind of hard and fast rules which define what is good writing or bad. There are guidelines at best. Even the word you yourself pick, 'tenets' is usually defined as a belief generally held to be true (and that by a specific group, often a religion), not a universal fact at all. Of course you can read a book, analyse it, hold strong opinions about it. You can support those opinions with perceptive observations to the point that they become highly compelling, maybe make others question their own opinions. Sources that you regard as authoritative can all hold the same opinion about a certain piece of writing to the point that it becomes extremely hard to convincingly disagree. But they remain opinions.

    Everything you've presented about The Name of the Wind is an opinion. To look at one of your assertions specifically - that nothing interesting happens until about page 200 - that is self-evidently an opinion. There is no objective measure of what is interesting or not. Likewise your assertion that great writing must always 'make every word count'. I absolutely agree with the principle, but again to somehow say that there is an objective measure about whether a given word counts or not is absurd. Some degree of repetition can be hugely valuable and hugely effective, under the right circumstances, though when exactly it is or is not justified is ... a matter of opinion. I'm not necessarily disputing any of your assertions about the book, but you ARE, in effect, saying that you are the ultimate arbiter of taste, because you are explicitly presenting your opinions as fact. You are saying that there are incontrovertible rules about what is good or not, and you know what they are.

    But even if one accepts that all your opinions are definite flaws, how significant they are, and whether one considers them to disbar the book from consideration as a good book, a great book, or the best book of all time, is ... totally a matter of opinion. Ultimately whether a book follows any kind of 'tenets of writing' is utterly secondary in deciding whether it is a good book to entirely indefinable factors like whether we relate to the characters, enjoy the voice of the author, find the dialogue convincing, the setting compelling, and so on. I believe what Betsy Wolheim said (and I'm not totally sure) is that she thought Name of the Wind was the best DEBUT fantasy across her desk in the last 30 years. But whatever she said, I don't see how the fact you disagree comes anywhere near to making her a liar.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2008
  17. PeterWilliam

    PeterWilliam Omnibus Prime

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    Having followed the thread thus far, and re-reading it a couple of times, I would have to agree with Ranke Lidyek. He's clearly stated that he finds the book in question to be good, enjoyable and a strong recommendation to others. The statement that this particular work is a "classic novel or the best fantasy I've read in 30 years," is a rather bold testimonial that Ranke, not only, disagreed with, but also clarified with legitimate analysis and reasons. The particular items he elaborated upon (i.e. dialogue, characterization, et al) hardly seem to be as vague and nebulous as some seem to be stating.

    It isn't all just a matter of taste or opinion, it can't be. One cannot take a project graded poorly upon such characteristics back to the professor to argue matters of taste and opinion. How could these forums be so full of detractors of Goodkind, Eddings, Feist, Lackey, et al, if it were only matters of taste and opinion? I suppose it could just be, in generous terms, consensus opinion. It not so generous terms it's usually called 'group-think.'

    Ultimately, yes, people are capable of deciding what they like and want to read. This has little, if anything, to do with the particular discipline of writing, as one of Ranke's detractors already noted with a cheap shot regarding the absence of a comma. In every human endeavor, there are varying degrees of skill displayed, but I remain convinced that an honest evaluation can discern the greater from the lesser, despite concerns of taste and/or opinion.

    I will purchase and read Rothfuss, with/sans hype. I, as I've already posted, have no concerns about any 'hype.' After all, 'there's no such thing as bad press.'
     
  18. dsw13

    dsw13 Registered User

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    If this was directed at my post, I'd like to point out that it was meant in jest, as indicated by the lovely winking and smiling fellow at the end. Other than that, I actually agree with most of what you said, so I don't know that it's fair to call me one of the detractors. Also, it was an apostrophe used in changing could to couldn't, not a comma.

    If you weren't referring to my post, nevermind. :D
     
  19. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Buzz....Hype....Reviews?

    Interesting, isn't it, that frequently great reviews of literature are diametrically opposed to the arc of the books' long term sales. That tells us something, doesn't it? I wonder if that's true for both buzz and hype as well.

    Hype is promotional. Doesn't mean much, other than that the author has his publisher's support, fans or money.

    Buzz is unquantifiable. What makes Paris Hilton news worthy or not? And whatever that is, doesn't make her beautiful or interesting or special. Yet sometimes, buzz is directly related to the quality of it source material. But again, that's so very personal.

    There are elements that make something special, good, better and best. Mabye we don't always recognize the yardsticks we use to measure our likes and dislikes. That doesn't mean we don't use them subconsciously. Bad writing can be more easily characterized. But sometimes a great story overshadows even that. There are so many elements that go into making a book great. Have you read Hobb's Assassin series? Is the writing brilliant? Is the setting unique? Is the POV the best one to write from? Maybe the answers to the above questions are all 'no'. Yet, the books are compelling and interesting and memorable. And they struck chords with countless readers. So what yardsticks are Hobb's fans using? (I'm one of them, BTW)
    To answer my own question, I find them entertaining. And if I were to write a review of them, I'd emphasize that above all else. They're not profound. There's little depth of thought to them. In a way, they ring as YA more than adult, not for the lack of depth (lots of YA books are significantly deeper) but by virtue of the vocabularly and thought structure. Yet the characters leap off the pages and are memorable.

    My books get reviewed really well. Still, there's almost no buzz about what I write. Readers who do buy them seem to thoroughly enjoy them. I don't have a big publisher hypeing my work, and there's no advertising behind them, no promotion, no mainstream publications like PW touting them or even looking at them. My publisher doesn't submit them for review. So the hype isn't there prior to publication (or after for that matter). Without hype, it's often hard to get buzz. Well placed, effective hype should technically yield buzz. At least the P/R departments of TOR and Baen et al like to think. People need to know about a book to start talking about it. Can anyone really figure buzz out? Mieville was fantasy's darling for quite a while. Merited? If so, by what yardsticks? I would venture to guess that those who love China, don't generally love Goodkind and Jordan. Maybe Bakker and Erikson. Or Vandermeer?

    We have ways to evaluate literature, and we use them all the time. They're just not as clear as counting or measuring speed. And they're very emotional and subliminal in many cases. But when we express our opinion, something's at work in our brain helping us do that.
     
  20. Erfael

    Erfael Lemurs!!! Staff Member

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    As a classically-trained musician, I find this whole discussion to be extremely bizarre. I can see no really reasonable way to distill any work of art, be it aural or visual or a combination of both, down into quantifiable bits in order to say Work A scores such-and-such on the scale and so is better than Work B that scores something else...

    I've performed in thousands of concerts and attended just as many. I've seen technically perfect performances that have completely lacked soul and left me cold. I've seen performances that were riddled with "problems" but which also had a fire or intensity to them that make them stick in my mind years and decades later.

    There's an aspect to any art that goes beyond the mere technical aspects of it. I agree with you that those technical aspects need to be up to a certain basic level of proficiency before an artist can effectively connect with his audience. That's why in early music lessons or writing classes or art classes there is much talk about the hows and the rights and wrongs of things. But few of these things, as one moves into higher levels of an art, are hard and fast rules. They're a starting point, but they're not the be all and end all of a form of expression.

    I found Rothfuss's book to be just fine on its technical merits. The writing did what it needed to do. And I, for one, found that the things Ranke listed as problems with the book, didn't bother me at all. I was completely engaged from page 1. The draccus encounter was a strange plot diversion, but I didn't find it to be a glaring writer's gaffe. Looking at discussions at non-SF centerd sites and looking at reviews at Amazon, it appears many people really liked the book. He must have done something right, and it must have had something to do with the non-technical aspects of the book.

    Reading Ranke's posts, it seems like if we were to follow these few simple rules every book would be a blockbuster. They would all be perfect examples of books. I wonder why it is publishers haven't figured this out yet. Seems like a cash cow.

    I don't know that I'd call it group-think here. Those of us who are here at SFFWorld are here because we have a certain level of interest in fantasy and because we find likeminded people here to discuss books with. We have disagreements and we have different tastes, but if you go to a different message board you'll find a different tenor to the conversation. Different books will be bashed, different books will be lauded. Honestly, if you were a diehard Goodkind fan and loved everything about his writing and weren't interested in any other fantasy (and there are plenty of these people), would you pick SFFWorld as your forum of choice? Probably not. Don't make the mistake of taking SFFWorld as a completely representative example of the fantasy-reading public.

    All I have time for now, and no chance to go back and see if any of it is too rambly, so if something doesn't connect, forgive.