the Little Red Reviewer

Long term author love

Posted on: September 2, 2011

I’ve been on a GRRMartin kick lately.  You know, Sandkings, Nightflyers, Song for Lya, a friend of mine lent me (the novel and the graphic novel!) Fevre Dream, which I’m a little embarrased to say I’ve never read before.

One of these days I’ll re-read my way through book 4 of Song of Ice and Fire, I promise.

I was blabbing about Martin over the phone with my Mom the other day (Hi Mom!), and she asked if she should pick up Game of Thrones sometime, since it’s all anyone’s been talking about. Before I could even start envisioning my mother reading all that sex and violence stuff, I blurted out “No!  Let me lend some of his older short stories! I think you’ll like them better”, and that was that.

There’s nothing better than an author with a multi decade long oeuvre.

But what happens when an author strays from their usual?

As a reader and genre fan, what’s your reaction when an author writes in different genres either over time, or all at the same time?   love it? dislike it? don’t care?

I sure was surprised to find that one of my favorite historical fictions (The Walking Drum) was written by a guy who is famous for westerns. And that one of my favorite contemporary fiction books (The Sun, The Moon and The Stars) was written by a guy famous for a long running fantasy series. I tried the westerns and they didn’t do much for me, but I’m now a huge fan of Vlad Taltos and worry that Brust would have a hard time selling anything non-Vlad.

When recommending a genre-hopping author, do you recommend certain series, or specific titles within a genre?  When exploring a genre-hopping author that’s new-to-you, will you stick to a specific genre, or look at everything they’ve ever written?  Some authors make it easy (Robin Hobb, I’m looking at you!) by using different pen names for different genres.  Others, like Joe Lansdale, not so much.

Eh, just something interesting that popped into my head.  I think I’ll lend my Mom Martin’s Dreamsongs, and she can see what she thinks.

and yes, I almost titled this article “me love you long time”.

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9 Responses to "Long term author love"

You really should have titled this “Me love you long time”. That would have been perfect!

I’m not sure I have any examples of authors who write across genres that give me pause when recommending their work to others, but I certainly have beloved authors who give me fits when I think of what to recommend. Neil Gaiman tops that list.

My favorite Gaiman novel is Neverwhere. I am well aware that it is my favorite partially because I read it when it first came out and had only read Sandman to that point and also because there is something about it which reminds me of daydreams I used to have when I was young. It is a very personal thing. The more objective part of me would say that American Gods and The Graveyard Book are better crafted books. Which only makes sense, he had grown as a writer. Do I recommend my favorite, the book I love dearly, or do I recommend books that I love only slightly less dearly because of my assumptions about the person I am recommending him to?

Then comes the second layer of trouble, which you touch on with your A Game of Thrones question: adult content. I sing it from the rooftops that I love Neil Gaiman. Yet I would be appalled if some of my friends and family decided to pick up American Gods to try out Gaiman’s work. One of the very first scenes, if not the first, has a man getting swallowed up in a woman’s vagina. How do you explain that to your mother? LOL!

Another is Gaiman’s excellent short story collections, that are filled with mostly stories I would recommend to everyone and yet every so often have a story with visceral violent imagery or dark sexual imagery that doesn’t really sit well with me and is certainly not what I would want certain friends or complete strangers to read first.

Sometimes I wish my favorite authors were more predictable, but the reality is that I am glad they are not. The reason Neil Gaiman has written so many stories that make me glow with satisfaction every time I read them is that he allows himself to be open to new ideas and new avenues of creativity. I ultimately love that.

But some stories make me embarrassed of that love.

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I’d give my Mom American Gods a hundred years before I gave her Game of Thrones. I think she’d be OK w/American Gods because all the characters are adults. and it’s not like GRRMartin’s older stuff isn’t full of sex, but again, all adults making adult decisions.

I do have to be careful recommending things, as apparently I can handle more dark stuff than most folks.

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I actually had Fevre Dream out from the library last year for RIP, but I never got a chance to read it. I should try again at some point…

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with all the other stuff clogging my reading pile, I sure hope I can get to it before my friend starts asking for it back!

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I read just about everything, so I’m usually happy to follow my favourites from genre to genre. If I like their storytelling, I want as much of it as I can get my hands on. It sometimes takes me a little longer to move from one genre to another, though; for example, I never formally decided to work my way through Eva Ibbotson’s historical romances before I tackled her children’s ghost stories, but that’s how it’s gone down.

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The most prolific genre hopper out there has got to be Dan Simmons. This guy has written horror, science fiction, fantasy, hard-boiled detective, and his unique stand-alone pseudo-historical novels. I just saw his latest book at Borders, which looks like a near future political thriller. We haven’t seen the likes of someone like him since Frederic Brown.

Not just a dabbler, he’s produced horror classics like The Song of Kali, Carrion Comfort, and Children of the Night. His SF and mystery series, the Hyperion and Hard Case books ( respectively) have won awards.

His historic books are really unique. He takes real history and then jumps off in wonderfully speculative directions, like Hemingway’s Key West years (Crook Factory), Custer’s last stand (Black Hills), and Dickens’ final book (Drood). The Terror, based on an unsolved mystery of ships that were lost looking for the Northwest Passage in the mid-1800s, was one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years. It had elements of historical non-fiction, nautical and arctic adventure, and even horror all rolled into one.

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One author who really strayed was Pierre Boulle, I think he only wrote the two books. One was the original Planet of the Apes (if you haven’t read it, do so and be amazed. I’m not even much of a sci-fi fan, but I loved this) and the other was Bridge on the River Kwai. They don’t come much further apart than that.

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I’d agree with Anon there that Simmons hops genres all the time. But I’d stay away from Flashback, really didn’t like it.

I’m always prepared to give an author a go, not matter the genre they write, but then again I do read different genres with no problem. Other people prefer to stick to something in particular. I think with a reader like that I’d give them a warning.

I really must get around to reading some GRR Martin at some point.

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I’m late to this post, but I’ll chime in a couple thoughts anyway… My favorite authors tend to be very reliable in genre and quality, although a few favorites have had a couple books that convinced me they were geniuses, and then never quite achieved that again. One of my favorite authors was wonderful for a decade, then went into a steady decline. He’s incredibly prolific, so it’s easy to see, although I didn’t realize how clear a pattern it was until I looked at his bibliography chronologically (rather than just snatching whatever the library had). As to genre-hopping, I was shocked to find out that an author who wrote a lovely, beautiful, gauzy Cinderella-retelling is best known for writing mystery novels. It is a bit disconcerting.

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