Saturday, 25 July 2015

What an earth are you reading? Looks like sci-fi porn!

That’s what I wanted to say when I saw the cover of my brother’s latest read. The sci-fi aspect was no surprise (sci-fi lover through and through is my Big Bro), but the sleazy draping of the skimpily-clad lady with dragon wings over the broken moon did make me wonder what my brother was now in to.

Turns out, she was the God of the Elation galaxy and the last defender of the moons of Zarr. She was a strong, powerful feminist with intelligence and wit, leadership and compassion. All in all, it turns out that the book is more about politics of warfare and leadership and the battle of power between races and sexes. Who knew, the cover certainly didn’t ‘shout those messages’.

So, don’t judge a book by its cover. I get it.

Now I could go off in a whole different direction now, wearing my Marketing hat. I could delve in to the ‘selling the story’ strategies that go hand-in-hand (or should do) with book and cover designs, enabling your biggest marketing tool (the book itself) to call out to the readers that love the genre and those that would love the messages, the ideals, the sentiments in the words hidden behind the cover. But I’m not. Maybe another time, another blog...

I want to talk about the short-sightedness of readers. The prejudice of readers. The comfort zone of readers. Why do we readers read just what we know and like, what is our reluctance to venture into other genres?

Rumour has it there’s been this massive explosion in young adult literature over the past decade. But I’m not a ‘young adult’, so I don’t think they’ll be my kind of thing. Soppy teenage romances and school angst... oh and I heard something about wizards and vampires. Really. Not. My. Cup. Of. Tea.

What a mistake.

Think about it. Think back to your young adult/upper teenage you, your life. This is a time of so much change - physical, emotional, intellectual. The world becomes a far bigger place and life ahead can be a fearful inevitability or an exciting adventure. Politics and religion become topics that actually start to mean something as an individual, and love death and fear become real emotions and experiences. Money doesn’t grow on trees and your parents stop holding your hand. Throw in an array of (adult) genres – romance, thriller, sci-fi, adventure, murder mystery, crime...

Wow, YA has to actually be an amazing discovery to discover.

As 2014 came to a close, I was in the process of changing a number of aspects of my life. Not because of the new year approaching, but just because needs must – financially and emotionally. With the re-jigging of a number of elements in my life, I wanted to read more again, having drifted from the literary path somewhat in the previous years. But I didn’t want to read what I’d read before, regardless of new titles and authors, I wanted to have a form of escape, a form of excitement, a form of adventure, a form of tension, that was all outside my actual life. I wanted to see what was out there.

So I followed a number of blogs by well known and respected book reviewers and I made a pact with myself to just buy every book they raved about, regardless of subject matter or genre (though I can’t quite bring myself to read horror yet though). So as January and February went by, lots of lovely packages of books arrived and I put them in a box and randomly picked one out at a time.

I have now read a number of YA books, the most amazing sci-fi book (having never read sci-fi before), a memoir, a fashion book, a book on bees and a major Hollywood hit. I have been to Mars, college and the beginning of the end of the world. I’m currently in the Netherlands in the last century before I will venture in to space and the actual life of a real astronaut. What a journey. I’ve cried, I’ve snorted with laughter and I’ve stayed up till 2am captivated by the tension. I’ve met characters I love, ones I despised and some that just bored me. I’ve read amazing wordmanship and skipped the pages of some pretty poor writing too.

But I have been on such journeys. Roads I would never have gone on if I had not just opened up my bookshelves and invited in a load of strangers.

No more assumptions. (But still no horror.)

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