Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Terry Brooks and the Haters of Shannara

There's an interesting thread in the Fantasybookspot forum under the heading Overreaction? in which FBS member amberdrake wonders why some genre fans when they

find something that they don't like about an author (be it poor writing, copying others trends, or mass sales) will automatically HATE that person and everything they say, do, think, wear, eat, etc. How do we go from 'I don't like his books.' to 'he's such an idiot.' These do not necessarily follow logically. What is it, jealousy?

Most of the responses seemed to veer away from the original question into a discussion of different authors' unpopular religious or political views and how the things they've written on those or other controversial topics cause a lot of fans to hate on them. As is often the case in these discussions, Terry Goodkind and Orson Scott Card were set up as exhibits A and B. No arguments here. Both authors have written/said some stuff that is out there, although Goodkind may be in a class all his own. Regardless, I think the point of the original point was lost, or at least misplaced. Here is the response I posted:

I don't know that I've ever read any type of review/blog/rant where dislike
of the work is expressed as outright hatred for the author, but I have been
amazed at the amount of scorn that is regularly heaped on Terry Brooks in these types of forums, as well as blogs, etc. I even caught a derogatory reference in one of the panels at Readercon.

Now I'm not a huge Brooks fan, but the The Sword of Shannara was one of the first fantasy novels I read after The Hobbit and LOTR and I absolutely loved it. Granted, I was ten years old at the time, but it remains one of the few books that I will go back and reread. Sure its derivative of Tolkien, but what epic/high fantasy isn't? As a boy I loved the story and the characters and maybe I'm biased by sentimentality, but the last time I read it(probably 8-10 years ago)it stood the test of time for me.

To borrow Amber's original thought, I'm curious what all the Brooks-haters
out there really hate about the guy. He's a perennial best-seller, so I can't be
the only one here who has something good to say about him. Is it the writing? Some perception that he is undeserving of his success? I'd really like to know.

After further consideration, I've decided that the hate has to stem from his popularity. After all, there are plenty of awful fantasy novels out there (I've never been able to get through even one of those Weis and Hickman books!) that languish in obscurity and quickly fall out-of-print with little to no comment from the fan base. I guess it just galls some people that Brooks is more popular than most of the critically acclaimed genre authors--e.g., Gene Wolfe and China Mieville. I can understand that. But the popularity of certain books has always amazed me. Have you read The Da Vinci Code? Its awful! But millions love it. Go figure. The difference, in my opinion, between Dan Brown's mess of a novel and SoS is that SoS is actually a good book, and I never see that acknowledged anywhere, which is a real shame. The original Shannara books are at least as good as the first Riftwar series, and I never see Raymond Feist's name or books slammed in the same manner.

I think another part of it is that, at least among the most vocal genre critics/reviewers/gatekeepers, the epic fantasy subgenre has lost much of its allure. I get that too, because I'm the same way. I'd rather read a good urban fantasy now than another farmboy-on-a-quest series. But that doesn't mean I need to disregard the books that got me into the genre in the first place. Despite the fact that I gave up on Brooks after the fourth or fifth book (Brooks could never match the magic of the first two books) in the series, SoS and even The Elfstones of Shannara will always hold a special place in the heart of my inner child.

Friday, August 10, 2007

You have got to be kidding

I've been a big fan of AMC, the American Movie Classics channel, for a long time. True, I pine for the days when they actually showed classic films--the old black and white gems from the 30s and 40s--but they still show some good flicks from time to time. And their original programming isn't bad either--I liked the first season of Hustle and I've seen a couple episodes of Mad Men, a show set on Madison Avenue in the 1950s. You would think the channel airing a show about the advertising game would have some concept of what makes a good ad. You would be wrong. Whoever is doing AMC's promos needs to watch their own series.

The tag line for the August promo is "Long live cool" or something like that. They show some iconic images--Clint Eastwood in his poncho, cigarillo hanging from his lips; Steve McQueen in Bullit; Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider; Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Ummm...what? Yes, AMC is comparing that horrible Sharon Stone/Gene Hackman travesty of a "western" to some of the classic cool movies of the 60s and 70s. I mean, come on! There is no doubting the star power of that film. Hackman (in one of his worst roles ever,) Russell Crow, Leonardo DiCaprio--even Stone (quick, name a decent Sharon Stone movie besides Basic Instinct. Can't be done.) But the movie is terrible. There have been some good westerns made in the last few decades (Silverado, Unforgiven, Open Range) but this is not one of them. Come on AMC, no matter how you edit that ad, trying to compare The Quick and the Dead to those other films is just slapping lipstick on a pig.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Welcome to the world, baby!

Not that anyone is reading this blog anyway, but I've got a pretty good excuse for the gap in posts: my wife gave birth to our daughter over the weekend! With four big brothers, this baby girl will be well (probably over-) protected. We've been pretty excited for the arrival of a girl into our House of Testosterone--none more so than her mom. She had pretty much come to terms with the fact that we would never have dolls or Easy-Bake Ovens (do they still make those?) in our home. Still, when she figured out she was pregnant this time there was just the tiniest spark of hope in her eyes.

A few months ago when we went in for an ultrasound and the doctor said he was 90% sure it was a girl, we were both stunned. My wife overcame the shock quickly and spent the next couple of months buying every pink baby item she could find. Seriously, our house looks a bit like the epicenter of a Pepto Bismal-bomb strike. I continued to be skeptical until a few days ago when I got to hold a living, breathing baby girl that moments before had struggled her way out of the womb. It was amazing.

So that is my excuse. I really do plan on writing some reviews of books I've read recently. I'm afraid I don't have the benefit of ARCs or review copies of forthcoming publications, so I'll just be reviewing the books I'm reading. Some will be new (or fairly new) releases and others will be backlist titles. For instance, I'm currently reading Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney. I'm about 180 pages in so far. It is definitely interesting, but I don't think I've gotten far enough to make up my mind about its classic status.

I'm really going to try and do more regular posts--at least three times a week. Thats my goal anyway. We'll see how it goes.