Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thoughts: Target Audience

Some time over the last five years I slipped from one target audience group to a wholly different one. It's no real mystery how this happened. I went from college-and-working to little-kids-are-work. Yet the change in my reading tastes was slow and subtle, and so it was only recently that I noticed the absoluteness of it.

I grew up on epic science fiction and fantasy. While I have always enjoyed stand-alone novels more than a 10 book series, my tastes still leaned towards the intricate detail of worlds not our own, whether they be the Time Tombs on Hyperion (Dan Simmons) or The Land, a possible hallucination of Thomas Covenant (Stephen R. Donaldson). These are books where immersion and a dictionary are both key. One such book I had picked up four years ago, adored, and only just now got a-hold of the sequels. I loved it so much that I mailed it to a friend for her to read, then years later had to ask her the name of the book because my memory would never deign to hold such a trivial detail (ha). The book/series is "The Ill-Made Mute" of the Bitterbynde Trilogy by Cecilia Dart-Thornton, and it was my first introduction to such things as seely and unseely wights.

The problem with re-reading this book is that I no longer have the patience for such exquisite detail, nor for a meandering plot. The books that I enjoy now are generally YA because I revel in the shorter format, in plots that get to the point, and (I thought I would never say this!) worlds more closely based on our own. My life style is so different now than it was when I would keep a list of words I didn't know on my bookmarks and look them up later. Now, I must be prepared to be interrupted, and that means that I need a little more direction from the author in terms of "this here is important" versus the "well isn't this a nice world-building sidequest". It is partly the baby brain, yes, but it is also a different perspective on life. Now every waking minute is a minute that I could be "doing" something, like playing a game with my kids or loading the dishwasher. This creeps into my recreation, too, so that I expect my books to always be "doing" things, or three things all at once. Jump off that galloping horse and unto the next plot point, thank you very much! Sometimes I don't even need to know what color the horse is. And while I still love for the protagonist to visit alien realms, I also appreciate it when exposition and description of scenery can be kept to a minimum, such as with urban fantasy. Lawdy, I never thought I'd be pleased to read a vampire adventure romance!

I haven't entirely lost my reading roots. I'm enjoying the Bitterbynde Trilogy, just not as much as I would have back then. There's a bit more speed-reading involved. And, to be fair to my current self, who is coming off as a bit of a ditz, I remember thinking even back then that a page-long list of imported goods coming in on the air ships is a bit much. When I get to these parts, my words-per-minute is that of a sprinter rather than a marathon runner. (Did any one else skim bits at the end of LOTR? Any one?). Some day I hope to also read the end of the Thomas Covenant series, which is just now drawing to a close. Sadly, the last time I tried to catch up, the dense vocabulary and amazing level of concentration required was beyond me. I set the book aside when, in chapter 3, I opened up the book and got through a single paragraph before the baby started to cry. I still love these books, but I get it. I get why some people wouldn't even bother, and will never bother, and would rather pick up something less ponderous. And I like being able to read three YA genre books in the same time it would take to read one epic fantasy.

So, I'm crossing off most of my old "to read" list and catering to my new interests. Let it have time travel or dragons, but let it also be quick and fun! Bring on the summer fey and the werewolves and the things that make Harry Dresden grumble about the White Counsel in his sleep.

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