You can’t please all of the people all of the time, an old sage once said. And you can’t be all things to all people. Books are like that too. No book, no matter how brilliant or witty or marvelously written it may be, can appeal to everyone.
That’s because we are often looking for different things at different times. Sometimes we want serious fiction, sometimes humour. Or you may be in the mood for something light and fluffy. Mindless escapism. Crime drama. Or a spy drama. Or a steamy romance. Fun-filled adventure. To help the reader find the sort of book they are looking for, books are classified into different genres, and within each genre are categories and subcategories.
‘Hard’ sci-fi or ‘soft’?
Take, for example, my own specialty: sci-fi. Within that broad genre there’s serious “hard” sci-fi. One of the key promises within that category is that it will stay within the boundaries of real science. The Martian is an excellent example of this. All the science and technology portrayed in that novel is real and current. Then there is space opera. In space opera you get to make up your own science, and use fantastical made-up things like worm holes, time travel, warp drives, alien civilizations, and so on. Star Wars and Star Trek are very obvious examples of this genre.
A good book, regardless of its genre and category, will deliver on the promise that’s inherit within its category. And publishers put a lot of time and effort into coming up with titles and covers for books that will give customers a good feel for what can be expected between the covers.
Judging a books’ intention by its cover
I think my publisher, Franklin Street Press, did a great job coming up with the covers and titles for the two books (to date) in my Jack Winters Detective Series, which is about Jack’s friendship with alien coffee smugglers who have come to Earth looking for coffee.
I think the covers and titles of my books make it pretty obvious – there’s nothing series here folks. This is not ‘hard’ sci-fi. I’m all about mindless escapism, frankly. I get enough “serious” drama from my day job and reading the news.
Looking for ‘hard’ sci-fi in all the wrong places
But there’s just no pleasing some people. No matter how brilliantly witty the title and cover of a book may be in accurately portraying what a reader might expect between the front and back cover, some people still manage to get it wrong.
Recently a reviewer on Amazon criticized “Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte” for not being very plausible. I kid you not. This reviewer also said that as sci-fi, it was a bit too “soft”. Now, that’s funny. Was this reviewer seriously expecting “hard” sci-fi with a plausible, realistic story line when they picked a book with a title like this, featuring an alien holding a steaming cup of coffee?
Relaxing, humorous, and definitely not ‘hard’ sci-fi.
I wonder what his first hint was that this wasn’t hard science? Perhaps it was the cover with the picture of an alien holding a cup of coffee? Or was it the title, “Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte”? Or maybe it dawned on him in chapter 21, when Aunt Beatrice complains about alien visitors landing their spaceship in her cabbage patch. I don’t know, but it’s hard to grasp how anyone could pick up a novel with such a title and cover and expect anything other than fun-filled escapism.
A good book delivers on its promise
I don’t mind being judged on the basis of what my books are intended to be. But being criticized for something the book was never intended for is just plain silly. He may as well criticize my book for not having any good recipes for baked lasagna.
I think my novels deliver exactly what you might expect from the kind of covers and titles I’m using. There’s no subterfuge here. It’s beach reading escapism at its best. I like to think of my novels as modern day dime novels. Fun filled adventures in space.
We all need to take a break to recharge and relax
We often turn to forms of entertainment to relax, recharge, and take a break from the seriousness of work and daily life. Dime novels came into vogue during the American Civil War, arguably some of the darkest years of the country. People needed a break from the horrible news, and TV hadn’t been invented yet. Dime novels provided an affordable form of escapism. During the depression people snapped up cheap “pulp” fiction and went to the movies. They needed the break.
That’s what myself and other authors writing similar books are trying to do. Provide light-hearted escapism. We need it these days. I can’t remember a time when the news was so consistently depressing and awful on so many different fronts.
If you are looking for light-hearted escapism, you’ve come to the right place. If you want serious, hard sci-fi with “plausible” story lines, that’s not what I do. You won’t find it here.
That’s my rant for the day.