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24 October 2013 @ 08:31 pm
a reader poll  

This is a general post, but specifically aimed at people who don’t necessarily read fantasy books as a first choice (I know, I know, in my friends, that’s a self-selecting group, but bear with me):

My publishers are looking for what we’ll call “mainstream fantasy”, or books that will appeal to the occasional, rather than the regular, fantasy reader. They’ve cited THE HUNGER GAMES and HARRY POTTER as examples (both of which are problematic, IMHO, as they’re young adult books rather than aimed at the adult market, but we’ll overlook that for now).

So this is kind of a survey: if you’re not a regular reader of fantasy novels, what kind of stories might flip your switch? Or what fantastic elements in an otherwise, say, mainstream thriller, might be appealing? Or, to turn that on its head, what kind of book *do* you like to read, and how might you see a fantastical element worming its way in?

Commentary *very* welcome!

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on October 24th, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC)
My mother might fit this bill: she liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, The Time Traveller's Wife, White is for Witching, and swan_tower's Midnight Never Come, all of which are set in the real world, sort of. She also really liked Dune, though, so isn't against secondary world stuff.

Edited at 2013-10-24 07:54 pm (UTC)
kitmizkit on October 24th, 2013 07:57 pm (UTC)
oh, JS&MN and TTTW are probably *extremely* good adult examples of what they're thinking of, particularly TTTW. (Which I loathed, but nevermind; zillions of people loved it. :)) Thank you, that's helpful!
Mary Anne: pixelpers1stence on October 24th, 2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
TTTW is what sprang to my mind immediately also, as something my book club liked and read.

Another one MIGHT be The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which is somewhat the retelling of Hamlet, but requires the fantastical leap of a dogs having enough understanding to help reenact a play to catch the conscience of a king, among other borderline elements.

Zombies seem to be accessible to a broader audience in diluted form, a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which my book club read a couple years ago when I was the youngest by a long shot, and not much into sci fi/fantasy, although we unanimously hated it and watched Shaun of the Dead instead of having a discussion about PPZ).

Life of Pi, perhaps? lots of fantastical elements thrown in, which may or may not have been allegory.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro was sci fi that went down well with my book club, without being labelled as such.
Mary Anne: pixelpers1stence on October 24th, 2013 08:38 pm (UTC)
The above list came out of thinking about my book club reading list, since the group for a very long was generally MUCH older than I, and very much not sci fi/fantasy inclined.

More recently, the group has gotten a little younger and slightly more inclined to f/sf, although not much. But they're good sports when I inflict things on them outside their comfort zone (graphic novels! classic but surrealist Russian lit! sci fi!)
HL Henriksonveilofgrace on October 24th, 2013 11:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my distaste for TTTW. :)
Mary Anne: pixelpers1stence on October 24th, 2013 11:59 pm (UTC)
I'm not a fan of TTTW either. maybe we should form an un-book club.... :)
Taltaldragon on October 24th, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
not exactly what you've asked but...
i _am_ a regular fantasy reader, but my book group (3 other women) are not. however, they all seemed to enjoy Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London.

i might also recommend Kate Griffin's Midnight Mayor series because they're just silly (fab books that i *devour*. but very silly).

when introducing fantasy books to non-fantasy readers, i'd go for books about ordinary people in recognisable places (ie London), that have that overlay of a hidden world that is _not_ ordinary at all. also books that dont rely too much on sf/f tropes or in-jokes - straight-forward is good.

er. i ramble. but i hope this helps?
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on October 24th, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
I read fantasy as well as many other genres, but I always like a book (whether it is a fantasy, a mystery, Woman's fiction) that has a strong romantic story. And I'm a sucker for a happy ending. Don't know if that helps or not. Also, strong characters trump everything.
angharaanghara on October 24th, 2013 09:14 pm (UTC)
Which publisher would that be?
kitmizkit on October 25th, 2013 07:15 am (UTC)
Harlequin, which is shutting down Luna, its pure fantasy line, and is more or less trying to fit the remaining fantasy novelists into a slot they can understand. :)
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on October 25th, 2013 12:45 pm (UTC)
They're shutting down Luna?! Argh! Half the books I read come from that line. Bother.
kitmizkit on October 25th, 2013 12:52 pm (UTC)
The authors who are still writing for Luna will be folded into either Mira or HQN, it seems. The last Walker Papers will be out under Mira. :)
Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on October 25th, 2013 11:02 pm (UTC)
Bah. I still miss Red Dress Ink.
The Tickshanrina on October 24th, 2013 09:16 pm (UTC)
I am a regular fantasy reader, but The Magicians and The Magician King (which I also loved) by Lev Grossman seem to have found mainstream success. One thing that might have helped them is the way that they are in some ways an homage to the Narnia books, which many people (including non-fantasy writers) read and loved as children. I don't really know how one could replicate that, but the nostalgia hit probably didn't hurt for many. I would have loved them anyway, but the nostalgia was a bonus.
Joliene McAnlyJoliene McAnly on October 24th, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
I like a story that has a realistic world with a hidden world within. Dannika Dark has created a Breed world coexisting with our own. It contains strong relationships and some romance. A story that you feel as if you could step into and relate to. A story that comes to a satisfactory ending. Like to read a story that have twists to the old favorites. Need to get away from vampires and werewolves.
The Angel of Vengeanceesmerel on October 24th, 2013 11:00 pm (UTC)
If you're aiming for 'someone who writes all the books ever', I'd say Dean Koontz - some of his stuff anyway. It's often classified with horror, but a lot of it? No.. Watchers? Lighting? The various Odd Thomas books are fairly real-world with a bit of a fantastical element thrown in to drive the story.

OTOH, I pretty much only read fantasy, so.. :)
Jeff Linderjslinder on October 25th, 2013 01:58 am (UTC)
I'd like to see more along the lines of Keith DeCandido's Precinct Series (crime procedurals in a D+D world, to over simplify).
All Over The Mapjemck on October 25th, 2013 10:56 am (UTC)
Ah right, this is what's currently being called in UK publishing 'high-concept fiction' a label most recently applied to Lauren Beukes The Shining Girls. And yes, this connection with 'the real world' (current or historical) does seem to be a feature, though not of itself sufficient...

If I get any inspirations, I will let you know :-)
Jenn Burkejeralibu on October 25th, 2013 11:55 am (UTC)
I read mostly romance, with the occasional foray into urban fantasy or regular fantasy/sci-fi. I can get a bit intimidated by stories where I need to learn a lot about the world immediately and/or have characters that I can't easily relate to right off the bat. If the world is too alien, or the characters are, it'll turn me off. (Not to say those sorts of stories can't be enjoyable; they absolutely can, but I'm not sure they're the type to grab a cross-over audience, in my opinion.)

I think one of the strengths of Harry Potter is that the reader learns about the wizarding world right along with Harry. He's our gateway and he has the same reactions we do.

Edited at 2013-10-25 11:56 am (UTC)
sisimkasisimka on October 25th, 2013 12:24 pm (UTC)
I love historical fiction. What appeals to me about historical fiction is that it could almost be fantasy. A lot of the elements are the same when you're looking at traditional fantasy, the sort with the medieval type settings. Knights and ladies and dragons.

I also think urban fantasy appeals to a lot of romance readers as it usually has a really modern and accessible setting. It doesn't need to be really out there, but that little difference--the magic or shapeshifters or whatever--gives a little extra. It's not just another love story. The obstacles to overcome are new and different.

With all the fantasy and science fiction seeping into our every day (movies, TV and mainstream fiction), I really don't think there will be a genre barrier for long. Hard Scifi and epic fantasy will always be their own thing, but I think regular readers are open to a little more spice!
Kevennkevenn on October 25th, 2013 12:54 pm (UTC)
I'm not a regular fantasy reader, but I've been reading the witch books of Terry Pratchett's Disc World series and loving them. I like them because the protagonists are atypical - older women on the outside of society, the stories parody other well known stories (i.e. fairy tales, horroe tales, theater/plays), and they are funny and clever.

I also recently read Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean At the End of the Lane," and while it had a slow start, it was a really great story - and again had triple goddess elements to characters of the story. Most of the books I read tend to be about character who aren't neccessarily white heterosexual cisgender males. I am TIRED of reading about them and being inundated with their stories. I'm looking for stories about other people.