It’s OK if you don’t love (popular title here). Really!

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So I was recently having a conversation on Facebook about Tolkien’s seminal Lord of the Rings series.  I love books.  Obviously.  Like REALLY love them in an almost obsessive manner at times.  Furthermore, science fiction and fantasy are usually my favorite genres to read.  So, of course, with LotR being the classic it is, I assumed I’d love it.  And I tried to, I really did.  When I began The Fellowship of the Ring, I had such high hopes.  But it just…dragged.  Sure, there were some interesting parts and characters, but I felt like it took the author so long to get to them.  I couldn’t help but feel the novel was made up of long periods of hyper-descriptive inaction, punctuated by short sections of activity that actually held my attention.  By halfway through The Two Towers, when it felt as if Tolkien were taking 20 pages to describe each tree in the forest, I finally gave up.  I put the series down.  It’s hard to admit, because I almost never leave a book unfinished, but there it is.  I was just so bored that I couldn’t put any more time into the series.

I’ve told this story to people at bars and writing group meetings alike when the subject of fantasy novels, LotR, or books one of us didn’t particularly like has come up.  The reaction is fairly Universal – shock followed by horror, and sometimes an insistence that I just didn’t “read it right” (whatever that means), or give it enough of a chance.  In some cases, I’ve even been told that I can’t be a “real” fantasy fan if I don’t LOVE Lord of the Rings.  Which is just silly.  Sure, there’s always the chance I’ll try it all again one day.  Perhaps my tastes will have changed by then.  Just not anytime soon.  Because I have a whole list of other books I want to give a first try, well, first.

As I was relating my feelings on this topic today, I mentioned that I had enjoyed George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire far more than I had LotR.  I personally feel that Martin is not only a more engaging writer, but that his characters possess far more complexity and depth because so few of them are truly “good” or “bad.”  He eschewed the oft-used fantasy trope of the beautiful good vs. the ugly evil, and for that, I sincerely thank him.  Like the majority of us humans out here in the real world, his characters are, for the most part, just doing the best that they can and making the best decisions they know how to make from moment to moment.  I actually find Martin Shakespearean in his understanding of human nature.  I read the entire series twice through long before the television show was announced, and had so much trouble putting the books down that I lost entire nights of sleep during the months through which I was marathoning the novels.  But not everyone is me.

Point of fact, the girl I was chatting with on Facebook admitted, a bit self-consciously, that she didn’t like Game of Thrones.  She said that she found it boring, like I had Tolkien, couldn’t usually remember what she had read when she tried to force her way through it, and even fell asleep while trying to read.  She said that she didn’t usually talk about this though, because she felt she should like the books because they’re so popular.  Like she should be ashamed that she didn’t enjoy it because “everyone” likes it so much.  But obviously, not everyone does.  And that’s fine!  That’s so beyond fine!  In fact, I’d say that’s great news.

You see, there are 130 MILLION books in existence right now.  130 million different stories, distinctive voices, and unique writing styles.  Someone had to write all of those millions upon millions of books, and I think I speak for all writers when I say that I hope someone out there reads my writing as it’s published and connects with it.  Every story-teller hopes to find the right audience for their stories.  If everyone liked the same things in a novel or short story, think of how little creativity would exist out there in the literary world!  There’d never be anything new, nothing fresh or original, because why bother when everyone already knows the story that all humans crave?  And if there were no need for variety in writing, then there would certainly be no need for variety in writers.  And for everyone who loves to write, wouldn’t that be a shame?

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