I’m horribly late, partly because I slept late, but also because I feel still groggy. In explanation, we have an accepted offer on a house — not short sale — and hopefully will be permanently housed in a month and a half. Early days, yet, but tentatively that’s the plan, and just this is farther than we’ve been since November.
I must have been under a great deal of stress I didn’t even realize, because not only did I sleep better than I have in months, but I woke up late and still feel rather “boneless.” I also actually feel like working, it’s just that all the little stuff getting there (breakfast, admnistrivia) took forever.
So, establish that I’ve been under a lot of stress. In such times I tend towards horror. In the days of the old writers’ group, my friend Becky Lickiss used to say she could tell when I was really depressed, even if I was putting a good face on it, because I always wrote horror. And the darker the horror, the more depressed I was. I’d never noticed the correlation.
Now Horror is qualified, when it comes to reading. I write horror, I can’t read it. Or at least I can’t read straight up horror, with the meaty skulls and snakes, if you know what I mean, or iow gross-out horror is right out. And as for creepy horror, well, supernatural horror can scare the bejeezus out of me, but as someone who grew up with a definite tradition and local stories, most of it just makes me roll my eyes and go “that doesn’t make any sense.”
Most of the horror I read is in fact dark fantasy, and about the darkest is Repairman Jack, by F. Paul Wilson. (Some books are darker than others. And some are terrifying, but the thriller aspect and… well… it’s human wave fiction, definitely, keeps me reading.)
There are some interesting observations on the series, which appears to have been written from several points inward. What I mean is that he started with several isolated stories, which are then tied in into a grand theory or conspiracy or something. Being a writer one can’t help but wonder if he started out with the world built and then went several places in it, or if he simply had these stories and novels, and came up with a world to fit them all into. It doesn’t matter, of course, but as a fellow craftsperson, one is curious on how the thing one likes was made.
I’m not going to go any deeper into Wilson’s work, though at some point there MIGHT be a post about it. I do like it very much.
I will mention in passing that the vaunted craftsmanship of traditional publishers never fails to amaze me. I realized as I was reading the books that my copy of bloodline would not open and kept saying it was licensed to another user (which is stupid. Look, there’s only one user for this kindle. That’s doesn’t even… ow, my head hurts.) After a session with Amazon’s customer service, the problem was fixed and I opened the book for the first time since I first bought it…
And stared at the title page wondering if I’d made a mistake or they had. The title page says this book is By The Sword, another book in the series. I decided to read some of the text before complaining — I re-read By The Sword recently — and hot d*mn the book is not By The Sword, but Bloodline. Which has, atop of it, all the title and copyright info for By the Sword.
I am forever deeply impressed with the craftsmanship and professionalism of the great houses, and the professional care they give to every one of the books contracted to them. This is me, doing a slow clap in appreciation. And for this you charge the price of a paperback for an ebook. Of course. I mean, there’s all that expert help you need to pay and layers and layers of fact checkers and all…
So, where was I?
When I realized I was worsening my depression by reading horror, I decided to read fluffy regency romance. I read a lot of these. I don’t require historical accuracy. I don’t remember most of them a minute after I read them. It’s just something that doesn’t use up brain cycles, but feeds the need to read. I read it usually when I’m writing something COMPLETELY different, so that my writing doesn’t become taken over by someone else’s vision/style.
Now, again, while some regency romances (Heyer!) compare well to any other book of any other genre, most of the field’s production (like any other field. Only regency tends to have happy endings and has relatively less PC bs to fight through) is what could be called “popcorn”. They are not well researched, they recycle plots, the characters are extremely well dressed stereotypes, etc. That’s fine. As I said above, they tend to be relatively “happy” and angst free, and that’s what I read them for.
OTOH I didn’t feel like spending money (none of the better authors had anything out in a series I follow) and I didn’t want something so riveting it ate up brain cycles. So I went to Kull and started looking at the better rated regency romances.
I downloaded one with 300 reviews and something around four and a half stars.
And then I started reading it. By page seven I was wondering if this was written by someone with a cognitive deficiency or just a product of our education system. It told me, for instance, that London was divided into two sections, the High section where the rich people lived and the low section or low town where the “disadvantaged” lived.
I thought “okay, that’s weird.” but decided perhaps the author had thought that she’d fill in stuff later, then forgot in one section. I mean reducing the richness of Regency London to “two sections” was a little odd, as though it were Podunk, population 300, but okay. Give the dog a bite.
By page eleven my eyebrows were attempting to meld with my hairline. This woman described the day of the Baron’s wife and his daughters and started by telling us that every morning they went around and bought all the food for the household, which they then brought home and gave the servants to cook. And, btw, older daughter wonders why they can’t just cook it themselves. After all it’s a family of four. She often sneaks down to the kitchen to cook in secret. (Wait, what?)
There follows a highly unlikely escapade in which the two girls go to a street fair (which sounds rather like a high school carnival) in the middle of the night. yes, in Regency London. Two young girls. Middle of the night. There is a bit of “what are chaperones needed for? We know the way” — chaperones or GPS? We report, you decide — but that’s really not any more egregious than in the average Regency, even /particularly traditionally published regencies. (Because feminism, and girls should be allowed to walk around unarmed, after dark, because men and women are exactly alike, and don’t you go talking of different body strength and ability/likelihood of pregnancy in an age where there was no real way to avoid it, you sexist. We KNOW you just want to keep women down. Eleventy)
Anyway, I kept reading. And then the dark stranger who saves them (of course they require saving. This in no way makes them inferior, you sexist) upon being accosted by the older girl the next morning (She told mom she was going on an errand for an elderly neighbor. Because Regency ladies ran errands to the store instead of sending a servant. Totes) tells her he hates the guys who tried to attack her the night before. As in “I hate those guys.” Verbatim.
The book didn’t go against the wall because it’s Kindle, and kindles are expensive, but sweet mother of pearl, what a mess.
It’s very clear the writer is trying very hard — and failing — to think herself into another time and place of which she had vague inklings through reading maybe a couple of regency romances. She knows the ladies of the family spend a lot of time shopping, and being innocent of any knowledge about the incredibly complex rituals and manners of the time, or of the difficulty of showing up every day in a somewhat different attire during the season, she decided “well, they didn’t have refrigerators. I know! They’re buying the food for the servants to cook!”
Then there is the whole cooking matter. It is clear that this woman is unaware of the difficulties of cooking “for a family of four” using only coal fired (or perhaps wood fired) stoves, and no dishwashers or refrigerators, no microwaves or other conveniences. Particularly when the class of the family dictated they host meals and balls. “Cooking for a family of four” was probably a full time job for at least two, more if entertaining and/or visitors came into it. But I’m fairly sure this writer was imagining microwaves, only more steampunky. And viewed people having servants at all as some sort of social injustice.
We’ll look away at her idea that chaperones aren’t needed and somewhat demeaning in a world where a family’s honor (and sometimes fortune) depended on an unsullied daughter.
And we won’t even mention the serious malappropism of “those guys.”
Instead, I’m just going to remind you that this woman has 300 highly favorable reviews and an enviable rank on Amazon.
And that both she and her reviewers likely vote.
Have a happy Monday!