My husband and I have been talking about ways that this current insanity is affecting what sells.
Look, escapism is always a seller. But it seems to be selling better. I know that in my own reading whatever the h*ll we’re in the middle of is affecting my reading.
Now, my stress reading is profoundly stupid, unless it isn’t.
What I mean is that I have bad habits when I’m under stress. They’re not even “escaping” so much as “soothing.”
It makes perfect sense when you consider that when I’m stressed I default to “bland, near tasteless and vaguely sweet” food. This is a big problem when we are low carb for health reasons. Because my favorite go to stress foods are in order: popcorn dusted with sugar instead of salt (Portuguese do it that way); oatmeal, creme brulle and marshmallows.
Yes, I do in fact realize this is a profoundly unhealthy diet. How I didn’t die the year older son was born, we were unemployed and on the edge of being homeless, I’ll never know. I remember the day I made something like 40 meringues, then ate all of them and was vaguely nauseated afterwards.
Nowadays mostly it involves wanting yogurt and cauliflower rice, which frankly is extremely pathetic for sinning. But it still works for extreme stress, because what I am doing when extremely stressed is trying to avoid strong emotions. Of course, this also has a serious problem with writing, but that’s something else. For me to hit the point I can’t write because of the emotions is MUCH higher than the point at which I can’t read.
So, anyway, that’s not escapism. Except in the sense that it’s Sarah trying to escape all sensory and emotional input, crawl into a hole and pull it in after myself.
For instance, I read pretty much everything in a normal time, from popular science books (because I’m not good enough to read science/science for most of them) through various kinds of genre fiction, history and on–
When I’m stressed my reading restricts just like my food choices do. It goes through phases. I know I’m in trouble, for instance, if I become “stuck” in Jane Austen fanfic. I know there’s stress, edging towards depression. It is considerably worse when I then fall through JAFF and into Disney comics. The terminal phase of this, when I should be put on suicide watch is when I start reading true crime and can’t pull up. If I stay in true crime for more than a month and can’t pull up — and if my family knew about it, which they don’t — they should be dragging me to psychs. (Look, so far I’ve always pulled up, and the longest I’ve stayed stuck in true crime was three months. And no, you don’t actually want to know what was going on in my life.)
I have, however, lost years of my reading life to Disney comics. And I’m now close on to a year in JAFF. I’ve had excursions out of it, but not for very long, because, well, it’s just too much work.
Lately, I’ve been hitting spots where I peek above the fox hole, and I want …. something. This is more or less what happens when I have eaten all the meringue and — supposing I’m not completely nauseated — start thinking “you know what I could use? Something savory.”
So, yeah, Dan and I have been talking about these things. Mostly because what he does, when I do “I’m crawling in a hole and pulling it in over my head” is actual, for real escapism. The funny thing is that we do this on KU (don’t worry. At the rate we read, we’re costing them money) and for some reason, my husband’s reading shows up in my recommendations. Which is how these conversations begin.
It started with “Honey, are you seriously reading witch PI books?” (Not that Mrs. JAFF can throw stones, mind you.) And it was pretty clear it was escapism for him partly because he’s amused how these women are writing essentially “grown up Harry Potter with female magicians.”
Okay, fine. Then he progressed to thrillers and is now in science fiction, and this led to us talking about how escapist fiction is doing better than ever. For instance, a series he was reading has all the standard tropes of science fiction you could ever dream of, from the really great sentient dolphins who came from space to–
Anyway, this got me thinking about what I consider escapist, the places I loved to escape to.
Heinlein goes without saying, and Pratchett also goes without saying though escapism is easier with some books than others. But others came to mind that I escaped into when I got out of extreme depression. For instance in the early nineties, I pulled myself out of a deep hole with Simon Hawke’s Time Wars, which make no sense whatsoever in terms of world building, but were great fun.
Two years ago, I pulled myself to sanity with Prince Roger which had — somehow — escaped me so far.
Oh, yeah, and 2015 was the Dresden Files.
However I have to tell you in my heart of hearts what I actually crave is escaping into space opera. Something that tastes like Time Wars or Prince Roger.
(And no, Prince Roger doesn’t “taste” mil sf. It is, of course, but what it mostly is is “exploration of new lands while character comes to terms with reality.)
Both of them, incidentally, have individuals facing up to monumental problems and getting through. Not without cost, but getting through.
This is not precisely a request for things to read. I find I kind of have to stumble into my escapist reads, usually sideways and backwards.
BUT I need to write my own escapist stuff. My mind is full of books that have to get out.
Of course life keeps interfering: in the last two days we bought a new dryer, mostly because I’m starting to avoid doing laundry because it’s a drum circle; and we have contracted for major work on the house. Work we knew needed to be done, when we bought it, and which needs to be done fast before we sell.
So, if I disappear from this blog from a day or two, don’t panic. At least not if I’ve answered some comments or posted on social media.
Because if I get a few clear days I’m going to escape.
And then you can escape too 😉