Monday, May 7, 2012

I'm not easy to sell to.

I tend to have strong opinions about the media I consume. This is a geek trait; we tend to care a lot. If I reckon a book was particularly good, I'll recommend it to friends. Similarly, if a TV show, or a movie, or a computer game, strikes me as being above average, I'll usually recommend it to friends both offline and online.

My friends do the same for me. Unfortunately, I have another common geek trait: hype aversion. I tend to see particularly enthusiastic fandom as hype, which is what led to me missing out on Firefly for several years (the other factor in that being people trying to sell me on it as wonderful by invoking the name of its creator, Joss Whedon; unfortunately, of everything he's done that I've seen, Firefly has been the only thing I've enjoyed. Telling me a thing is wonderful because a person whose works I dislike created it doesn't exactly have the ring of success) and no doubt I'm missing out on other things because of that.

I've been trying to notice this tendency in myself and counteract it. For instance, I did make sure that I read the Dresden Files before deciding whether or not I liked the series (sorry, fans; it failed to grab me.) I tried hard to treat Inception as simply a movie, rather than as a hypemonster. Inception, however, failed for me on accessibility grounds; I was unable to see anything through the excessively dark cinematography, unable to hear anything on the soundtrack consisting of whispered conversations over explosions, and unable to read the subtitles due to a technical issue beyond my control. Being hard of hearing, I have more than usual difficulty discriminating sounds; with the mix of most modern films, subtitles are almost essential for me.

However, the best way to get me to show interest in media is simple: don't sell it to me, explain it to me. Don't tell me that it's the best thing you've seen all year, tell me what you enjoyed about it and why you think I might enjoy it. Don't tell me who created it; names come with baggage. Joss Whedon attached to a project predisposes me to think that it's unlikely to be enjoyable for me. Ridley Scott predisposes me to think it will be to my tastes; but you can't be expected to know that.

As an example of what I would like from media recommendations, here's one: the Black Company series of books. They're a gritty look at fantasy warfare from the front lines. The characters are believable and diverse, the writing style is well-developed (and changes noticeably as different characters take on the role of narrator; the books are presented as though they exist in the universe being described, and are written by characters within that universe) and the plot is complex enough to pass for real life. They're praised by military veterans for their realistic portrayal of the feel of military life. I can highly recommend giving them a try; they're commonly available at secondhand bookstores, so there's little risk in doing so. They've also recently been collected in omnibus trade paperbacks.

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