Thursday, May 03, 2012

Tricking Readers

Here’s an entertaining article on “Three Ways People Are Tricked into Reading Science Fiction”: Three Ways People Are Tricked Is this kind of “trickery” usually a good thing or not? Would most readers agree with the article’s author that they’ve enjoyed a novel or film they wouldn’t normally have tried, or would they feel angry about the “bait and switch”? Personally, I’ve more often reacted with annoyance to the opposite situation, a book whose title, cover, and blurb give absolutely no indication that it contains content I wouldn’t want to miss (say, a unique approach to vampires), a book that I would have passed up without notice if not for an informative review. I have run into some books where I’ve felt irritated at being “tricked,” however. MUST LOVE DOGS particularly sticks in my mind. I knew this novel was “chick lit” but expected from the title, blurb, and cover illustration that the story would include significant content related to, you know, DOGS. If the blurb places stress on the heroine’s personal-ad fib that she’s in search of a dog-loving man, I expect plot complications revolving around her having to fake canine expertise and thereby getting reluctantly drawn into the world of dog breeding, training, etc. Not to have the whole canine motif simply dropped after a few throwaway references. Bait and switch. I sometimes pick up a paranormal romance with a cartoon cover that makes me expect something light and fun, only to find that the cover contradicts the book’s darker tone. To me, that’s poor marketing. The TV series BEING HUMAN had a similar effect on me. From the premise, a ghost, werewolf, and vampire sharing an apartment, I expected a light, fun approach to the theme of “passing for human.” Instead, the program is not only serious but dark, although with moments of black humor. In this case I can’t really blame the show or the network for my disappointed expectations, though; my own preconceptions probably led me astray. In all these cases, however, the book or film was still in the overall genre I expected. I can’t remember ever having read or viewed a work that turned out to be a totally different genre from what the cover or blurb suggested. I can imagine situations where a hardcore science fiction reader might pick up a book that looks like SF but turns out to be, by his standards, fantasy and feeling outraged at the “deception.” A dedicated fantasy fan might react similarly to a story with the tropes of fantasy but a scientific explanation in the background. My husband and I took a risk with our “Wild Sorceress” trilogy (Amber Quill Press). The story reads like fantasy and is marketed as such, but an SF background is gradually revealed in the third book. Have you come across works of fiction or film that overturned your genre expectations, and did you feel cheated or pleasantly surprised? Margaret L. Carter Carter's Crypt

1 comment:

  1. I have no idea why my post is a single big lump. It had paragraph divisions when I posted it. I don't like the new Blogger dashboard setup! Sorry about the run-on paragraph.