Harping back to the Bujold GoH speech at Denvention , she made some really interesting comments about romance readers versus fantasy readers, and how she could tell from their remarks re stories they had read (the same stories), which side of the fence they were coming from.
Below: some of her insightful comments, in no particular order – do read the whole speech! Remember, she uses SF to mean both fantasy and science fiction:
The SF crowd seemed tone-deaf to the emotional developments so important to the Romance crowd, and the Romance readers in turn seemed to be blind to the world-building concerns of the SF readers. …
For any plot to stay central, nothing else in the book can be allowed to be more important. So romance books carefully control the scope of any attending plot, so as not to overshadow its central concern, that of building a relationship between the key couple…
In fact, if romances are fantasies of love…I would now describe much SF as fantasies of political agency...
Romance and SF — would seem to be arm-wrestling about the relative importance of the personal and the political.
She then goes on to say that literature is an escape from the chores of life, and “book heroes don’t usually spend a lot of time doing chores. Not on the page, at least.”
And she noted with some bemusement that her books “with upper-class casts of characters sell better than my books with middle-class protagonists.”
So that set me thinking about two separate issues:
Firstly, do I think that the central backbone of fantasy (let’s not include science fiction for a moment) is usually political agency? (I don’t think anyone would argue that the relationship of the two key characters is the backbone of any romance).
And secondly, does the need for escapism for a fantasy reader also lead them into loving stories of the upper-class better than others – perhaps because there is less of an element of mundane things – like chores – in such tales?
So my question to you is this:
- do you think the politics and political system of most fantasies is the all important backbone of the story which must take precedence?
- do you prefer stories about rulers and/or the rich and influential, to stories of the more mundane folk? Do we only like the goatherder because he ends up being the long lost prince?