Niche-ism (Nichism)

There’s a darned interesting column written by Steve Davidson over at the fine Grasping For the Wind blog of John Ottinger. Both Steve (his blog is here) and John are what I term major SF-F fans (Steve more just SF) and both are worth a look any time, but I think this one warrants the time of any genre fiction reader, as it applies equally to science fiction, fantasy or mystery.

Take a look: Nichism

Also, I’m not going to have a Friday Forgotten book for you tomorrow, been too busy to finish anything that qualifies. I’ll be reading the other posts, though.

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8 Responses to Niche-ism (Nichism)

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I thought this was particularly true: Big publishers develop ‘lines’ and get self-referential in their promotional copy (if you liked X, you’re gonna love Y – it’s THE EXACT SAME THING YOU ALREADY READ – only by a different author).

  2. Richard says:

    Yep, that one hit a note with me too. Not that sometimes I don’t like to read a book similar to a good one I just finished, and I do like to know if something falls in line with my tastes and preferences, but pigeon-holing can be a bit much, sometimes.

    I must say it helps me to some degree, as it eliminates things from my consideration, such as books labelled “urban fantasy” and “steampunk”. What I don’t see used much anymore is the term “hard SF”.

  3. Thanks for mentioning this post Richard.

  4. Evan Lewis says:

    Thanks for dropping in to drop the Nich., though.

  5. Thanks for the tip. Interesting column.

    Those “rocket” books as I used to call them got me interested in SF when I was just a mere lad. I, of course, have my favorites in whatever I’m reading, listening to, or watching. But I’ve always been one to try something new. I never worried about labels. If I liked the cover, it sounded interesting, I gave it a whirl.

    Yes, I’ve been stuck with some dogs, but also with some new groups of favorites I might never have tried if I relied on these new labels.

  6. Richard says:

    John – you’re welcome. Your blog is a daily stop on my rounds.

    Evan – next you’ll be talking of good old Saint Nich-olas… or maybe that won’t be until December.

    Randy – Yep, those “rocket” covers were my signpost too, and covers did play a huge part in my selections, then, and still do, though to a lesser degree.

  7. Todd Mason says:

    Of course, one of the characters in the much-missed PARTY DOWN thought he was a keeper of the flame for what he called “hard sci-fi” in film-scripting…

  8. way cool Richard, thanks for reading and recommending!

    These days not only remind me of The Space Merchants, but also of a scene from (if the brain is retrieving correctly) a story entitled “Micromegas”; every person the world over lived entirely inside a little box, into which they brought the world; completely isolated and completely filtered. (Kind of Dickian/Persigian if you think about it.)

    So much of our society these days is (overly) influenced by the filters we’re employing. (If, for example, the ‘pigeon hole’ for genre literature demanded quality of writing over “mass-market potential and appeal”, would Twilight ever have seen print? or would everyone be gushing over, hmmm, something by Le Guin, lets say; would her works be the ones getting the movie deals, annual calendars, games; or is it impossible to raise the least-common denominator through selective marketing?)

    Cable Television: if Walter Kronkite and his contemporaries were still delivering the evening news – would there be a Tea Party? A “birther” movement? Would a Santorum or a Palin even be on the radar screen?

    This all ties in to a vast dynamic of which I think I am only touching the edges: because people are ‘able’ to draw in such a vastly larger amount of information these days, there is a demand for “content”, and a concomitant desire on the part of marketers to “choke” the pipelines with their content (overwhelming their competitors), which demand lowers the average quality of the content (at least in my opinion). IO9 (is) wants to be the top dog in the sf/f/comics/superhero/geekery slot. But go and look; how much of their daily flood of content is actually meaningful information for folks interested in those subjects? I don’t see one single reference to the academic side of things anywhere (such as SFRA); almost all of it is a combination of train-wreck voyeurism and time-suck “infotainment”.

    Back in the early 80s when the concept of “edutainment” first came to the fore, there were two paths we could have gone down: emphasis on quality of content utilizing new and interesting methods of delivery (both formatting and technology) or emphasis on method of delivery and technology with some information thrown in to justify the effort. We (society) went the latter path and, because it pays, it now dominates and will likely never go away.

    If you think about it, the final and inevitable consequence of all of these threads is “you” being “told” what you will like and want. You’ll never need to shop for anything again as the data-mining services will have automatically determined your future needs, ordered for you, debited from your account for you and shipped the items off. And, rather than saying “hmmm – I really don’t like sausage all that much – there must be a mistake” you’ll say “hmmm, I guess the overmind has decided that I like sausage. Wow, I really like sausage….”

    In other words, this is a much bigger picture than just genre fiction pigeonholing. It has the potential of confining us inside those little boxes, the walls of which are made from floods of information that we’ll never be able to break out of.

    Articulating this while other projects are on going makes for choppiness, so I’ll finish with this: they studied how a frog’s visual system worked as they had determined that it didn’t seem that frog brains could effectively process all of the incoming data. They discovered a filter; if an object wasn’t “fly-like” in its dimensions and movements, whatever it was got filtered out and never reached the brain.

    I think we’re all voluntarily installing frog-filters in our brains.

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