The Great White Hype
Posted March 2, 2011on:
I write the best books in the known universe. Every word is perfectly chosen, every action is in character, every character is dynamic and well-rounded. My themes and plots are epic in scope, dynastic in depth, and every saga written after me will be compared to me and my work. Come see what the buzz is all about!
I’ve actually read plugs for books that read like this. I don’t know about you, but when I see a series that describes itself as a saga, I put that book down. The Vorkosigan books are a saga, but I don’t think Lois McMaster Bujold or her publisher ever called it that, or that she thinks of it as such. Her fans started calling it that, after the umpteenth book came out. When it was a saga, and they were simply recognizing it as such.
“Come see what the buzz is all about!” I’ll believe it’s buzz when I hear it from someone other than you.
When I read a blurb that says a book is about an ‘epic struggle’ or ‘Mankind’s Ultimate destiny’ or some such, I think, “I doubt that” and put the book down. If I ever picked it up. Usually I see that kind of hype in online blurbs and don’t bother to click the links. Words like ‘epic’ are a bit slippery, though. I have trouble figuring out what makes an epic epic, and whether any of this applies to my own books. I don’t think so, there are certain stylistic conventions that apply, not to mention that epics tend to be narrative and my books are anything but. On the other hand, when the scale of the events in the story is huge, the cast of characters large, the story is described as epic without actually being an epic.
Calling it an epic or a saga doesn’t make it one. Any more than calling a fanged blood-drinker a ‘vampire’ makes it one, but I’ve already said what I wanted to say about that. I have no objection to a little metaphorical sideways slippage, nouns getting morphed over into adjectives, that sort of thing. That’s how languages evolve, after all. But this ain’t little, and it ain’t sideways.
Is there something wrong with calling something what it is?