I like to consider myself a pretty diverse reader, but there’s always been one big exception to that rule. I have never been a fan of the epic fantasy series that span tens-of-thousands of pages, and often come with many years of anxiety-inducing publication delays. (I spent many years worrying that J.K. Rowling was going to be assassinated before finishing Harry Potter. I don’t need more stress like that in my life.)
It’s not that I don’t like fantasy across the board; I just have limited patience for sprawling arcs with hundreds of characters with weird names to keep straight. More power to those of you who love them, but they weren’t for me. With all the buzz of late around Game of Thrones, though, I started to debate whether I should break my long-standing rule against watching movies or TV series before reading the books.
I asked my sister and brother-in-law, fans of both the books and the show, for their advice. My sister, always on the lookout for ways to make me suffer (as all the best siblings do), immediately informed me that I should read the book first.
But I saw an opportunity here. You see, much as I discount doorstop fantasy series out of hand, so too does my sister avoid sci-fi television at almost any cost. So I made her a deal: I would read her beloved Game of Thrones if she would watch my beloved Battlestar Galactica. Both were stories that we’d assumed we wouldn’t like, despite the near-universal love of our friends. This would be a good opportunity to expand our horizons and challenge our assumptions about what we would and wouldn’t like. We made a few specifications: I only have to read the first book, she only has to watch the first season—we agreed that at that point we could make informed decisions about continuing.
So I read the book. And it was really long and there were too many characters and there is just so much description. That’s really where I fall down on these kinds of books. I don’t visualize anything when I read (which always freaks people out—it’s not just me, I swear!), so all that description is just words on a page to me. And when those descriptions are about 50% of a 700-page book, the words on the page begin to look suspiciously wall-like.
On the other hand, the story was pretty compelling, and I liked the entire book a lot more than I’d expected to. I don’t think I’m going to read the rest of them, at least not until the series is finished, because I read about the endless delays and I don’t really want to spend fifteen years worrying about George R. R. Martin’s health. But I’m pretty excited about the show, where two pages of description can be covered in a single establishing shot, and actors’ faces will go along with the many names (not visualizing is a real detriment to keeping huge numbers of characters straight in my head).
We watched the Battlestar Galactica mini-series on Saturday, and my sister only sort of liked it. But I’m going over there tonight to watch the first two episodes of season one, which is where I got completely hooked. I’m crossing my fingers that it will have the same effect on her. Even if it doesn’t, though, I’m hoping that the experience will help her understand what it is she doesn’t like about that kind of show.
I spent a lot of time on Twitter talking about what it is I didn’t like about A Game of Thrones, and it’s made me more articulate about my reading style and preferences. Maybe I didn’t come out of this deal with a new appreciation for a genre of books that many of my friends love, but I did end up with a better sense of self-awareness. There are worse outcomes stemming from deals with your sister, I figure. I’ll keep you posted on her end results.
Do you have any definite blind spots in what you choose to read/write/watch? Do you stick pretty closely to your preferred genres or do you branch out from time to time? Share your reading style and preferences below, and fill us in on the genres you make assumptions about…and maybe consider making a deal with someone to try something you don’t think you’ll like.
Image by Flickr user Jemimus.