All Things to all People is Nothing to Anyone

Food for thought from another blogger’s review.

“Flotilla is crossover apocalyptic science fiction that fans of Blade Runner, Star Wars, the Hunger Games and Firefly will fall in love with.  This is a story that will bring hard-core sci-fi geeks, teens and adventure fans together.” This is the quote taken directly from all retailers in reference to Dan Haight’s novel Flotilla, a story that follows the teenage Jim as he goes through life on the Pacific Fisheries Colony D…”

This kind of  “If you like X, you’ll like Z” can be viewed in many different ways. We’re served up recommendations on so many sites that it’s become a virulent meme that can inspire new and hopeful writers to try the same technique. It gives the impression that the author (and it is the author’s claim) really doesn’t know sh-t about science fiction because the four titles listed are so dissimilar to each other that they might as well exist in different universes. And given that all four titles are movies (though Hunger Games is originally the first in a series of books), it’s possible that the author believes all science fiction should be modeled on movies. Finally, it leaves me with the feeling that 1. The book is nothing but a mashup of themes from various sources and will have little to offer anyone who’s looking for originality, and 2. The author hopes that the glow of well-known titles will somehow rub off, simply by mentioning them.

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5 thoughts on “All Things to all People is Nothing to Anyone

  1. I think the intention of the author was to suggest that his own book has *elements* from the books and movies listed. I’m sometimes guilty in my own few reviews of comparing a work with other books or movies. I do this to give the reader a frame of reference within which to think about the book I’m reviewing, and yes, I hope the comparison will help sell the reviewed book. Buyers tend to work a vein of interest looking for more books like the ones they have already enjoyed. You and I, Catana, are more cerebral types who are always on the lookout for originality, but for good or for ill, most readers don’t approach their reading choices in this more sophisticated way.

    Your remark about the author believing all science fiction should be modelled on movies is very apropos. I think films do influence many of today’s writers. Any cheesy SF movie has far more market penetration than even the best selling SF novels. When I read recently published works, I often see elements taken straight out of films. Jim Graham’s mining camp in *Scat* owes a lot to Outland, for example.

    “Blade Runner” is based on the Philip K. Dick novel *Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep* (1968). Dick’s dystopian vision of the future has influenced an entire generation of SF writers, some knowingly, others by osmosis. I consciously write against this trend. My SF stories and lone novel (all, alas, as yet unfinished and unpublished!) take a positive view of how things will turn out. However, most writers seem to prefer the “world is trashed” or apocalyptic vision of the future. Given the popularity of Star Trek, this one-sidedness is surprising, but nowadays there is a strong taste for the dark side of life in the West. As a culture, we seem to be fearful and pessimistic. As I have said, I write against this.

    1. I have no problem with a comparison for the sake of a review, but that’s very different from trying to relate your own work to four completely dissimilar sources.

      I agree about the fear and pessimism. But there’s good reason for both. There are difficult times coming up and every indication that those with the power to alleviate some of the problems will do nothing that hurts the bottom line. Dystopian SF can offer some hope; apolcalyptic SF offers nothing, unless you think we’re going to be able to get off the earth and find new places to destroy, or that the aliens will come save us.

    1. I’m not criticizing the book itself, though I did read most of the sample and thought it was just okay. Everyone has different tastes, so it’s great that you enjoyed it.

  2. Hi Catana, I loved Blade Runner, liked Star Wars, won’t be reading the book. The blurb or whatever it was, just left me feeling cynical about the wirter’s motives and in no way inclined to try to novel.

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