Three Reasons Why “Low Fantasy” Is Better Than “High Fantasy”

[Note: Since I prepare these articles quite far in advance, it can be surprising how much my opinions can change between writing and publication. Basically, at the time of preparing this article, I was still a relatively inexperienced reader of the urban fantasy genre (and was perhaps a little less aware that it has it’s own set of tropes and cliches too) .

Since then, my attitudes towards the fantasy genre have become a bit more nuanced (especially since finding books in the dark fantasy and magical realism genres). Still, I’ll keep this article (albeit with a couple of small edits) for the sake of posterity even though it doesn’t really reflect my current opinions and seems a bit naive and simplistic when I read it these days.]

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One of the interesting things about getting back into reading regularly a few months ago is that I’ve ended up reading a lot more fantasy fiction than I initially expected. Unlike some other genres (eg: sci-fi, horror, detective fiction etc..), my relationship with the fantasy genre is a lot more of an ambiguous one.

On the one hand, it’s been a genre that I’ve loved from an early age (eg: I used to watch “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” enthusiastically, I read “Fighting Fantasy” gamebooks, I played computer games like “Heretic“, I read “Harry Potter”, I collected “Magic: The Gathering” cards and enjoyed the “Lord Of The Rings” films etc.. when I was younger).

It’s also a genre that I seem to drift away from and return to regularly (such as my “Game Of Thrones” phase a few years ago). Plus, a couple of my favourite types of music also have an association with the genre too (eg: symphonic metal, power metal etc..). Yet, I’m much more likely to derisively think of fantasy as “silly”, “over-complicated” etc… when compared to my other favourite genres.

However, a while before writing this article, I happened to read a Wikipedia article about “Low Fantasy” and it was something of a revelation to me. I suddenly realised that most of my criticisms and misgivings about the fantasy genre applied to high fantasy (swords & sorcery, Middle-Earth etc.. type fantasy) rather than low fantasy (eg: fantastical stories set in, or involving, the “real” world).

So, here are three of the reasons why low fantasy is better than high fantasy:

1) Variation and imagination: One of the really cool things about low fantasy is that it sometimes includes a lot more variation and imagination than high fantasy does.

For example, urban fantasy can include elements from other genres alongside more traditional fantasy elements – such as vampire thrillers like Jocyelnn Drake’s “Nightwalker“, horror story arcs in Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics and sci-fi elements in both novels like Lilith Saintcrow’s “Dante Valentine” series and computer games like “The Longest Journey” and “Shadowrun: Dragonfall“.

In addition to this, low fantasy will sometimes use the tropes of the fantasy genre in a much more creative and imaginative way than high fantasy traditionally does. Since these stories can’t rely on the traditions of the high fantasy genre, they have to come up with new and imaginative ways to meld the fantastical and the mundane. They can’t just rely on the old tropes of swords, castles, knights, heroic quests etc.. for their stories.

As such, not only does low fantasy have a lot more variation between stories – but it also means that the fantasy elements have to be imaginatively different too. In other words, you’re much more likely to see intriguingly different variations of the fantasy genre in low fantasy than you are in high fantasy. After all, if a low fantasy writer has to come up with a plausible way to meld the fantastical and the mundane, then they’re going to have to use their imagination…

2) Shorter stories: Yes, some low fantasy novels are giant tomes (Clive Barker’s “Weaveworld” and Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” spring to mind), but this is thankfully a lot less common when compared to high fantasy.

With the possible exception of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” (which I haven’t read), I don’t think that I’ve even heard of a high fantasy novel that can’t also be used as an emergency doorstop and/or paperweight. [Edit: Surprisingly, short fantasy novels/novellas actually exist πŸ™‚ Expect a review of Tanith Lee’s “Kill The Dead” in late August.]

Since low fantasy stories incorporate well-known real life settings and elements, and since they’re often melded with other genres like the thriller, horror, detective, romance etc.. genres, there’s more reason to tell gripping, shorter stories. Since they don’t have to spend lots of time building a giant, medieval-style world, they can get on with actually telling the story.

Since a good portion of low fantasy novels aren’t that much longer than the average novel (300-400 pages these days) and don’t require any extra time investment, they are a lot more accessible and easier to impulse-read when compared to giant tomes of high fantasy. Likewise, even when low fantasy novels tell longer stories, they will often be broken up into a series of shorter books rather than a series of gigantic tones. I mean, I’ve even found a low fantasy novella. A novella! In the fantasy genre πŸ™‚

3) Themes, symbolism, meaning etc..: One of the cool things about stories that meld the fantastical and the realistic is that the fantastical elements usually have to be there for a reason. In other words, low fantasy isn’t just “fantasy for the sake of fantasy” in the way that high fantasy can often be.

As such, low fantasy stories will often be a lot deeper, more intelligent and emotionally powerful than high fantasy can be. For example, good urban fantasy vampire stories will often explore themes like belonging, subcultures, civil rights, secrecy, mortality, traditions etc.. in a way that could rival even the most literary of novels.

More fantastical low fantasy stories (eg: Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics etc..) will often use the fantastical as a lens to look at elements of humanity, in a way which often gives these stories one hell of an emotional punch when compared to the typical high fantasy stories of knights going on epic quests etc…

So, yes, since low fantasy has to find a good reason to include fantastical elements, these stories usually mean something in the way that the fantasy elements of a typical high fantasy story often don’t.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

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The Joy Of….”Middle Brow” Fiction

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about one of my favourite types of fiction – “middle brow” fiction. This is the type of fiction that includes all of the thrills, creativity and cool stuff you’ll find in “low brow” fiction, but with the level of characterisation, linguistic skill, thematic complexity, descriptive depth etc.. that you’ll find in more “high brow” fiction.

It is quite literally the best of both worlds and it is utterly awesome. Yet, it is annoyingly difficult to define. Ok, I could probably list examples of it that I’ve read (like “Box Nine” by Jack O’Connell, “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson or, the novel I’m reading at the moment, “Weaveworld” by Clive Barker), but it’s really difficult to spot it at a glance.

I mean, it’s easy enough to see whether a novel is a fun “low brow” thriller/horror/detective/sci-fi novel or a prestigious, intellectual and realistic “literary” novel just by looking at the cover. One has excitingly dramatic cover art and the other usually has trendily boring cover art that is filled with adoring critic quotes. But, things that fall in between these categories are usually a little bit more difficult to spot at a glance.

But, I guess that this is part of the charm of “middle brow” fiction – that brilliant sense of surprise when you sit down to read what you think will be an ordinary thriller, horror, sci-fi or detective novel only to find that it’s a lot more atmospheric, deep, intelligent, unique or vivid than you had expected πŸ™‚ Or, when you think “I should read something intellectual“, only to find that the book you’ve pushed yourself to read is a lot more gripping than you’d expected πŸ™‚

Yet, this type of fiction is really difficult to define. Is it genre fiction with extra depth and complexity? Is it literary fiction with an actual plot, some imagination and a proper narrative drive? Is it both of these things?

Surprisingly, it’s actually easier to think of non-book metaphors for it. It’s kind of like the equivalent of a more prestigious popular TV show like “Game Of Thrones”, “Twin Peaks” or “Boardwalk Empire” – which contains enough depth and complexity to be more than mindless Hollywood entertainment, whilst also still being entertaining enough to make you want to binge-watch entire seasons of it.

Another interesting thing about “middle brow” fiction is that it also reminds us of what popular fiction used to be like. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for more fast-paced, informal and “matter of fact” modern narration – it keeps the story wonderfully gripping and it also means that modern books can compete with smartphones, the internet, videogames etc.. for people’s attentions. But, at the same time, it can also lack a certain depth and atmosphere that even the most “low brow” of older novels often used to have.

To give you an example, take a look at “Erebus” by Shaun Hutson (1984). This is a fast-paced, ultra-gruesome horror novel about zombie vampires that I first discovered when I was a young teenager during the early-mid 2000s. It just seemed like a really cool, fun and rebellious novel back then. But, when I re-read it as an adult, I was surprised by how complex the writing sometimes was when compared to some of the more contemporary novels I’d read in the meantime.

Here’s a quote from “Erebus” to show you what I mean: “Elsewhere in the office things were at various stages of organized pandemonium as other reporters rushed to complete their assignments, hampered by the fact that their typewriting dexterity had not yet extended to more than one finger“.

This was “low brow” popular entertainment in 1984! A mere 35 years ago, a novel containing complex sentences like this was seen as a mindless “everyday” way to pass the time (like videogames, Facebook or Youtube would be these days). Just think about that for a second.

Another cool thing about reading “middle brow” fiction is that it’s kind of like a reward for having to read more dull “high brow” fiction in the past (eg: the set texts at school/college/university). Thanks to your prior experience, not only can you read it with relative ease – which feels like playing a videogame you’re really good at- but you also actually have fun at the same time. It’ll make you see the wisdom of having to slog through the works of writers like Shakespeare, Bronte, Dickens, Austen, Fowles, Woolf etc.. when you were younger.

Of course, as a side note, one amusing irony is that Shakespeare and Dickens were, at the time they were originally writing, “low brow” popular entertainment. I mean, just do some research into 16th century theatre audiences (eg: wild, rowdy, chaotic etc..) or into how many of Dickens’ novels were originally published (eg: popular serials in newspapers/magazines).

Anyway, “middle brow” fiction shows you that reading all of those boring books means that you can breeze through much more interesting books with a sense of ease and skill that may very well catch you by surprise and make you feel like some kind of expert or intellectual.

In short, “middle brow” fiction is totally and utterly amazing. Yes, it was probably more popular in the past than it is now (I mean, all of the examples I listed earlier in the article come from the 1980s/90s) but – in a landscape where popular modern novels often seem to be sharply divided between grim detective thrillers/ Fifty Shades Of Twilight and pretentious plot-less “literary” novels, there has never been more of a need for intelligent, well-written novels with a good gripping plot πŸ™‚

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Four Thoughts About When (And How) To Abandon A Book You’re Reading

A few days before I wrote the first draft of this article, I happened to read an absolutely fascinating online article about “book block”. This is where you start reading a book, but can’t bring yourself to finish it for some reason. And, yes, it can be debilitating in literary terms.

I mean, one of the reasons why I read so little after early-mid 2014 (and only returned to reading regularly a few months ago) was because of guilt over leaving a couple of books unfinished. In those years, I probably read less than ten novels. Since I got back into reading regularly again, I’ve read about fifty or so. So, yes, guilt about not being able to finish a book can really disrupt your reading.

But, my thoughts on the topic have evolved slightly and – since I got back into reading regularly- I’ve abandoned at least three books without the heavy sense of guilt or obligation that can sometimes put you off of reading again for years.

So, here are some thoughts about when and how to abandon a book:

1) You can always come back to it later: If it helps, remember that you can always come back to an abandoned book later. In fact, the reason why you just can’t seem to go any further with a book may well be because you just aren’t ready for it yet. And this isn’t a question of skill or intelligence, it’s a question of things like mood, imagination, circumstances and interests more than anything else.

For example, one of the books I abandoned in 2014 was a 1990s-style sci-fi/fantasy thriller called “Heart Of Desire” by Kate Robinson. I felt really terrible about leaving this book unfinished, especially since I know the author. Yet, in the years afterwards, I became fascinated by the 1990s and I spent quite a while watching films, watching TV shows, playing computer games etc.. from that decade in order to understand it better.

So, when I eventually returned to “Heart Of Desire” 4-5 years later, the book suddenly made a lot more sense to me. I could spot (and enjoy) all of the 1990s-style elements, and appreciate the book on a whole new level. In other words, I was ready for this book and I enjoyed it (and finished it) because of this.

So, don’t feel bad about abandoning a book – it might just be because you need to return to it at some point in the future when you are ready.

2) The test: One of the best ways to avoid guilt about abandoning a book is to test it out first. The less of a book you read, the less guilty you’ll feel about abandoning it. So, test the waters before plunging deep into a book.

The exact number of pages varies from person to person. Some people will say that if you aren’t gripped by the first page, then you should ditch the book. Others suggest giving a book 50-100 pages before deciding whether to continue. Personally, I think that you shouldn’t set hard limits – just go into a book cautiously and, if you start to feel that heavy, gloomy sense of “oh god, do I have to read all of this?” drop it and read something else instead.

Still, the first few pages are the most critical. They will tell you the most. For example, a week or two before I wrote this article, I didn’t start reading a really interesting-looking thriller novella because of the rather harsh vigilante-like tone of the first couple of pages. Yes, it was written in a gripping way but it seemed like the kind of earnestly grim thriller that I probably wouldn’t enjoy.

So, I guess that the real lesson here is to know yourself. Understand what makes a book “work” for you and what doesn’t, and pay attention to how you feel when you start reading a book.

3) It can be a good thing: One book I abandoned in late 2010/early 2011 was Clive Barker’s “Abarat: Absolute Midnight”. I didn’t feel guilty about this. Was it because it was a terrible book? No! It was the literal opposite of a terrible book.

In short, I binge-read the first half of the novel in a single evening and was so amazed by it that I just didn’t want the story to end. So, I left it. I meant to get round to reading the rest of it but, at the same time, I just didn’t want the story to end. So, I still haven’t read the rest of it.

So, yes, abandoning a book doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Sometimes a book can be so good that you just don’t want the story to end.

4) Focus on enjoyment, not prestige: Ask yourself whether you’re reading something because you enjoy it or because you just want the prestige of having read it.

Yes, prestige can be a good motivator (in addition to setting myself a deadline, it’s probably one of the reasons why I finished reading Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall) and some books do require perseverance before they really get good (eg: Mantel’s “Wolf Hall”, Neal Stephenson’s “The Diamond Age” etc..). But, you should only keep pushing yourself to read a “difficult” book if you genuinely feel that it will be worth your time.

And, yes, this may lead to you leaving some classics unfinished. For example, when I was about sixteen or seventeen, I really wanted to read J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord Of The Rings” but, after about 100-200 pages into the first book I realised that it was just too slow-paced when compared to the exciting film adaptations I’d seen. When I was about fourteen or fifteen, I tried to read Irvine Welsh’s “Trainspotting” (since I’d seen the film on TV) but gave up after about 100 pages due to grappling with the narrative style. I could go on…

The point I’m trying to make here is that you should ask yourself whether you’re stuck with a book because you want the prestige of having finished it or because it’s good enough that you want to keep reading, even if you find it “difficult”. If it’s because of prestige, then abandon the book. The thing to remember here is that even the most “well-read” person in the world probably hasn’t read everything. There are too many books, even prestigious books, out there for someone to read literally all of them. So, don’t feel bad about it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Two Practical Reasons Why English Lit Lessons/Lectures Are Important

A couple of days before I wrote this article, I ended up re-reading one of my favourite online newspaper articles. It is an article written by a university lecturer in Australia, talking about the problems she’s faced teaching English literature to modern students.

Although I’ve never been to Australia and the closest thing to teaching I’ve ever done is writing these articles, I still find the lecturer’s article absolutely fascinating since it usually makes me think about all of the English lit lectures and lessons I’ve attended (as a pupil or a student) in the past.

Most of all, it reminds me just how useful all of this “basic training” was. How, despite the fact that some of it was a little on the boring side, it has actually come in handy in all sorts of ways.

So, for anyone thinking that English lit lectures and/or lessons are a waste of time, here are two of the many practical reasons why they’re secretly really, really useful.

1) It’s about thinking for yourself: One of the great things about studying English lit formally is that it teaches you to take a deeper look at things. It not only teaches you to look at what writers are doing and why, but it also teaches you to look at the context that something was written in. This may all sound very theoretical and academic, but it can be useful in so, so many ways. Here are a few examples:

If you’ve ever wanted to write an online review of something then knowing how to study, “reverse-engineer” and/or examine things in detail will result in a much better and more interesting review than just “I really liked it because it was fun“. And, although English lit lessons/lectures will usually focus on examining rather boring texts, this is just to teach you how to apply these skills to more interesting stuff.

These skills are also incredibly useful when doing something as simple as looking at the news. If you know all of the techniques that writers can use to achieve a particular effect, then it’ll make it slightly easier for you to spot things like political bias, emotive/manipulative journalism etc… in the news reports you read online or in the paper. It can also help you to look at advertising more critically too, which means you are less likely to be swayed by it.

Plus, learning to look at the context can also help you to make sense of all sorts of things too.

For example, if you’ve ever wondered why Hollywood films from the 1990s are so much more cheerful and optimistic than modern films usually are, it’s probably because they were made after the end of the Cold War and before 9/11 (eg: a period of history where people were genuinely optimistic about the future). So, learning to look for the context will help you understand a lot of things a lot better.

Formally studying a piece of literature also trains you to look for connections and patterns (eg: what influenced this book? How does it relate to other books? etc..), and to think more deeply about everything (eg: why does the author write in this way? What is the author trying to say? etc..). And, needless to say, these are skills that are useful for pretty much everything.

2) The set texts are boring for a good, useful reason:
Yes, there’s actually a good practical reason why the set texts in many English lit lessons and lectures are often so thunderously, drearily dull.

Boring, old books are usually chosen as set texts to boost your confidence. Simply put, if you can learn how to read and understand novels from 200 years ago or earlier, then pretty much anything becomes easily readable afterwards.

When you read formal documents, you’ll glide through them with ease. If you find an interesting novel from the 1920s-60s, reading it will seem like child’s play by comparison.

If you read a more slow-paced or “high-brow” modern book, it’ll still seem easy in comparison to the musty old set texts you had to slog through during your English lit lectures/lessons. The boredom and difficulty of reading old set texts is designed to make you feel confident about reading everything else.

In other words, if you can get through things written by Shakespeare, Bronte, Austen and/or Dickens (even with help and tuition), then you’ll be able to read literally everything else with confidence and ease. So, yes, boring old books are often taught in English lit lessons and lectures for a very good reason. It makes reading and understanding even the most boring or difficult modern things seem like a breeze by comparison.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Two Basic Differences Between Modern And Older Novels

Ever since I got back into reading regularly a few months ago, one of the things that has surprised me so much are the differences between older and modern fiction. For the purposes of this article, I’ll define “modern fiction” as stories first published in the 21st century and “older fiction” as anything published before then (with a focus on the 20th century).

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been trying to do is to read a mixture of older and more modern fiction. This is mostly to give modern fiction a chance. After all, during previous times when I’ve read regularly for enjoyment (eg: during most of the 2000s and the early-mid 2010s), I’ve often tended to focus slightly more on older 20th century novels than on 21st century ones.

So, let’s look two of the most basic differences between older and modern fiction. However, I should point out that these are generalisations and there will be exceptions to everything I mention here. Likewise, I’ve probably mentioned all of these things before too, but they’re always interesting to look at.

1) Complexity: At the time of writing this article, I’m reading a novel from 1962 called “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury. One of the surprising things about this novel is that, technically speaking, it would probably fit into the modern “young adult” (YA) category if it was published today.

It bears all of the hallmarks of this genre – the protagonists are teenagers, it is a novel about being a teenager and it seems to be a fairly “PG-13” kind of story (to use an American phrase). Yet, it contains something that the modern novels (in a variety of genres) I’ve read over the past decade or so often don’t contain – linguistic complexity.

To give you an example, here’s a spectacular sentence from “Something Wicked This Way Comes”: ‘Then the calliope gave a particularly violent cry of foul murder which made dogs howl in far countries, and Mr Cooger, spinning, ran and leaped on the back-whirling universe of animals who, tail first, head last, pursued an endless circling night towards unfound and never to be discovered destinations.

This is a long, complex, formal, poetic and descriptive sentence. It has been carefully designed to make the reader feel like they’re watching the endless spinning of a merry-go-round in a mysterious old circus. It is meant to be vivid and disorientating. Yet, unless you’ve had a fair amount of practice reading older novels, it may confuse you. In a modern novel ( whether general fiction or YA), the language would probably be less formal and it would be broken up into several shorter sentences in order to achieve the same effect.

So, older novels are often written in a more complex and formal way. Yes, there are exceptions to this but, even if you look at that most high-brow of genres – paperback action-thriller novels – you’ll also notice that examples from the 1970s-90s often tend to be written in a slightly slower paced and more descriptive way than modern action-thriller novels are. The sentences are often longer and there are more descriptions.

This is kind of a double-edged sword though. Since, although all of this extra complexity really helps to give older novels a sense of uniqueness, personality, depth and atmosphere that modern novels sometimes lack, modern novels can often be a lot more gripping and readable. Because they have to compete with videogames, boxsets, smartphones and the internet, modern novels are often a lot more streamlined, efficient and readable than older novels.

2) Length: Whilst longer novels are nothing new (just look at the Victorians!), one of the really interesting differences between 20th and 21st century fiction is how longer novels have gone from being the exception to being the rule.

When you look at paperback books from the 20th century, the average length often tends to be somewhere in the region of 200-300 pages. This is a length that helps to keep the story focused and helps to ensure that the reader can finish the book without getting bored by it.

In contrast, modern 21st century novels will often be about 300-400 pages in length at the least. Yes, I have found shorter modern novels (in fact, I usually try to seek them out), but they tend to be less common than they used to be.

As with all of these things, there are advantages and…. Oh, who am I kidding? Older fiction has all of the advantages here. Because shorter novels were more acceptable in the 20th century, these stories tend to cram more storytelling into a shorter length – which resulted in better fiction. When an older 20th century novel is long, it usually has to justify this length by telling a story that cannot be crammed into a smaller number of pages.

Still, I find it ironic that, for all of the moaning about how people’s attention spans are getting shorter – books keep getting longer. Still, this increase in novel length seems to be part of a more general trend these days. I mean, just look at films. Back in the 1980s/90s, a film usually tended to be a fairly efficient 90-110 minutes in length. These days, even superhero movies can easily pass the two-hour mark.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Three Reasons Why Books Are Better Than Film And TV

Although I’m sure that I’ve written these types of articles before, I felt like writing another one.

This was mostly because, ever since I got back into reading regularly a few months ago, I’ve sometimes found myself missing all of the films and TV shows that I used to watch back when I didn’t read regularly (but don’t really have time for these days, due to reading books).

So, I thought that I’d list three of the many reasons why books are better than film and TV.

1) More freedom: One of the great things about novels is that they have more creative freedom than films and TV shows do. In other words, they’re usually only written by one person, they only use words and they don’t have to pass a censor before they are published. This lends novels a sense of individuality and creativity that films and TV shows can often lack.

Only having one author means that a novel isn’t really “designed by committee” in the way that many TV shows and films are. In other words, a novel is usually the creative vision of one person – they get to shape the story’s world, how the reader “sees” the world etc… in a way that isn’t really practical in film and television. Likewise, because novels don’t cost millions to make, there’s less of a need to appeal to the most mainstream audience possible for financial reasons (which, for example, can lead to films becoming more generic).

Plus, since novels only use words, they aren’t constrained by the practical problems that films/TV shows have. In other words, if a writer wants to write about somewhere spectacular or something spectacular, they can just write about it. They don’t have to build elaborate sets or worry about the special effects budget. As such, there’s a sense that literally anything can happen in a novel. That even the most “low budget” of novels can do things that even mid-budget films or TV shows could only dream of.

Not only that, unlike film and television, novels don’t have to pass a censor. For example, although film/TV censorship in the UK is less strict than it used to be, the censors have been known to enforce bizarre or over-protective rules in the past (eg: they pretty much banned the depiction of various martial arts weapons in films between about 1979-1999).

Likewise, many US TV shows sometimes have to follow absurdly strict censorship rules (eg: even in a “gritty” TV show like “24”, the main character cannot utter any profanity stronger than “damn”).

But, thanks to both the Lady Chatterley trial in the UK and the American first amendment, readers and writers do not have to suffer any of these patronising restrictions. In other words, books are one of the few artforms that respects both the author and the audience enough to let them make up their own mind about everything – free from the controlling influence of a censor.

2) It’s like a boxset, but better: One interesting thing I noticed about the ancient Egypt-themed novel I’m reading at the moment (“Nefertiti” by Michelle Moran) is that, even though it started rather slowly, it eventually started to remind me of when I’d watched a DVD boxset of HBO’s “Rome” TV series about five years ago. It had the same vivid historical immersion, depth and gripping drama.

But, I don’t have to read it in fixed one-hour instalments. The story moves as fast as I can read it. I have the freedom to allow my imagination to work out what all of the interesting locations look like. I can quite literally see what the main character is thinking and feeling. The characters are characters, rather than famous actors. I don’t have to sit through an annoying unskippable copyright warning every time I open the book. I can experience the author’s unique narrative voice. I could probably go on for a while….

I also suddenly realised that one of the reasons why I watched so many DVD boxsets during the 3-4 years that I didn’t read regularly was because they offered an experience that is a little bit like reading a book. However, it comes with all sorts of limitations that books don’t have. So, yes, books are like boxsets – but better. Plus, of course, even second-hand, books are often cheaper than DVD boxsets too πŸ™‚

3) They stand the test of time: One of the cool things I noticed when I got back into reading regularly is that I could occasionally read books (like “The Maltese Falcon) that were written when film was still a developing medium and television was a lot less popular. And the stories are just as vivid as a modern novel. Now, compare this to, say, a grainy old B&W film that could only use whatever limited effects etc.. were available at the time.

Plus, when I’ve bought old second-hand copies of horror novels that were printed during the 1970s/80s, they’re still just as readable today as they were when they were first published.

On the other hand, if I found an old VHS tape that was from the 1980s, I’d have nothing to play it on (so, I’d have to see if it was available on DVD) and, even if my VCR still worked, then the tape would have degraded over time. Whereas, an old book is still just as readable now as it was when it was first printed. And it’s kind of cool to enjoy something that was entertaining people 30-40 years ago and not only still exists but still functions perfectly too!

In other words, books have a timelessness about them that film and television really don’t have. They have more of a sense of history. They run on very reliable technology (eg: paper) that can easily withstand years of use or disuse. Plus, of course, the underlying “mechanics” of books (eg: letters, words, sentences etc..) have remained relatively unchanged for years – compared to the constant changes in technology surrounding film, TV etc…

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚