A big welcome to Rhiannon Held who is here to telling us about Guilty Pleasures and celebrating the release of Reflected, Silver, #3 (published on February 18, 2014 by Tor Books). Want to win a copy? Enter via the widget below.
I think everyone should admit they have a guilty pleasure. I bring that up here because speculative fiction is one of those genres that often falls on the wrong side of “what I read is timeless prose, what you read is trash.” And then within speculative fiction, urban fantasy is often the subgenre that gets picked on even by other subgenres for perceived trashiness. I’m not here to preach to the choir, of course—we all of us know how much there is to enjoy in urban fantasy. But what about NASCAR? Or Justin Bieber? Or whatever form of entertainment is the trash to your urban fantasy guilty pleasure? Personally I’ll stand up and admit to enjoying Dancing with the Stars—reality TV, for goodness sake. What’s trashier than that? We all know intellectually that we’re doing it, of course. If I was to ask you, “Aren’t many forms of entertainment perhaps a bit shallow, but still nothing to be embarrassed about?” You’d most likely agree. If I started listing things like Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey or Dan Brown, I would bet we’d get to at least one item where you’d crumble and say, “But that is different. That is complete trash.”
And that’s why having your guilty pleasure (the more embarrassing the better!) and owning, really owning it, is so good, I think. Any time you’re tempted to roundly declare something trash, you can remember all the times your guilty pleasure has been called trashy in your hearing. Even if you’re sure—sure—that your guilty pleasure is an exception with hidden depths and the other thing is just that bad (even I have things I feel that way about), you can mentally substitute one for the other in your mind and let that stay your tongue for someone else’s sake. And you can only do that if you’ve admitted to yourself that your guilty pleasure is just as guilty as everyone else’s, and not secretly an undiscovered treasure (you Beyond the golden rule, once you consider the idea that nothing is trash—for the sake of the intellectual exercise, if nothing else—it frees you to find the value in unexpected things. If Dan Brown isn’t trash, what’s the happiness source in it? Why do people like it? I’m not talking in a patronizing way—“If only they knew better, something so simple wouldn’t make them happy. Only something complex and better would make them happy!” Happiness is happiness, and rare and precious enough without judging it for being from different sources.
But wait, I hear you saying! What about the silent, dangerous social artifacts that flourish on the underside of trashy entertainment, like outdated gender roles and ethnic assumptions? And boy howdy, do they flourish. But even that problem can be somewhat addressed by picking apart guilty pleasures to get at the happiness sources within them. Perhaps some of the social artifacts are happiness sources for the dominant group of people, which is a deeper problem, but perhaps they aren’t! Perhaps the happiness source is entirely separate from the social When you find that, that’s when you can start to make some really effective guilty pleasure entertainment. Say that you really examine racing movies, and you think that their loyal audience loves the sensation of speed and excitement when the camera follows the cars. A model posing with her ass in the air, leaning over the car? Nothing to do with speed and excitement. A male racer throwing his girlfriend to the side by her wrist? Nothing to do with speed and excitement. So if you make a racing movie with lots of speedy shots and a female racer wearing normal boots and racing jacket, you’ve preserved the happiness source and banished one of the social artifacts, and life is good!
And none of that would have been possible if you hadn’t examined the guilty pleasure long enough to locate the happiness source and the social artifacts and determine they wereseparate. And to examine guilty pleasures to that level, you really have to let go a little of your idea of what’s trash and what’s not. We all have guilty pleasures. All of us. Once you start to examine guilty pleasures to that level regularly, you can use that knowledge to better understand the people around you, and in your own writing if you’re an author. Again, I’m not talking about pandering. People aren’t stupid, and they can spot when their guilty pleasure was created through shared pleasure, and they can tell when it was created to pander to them. No, you have to understand the value in that guilty pleasure. Maybeit speaks to you too, or maybe you have to mentally substitute in an aspect of your own guilty pleasure you’ve discovered through similar careful thought.
And really, what’s the downside? If you’re vocal about your guilty pleasure, others might try to tease you, but they can only make you ashamed of it if you let them. Own your guilty pleasures in your own mind and remember to search for happiness sources, and that understanding can make you unusually empathetic or your writing surprisingly compelling. Which sounds worth it to me.
Rhiannon Held is the author of the urban fantasy Silver series from Tor. She lives in Seattle, where she works as an archaeologist for an environmental compliance firm. Working in both archaeology and writing, she’s “lucky” enough to have two sexy careers that don’t make her
1 copy of Reflected
Reflected by Rhiannon Held
Available on February 18, 2014 by Tor Books
Falling in love in a werewolf pack leads to some very bad choices in this new novel from the author of Silver.
Rhiannon Held continues the secret lives of the werewolf packs that live and hunt alongside human society in Reflected, the third book of the series that began with her debut novel, Silver. Silver and her mate Andrew Dare are pack leaders of the entire North American werewolf population, and that makes the more traditional packs in Europe very nervous indeed. It’s getting hard to hide from human surveillance.
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