Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Common Zeitgeist

I have a confession to make. Before I do, though, let me make it abundantly clear that it is only a confession because my wife makes me feel guilt over this issue. I would imagine that others of you out there like me feel no guilt whatsoever over this particular issue nor do you (probably) have anyone in your life that makes you feel guilt for this. It's a subject of interest to me, though, because it deals with the different tastes that people have in reading. The confession? I'm a fan of The Dresden Files. No, not the abysmal and ill-conceived television series, the books.

I just finished Proven Guilty, last week, and am about halfway through White Night. However, I don't think my wife even managed to finish Storm Front. There are a lot of reasons I like the series. Primarily, I like it because it's not static. Often, books of this type are so episodic that the characters never change or grow. You take the same character(s) from one book and transplant it exactly as it is into the next one. That was fine when I was a kid reading The Hardy Boys, but I'm a bit beyond that, now. I appreciate that Butcher allows for change and growth both in his main character and in his supporting characters.

Of course, my wife is not wrong when she, basically, lumps Dresden into the pulp fiction category; it is. I know pulp fiction has pretty much always been looked down upon, but I don't have a problem with that form of entertainment the way my wife does. Yes, pulp fiction can be... well, I suppose there's no other way to say it... bad... just bad, but! it's not always bad. What I mean is that I don't think there's any real significant difference in the proportion of the good/bad between pulp fiction and any other kind of fiction. For instance, I'm pretty sure that no one would lump William Gibson into any kind of pulp fiction category. He's pretty "high brow" reading by most standards. I don't find his current work at all engaging, though. My response to Pattern Recognition was so neutral that I don't have anything I can even say about it. I'm not sure why I finished it. My wife didn't, although it certainly falls within her reading tastes. I'm having the same reaction to Spook Country. I did almost put that one down, but I'm really bad about not finishing a book once I've started it no matter how bad it is (ask my wife), so here I am 20 pages from the end of it and no more engaged in it than I was after the first 20 pages. I'm not sure if my wife made it 20 pages in before she put it down. The real problem, though, is that I can't even say they're "bad" books. They're well written. They just don't engage. At the end of both of these books, my response is that nothing really happened. The plot just flatlines all the way along.

But I digress...

Dresden. Well, Butcher. Let me step back a moment.

I started planning my book in the fall of 2009. At the time, I didn't really know anything about The Dresden Files. I knew it kept popping up on my suggested viewing on Netflix and that it was based on some books, but that's about it. However, I bought the first two books in the series for my oldest son for Christmas that year since, I figured, it was the kind of thing he'd be into. [Books are included as part of Christmas for all of our kids every year. It's tradition.]

I started writing The House on the Corner in February of 2010 and picked up Storm Front to read somewhere around the same time, based on my son's approval of the book. Besides, I wanted to see what it was exactly that I'd given him to read. It became immediately apparent that Butcher and I were operating under the same zeitgeist with our books. Magic in a modern world setting. Pop culture references. But, then, he's of an age with me, so that doesn't surprise me. At any rate, the Dresden books resonate with me because of that. I like their feel.
Of course, as a writer, I also find the books somewhat frustrating for that very reason. The more of them I read, the more similarities of design I find. I finished The House on the Corner at the end of July 2010 (a few days after my van blew up while I was inside it), and I'd probably read the first four Dresden books by that time. The conflict between magic and religion, which I touch on in my book, is brought into Grave Peril. And, as I said, I just finished Proven Guilty, more than 6 months after I finished my book and 2 months after making my book publicly available, and I've found another similar theme. So, yes, it appears that Jim Butcher and I have been eating from the same table for quite a while. But, you know what? I really don't mind that. In the end, my book has no overt resemblance to his. The kid heroes in mine aren't detectives, and I have no plan on writing crime novels. I do enjoy reading his, though. Sometime or other, I'm going to have to try out his high fantasy series and see what I think about that. I'll let you know when I do.


  1. I'm not surprised that you found similar themes in the books you enjoy and in your writing. The books we write and the books we read have one major thing in common: US. Our interests draw us to the stories we read and they are also what draw stories out from us. In the end, it's how we make these themes our own that matters :)

  2. Of course, you're right. I just don't want anyone to steal the story in my head before I get around to writing it. I mean one specific story. I haven't seen anything else out there like it, but I have to finish this current project before I can get on with it. Because, you know, my kids are here letting me know what will happen if I don't. heh :)

  3. Chris suggested these books a couple or more years ago. I should check them out. I actually loved the TV series, but maybe that's because I haven't read the books. Either way, I have to finish your book first.

  4. The TV series was awful. I have no words for the amount of aweful. It barely classifies as being loosely based on the books.

  5. I enjoy the Dresden books, and I've also read most of the high fantasy series. I don't actually typically read high fantasy, but I'm coming around. I do also like the high fantasy series. They're not humorous at all like the Dresden series, and it's his being such a smart alec (I have no idea how to spell that, as I usually use a different word) that drew me into the Dresden series, but I like the characters, anyway.