Well, the holidays are here and it’s time for a little shopping. Books are a great present—they’re relatively inexpensive, they’re personal insofar as your choice reflects your knowledge of the friend or relative you are buying for, and they last for years. Hell, some books last for centuries.
What’s interesting as an editor is seeing the kind of people who end up liking this or that book. When we first present a book to the sales staff—who in turn present the book to the buyers for chains and independent bookstores and whatnot, who in turn sell the books to you one at a time—we have to come up with a few descriptors of the audience for our titles. We can’t just say “People who like to read” or anything like that. Actually, the best kind of book, saleswise, is one for people who don’t like to read, as there are many more folks like that than there are dedicated readers. A bestseller is, almost by definition, a book purchased by those who don’t normally purchase books.
Anyway, sometimes my guesses as to an audience have been right, and sometimes I’ve been surprised. So here are some holiday tips for you, based on who actually ended up liking our books. Please note that I don’t mean to imply that the groups I thought would like our books and the groups who actually did are mutually exclusive, I’m just talking about tendencies based on reviews, personal conversations, the mailbag here at Haikasoru headquarters, and online chatter. I’m also very happy with who finally embraced the books; I love seeing wide audiences for the titles and champions for them outside of the usual circles. So here is our 2010 list—read on to find out which would make the best gifts for your loved ones!
Who I Thought Would Like It: Military SF fans, anime fans.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Got it in one! If you put a plane on the cover, they will come.
Who I Thought Would Like It: People interested in complex literary fiction—readers of Borges and David Foster Wallace.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Fans of golden age science fiction. They really appreciated Yamamoto’s storytelling dexterity, his ability to write SF in any mode, and his immense knowledge of both Western and Asian SF. They didn’t even mind the linked-stories structure, as such “fix-up novels” were once fairly common in science fiction.
Who I Thought Would Like it: Teen girls.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Twentysomething men, especially if they’re a little, you know, “weird.” Kyogoku’s novel was pretty ambitious in its structure and pacing. A number of people mentioned its similarities to visionary novels as opposed to genre novels. My fave was from a amazon.com reader review: “Loups-Garous is much closer to Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf than Universal Studio’s Werewolf.”
Who I Thought Would Like it: Young men.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Men approaching middle age. I guess we’ve had a generation or two of people who grew up on video games, and it’s the dudes in their thirties who really took to this story of a wayward college kid and a virtual martial arts tournament.
Who I Thought Would Like it: Fans of hard SF.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: I got this one right! The challenge is just in getting fans of hard SF to pick up this book in the first place, but once they have I’ve received nothing but raves. So if anyone on your shopping list loves science and technology and astronomy and engineering, this is the one!
Who I Thought Would Like it: SF fans who like the work of Ballard, Philip K. Dick, and others of that ilk.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Young women. Not that young women don’t like Ballard or PKD! But I was pleasantly surprised at the number of young women who enjoyed this book—of course, it centers, in a way, on the friendships between women, their role in society, and the politics of who owns one’s body, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Shame on me! (Ballard and Dick fans did like this one a lot as well.)
Who I Thought Would Like it: Teen girls and anime fans.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Middle-aged men. Not for gross reasons! Again, this book really tapped into the scientific and adventurous spirit of classic science fiction, and honestly there isn’t a lot of that on the shelves these days. At the World Fantasy Convention, I met an older fellow who had already bought two copies of the book to give away to young people, and who used the anime of the novel series as a teaching aid in the science classes he runs. Very exciting!
Who I Thought Would Like it: Horror fans.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Mystery/thriller fans. I’m still surprised! Of course, there is plenty of mystery in Otsuichi’s work, but the supernatural antics and the literary tricks he uses often annoy mystery readers when presented in English-language original novels. These readers want to match wits with the sleuths and the writer to guess the ending before it is revealed. I guess Otsuichi’s powerful voice, which does “sound” more like a mystery voice than a horror voice in some ways, was sufficiently compelling for them to really get a kick out of this one.
Of course, we have two NEW books as well—the hard SF The Ouroboros Wave and the fantasy Dragon Sword and Wind Child, but it’s too soon to tell who’ll really take to these books. Why not buy them for yourself or your friends and once again prove me wrong!