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Friday, December 18, 2015

Speculative Fiction Genre Study: FIRST ASSIGNMENT and a Discussion About China Miéville As Our Study's Frame

It's like an early Christmas present for all of us library nerds.

As I announced here, the Adult Reading Round Table 2016-17 genre study is going to be on Speculative Fiction. And now, the first assignment is LIVE here. I have also reposted it at the end of this post for the clicking adverse.

As you can see, we are really shaking up how we did things in the past. The key things to note right away are that the first assignment is light but by June, you need to have a read a lot of pages.

I also love how we decided to begin.  The first assignment asks you to read any book by China Miéville. Why we are beginning here has a good story.  One of the major contributions to the field of RA that ARRT creates is our Popular Fiction List, a self-evaluative training tool testing RA knowledge. [The latest edition of the list is available to subscribers of NoveList Plus in their Professional Toolbox.] While we were crafting the most recent edition, Annabelle, Karen and I were the team captains for Speculative Fiction. We had a list of subgenres and authors and worked very hard to make every "must include" author fit into a subgenre category. It worked wonderfully except for one very important author....

China Miéville!

We had to include him in the list, but he could also only appear in one place. Miéville is a master of speculative genre-blend novels. In the end, we had to create an entirely new category, just for him, and even then we were still not thrilled.

We struggled with Miéville and where to place him for months. We struggled even more because he was the tip of the iceberg. Miéville's work was popular because of his ability to blend genres into compelling stories.  Readers love him. They want more like him. How can the list be a training tool if such an important author is unclassifiable. Arrrggghhhh.

During our marathon genre study planning meeting, the three of us shared this story with or 4th team member, Megan. We really wanted to teach these genres differently because we knew from experience that the old subgenre method would be unsatisfying. We had to capture the "WHY" people loved authors like Miéville so that we could help each other find readlaikes for our patrons.

Our experience trying to pigeon-hole Miéville is what led us to deciding to frame the genre study from an appeal perspective. Since he was our inspiration, it made sense to focus on him at the first meeting. [That and we still couldn't find an appeal area to place him in. Seriously that man is our kryptonite, but we love him.] He truly serves as the perfect example of the joys and challenges of working with speculative fiction and its fans.

I can't wait for February 4th. If you want to learn more about Miéville before then, you can look at my reviews of The City and the City or the forthcoming This Census-Taker by Miéville. I think I am going to use this assignment as a chance to finally read Embassytown, which I have meant to read for years.

What about you?

Consider joining us, or if you live far from Northern IL, make your own group and follow along.


February 4, 2016: Introduction to Speculative Fiction
2-4 PM
Lisle Public Library
777 Front St.
Lisle, IL 60532
We’ll provide an overview of science fiction, fantasy, and horror as well as discuss the genre study’s general structure and the “doorway” appeal factors we’ll use to help us better serve speculative fiction readers.
  1. Fill out a two-question Speculative Fiction Reader Profile. (You won’t have to turn in the document—just be prepared to discuss your profile at the meeting.)
  2. Read any one novel or story collection by China Miéville.
This is a fairly light assignment, but there will be some heavy reading later in the study. So we want to give you fair warning that the assignment for the June 2016 meeting will be reading Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring (although if you can muster it, we recommend you read all three volumes of The Lord of The Rings) AND your choice of either A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin or a book by Neil Gaiman. If you haven’t read these yet, you may want to start soon. Caveat lector!
The study usually meets the first Thursday of every other month between 2-4, alternating between Lisle and Glenview libraries. Because the April meeting conflicts with PLA, we’ll decide at the February session whether to push the date back a week. With that in mind, the 2016 dates will be:
April 2 or 9 (Glenview)
June 4 (Lisle)
Aug. 6 (Glenview)
Oct. 2 (Lisle)
Dec. 3 (Glenview)
The full two-year schedule will be distributed at the kickoff meeting. Non-members are welcome at the kickoff meeting, but you must become a member by April 2016 to attend the rest of the 2016 meetings.

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