Lori and I have a new electronic intern working with us... he shall remain nameless because that just makes him more mysterious and fun. =) I recently wrote him a rambling e-mail, trying to help narrow down some of my book tastes, to help with sorting through query letters... it is execerpted below, for your elucidating pleasure.
Dear Electronic Intern:
I love epic fantasies, but I want them to be done in shades of gray, not just black and white. Some great examples are Sara Douglass' "The Wayfarer Redemption" series or Jacqueline Carey's "Kushiel" series. I want complex, motivated, and most important of all, human, protagonists. Human in the sense of the word that I can empathize with them. I don't care if the main character is a goblin, a snake-charmer, or an elf--I just want to find something about them that I can relate to. I also want, if it's a quest fantasy, for the quest to have an actual point... why the hell are they off searching for the mystical object and trying to save the world? Give me a justification for wanting to read it.
I also am starting to like a lot of fantasy that's slipstream: Jeffrey Ford, Delia Sherman, Kelly Link, Theodora Goss, our own Cat Rambo... I love them all. They take ordinary things and make them extraordinary, by finding the story within them. Holly Phillips is a prime example of this with her story, "The Other Grace".
I love, love, love dark fantasy. I've been a fan for almost forever, although I like some of her novels better than others. China Mieville is also great. I have a very morbid streak to me.
Conversely, I also like things that are humorous; is a big fave of mine. But your sense of humor might not be my sense of humor, so it's hard to judge with those. I also want things to make sense in a fantasy novel; it's not enough to throw together a mishmash of plot elements.
And most importantly of all, I want a novel that tells me a good story. I'm not in this business to admire the best writing that an author can produce... I'm here to get told good stories. I want to be sucked in, absolutely absorbed, and to keep reading because I *know* it's going to get good later on. Or even better than it is.
I'm willing to look at almost anything that's fantasy, as long as it's original, which is my key criteria for making judgement calls about the material. Don't give me a Harry Potter clone... please... on the other hand, if you manage to find me another , I'll love you forever.
In regards to science fiction, I like things that are understandable. I love Scalzi's work; it embodies the (recently-coined term of) the "New Comprehensibility", whereby it's understandable to the reader. It reminds me of old-school SF, like Heinlein and Clarke and Asimov, all of who I love. Hard science fiction is good, but it has to be understandable to me. I'm physics-challenged here; if you've got a novel that hinges on a heavy physics concept, it better be explained REALLY well.
I like science fiction that's thought-provoking and interesting too... sort of like what Lori was saying with social science fiction. And I also want interesting stories... I'm all about the stories here. You can have cool ideas, but give me a story to go with those ideas.
I'm a sucker for a good romance, but again, I want the romance to make sense. One of the best descriptions of what a good romance is, comes from an editor I know, who told me, "I want to be able to take most of the romance out of the book, and still have a good novel." And she's right.
I love historical romances. Regencies... oh boy, those are my favorites. Also Victorian romances or even Georgian (17th century). I like plucky heroines and smart heroes, but I don't want it to be the type of variety where the hero is like, "I will just throw you into bed and ravage you now." I have a soft spot for bluestockings... educated females who love to read (I wonder who that sounds like? *looks innocently around*). I'm not as crazy about medieval romances, purely because they're very often inaccurate. I really like the historical details to be accurate. I would love to see a good romance set in 1600s England; there are so few of those.
I detest Westerns. I detest the Civil War. American pioneer stories are ok; those I find interesting.
I'm open to pretty much any type of paranormal romance, at the moment, although I'm really not buying into the "portal to another world" ones right now. That may pass, but I'm currently really sick of that trend.
In terms of religious fiction, I don't want anything that's Christian. I don't understand it; can't interpret it; and it doesn't interest me.
I like fat girl stories, ones with running in them, ones with cooking, or a quirky twist to them. I love reading about places that I've never been (most of the world). I adore manga and anime and many things Japanese. I don't know much about Australian Aborigines, although I'd be interested to find a novel about them, in some way, if it was good. Jewish stories are good too, but it really depends on what the book is about overall.
Like Lori, I'm a lovely liberal Democrat, and I really can't see myself doing anything that's Republican-ish. I'm a and Keith Olbermann type of girl. Similarly, I don't want to read any books about rogue FBI agents falling in love with small-town Southern girls, or about the War on Terror. No novels on , since I'll argue about it violently with anyone.
I believe in global warming, I love ice skating, I play video games. I'm a geek girl and proud to admit it. =)