I've made another one of those sky-is-blue observations. Ie, stupidly obvious in retrospect, and probably apparent to most of the rest of you, but an eye opener for me.
Some books are bubbles, some books are fossil beds.
Bubbles are books (or stories) which exist almost entirely on their surface. The characters, the plot, the setting all work together in a coherent whole, but there's not a lot of subtext or deep texture. The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry [ Powell's | Amazon ] reads that way to me.
Fossil beds are books which have layers within layers within layers within layers. Pieces move inside parts, and almost everything carries the implicature of other elements, many of them hidden or distant from the surface of the story. I'm currently reading Flood by Andrew Vachss [ Powell's | Amazon ], which is very much a fossil bed to my eye.
Most of the spec fic I love falls in the "fossil bed" category. My taste leans very strongly that way, both as a reader and as a writer. At the same time, I'm coming to appreciate bubbles. They have a strong value to many readers, and an important place in the commercial market.
Like most dualistic distinctions, the truth almost certainly lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps there's a fossil-bubble continuum. Perhaps I'm full of it. (Wouldn't be the first time.) But now I'm gnawing on this observation to see if it takes me anywhere important, or at least interesting, with respect to my own work.
What do you think? Does this characterization make sense to you? How would you elucidate it?