Thursday, July 28, 2005

Reading

I'm one of those annoying writing instructors who always harps on their students about reading. If you don't read science fiction/fantasy, you can't write it. The worst part? I really believe it. It's not just one of those phrases like "write what you know" that I've picked up and transferred to my students without truly embracing it myself. Reading, I believe, is essential to a successful writing career. For me, too, reading is how I recharge my writing "batteries." After months and months output, it's time for some input. I also see it as part of my job. I often pick up books printed in my imprint, just to get a sense how I fit among the other authors in that line. The bonus to that is, of course, if I like a book by a fellow author I have a certain kinship with them which I've been known to use to forge friendships (and to swap industry gossip.) Those who know me, know I'm a big believer in the power of gossip, or should I say "networking." At any rate, I'm currently reading Neal Asher's debut novel Gridlink. It's not a book I would necessarily recommend to people who aren't into hard-core science fiction. But, for those of you who are, this is -- so far -- a good one. I have to admit that my tastes are wonky. I really love light and fluffy, chick-litty fantasy (ala the books I've mentioned before, like Rachel Caine and Mary Janice Davidson's series), and, on the flip side, like my science fiction with a sharp, glittering, razor-blade edge. The above image is from his UK (hardcover) edition, but I picked up the paperback at Uncle Hugo's, so I know its out in the US. My friend and fellow writer Bill Henry pointed out some time ago when we were talking about this year's Philip K. Dick winner and science fiction awards in general, that a lot of the new, good, HARD science fiction seems to be coming out of the U.K. right now. I wonder why that is? It may be partly because I suspect that science fiction isn't selling well in the US. Given the popularity of Ms. Rowling's series, fantasy is the half of SF/F that's the current lead seller. By several million kilometers, shall we say. If I were allowed to talk about my other life previous to Tate, I might be able to say with some conviction that both my editor and my agent steered me away from a career focusing on SF for that very reason. But I can't. So, I won't. Hmmmm, now there's a cryptic way to end this post.

6 comments:

Jeff said...

This is something I mull over from time to time. In what way does reading in the genre help my writing in the genre? Do I read because I want to write more of the same as what's already out there? What if I don't like a lot of what's out there? What if I don't want to write like what's out there? On the other hand, reading in the genre does give some idea of what genre readers go far, in terms of pacing, dialogue, plot, etc...

I would tend to say it is vital to read widely, not just in the genre. All of that reading soaks in the subconscious and comes out in the genre writing in neat and unexpected ways.

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