Friday, June 27, 2008

Memorizing Harry Potter doesn't count!!

Things running through my head lately...

I was looking at the Clarion 2008 workshop and realized something: I have no frigging clue who half of the instructors are, and have only read works by one of them. (faculty list here) Same for the who's who of their previous faculty and alumnae.

I read this list. It features 15 sci-fi novels that you must read. I, a supposed author of sci-fi/ fantasy have read only 6 of these 15 novels. 3 of them were read more than 15 years ago. I have not read even one of the items listed in the response comments to this post I've linked to.

Seems like I should at least read something of *all* past & present SFWA presidents. I haven't.
Seems like I should read something by every Hugo or Nebula award winner. I haven't.
Hell, I haven't even read half the novels on this list of authors/books that won BOTH the Hugo and Nebula. Not even close to half, actually. Want to know how many off this list I've read? TWO. I'm also astonished at how many I've heard of, but as movies, and as movies, they sucked.

I found this list of 100 great works, and then references to a book to BUY to read about books to read, which is kinda depressing. (the 1001 things to do/see/read/be before you die books depress me. I've got that much time OR that much money. not both. Makes me feel like my life isn't worth living if I'm not wearing Prada and I'm a size 2. I've got Hollywood and the fashion industry to make me feel bad about myself. I don't need to buy books that do that, too.) Maybe I'll check that list/book out from the library. Not sure it's worth the cash.

However, I did find this fabulous rebuttal post which makes me feel a mite better.

Anyway, here's the thing: I always say how much I like to read and how much I've read, and how I like sci-fi and fantasy... and apparently I'm a liar and a fraud. Memorizing Harry Potter and the Anne McCaffrey Pern novels doesn't count. Reading Jane Eyre a billion times doesn't matter. I'm not trying to release a novel in England in 1847. I need to know what's up with the market NOW. A.C. Crispin said so at a workshop that I took ages ago!! You need to know the market you're writing for -- and for a number of reasons! Why haven't I?

I know I'm broke, but money shouldn't be a deciding factor. I know what a library is, and how to use one. I'm less than 2 miles from 3 branches, and my boyfriend IS A LIBRARIAN. I know the "read it in Barnes & Noble to see if it grabs you" trick. I've even used it. Then why haven't I read more sci-fi??

Maybe because I got wrapped up in those multi-writer worlds for a while (Dragonlance is primary suspect), and I realized that all the decent works in that world were written by only a very small portion of the writers (Dragonlance: 190+ novels/ 12 by the "originators" that don't suck. That means 6%.). Turns out that those worlds are plotted by the finance group of the publishers, and they want the big bucks, and they're gonna milk the cash cow 'til the cow drops dead. Not exactly an enticement to read them.

Whatever the reason I'm not so well-read, I'd like your thoughts on the matter.

I'd also like to know your must-read list! Hit me!!!

1 comment:

Dreadful Rauw said...

Ok, so I haven't read much sci-fi fantasy lately, but let's see if I can give a top 10...

1. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card (Back when he was good)
2. Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlen (He wrote a lot, and you can get lost in it, but this is still his best work)
3. Sandman (1-75) -Neil Gaimen (Neverwhere and American Gods are also good, but Gaimen broke out and did his best work while doing Sandman)
4. Farenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury (while 1984 is great, it's awfully dry. This is the classic dystopian novel I'd recommend)
5. Lamb - Christopher Moore (Ok, so it's more like Bible Mary Sue Fan fiction, but it's so good and has elements of fantasy in it. It's also a rare non-british humor fantasy novel.)
6. Watchmen - Alan Moore (The classic deconstruction of the superhero genre that influenced everything after it was written. V for Vendetta is probably a good one to read too, as well as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (you can watch the movie of V if you want, but for God's sake, Never, EVER watch the move of League.))
7. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (Just a given if you want to understand anything said by any geek ever.)
8. Y: The Last Man (1-60) -Brian K. Vaughn (Besides being a great story, it's neat science fiction in that it's the real world, with only one science fiction element introduced: the death of every male on earth, except for one man and his monkey. Who doesn't love monkeys?)
9. The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell (Priests in space!!! A fully realized alien culture that is well thought out and interesting! Scandal! This one is not very well known, but entirely awesome.)
10. Good Omens - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimen (I was trying to think of one discworld novel, but this book is so much better than all of Pratchett's solo stuff. Read this instead)


But really, the stuff that's brilliant and really transcends "genre fiction" is the stuff that's groundbreaking. You don't have to read every groundbreaking piece of work. You just have to know what it did to the art form. After that, reading too much of other people's work will just make it harder for you to pull something non-cliche out of you mind, because you've saturated yourself with input that follows a certain set of rules.