Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stop! in the name of variation

So, normally, I'd have spent this past Thursday writing a Book Thievery episode re: China Miéville's "Iron Council." Unfortunately, I would feel squeamish accomplishing such an act, since I didn't actually finish the book.

I was close, though - less than a hundred pages remained. And it's strange that the book that, of all the books I've read in the last few months, is the first one not to be finished, is written by an author who is by far one of my favourites.

However, I've become utterly inured, it seems, to having any enjoyment reading fantasy. Have I read too much? Not enough? Too widely? Too narrowly? It can't entirely be said. But what I know for sure is: 1) I need more variation, and, 2) I'm more comfortable reading something that's different from what I'm writing, most of the time.

possibly the face of revenge
This second observation is somewhat heretical; not nearly so as my claim, several months ago, which was basically literarily pissed on by my peers (not that there's hard feelings or a dirty nuke in my literary closet awaiting Ultimate Retribution), that not reading anything at all can be beneficial to your writing (go read "Becoming a Writer" by Dorothea Brande if you're not convinced), but still, at least, odd.

I'm incapable of not reading at this point in my life, though, so I won't be going quite so far. Nonetheless, I need to get away from the standard stuff I'm reading. It's incredibly difficult to imagine creative ways to write fantasy and science fiction when you're reading creative fantasy and science fiction; there's too many opportunities to look at some book and think how much better it is than yours, or to stumble across ideas vaguely associated with your own and thereby knock the wind out of your project.

But, in the end, it's not any of these esoteric, theoretical convictions which made me put down Iron Council - and it wasn't anything wrong with the book, which, had I written a Book Thievery about it, would have been my shortest ever. ("Steal everything, leave nothing behind.") I'm just pooped with fantasy for a bit. I'll spend some time with non-fiction and mainstream/literary, instead, just to remind myself what other kind of ideas are out there - and so I don't drive myself insane.



  1. This happens to me all the time. I have about a four-month period in which I can really dig a genre, but after that, I have to move on to something else for a while. Like you, I end up not finishing books by my favorite writers. Alas, Brandon Sanderson's ELANTRIS was the victim of one of the transition periods.

    If you haven't read anything by Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, or Robert B. Parker --- all crime writers --- do so. You'll love them. I haven't read a bad book by any of them.

    Especially recommended:

    Leonard, GET SHORTY
    Parker, THE JUDAS GOAT

  2. Greg Bear Writes Better Than Me

    Hull Zero amazing.

    BUT! (and here I may expose myself as a narcissist) I bet I could write Better. And after that? He may write even better. And then I'd write Better Yet.

    And then I'd write even better.

  3. For myself, I agree with 1, but 2 isn't really an issue for me. If I'm reading somebody whose style I like, it just encourages me. Then again, it also takes me several weeks or a month to read anything with chapters these days in my limited "me" time, usually on the exercise bike or "just a few minutes" (which turns into a half hour) before bed. The bulk of my reading these days is of board books--though we're starting to graduate to paper. My son now has the manual dexterity to turn their pages, but I'm still concerned that he'll tear them.

  4. Rough place to be, with the importance of immersing ourselves in our genres. But variety could be your savior. I'm on the third Diane Duane audio book and I'm not as eager to get through this one as the others. Could just be I don't like this one as much as I liked the others. That's fine, too. Could even be my mood at this point.

    Anyway, don't drive yourself crazy. Move onto something else. Life's too short to get stuck anywhere. :)