Saturday, April 24, 2010

'Riting, Reading, Recalcitrant

I'm a dabbler.

Well, if one wishes to be literate and snobby about it, I am eclectic.

Yeah. We'll go with that one. (laugh)

As stated in a previous post, I often need distractions such as music, or a movie playing on the television, to help me focus, to jump start the synapses and keep the creativity pistons firing. But, on the other hand, I can be so concentrated on a project that other things -- phones ringing, people addressing me, doorbells sounding, alarm clocks buzzing -- can be relegated to just background noise. I hear them, but I don't register the need to respond to them. Anybody else ever been there?

Well, there's some similarity between that imaginary bubble that keeps out unwanted distractions, and the bubble that only lets in books that truly capture my interest.

I am unfaithful to my genre. Yeah, I write speculative fiction (SF and fantasy), but I've read enough Westerns and mystery novels to paper the inside of a good-sized spaceship.

Then there are pieces of classic literature, some of which I was forced to read but ended up appreciating (The Mayor of Casterbridge, for example), or was forced to read and ended up despising (Jude the Obscure, ironically by the same author), or read quite willingly on my own, many of them several times (Moby-Dick, The Call of the Wild, Tom Sawyer, Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, Les Miserables).

In addition to reading for pleasure, I've edited many manuscripts in a variety of genres and skill levels. The ones that have unintentionally made me laugh out loud? Romances, especially the tawdry ones. Perhaps they are, as much as any other books, fantasy novels.

But what about speculative fiction? Why write it if I don't often read it? After all, Lewis and Tolkien and Carroll and Poe and Bradbury and Kipling and their ilk are major influences on why I started writing when I was a kid.

I need the distraction. I need to step outside the world of my own creation and let my imagination take some R & R in someone else's creation. That means leaving the dragons or the space pirates, and setting off across the Oregon Trail or sailing the Mediterranean. The brain needs a stretch.

Besides, I don't always like doing what I'm told: "You must read Twilight! It sooooo good!" or "How can you not want to watch Avatar? It's, like, the most awesomest movie ever!" or "You write fantasy, and you've never read a Harry Potter book?"

Yeah, well, as I wrote recently to a friend:
I'm finally reading an Orson Scott Card book. I know, I know, any self-respecting science fiction writer already has a slew of OSC novels on the shelf, tattered from much reading. I, however, am somewhat of a heretic.

The book I'm reading is THE novel in the OSC repertoire: Ender's Game. It's actually pretty good.
I might even write a book report about it.

So, any other recalcitrant but eclectic readers? Anyone else out there with a library of literary mismatches that seem to coexist quite well?


Phy said...

It's like you're reading my mail. Spooky.

re: OSC, if you do end up liking Ender's Game, I'd suggest continuing on to Speaker for the Dead, and then stop. Just let Ender's tale travel on out into space like the prologue text from a Star Wars movie. Trust me on this one.

But then, if you're of a mind to, go ahead and pick up all four of the books in the Ender's Shadow trilogy. (And there's a new one on the way, Shadow Flight, making the fifth in the increasingly inaccurately-named trilogy, a nod to Douglas Adams.) All of those are brilliant and stick closer to home, allowing Card to do what he does best, and showcasing his genius.

I didn't see any Dumas in there, nor Steven Brust, who copied the D'artagnan books with his Khaavren Romances. They're spectacular!

Keanan Brand said...

I knew I was missing someone! Dumas was a HUGE influence on my youthful daydreaming. I WAS D'artagnan, y' know! (laughing) And in more ways than just the imaginary swordfights -- I had a quick temper, too, and that led me to do some pretty foolish things.

Thanks for the advice re: the Ender books. I'm really like Ender's Game.

Haven't read any Brust, though -- it's on my list. Thanks!