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Genre authors not reading genre

(11 posts)

  1. EThomas

    I just recently read this post at the "Speculative Horizons" blog that is someone upset that genre writers don't read in the genre they write:

    In truth, it seems like what this poster is really most upset about is actually genre writers who not only don't read books and stories in their genre, but writers who also actively badmouth the other writers of their genre as only putting out junk.

    This phenomenon has bothered me before, as well--dismissing everyone else in a genre that you aren't even reading seems unfair. It also seems odd to me since fantasy and science fiction have in some many ways been a genre that often thrives on being, in some ways, an ongoing conversation. I like how new stories can echo off old or other stories in interesting ways.

    Now, I have read some great authors who say they don't read SF and fantasy for fun anymore--they are burnt out with reading so much of it, or they are just focusing more attention on other genres--and that is fair enough. On the other hand, a writer thinking that s/he is the only one writing anything worthy in a genre they don't read seems naive.

    Any thoughts?

    Posted 11 years ago #
  2. Japanfan

    To me, writing is like an open book;
    You have to have one, and you have to BE one. To not read what others write is doing a disservice to yourself. It shows where the high water mark is. It shows what you have to compete against and probably most importantly it triggers inspirations.
    Granted, you might lose the wind from your sails as well, when you see someone else has done an idea you were thinking was "your original".

    But to slag someones writing if you haven't read it??? That, for me, is grounds NOT to buy that writer. (the critic) Our money supports writers by buying their work, and like so much in life, we can make decisions with our wallets. This is just a personal decision for me, but why would I want to give money to someone I don't like or respect. I'd much rather give it to an unknown whose stories I like and who I have more respect for.

    Just my 2 yen.

    Posted 11 years ago #
  3. FOTSGreg

    Frankly, not being familiar with the genre you're ostensibly writing in seems kinda' weird to me.I mean, one truism that seems particularly true to me is that in order write it you have to read it.

    That guy Bilsborough? Never heard of him and therefore couldn't care less about what he thinks, and his comments regarding American fantasy makes me even less inclined to do so. He seems to have a bit of an attitude towards American writers in particular and maybe Americans in general. Of course, he feels like he's "above it all", but if he's such a crack writer making such a huge fortune writing whatever it is he writes, why haven't I heard of him at least in some sense?

    It seems an obvious case of sour grapes to me.

    Disparaging other writers is something that seems, to me, to be a disservice to writers in general. Disparaging writers in your own genre feels like crass elitism in its worst sense.

    I wouldn't, for example, disparage King, Koontz, Heinlein, Asimov, Ringo, Weber, or Flint though I might (and have) say that I don't particularly care for the way they tell stories or that their characterizations could be better or think that they're better at this type of story or that one. However, I do read these guys because I write in their genres and they have a lot to teach me and I have a lot to learn. When I finish learning you can lead me out to the nearest field and shoot me because I'll be done living too.

    It has become all too popular of late to disparage other writers (actually, that's been the case with other writers since Plato and Homer were pups), editors, critics, or reviewers. It's an old and established art form in and of itself. It won't end with Bilsborough. Feuds in SF and fantasy and horror fiction are also part of our genre - unfortunately.

    Posted 11 years ago #
  4. Anonymous

    I find it highly unlikely to be a writer but not a reader. However, I don't think it's detrimental to not be a reader of your genre.

    It makes sense in some way, not reading your competitor's work. That way, they can't claim that you bit their opus. If all you're reading is aerospace technical manuals, then you might be writing turgid prose w.r.t. sci-fi, but at least there's no Ewoks!

    I think that it's better for someone who is solidly founded in what he/she writes to not read their peers unless they really, really enjoy reading it. That way, they're not swaying, or inadvertently changing their style based on what they're reading.

    Though I am by no means a professional writer, if you take a look at what I read, you wouldn't see just fantasy and science fiction. There's some literature (currently working on _Finnegans Wake_), some computer/mathematics text books, some books on typography, some books on cinema critique, and even some Mesoamerican history books. I read everything I can get my hands on, basically, because I want to know as much as I can about as much as I can so when I write, I actually sound like I know a lot about what I'm writing about. Plus, I like to reinterpret and mashup incongruous themes in an entertaining way.

    But what do I write? Well, so far, only short fiction pertaining to zombies and technical articles on extracting saved passwords from public computers...

    Long story short: it depends on the author. I think that an author who knows his/her stuff should avoid his/her peers, but if an author loves to read what he/she writes, by all means, do so. It's almost like the Biba Integrity model, in a way.

    Posted 11 years ago #
  5. EThomas

    It seems to me that it would be a good idea for a writer to be widely read in all kinds of books...of course, maybe I just like this idea since I'm an "omnivorous reader" myself. From a reader's perspective, though, it does seem a little weird to me to never read anything in your own genre. I can see why someone might get burnt out on the genre that they are spending all their time immersed in, though.

    I guess there are really several issues here: Should genre authors be expected to read in genre? Should genre authors not badmouth the entire field that they are part of? Finally, do genre authors who don't even read the genre have any authority to criticize it?

    Posted 11 years ago #
  6. jason

    If you don't read literature, you aren't a true writer. I've met so many writers over the years who claim they "hate to read" that I don't even bother pointing out the flaw in their little scheme. After all, if you don't read literature, you won't know how to improve your own writing by studying those many, many writers who are better than you.

    Posted 11 years ago #
  7. Gordon Van Gelder

    Has anyone pointed out that Bernard Cornwell didn't write STARKADDER and VARGR MOON? They were written by Bernard King.

    ---Gordon V.G.

    Posted 11 years ago #
  8. EThomas

    That error has not been brought up yet, to my knowledge...for a minute I thought it was the fault of the poster at "Speculative Horizons," so I posted to let him know on the follow up post that we were discussing it here and the correction. Looking closer, I see that Bilsborough (one of the authors used as an example) actually made the mistake in his original interview, so I posted again noting that I see that the error is in the original interview.

    Posted 11 years ago #
  9. jhsierra

    I do believe that reading your competitors works, they be present or past, helps you form your own "world".

    In short, we are what we experience in life, shaped by events by our choices made.

    Posted 11 years ago #
  10. DaveRobinson

    I know David Weber has said he doesn't read much anymore - he has only so much time/effort and sometimes has to choose between writing 5,000 words as per contract or reading 50,000 words.

    Not reading much once you're a success makes sense - not reading because you think all your competitors are crap makes one wonder why you write that genre to begin with.

    Posted 11 years ago #
  11. EThomas

    I wonder if it is a kind of bullying way to feel better about yourself. "I'm the only one doing anything good in this field?" I don't know--it's kind of strange.

    Posted 11 years ago #

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