Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On Reading

If you love SF and grew
up during the 70s and 80s
you should read this.
On Monday I mentioned I felt that while I struggled with re-writes I was getting better at them. I also mentioned that I had spent a lifetime reading things to prepare me to be a storyteller. (I also mentioned Heinlein but we'll get to him in a minute.)

I've read most of the greats of SF: the aforementioned Robert A. Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, L'Engle, Bradbury, Moorcock (his time-traveling stuff and some of the epic fantasy), Campbell, and dozens of others in short stories and novels. I'm not exactly up-to-date on all the new kids but I like Mieville, Carroll, Baxter, Wolfe, Bear, Benford, Kress (recently), Vinge, Swanwick, and again - dozens of others. Every year for the last four I've gotten Year's Best SF edited by Hartwell and Cramer and that's been as eye-opening an education as anything.

(And I have to say that I'm disappointed that this year's book won't be out until September. However, it WILL be in hardcover so I guess I can't complain. Too much. Still.)

However, I don't know why I didn't read any Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. He's a writer of SF and I was always aware of him, but no one ever made it plain to me what he wrote. I always heard how he's a national treasure, how he's so satirical and so on the mark with dark humor and that satire. He came to the University of Kansas when I was just out of high school and talked to a packed house about being a writer. I saw him give his famous chalkboard lecture on story. BRILLIANT.

But I never read any of his stuff.

And then I read Among Others by Jo Walton and her main character kept mentioning the word karass and I learned what that was from her, not from Vonnegut. (And you should read Among Others if you have a love of SF. I had so many I-know-how-she-feels moments when the diary entries go on about the older SF writers I mentioned above that I felt like I was part of the book even though I'm a forty-something man reading about a fifteen year-old girl. It's that absorbing and I recommend it highly. HIGHLY.)

So because the main character mentions casually to someone that he should read Cat's Cradle I went to the library and picked it up.

Which is what books should do, right? They should influence you to read more books. In this case it worked. I'm finally reading an author I should have read while he was alive. And I read another great author whose work I will look for in the future. All the greats in my library at home are getting another generation of writers to keep them company.

While all of it filters through my brain and hopefully comes out as new science fiction.

That's how it's done.

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