I hope this finds you well.
This month, I’m going to go on a little rant about gatekeeping and the supposed need to read ‘the classics’ in your chosen genre, but first I’ll shill for my Patreon where I’ll be uploading the first part of a modern vampire story, “Crimson Cold Brew” on the 31st for the delectation of my patrons. You can read my Patreon stories and help support this writer for as little as $1 a month and all contributions are much appreciated.
I’ll also make my recurring little note about being kind to yourself. I’ve been a wee bit unwell this past fortnight and I don’t think I’m going to make the necessary rewrites and edits for a submission window that closes this Sunday. The part of my brain that hates me says that this shows I’m not dedicated enough, not good enough and should just trunk the story, give up writing etc. etc. That part of my brain needed more hugs as a child.
Instead, I’ll choose to finish the story to the best of my abilities and the try to find it a home once it’s done. Stories don’t always come as quickly as you’d like, sometimes real life gets in the way and how often does the submission window that you first thought looked good actually pick up the story anyway?
Be kind to yourself and let the stories come in their time. Sure, you need to put the work in but beating yourself up never made your prose better.
Almost following on from that thought, it seems that the never-ending argument has arisen on Book Twitter about having to have read the classic canon in your given genre in order to write or appreciate it properly.
Encouragingly, like most of my favourite writers, I think this is total bobbins.
I’ve probably read about half of the supposed classic sci-fi canon and less than that from fantasy and horror. There are classic, critically acclaimed andmuch-belovedd works that I just bounced straight off of when I first read them and I’ve never felt compelled to go back. Foundation, Gormenghast and Dracula all spring to mind.
Looking back at the works that inspired me as a kid, it started with Peter Pan and the Just So Stories, then largely inspired by TV moved through The Chronicles of Narnia and onwards through that wonderful period of 80s movies and cartoons. Throw in an interest in mythology (those Greek and Norse gods had some adventures, eh?), stuff like Dan Dare, 2000AD, Warhammer & 40k, Star Trek, Dungeons & Dragons and so on.
As a teenager, I discovered Terry Pratchett, Clive Barker, Julian May, Iain M. Banks and later Robin Hobb and Janny Wurts. I was more into powering through those series than going back to read more Asimov or Heinlein. I only read the Lord of the Rings immediately before the films came out, moved onto the Silmarillion and liked it better.
Sure, there are classic works that I’ve gone back to explore and some of them I’ve loved – Dune and The Wizard of Earthsea for example. However, there are some highly recommended works that just don’t work for me including some that I’d really enjoyed as a teenager and don’t stand up anymore.
My point is that there is no One True Way to make the journey of being a speculative (or any kind of fiction) reader. Holding an almost arbitrary set of books that are 70+ years old as things you Must Read and Must Respect as gatekeepers to opinion is just silly.
It puts people off reading genre in the first place and puts them off talking and enthusing about it, because of the invitable Old Bore who will tell them that Ann Leckie isn’t a patch on Asimov because XYZ and you have to have read this laundry list of works to be allowed an opinion.
Screw those guys.
There are more stories written than can ever be read and more are added to the pile every day. Read what interests you and by all means, take recommendations but don’t drag yourself through something that doesn’t excite you just because it’s supposed to be a classic.
Unless you’re reading it for your Higher English or an M.Litt or something, obviously.
For my part, I’m trying to catch/keep up with what’s current in SFF while filling in some holes in my reading – somehow I hadn’t read any Le Guin until last year and I’m adoring her work.
At the end of the day, read for joy, not to live up to some arbitrary genre standard and it is your joy in reading that will lead you to be a better writer.
That’s my tuppence worth for this month, please check out my Patreon, my pal Beth’s Speculative Spaces podcast which features the Confessions of a Bookseller and above all, be kind to yourself and one another.
If you want to support my writing on a regular basis, please check out my Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/chrisnapier) or if you feel like helping out in a one-off sort of way, buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi (http://ko-fi.com/chriscrowing.)
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