Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My 7 Dirty Little Reading Secrets

Over at Cinema Fromage, Casey posted his his 7 Dirty Little Reading Secrets, and I thought I'd take some inspiration from Casey (and, indirectly, from Book Riot since that's where Casey found the meme in the first place) and address my own 7 dirty little reading secrets (in no particular order).

I read very little science fiction. I like my science fiction on the (silver or television) screen, and compared to the other genre fiction I read, science fiction takes up very little real estate on my bookshelf or on my Kindle. It's not that I don't LIKE science fiction (one of my favorite novels - The Last Stand of the DNA Cowboys - is a science fiction work), but I'm just not as drawn to it as a genre as much as I am toward fantasy, horror or anything else prose- or short-story-wise. (Although I am eager to get into Haywire after having interviewed author Justin Macumber here and here.)

Growing up, I always preferred Dragonlance over Forgotten Realms novels. This might just be a matter of having read the Dragonlance Chronicles before reading anything Forgotten Realms-wise, but (and if I can geek out here for a moment) I always felt as if the readers got to watch the characters in the Dragonlance stories grow from the equivalent of 1st-level D&D characters to the higher-level heroes they became, whereas the characters in the Forgotten Realms stories already started out as the high-level types that easily maneuvered their way through their world.

I still can't believe that I enjoy reading Westerns. If you had told me two years ago that I'd enjoy going through the Western section at Powell's as much as I enjoyed browsing the horror section, I would have laughed, but now . . . I'm hooked. I've not made the plunge into Louis L'Amour or any of the so-called Western "standards" (outside of James Reasoner's work). Rather, I find myself doing what I normally do when it comes to other genres I enjoy - I gravitate toward the more obscure, rare, out-of-print stuff. (The last Western I read was Lobo Gray by L. L. Foreman.) Even Western movie-wise, I'll take a subtitled Spaghetti Western starring folks that have never worked in Hollywood over something starring Clint Eastwood (no disrespect to Clint, mind you!).

It took me a LONG time to get around to reading The Lord of the Rings, and the first time I started the first book, I didn't finish. I understand Tolkien's importance in the grand scheme of literature, fantasy or otherwise. I get it. I respect it. But I already knew the story . . . or most of it. It was hard to be a fan of fantasy fiction in multiple mediums without really knowing the material second-, third- or fourth-hand. When the Peter Jackson films rolled out, I decided to finally give reading the series a shot, and I made it through all but the last chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring. When I realized that the titles of the individual tracks from Howard Shore's film score from the the first Jackson film were all the names of the chapter titles in Fellowship..., I just sort of . . . stopped.

I never read Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park . . . but I lied that I did. When the Speilberg film was about to hit in 1993, I was excited to see it, and the family of my then-girlfriend was also excited, so we all made plans to see it together opening weekend. I don't remember the specifics of how we got to this point, but somehow or other, an agreement was made between me and her father that I had to read Crichton's novel first. I didn't want to. I ended up with a copy of the book, but I never cracked it open. My reasoning at the time is that I wanted Spielberg to tell me the story, not Crichton, but I kept that reasoning to myself. I did a little research (harder to do in the pre-Wikipedia days), found out what some of the differences were between the novel and the film, and called it good. After watching the movie with her family, I made some noise about how I was glad Jeff Goldblum's character didn't die like he (apparently) did in the book, and called it good. It never came up again.

I cannot read more than one novel at a time. I know people who can, and do regularly, but I just can't do it. My brain isn't wired to handle it. I can read one novel, one reference or non-fiction book and a collection of short stories at the same time, but I can only chew on one novel at once.

Reading is both the best and the worst thing for my writing. When I read fantasy, I want to write fantasy. When I read horror, I want to write horror. When I read superhero fiction, I start thinking about how I can create my own superhero prose. And I've already started thinking about Westerns (see above). On the one hand, my brain is able to pick up on the rhythms, pacing, flavors and sensibilities of whatever genre I'm enjoying at any given moment, and the creative blood starts pulsing through my brain and the words flow . . . in that genre. But the moment I switch gears and start reading something else genre-wise, even if I'm in the middle of a writing project, I'll start feeling the pull to change genre gears writing-wise as well. Eventually, I know I'll have a nice variety of stories in many different genres, but damn if it doesn't make it hard for me to stick with one or two writing projects through to the end before I find myself drifting . . . all because I started reading something in a different genre (and I can't help myself!).


Anonymous said...

These are some honest thoughts here, and I've got to say that I'm guilty of a few of them myself. Especially your last one. When I read a kick-ass book in any genre, I want to write in that genre too.

What I've tried doing is taking my favorite archetypes and try putting them in a story. For instance, an Old West cowboy, a PI from the 30's and a demon from the future. I figure "How the blazes can I fit them into one story?", and go from there. Maybe that will help.

Love MOZ, and I'd be interested in your work. See you on the battlefield.


Tracey said...

I'm with you on LOTR - I feel as if I've ready them already, thru pop culture exposure.

BTW- Can I borrow "The Last Stand of the DNA Cowboys" sometimes- from the title alone, it sounds awesome!