Reading the classics and other writing links (#SFWApro)

(For various reasons, review post will be tomorrow)

Brian K. Lowe blogs about reading the classics of SF or fantasy. Are they something you have to read to understand the genre? Or the equivalent of that old stuff we’re supposed to read to be literate but nobody cares about any more? I honestly don’t think they’re somehow necessary to read or write in the genre, any more than reading the early novels (Tale of Genji, Pamela, Sorrows of Young Werther) is necessary to write fiction (even given the SF classics are more recent).

The best reasons to do that are because a)you like that stuff or b)you can learn from it. 1930s stories tend to treat magic very differently—few heroes use it, and it’s much lower level than most mages today. It’s good to know that the way JK Rowling or Jim Dresden or Charmed handle magic isn’t necessarily the only one. Beyond that no, I don’t think there’s any particular reason to read them to understand where we’re coming from. That reflects specfic’s fixation on the genre’s history, I think—I’m not aware of romance writers lecturing each other on the necessity of reading, say, 1960s Harlequins or Forever Amber.

The other extreme is expressed in this post from Erik Loomis of LGM, that it’s better to buy new music than old stuff because current creators need money more than people who are established, or dead. While I feel for struggling artists of any sort—lord knows, I’d sooner have someone buy Philosophy and Fairytales than LOTR or Tolkien—I’ve got to disagree. The incredible amount of old stuff available in every genre and media makes it much tougher for us newbies to compete, let alone make a living. But I wouldn’t prioritize new writers or musicians just because they need the money, any more than I’d expect someone to do that for me.

I do agree with Loomis that if you’re going to turn up your nose at something — current music, old SF classics, Silver Age comics, modern indie comics — you should have at least some knowledge of what you’re dismissing. On the other hand, if you don’t dismiss it but just don’t listen/read, I think that’s fine. I could quite easily spend the rest of my life rereading what I’ve already bought and haven’t reread in years.  I do think it’s good to explore and expand your taste, but your soul probably won’t shrivel if you stick within your established range.

•This article argues scenes should pivot: your character begins the scene with one goal, then it goes in a different direction. I think there’s definitely some truth to that, though I wouldn’t count it as an absolute (like any rule). A heavy conflict scene where the hero wins out over the opposition doesn’t need to pivot if the struggle is intense enough.

•A discussion of character using Kirk as an example of a well-written one: we know him well enough to predict what he’d do, but not to the point he’s dull. Case in point (my example, not from the link), when Picard confronts the Borg for the first time, he turns to Q and admits that the Enterprise can’t survive without that entity’s help. I don’t think for a minute that Kirk, the man who beat Kobashi Maru, would ever have said that.

•And in conclusion, a cover for A. Merritt’s horror novel Burn Witch Burn (don’t know artist, all rights to current holder). Just because

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