On genre reading

Interesting rant by James over at Speculative Horizons.

Something which has become increasingly common in recent years is the number of fantasy authors who, when asked what other genre writers they read/admire, give a reply along the lines of: “Oh, well…I don’t really read fantasy, you see.”… So why don’t some fantasy authors read fantasy novels? Are they embarrassed to read fantasy (but not to write it)? Do they not have respect for the genre? Perhaps it’s because after spending a day working on their own stories in their own worlds they don’t want to then get lost in someone else’s world, but I think that is just an excuse. I spend every free waking moment thinking about/working on my own project, and I still love to read fantasy on my daily commute.

It’s a fair point. I have to say, there’s something distinctly S&M about authors who write fantasy but don’t like it. Me, I think it’s important to read in the genre. If you want to claim to innovate, how can you if you don’t know what’s gone before? If you don’t want to copy what’s gone before, you need to know what’s already there. Also, for new writers, you need to know what market you’re writing in—know how your book will fit in with what publishers actually want.

But I think it’s equally important to read other genres and styles, too. It gives you something fresh to play with, ideas that approach prose style, plot and characterization from different angles.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

5 replies on “On genre reading”

Yup, pretty much what the Gollancz editors said in their SFX interviews – you’ve got to read the genre to find out what’s going on. I don’t really get the idea of spending years on something I wouldn’t enjoy for pleasure. Just a diet of fantasy books wouldn’t be good for anyone, but I doubt any writer would manage to restrict themselves to a single genre!

I saw this comment over at James’s blog…

I find it presumptuous for writers to make these comments about the genre and then try and get money from the people who will read “crap.”

That’s why I don’t read their books.

Tom: totally agree. I think the more new writers understand that point, the better their chances of publication.

Hi Rob: I think that’s one way to deal with writers who attack the genre, certainly; making statements with your money (or not, in this case)…

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