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.


Literary Tattoos

A not so complete history of literary tattoos. (Link pinched from the blog of Jonathan Carroll.

Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press in Germany in 1439. Samuel O’Reilly invented the modern tattoo machine in 1891. And sometime around the turn of the century the first literary tattoo was born. Whether nostalgic for the characters from a favorite children’s book or as a tribute to a favorite writer’s words, the book tattoo is a classy way to go. The lowbrow nature of the tattoo juxtaposes nicely against the highbrow art of the book. Here now, a look at some of its many forms.

Right, I’m off to get something from the books of Hemingway, or DeLillo. And I swear I’ll propose to a girl who has either of these authors’ work etched into their skin.


Jeff Buckley

At last, a video of Jeff Buckley that those bastards at Sony haven’t stamped their authoritarian copyright on.



Map Geek

Last night I sketched a map. A secondary world map, for Nights of Villjamur. There are some who may think this stretches into true nerdism, and you may be right, but I can’t deny it felt good. Can’t have a fantasy without a map, many say.

There’s something thoroughly satisfying about putting the world I was writing about into a visual form. Although, it has to be said that my sketch was truly appalling, and the guys at Macmillan are going to get a cartographer on the case to translate the lines I hacked into the paper into something altogether more pleasing to the eye. Cartographer = awesome.

In the meantime, here are two links about old/antique map collections, for all the map geeks out there, at the British Library, and Hipkiss’ scans of old maps.


“The Harvest Moon” by Ted Hughes

The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can’t sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!’ and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.


Rushdie: Best of the Best of the…

Very happy to see Salman Rushdie winning the Best of the Booker Prize Award.

Midnight’s Children won the Booker Prize in 1981. It was then chosen as the Booker of Bookers in 1993 – the only other time a celebratory prize has been awarded.

The Best of the Booker shortlist was selected by a panel of judges – the biographer, novelist and critic Victoria Glendinning (Chair), writer and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, and John Mullan, Professor of English at University College, London. The decision then went to a public poll.

When voting closed at midday on 8 July over 7800 people had voted (online and SMS) for the six shortlisted titles, with 36% voting for Midnight’s Children. Votes flooded in from across the world with 37% of online votes coming from the UK, followed by 27% from North America.

Victoria Glendinning comments, ‘The readers have spoken – in their thousands. And we do believe that they have made the right choice.’

I need to read it again, if only I have the time… Whilst not as strong a book, IMHO, as the Satanic Verses (which has one of the best openings in any kind of fiction), it represented a start point in my reading life where I began to demand more from my fiction. It was the first book I’d ever read to so clearly show symbols, themes, motifs, with an electrifying style and humour, and how it can all be used to construct a truly unforgettable piece of fiction, (as opposed to what I saw being referred to, perhaps unfairly (but this is a subjective industry of course), as forgetful entertainment). Being half-Indian myself, sure I could really enjoy seeing the cultural clashes, but that aside it was one of the books to change how I view other books.

And there’s something encouraging about a magic realism book winning such an award, because it shows that those who are often accused of literary snobbery do like their fantasy.


Owen & Sufjan

Still waiting for both these guys to come to the UK.