Thinking over the last few things I’ve read lately, these have included a contemporary thriller, an autobiography, and I am half-way through a SF anthology. Before that I was re-reading a favourite fantasy series.
I’ve always been jealous of people who have had time to read all the literary classics – the books I feel like I ‘should’ have read. Although I have read the ones that appeared on the bookshelves at home when I was a younger, time since has left me too little time to play catch up. And my university days studying Chemical Engineering did not give me too much scope either.
But what ‘should’ a writer in the speculative fiction field be reading? There are those who strongly advocate reading extensively within the genre, and I would have to agree that every writer should delve deeply there at least once or twice to get a good feel what has been done and where the leading edge is. Beyond that I’m not sure.
A long while back I read Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury. It was a good read. One of the things I remember from it is that he himself believed in not reading within the genre he wrote in. He would read all sorts of other non-fiction or other literary works, but nothing in the SFF field. Reading Ray Bradbury this probably all makes sense:)
Along the same lines, some people stay away from genre material fearing that it will ‘contaminate’ their own ideas or storylines.
I’ve always tended toward the idea that on some deep level we are guided by an instinct on what is right for us at any given time – a kind of ‘healthy eating’ instinct, but this time focussed on the written word.
Either way we are probably all suffering from not having enough time to read as much as we would like. I know for myself it often comes down to choice between either writing or reading.
Do you read only within the SFF fields or do you wander where you will? What do you think of the ‘don’t read in the genre’ theory?