It is funny how life creeps around you, slowly shifting you away from the things you used to love. As my career obligations and desire for family time have grown over the years I’ve had less and less time for reading. What I realised this year was that I’d got to the point where I was pretty much only reading new books by a shrinking pool of authors that I was already familiar with and who weren’t dead yet. So yes, I was keeping up with my Terry Pratchett, William Gibson and Neal Stephenson but I was not reading anything by anyone new.
(My one exception to this rule is pulp fiction based around universes created in TV series. I’m not too proud to say that I do go through quite a few Star Trek and Star Wars books each year. Always easy reading, sometimes good and worthwhile for the times where they are both. I come across new authors a fair bit through those books. However, I don’t think I could claim that I’m stretching my understanding of the speculative fiction genre by that particular reading trend – I’m mostly retreading already well trodden ground. Don’t get me wrong, I love ’em – but they are “I’ve had a crappy week and I just want to lose myself in a familiar but different universe” territory, not “I want a new, interesting and thought provoking perspective on the human condition with a twist that will have me thinking for weeks afterwards”. That characterisation is probably best supported by the fact that I almost never go on to read any of those author’s other work – more a sad commentary on me than any reflection on their work).
It’s been very interesting coming to grips with a new set of stories over the last twelve months. It’s also been interesting to actively consider where my fiction is coming from and whether I’m reading from a diverse enough range of authors. I’ve never really given a lot of thought to things like gender of authors, country of origin etc. But listening to some podcasts (see the podcasts page for my favourites) and you get a sense of the value of seeking out stories beyond your reading complacency zone. One of the things I most love about speculative fiction is its ability to show people and issues from different perspectives. Reading more broadly has certainly helped me recapture some of that.
So I’m still very time poor but I am reading more widely now and will continue to do so. I’m also paying more attention to issues in the speculative fiction community, like representation of gender and cultural groups in the field. It makes for more interesting reading and having a better idea of what is out there is definitely good for my writing as well.
If you are reading this and like me you’ve been stuck on the big name merry-go-round but you want to start reading more Australian content, I found Australian SF magazines, podcasts and publishers are a good place to start looking.