Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reading and Writing (but no arithmetic today)

Does anyone even recognize that reference in my title, or is that one of those obscure things I picked up from having an elderly father?

Hrm. I meant to make another playlist for you yesterday, but forgot. Ah well, I'm thinking of moving that to another day of the week, as I've recently discovered "Teaser Tuesday," when writers post little snippets of their writing to titillate others. I haven't decided, though, whether I'll be posting my writing and writing-related posts on this blog, or making another one to keep things more organized. It's not really a pressing question right now, as no one really reads this blog.

Speaking of writing, I'd like to recommend a book I've recently read on the subject. I always kind of considered books on writing to be amateur and thus avoided them, but I stumbled onto How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card in our local branch of the library and ended up enjoying it so much that I recently purchased a copy of it on Amazon (for a penny, of course).

This one initially caught my eye because of the author. I've read what is probably his most notable work, the sci-fi classic Ender's Game, and it is truly a brilliant book. He's had great success as an author, but I didn't pick up How to Write to learn how to be successful - if you know me, you know that popular success is not my goal in writing. No, I picked this book up to see if the knowledge contained within could teach me more about science fiction and what, other than content, makes it different from other fiction, and I also wanted to see if it could help me give my own writing some direction.

I wasn't disappointed. Card knows his stuff when it comes to writing, and he was dedicated to making sure that he didn't digress into generalizations about all genres, but stayed specifically on the subject of speculative writing. One of the reasons I bought the book for my own library is because there is so much useful information in it, that I am certain I will need a copy to refer back to at my leisure. Granted, some of the publication information is a bit out-dated, given that this book is a good twenty years old, but that is a relatively small portion of book as a whole and doesn't dim the quality of the rest of the book. The only thing really missing from this book is a discussion of cyberpunk writing, but as that sub-genre didn't gain popularity until recently, it isn't surprising that he doesn't address it.

What I love most about this book, though, is that it is a great read for readers as well as writers. It quite literally changes the way you read and makes you more aware of the devices at work behind the story. If you are at all interested in a more Formalist approach to literature and not simply in it for a good story, I would recommend you check this book out. You may find yourself understanding why certain books are more popular and better-written than others.

So, kudos, Orson Scott Card. Your nonfiction rocks just as much as your fiction does.

Following in that trend, I've picked up Stephen King's On Writing from the library. To be honest, I've never actually read any Stephen King, as I'm not much of a horror reader, but if my adventure in On Writing goes well, I may be tempted to pick up one of his fiction books and see what all the fuss is about. Feel free to drop suggestions into a comment and send them my way if there is a particular novel you feel would be a good one to start with (or just your favorite in general).

As for fiction reading, I'm still casually strolling through Gene Wolfe's The Knight. Poor thing has been neglected as of late, as I've been pouring most of my reading time into school and nonfiction. It will get some love soon, though.

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