December 20, 2004

Literary Hell

I probably shouldn’t admit this. There’s a major reason that I shouldn’t be a science fiction writer. I don’t like most science fiction, even those books people find seminal. I started reading Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash this weekend. It hasn’t spoken to me yet. I just don’t find the Deliverator all that interesting. I may live to eat these words. I hope I do because I’d like to get into it.

Here comes sacrilege: I have started and stopped reading Gibson’s Neuromancer more than once. I don’t really like Bruce Sterling. Maybe I just don’t like cyberpunk. I don’t care about computers enough. This may sound entirely ignorant because the books are probably about more than computers. But people love these books so much that it seems I should be able to take something from them. I can read anything and everything by Philip K. Dick. I don’t what it is that separates him from those other writers. I trust what Philip K. Dick lays down, even when it’s poorly written. I trust his inspiration. He seems to write about the mind more, rather than just the machinations of culture. It seems more human. It’s authentically weird instead of trying to be weird. Maybe he just writes better sentences.

I feel like I should at least have read some of the important works of the genre if I’m going to try it myself--if only out of respect. Part of the reason that I wanted to write a science fiction novel is because I am not a science fiction writer. I can tackle it from a different angle--less confined, maybe, hopefully. Some of the masterpieces of science fiction were written by non-science fiction writers--Brave New World, 1984. Those novels I finished. On the whole, I put down a book if it doesn’t instantly feel like being on some kind of unique drug. This doesn’t happen very often. It’s frustrating and my own fault.

There are certain books I appreciate but can’t read. Gibson might fall into that category, though one of these days I may pick up a novel and it’ll floor me. I’ve started and stopped reading Naked Lunch and Tropic of Cancer over and over again. I like reading non-fiction about Burroughs and Henry Miller rather than reading their fiction--most of the time. I like their letters, I like Burroughs’ straight-forward early stuff. I like Miller in small doses as if reading prose poetry. I feel like I am going to literary hell for not unconditionally loving these writers.


darling maggot said...

i started and stopped snow crash. it isn't that i didn't find the deliverator interesting, it's that stephenson writes with a kind of add that interrupts the narrative so often it became distracting to me and MY add.

neuromancer is rewarding. but the first gibson i read, and it remains my favourite, is idoru. it really is sublime. i have been unable to access his newest book, pattern recognition.

there is a contemporary writer i love, david mitchell, whose debut novel ghostwritten is just completely, utterly stellar. his second novel, number 9 dream is more intimate but very interesting. his newest novel, atlas cloud, i've been unable to access.

i don't know if it's me or not. but a number of authors i've really liked, i've been unable to access lately.

Anonymous said...

read your first entry, ever.

xo. war.

Henry Baum said...

Anonymous, thanks for your whirlwind commenting. Darling, thanks for the recommendation. I should have heard of David Mitchell. I'm fairly in the dark about writers that aren't dead. Some writers read all the contemporary writing they can. It seems sort of foreign to me. I'll take any more recommendations you've got.

xo. war. said...

i can't read fantasy. i need to read things, i can relate to. otherwise i just can't connect.

xo. war.

Heather said...

'Pattern Recognition' is a good read. I've had trouble with 'Neuromancer,' too. I need to give it another try...I think I ought to make it all the way through at least once!

Jenny D said...

My favorite Stephenson novel is "The Diamond Age." Favorite Sterling: "Distraction" (this is a HILARIOUS novel). Favorite Gibson: "Pattern Recognition," which is really an excellent read, and probably the one you'd most like, based on my vestigial sense of your literary tastes? I don't think you have to read a ton of SF in order to write it, do you? I'm not crazy about Iain Banks's SF novels, BTW, but his other ones include cool science-y elements and might be rather more your cup of tea: I especially liked "Whit" and "The Business" and "Complicity" but really all his novels are excellent.

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