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.
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