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What to Read

commentary by Jude-Marie Green, Co-Editor of 10Flash Quarterly

This editorial is written on the cutting edge of deadline so I’ll keep it short.  Who should you read?

Everyone.

***

Are you still there?

A long time ago, Robert A. Heinlein wrote a novel titled Starship Troopers. Some readers took issue with the simplistic, militaristic future that he posited.  That is to say, the politics he wrote about caused some controversy.

Still, writers read him.  Some were inspired to write responses to his political view.  One of those novels was The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison.

We the reader cannot let rumored controversy or someone else’s opinion stop us from reading a work.  If we do, we cheat ourselves out of forming our own opinion on the work.  More importantly we cheat ourselves out of the spark of response, the outrage or acceptance that might jiggle the muse into action or might just deepen our understanding.

Ah, understanding.  Some people won’t read Lolita because of the subject matter; some people won’t read Harlan Ellison because of his reputation as an angry young man.  I personally don’t like romance novels.  Not because I don’t like romance.  Perish the thought!  But I do not like the required structure of category romances.  I have read enough romance novels to understand this.  But I won’t condemn you for reading romance novels.

I’ve also read Dan Brown (lousy writer, amazingly good story teller) and Stephanie Meyer (pretty good if laborious writer, lousy story teller) and L. Ron Hubbard (specifically Battlefield Earth.)  I formed opinions about their writing and I’m willing to share my observations.  But don’t take my word for it!  Go read them yourself: you might like sparkly vampires, Vatican conspiracy theories, and aliens 20,000 years in Earth’s future.  Or you might not, and become inspired to write your own response to those stories.

When I say you should read “everything,” I do mean anything you can put your eyeballs on.  The backs of aerosol cans make fascinating reading (plus you feel like you’ve earned a chemistry degree when you’ve done.)  I’ve struggled through chapters written in Russian and Greek (though Japanese defeated me) and textbooks on economics and politics.  I read the New York Times and occasionally the Wall Street Journal.  I don’t always have complete understanding and that is frustrating.  I’ll try to illuminate my reading with definitions from wikipedia or even Britannica.

I don’t want to give a list of what to read.  This is the era of the internet and local library and the bookstore in every mall.  But I will suggest something: decide what you like to read.  Horror?  Supernatural?  Ghost stories?  The peculiar tales of Thomas F. Monteleone?  Find him out there, on the web and the library and the bookstore.  Then skip him and try the next author over, that one you’ve never read before.  It might be an awful story, badly-written and boring.  It might be a fine exploration of story that you love.  Either way, you’ll feel like an explorer.  Or perhaps like a pirate finding hidden treasure.

Speaking of hidden treasure, go read 10Flash.  Flash stories aren’t a huge investment in reading time and you never know what gems you’ll find among them.

***

Many thanks to Scott Edelman who recorded and posted a World Fantasy Convention on YouTube: The Moral Distance Between The Author and The Work

[Return to the November 2010 cover page]

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