Answer me this: Where has this month gone? It seems that every time I blink a week goes by – thankfully it doesn’t, but it sure feels that way. I didn’t want to start this year talking about resolutions because, well, I can’t keep them. My mind, body, and soul typically rallies to defeat such silly notions like well thought out plans. I can’t even blame it on procrastination, because it isn’t even that simple – I don’t put off working toward my goals, I run away screaming.
So, no resolutions. I resolve to not make resolutions. Hear that universe? Hows that for some top-notch reverse psychology? I plan to not make plans I could possibly stick to and have every intention to fulfill.
My first post of the year wasn’t going to be about what I wanted to do in the next 365 days. Everyone does that. Instead, I’d like to talk about some of the great stories I’ve read lately.
Birds gotta fly. Fish gotta swim. Writers gotta read. We shouldn’t want to read because the act of reading is the key to understanding what’s popular. We shouldn’t want to write because we’re filling some desire to become wealthy or famous or both. No, we should want to read and to write because it is part of who we are. Because words resonate against the minerals deep within our bones. Because to do otherwise would be denying an essential part of our being.
That’s what it is for me. If one day I make some sort of name for myself, then great. But will that in itself be the defining moment of my life? Will that be what I measure my success against – that I got a huge contract or movie deal? I don’t think so. What I’m working for right now is the ability to infect the minds of others with images and concepts my own mind created. To tell at least one compelling story that forces my readers to agonize and hold their breath to the very last word. To come back to my story and point at the page while telling their friend: you hafta read this! I wonder what will be the touchstone for me for which I’ll measure my success, will it be a certain number of stories, will it be one runaway smash hit, or will it be something I won’t even realize before I draw my last breath.
Each new and great story I read shows me markers in which to measure myself against. Writers shouldn’t compare themselves to others because no two writers are alike. I know this, and the comparisons I draw are more for technical mastery than tide markers for my ego. With that said, here are some of the stories I’ve read lately that have taught me a thing or two.
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – technical precision in using 1st person present tense. Beautifully done and the movie really did well to keep up with Collins’s vision. The sequels are on my TBR list and I’ll tackle them soon, I hope.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – spellbinding world building and use of hypnotic techniques to deliver a dreamlike story. Drawing parallels from Carroll’s Alice and Wonderland and Orwell’s 1984 the twists and turns of his tale kept me from wanting to put the book down. Though there were a couple spots that drew me out of the story and I felt the ending was a bit too abrupt, the story on whole was magnificent with each scene very carefully constructed. The time it took to read the three part book was well worth it.
Wool by Hugh C. Howey – Fantastic dystopian world building on a small scale – at least for the first book, the rest of the series is on my TBR list. I’ve tried to wrap my mind around world building on occasion and my ideas are often on a grand, world-wide scale. Howey shows us in this first installation of the series that it doesn’t have to be huge to feel that way. In just one silo the struggle for life rages on and the psychological effect of the microenvironment has some interesting outcomes.
Novelets in 2013 November-December issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine: Hell For Company by Albert E. Cowdrey; The Soul in the Bell Jar by KJ Kabza; Baba Makosh by MK Hobson. Each of these stories have what I would call flawless deliveries of very creative narratives. Not one thing in these stories drew me out of them. I was delighted to read a story with Samuel Clemens in it – there needs to be more like Hell For Company. The Soul in the Bell Jar was a fantastic dive into the notion of what if science had taken a detour somewhere gory – a healthy mix of steampunk and gaslight, at least in my opinion – KJ Kabza made a fan of me with this story. And I would go as far to say that MK Hobson created a timeless piece with Baba Makosh. I don’t know much about Russian mythology but if Hobson’s story was any indication – it’s something I’ll need to read more on.
Dogs by Miwa Shirow – Manga. A very bizarre dystopic tale of science gone wrong – very wrong. After reading all of the 9 graphic novels available at the local library I’m still not sure where this story is going, but I’m enjoying the ride.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading some great works from fellow authors in my writing group and several other stories that are well worth mentions, but I’ll save them for another day. For now I’ll leave you with this from the King: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”