MIND MELD: Genre Resolutions for 2012
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It’s the beginning of 2012, a time for new beginnings, new vistas, and new resolutions to make the next year a good one. Resolutions can come in many forms.
So I asked this week’s panelists:
Here is what they said:
Oh, and spend less time on the internet.
Having a bit of trouble sticking to that last one…’
I have the usual resolutions of reading and writing more, but that’s boring and I wanted to think of something different. So like a lot of SF geeks, I’m shy. Getting up gumption to talk to someone, especially someone I admire, is tough. But just today, in talking about Douglas Adams’ work, I was reminded of the time my husband and I wanted to meet him during his Starship Titanic promotion at E3, and were too shy. By the time we got the courage to turn around and go say hi, Adams had left to catch his plane back home. Now, I regret that moment. So in 2012 I resolve to kick the shy geek to the curb and if I want to say hi to someone, or email someone- either as a fan or a peer- by Thor I will do it. I may fall on my face, or embarrass myself, or get no response, but dammit, I never want to regret inaction again.
My first resolution is that I want to finish writing the third book in my Books of the Raksura series this month. Until I get that done, it’s hard to make plans for anything else.
My reading resolution is that I want to push myself to read even more books by new authors, and by authors that are new to me. When I get busy and stressed out, I tend to gravitate to new books by authors that are old favorites, or mystery series books. Even when I know that going outside that comfort zone has usually been very rewarding and led to some new favorite authors. I also want to read more YA fantasy, and more graphic novels.
And I want to try to read more genre-ish non-fiction and weird travel books, both for inspiration and for fun. I really enjoyed both my recent reads in those categories: Vampire Forensics by Mark Collins Jenkins and Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter by Josh Gates.
I also want to see more genre movies in the theater this year, instead of waiting until they come out on DVD. This is part of my general non-genre resolution, which is to a) get out more and b) have more fun this year.
I don’t often make New Year’s Resolutions (mostly because I am notoriously bad at keeping them). But if I had to make resolutions with respect to genre, I would make just one: to read more widely, continuing what I started this year–and by this I mean outside of the standard genre classification. Don’t get me wrong, there are some truly fantastic genre books, and I have no intention on missing out on those. At the same time, I feel there are also some awesome books I’m missing out on, both outside of genre (I’m a particular fan of well-done mysteries), and outside what is marketed as genre, due to the difficulty of having an effective classification: one man’s genre is another man’s mainstream. For instance, Chan Koonchung’s The Fat Years, was published and marketed as a mainstream book, but it has strong genre elements. Though I follow genre blogs and news roundups, I was not aware of its existence until a friend pointed it out to me. Next year, I hope to be reaching out for more books that fell through the cracks, and to take chances on authors I’m not familiar with.
And that’s it for me. With just one resolution, I hope I’ll be able to keep it this year!
The problem with new year’s resolutions is they’re largely made to be broken. Loose weight, drink less, exercise more, be nicer to be people… They all seem really good ideas in the abstract at the beginning of the year and then go the way of all flesh shortly after. And I fear my personal resolutions of work harder and spend less time stamping round crossly thinking about writing – and more time actually writing will go the way of exercise and mineral water.
There’s one genre resolution I hope to keep, though… Not simply read more female writers (I grew up on Andre Norton and Ursula Le Guinn, plus Anne McCaffreys borrowed from girlfriends, and discovered Connie Willis and Katherine Kurtz shortly afterwards) but read more new writers, of whatever sex, and particularly those who don’t write in English, or write from a tradition outside the US or the UK… (For me, the fabulous thing about Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City was how intentionally other it was.)
I’m very bad a finding and reading SF and fantasy in translation unless it’s Murakami, but I’ll happily read Scandinavian and Italian, Japanese and Spanish crime novels. I’m not sure if the SF and fantasy market is really more insular than the crime market… I’d suggest the success of Pierre Pavel’s excellent The Cardinal’s Blades says not. But whatever, I intend to find non Western-based, non-Anglophone genre fiction and read it.
The resolution is always to write more, and so far I’m off to a good start. Besides that, I’d made a resolution last year that I’m going to fortify for 2012, and that is to finish reading every book on my shelves that has so far been left unread over the years — or at least make a big dent. I have what amounts to 3 tall bookshelves worth of books, most of them novels and non-fiction research-type books. I’ve read some of them but not nearly enough of them. At the very least I want to read out the novels. I find that I write better and more frequently when I also read frequently. I’d fallen into a routine of not reading fiction every day and naturally my writing suffered for it. Obviously one of the first “rules” of writing is to read, but I need to be more precise in that and read for at least an hour a day, no matter what. I’d also found reading non-fiction doesn’t help quite as much. I went through a period of reading predominantly non-fiction and that didn’t bolster my fiction writing skills as much as reading novels that I admire, appreciate, and can learn from.
My second is to read more sci-fi, horror and fantasy. Of Blood and Honey and its sequel And Blue Skies from Pain were both very research intense. That, unfortunately, put me in the position of focusing almost entirely on nonfiction for most of the past three years. While the latest project does require some research, it isn’t anything like the previous two. That frees me up to read for entertainment as well as self-education. (It’s important to study one’s chosen genre.) I’ve fallen woefully behind, I’m afraid. I’m not a terribly fast reader, and I’ve missed so much. I’m embarrassed to say that not only do I need to finish reading Teresa Frohock’s Miserere, Courtney Schafer’s The Whitefire Crossing, John Horner’s Southern Gods as well as Bradley Beaulieu’s The Winds of Khalakovo, Kameron Hurley’s God’s War, and Thomas S. Roche’s The Panama Laugh– I’ve also an entire bookcase of novels I really, really need to work my way through. I’ve not gotten to Scott Lynch’s second novel yet. Then there’s the Octavia Butler novels and Elizabeth Bear’s works, Jim Butcher’s latest, and Charles de Lint’s as well. David Coe has a new novel I can’t wait to get my mitts on too. It’s all a little overwhelming, frankly. Because half of what I’m thinking of right now isn’t shelved on my To Be Read bookcase yet. Yep. It’s like that.
As far as genre films go, I’ve a lot of catching up to do there as well. I only just got to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Fright Night! (For the record, I loved them both.) Although thanks to my husband, I’m caught up on my Avengers comic book-based films. Am hoping that in 2012 I’ll be able to see more movies in the theater. I enjoy going to movie theaters — bad for you popcorn and all.
Oh! My husband has recently hooked me on the new Star Wars MMO. So, I’m planning on squeezing in some Jedi Knight time in too. Although, not too much. It can’t interfere with resolution #1.
I’m resolving to make 2012 a year of both simplicity and productivity for me. Since 2009 I’ve said “yes” to nearly every opportunity that came my way, and my list of resolutions and goals was both lengthy and lofty, which left me stressed, overwhelmed, and in a constant state of failure. This year I’m resolving to focus, keep it simple, and not let myself get buried again. That said, I also don’t want to close myself off completely to everything not on my list–so maybe “being flexible” should be one of my resolutions!
I believe strongly in being of service to the SFF community (which is why I love you guys at SF Signal!), but I’m resolving to limiting that this year to producing posts of quality for the Inkpunks blog–we’re off to a good start with our January series on workshops. Apart from that–I workshopped a novel at Taos Toolbox last summer and I want to have that novel ready to query by the next World Fantasy Convention. And I’m in the middle of research for the next novel; I’d like to have a draft of that done by the end of the year.
So, to sum up: I resolve to commit to fewer projects, but put everything I have into the projects I do commit to.
I have two resolutions with respect to genre: The first is simply to read more speculative fiction than I have in previous years, and to read a wider variety of it. In a typical year, only about one-third of all the books I read are specfic, and most of that tends to be re-reading classics, rather than trying new authors and subgenres. For example, I’ve never read any steampunk, the last hard sci-fi I read was a re-read of Haldeman’s FOREVER WAR, and the last epic fantasy I read was A GAME OF THRONES, and that was seven or eight years ago (I’m not a big fan of epic fantasy ). In short, my genre reading is well out of step with what’s being published these days, so I intend to remedy that by picking up more genre stories by authors who are new to me. I’m thinking Priest, Butcher, Stross, and Rothfuss to get the ball rolling.
The second resolution isn’t so much a genre thing, as it is a writer thing. I’m going to try to “pay it forward” much more than I have in the past by promoting the books of friends and colleagues. I’ve always done so to one degree or another, but I’m going to try and do more of it in 2012.
Write: Said another way, I’ve got to finish up book two in The Vault of Heaven series. I’ve been pretty heads down on it, and can see the finish line. As fate would have it, the day job at ole Microsoft has ramped up over the last year, gobbling up more time. So, yeah, get ‘er done.
Read: With my own writing, day job, family, I haven’t read all the books I’d like to. This has always been a problem–I buy books even when my reading pile is insane. But of late, the pile deepens. I may have to find new techniques for prioritizing that pile.
Cons: While online communities are great, I’ll go ahead and say it: in-person community is better. I went to World Fantasy this year, and realized how much I miss actually brushing shoulders with writers and readers. So, I’m looking at trying to hit a few more cons this year.
After 15 years away chasing faerie gold in Silicon Valley, I’m back to blowing up planets with the ebook second edition of Exordium, the retro space opera Sherwood Smith and I first put together as a mini-series screenplay in 1980 and then as a paperback edition in the 90s. We’re taking the opportunity to further expand and deepen the tale, which is told in a kind of homage to Doc Smith, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (Les Liaisons dangereuses), and the Three Stooges.
The Exordium universe—in which Earth is only a revered and confused memory—is promiscuously polysemous, a multi-layered magpie’s nest of a world built from the best and worst bits of human history, art, and science. That makes serendipity a fundamental writing strategy for both our rewrite and future stories, so I’ll get to do lots of reading, too. Even better, since books are a business expense, a portion of the money I spend on them will be diverted from the destructive efforts of our government to the creative efforts of fellow writers.
My “occupy publishing” resolution also involves diverting money to writers. In publishing, as in politics, the Internet has sparked a conversation about subsidiarity, the idea that “matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.” It’s a foundational principle for both the Occupy and Tea Party movements. In publishing, the Internet and ebooks are moving the balance of authority—and thus of profit—towards writers.
As a member of Book View Café, an online cooperative of established authors, I’ll be helping use these technologies to publish member backlists and provide new, original fiction in a growing variety of genres. We’re all both cook and bottle washer at BVC. The tasks involved in publishing each ebook are shared among members on the basis of need and ability, a consensus model that works because of our unity around Yog’s Law: money flows to the author. As a result, 95% of the sale price of BVC books goes to the author, a better ratio than any other online bookseller.
For my part, I’ve already dived into ebook formatting under the able tutelage of Vonda McIntyre, and I’m crazy enough to think that maybe I can wrangle Google Analytics as well—in addition to tech exploration, copy editing, proofing, format checking and who knows what else.
It’s going to be a busy year.
Tagged with: Aliette de Bodard • Christie Yant • Dave Trowbridge • Joe Abercrombie • Jon C Grimwood • Karin Lowachee • Martha Wells • Mind Meld • Mur Lafferty • Paul S. Kemp • Peter Orullian • Stina Leicht
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