Regrets on a Literary Journey
Ever since I started proper with this writing business in February last year, I have been exposed to a really, really big world of writing out there. First it was finding the Bolthole. Then came becoming acquaintances with the various writers and editors at Black Library on Facebook. Then came interactions with them on Twitter. And then came the big explosion in November with NaNoWriMo.
In all this, my greatest regret is how much of the literary world I have never really paid any attention to. My reading over the last two decades or so has been rather limited in an objective kind of way. I grew up reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven novels, moved on to The Hardy Boys by the ghostwriter collective Franklin W. Dixon and Nancy Drew by the (once again) ghostwriter collective Carolyn Keene.
And then came Katherine A Applegate with her Animorphs novels and suddenly my world exploded into something much bigger than I could have imagined.
The Encounter was the first of these books about teens who can turn into any animal or human or alien they touch and I was simply blown away. On a deep conscious level, I really felt a bond with Tobias, the one character in the entire series who gives up the most for so little in return and after already having lived a crappy life so far. His story really struck a chord with me. So followed my obsession with Tobias and the rest of the Animorphs gang that went beyond even my Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew obsession.
It all got to the point where I started writing down ideas for my own Animorphs stories. I even have an aborted attempt or two at writing these stories somewhere in the mess I call my room. Reading Animorphs was an inspiration and a journey to some really fantastical stuff.
I continued it all later by delving deep into Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Isaac Asimov’s various Robot/Empire/Foundation novels, Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey novels, the Dragonlance novels by Tracy Hickman/Margaret Weiss and others, the excellent Midkemian novels by Raymond E. Feist and the companion Empire trilogy he wrote with Janny Wurts and more. So much more.
In the 4 years of high school, the variety of novels I was reading quintupled three times over. It was a great time for sure.
But then I moved to college and all the reading dropped. Well not all and not for too long. I started picking back up slowly with the various Star Wars novels which I have loved ever since I picked up X-wing: Starfighters of Adumar in the summer of 2001, nearly eleven years ago. I also started getting back into the novels from Feist, having stopped sometime after his Krondor trilogy in high school. This was also when I started to read the Dune prequel/sequel novels written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. They are so damn fantastic.
And then came another explosion, one even bigger and better than before. I reacquainted myself with Black Library on my 20th birthday when a couple friends and I stepped into a Barnes & Nobles for the fun of it. I picked up William ‘Bill’ King’s Space Wolf omnibus and Dan Abnett’s The Founding, the first Gaunt’s Ghosts omnibus. I had read a fair bit of the Gaunt novels back in high school and already owned one of the Space Wolf novels, Grey Hunter. Being able to dig back in was surreal and I fell in love with the Warhammer 40,000 setting, becoming completely hooked on them for almost 5 years and on now.
My Black Library collection is quite immense, spanning a wide variety of work from a whole lot of different authors writing about a whole lot of different factions, themes, characters and what not from Warhammer 40,000 with the occasional touch of Warhammer Fantasy mixed in. The books even helped me get into the tabletop game which I enthusiastically played for a close on 2 years before I moved back home to Dubai.
This is all fine and good, I hear you say, but what is the point?
The point is the writing part.
My writing is often woefully ill-informed because I haven’t been really exposed to a truly wide variety of SF/F fiction out there. I keep coming across authors and series and publishers I have never heard of before and who my friends almost swear by. One of the more “popular” cases of this: Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggins novels, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, Erikson’s Malazan, Larry Niven’s Ringworld, Timothy Zahn’s Quadrail (I love his Star Wars work), Robin Hobb’s various trilogies, Paul Kemp’s Erevis Cale, all the Forgotten Realms novels from Wizards of the Coast, Jack Vance, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt and more, so much more. The list really is endless.
I mean where do these recommendations end!
But anyway, the point is that even though I’ve read what I would consider a lot of different SF/F novels, I’ve barely scratched the surface. I am woefully misinformed about what is currently out there and what I can explore. And this affects my writing because often I’m trying to emulate the few writers I’ve read and loved. That just won’t do because I’m struggling to find my own niche. And this is in regards to my narratives, my characters, my style and so on.
It also gets a little depressing now and then which really bugs the hell out of me.
Now I’m sure you are asking yourself how the hell does he plan to fix it and why should you care.
Well, the simple answer is that I need help. Basically, that’s what I’m asking here. What it says on the cover there, nothing more.
If you have been following my blog then you know that I am on a drive to read 200 novels, novellas etc and listen to audio dramas as well. The help I need from you, my readers, is to give me recommendations. And good ones at that. This 2012 Reading Challenge of mine is about expanding my reading horizons so that my writing is more modern and that I can draw on a much wider variety of influences for my creative writing. At the moment, I draw too much on a select few works, usually Feist’s various Midkemia novels.
As you know from my 2012 Most Anticipated post, there are a lot of novels I’m looking forward to this year. It is by no means a definitive list of course and things could change between now and the end of the year, so that’s where your recommendations are going to come in handy for me.
Feel free to suggest anything in the Science-Fiction and Fantasy genres. Just not too much Young Adult fiction because I’m only dipping into it as an experiment this year and don’t want a backlog of recommendations for it. Same goes for Urban Fantasy, regrettably. I am usually particular about what I like and what I don’t as you can see from all my reviews and my current reading list, so try not to go overboard with anything. Mainstream SF/F is what I love and adore and for now, I am going to absolutely stick to that preference, barring the upcoming titles from Angry Robot Books’ YA imprint Strange Chemistry and a few choice novels from Orbit Books, Pyr and Tor.
If you really need a guide as to what you should be recommending me, just take a look at my Author Blogroll on the home page. That should provide ample indication of stuff that I’m already into and that I’m looking to get into. So just have it.
In the end, I’ll say that I really regret not having properly explored the SF/F world earlier. There are so many things I’ve missed out on over the years and playing catch-up is a real pain. But I’ve given to understand that this is a writer’s life because if you are not reading, then you are not writing what you should be. Not my words, but a piece of advice I found on Twitter a while back and one that I intend to take to the heart. It is a sentiment that I can totally agree with and get behind.
So yeah, really looking forward to see what you people come up with. You can send me your recommendations via Twitter – @abhinavjain87 - via the hashtag #2012ReadingChallenge or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: 2012 Reading Challenge or just leave your recommendations here in the comments section.
At the end of every month, I’ll post the recommendations I get on the blog as a sort of monthly feature and as I move through those recommendations, I’ll post my thoughts as well.
Posted on February 29, 2012, in 2012 Reading Challenge, General and tagged 2012 Debuts, 2012 Reading Challenge, Angry Robot, Black Library, Book Recommendations, Dune, Eli Monpress, Erevis Cale, Fantasy, Nightshade, Orbit Books, Paul S. Kemp, Pyr Books, Rachel Aaron, Reading Goals, Robert Jordan, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars, Tor, Urban Fantasy, Wheel of Time, Young Adult. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.