Holy Cow…where did all these books come from?

Its been ages since I updated my progress working through the infinite pile of books beside my bed, so here goes a brief round-up of the last three months.

Firstly, I read something like 120 short stories in various states of completition at Clarion. They were the greatest leaning resource for me as a writer I’ve ever had access to. Reading work in prgress, from seventeen writers who all had the potential to make an impact in speculative fiction, was much like being exposed to cutting edge scientific research.

Short fiction has also been the focus of my attention in my general reading. My big discovery of recent months has been Ted Chiang. I’ve read three of his novellettes in as many months and now must read the rest. I’m going to go out on a limb a say ‘Hell is the Abscence of God’ is probably the most brain jarringly profound piece of writing I’ve encountered since I discovered Philip K. Dick in my teens. If you haven’t already, locate the nearest Ted Chiang story you can and read it, now. I’ve also dipped into numerous ‘Best of’ anthologies, an early collection from Ursula K LeGuin and have zipped through the latest issues of Black Static, Electric Velocipede, Interzone. My online short fiction reading has stabilised around Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld and Fantasy magazine, which are all putting out consistently fascinating stuff. I’ve also been reading an ARC of Anne and Jeff Vandermeer’s Steampunk anthology, which is consistently fascinating.

I’ve been struggling to get into novels, but have re-read five volumes of Sandman in the wake of meeting Mr. Neil Gaiman, and also roared through Anansi Boys from beginning to end in about a week. It is a much less epic story than American Gods, but it still has some really dark twists in what is at the outset a very lighthearted tale. I’ve started and abandoned novels by Iris Murdoch and Kazuo Ishiguro in recent weeks. The Murdoch was a massive disappointment, having been persuaded to buy it by a blisteringly good first thirty pages, it then descended into all the worst flaws of lit.fic – desperately slow, no narrative thread, characters with no more depth than the ideas they were illustrating. This was a bad start on my resoultion to read more literary writing. I’ve now retreated to a John Le Carre instead, which is keeping me hooked. Le Carre does British people not saying much and betraying each other better than anyone, and that ties in with some ideas I’m working on for a story so I’m enjoying it both as a reader and as a writer.

Hmm… there were a couple of other things but they have completely slipped my mind. If I remember I’ll add them later.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

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