Let me tell you what I did this morning, or more accurately, the morning immediately preceding my writing of these words, not when you’re reading them.
I woke up early, because there are no blinds on my windows, and so I am always woken up by the lights outside. I roll over, and my phone beeps, alerting me to email. I turn on the screen and see that I have 4.
The first is from my publisher, informing me that my urban fantasy novel Wychman Road will be released in January 2016.
The second is a response from my editor, telling me that no, he hasn’t finished reading the manuscript of the book’s sequel The Army of Stone, and promises that if I am patient, he will get back to me as soon as he’s made progress.
The third was an email from a scrambled address, telling me Stephanie is a hot single in your area who wants to say hello! I deleted that one, no offense to Stephanie.
The fourth was a link to read all the submissions for the Spectatorial, the speculative fiction. Journal on which I am an Assistant Editor.
I got up, I made tea, and then I reluctantly got to work for the day. It’s a Thursday incidentally, in case you were wondering. In my lap, was the transcript of an interview with Ray Bradbury, on the subject of creativity and madness, someone had thoughtfully given to me. My speakers clicked on and started playing a different interview from YouTube, of Neil Gaiman in Conversation with Junot Díaz, where they talked about Gaiman’s books, his comic The Sandman, and diversity in comics. After that, I realized the day before had been author Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday, and so I listened to a whole series of interviews he’d given throughout his life, on writing, and his thoughts on the world he wrote in.
I did this while to files were open on my computer, one being the half finished 4th manuscript in my fantasy series, and the other being an essay on Philip K. Dicks Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
I looked up at my bookshelf and the spines of three volumes of Marvel’s Daredevil, along with Robert A. Heinlein’s A Stranger in a Strange Land all stared back at me.
That is when it finally struck me, my life has been completely consumed by my geekiness in almost every aspect.
But what’s more, is that my love of speculative books and media is becoming intertwined with what I’m able to do professionally, and academically. My interest in writing, literary criticism and study, are mixing with my affection for stories about aliens, magic, and costumed heroes.
This understanding that I’ve come to is I think, essential for experiencing university, and arguably necessary simply for living. You can make what you love to do, and what you have to do the same thing.
The significant obstacle that was needed to overcome this, however, is how something like science fiction and fantasy is viewed in the literary community – which is to say – they are a portion of the community that has some preconceived notion that these things are not serious literature.
If you don’t view a book as “real” literature, then it’s hard to apply the skills of close reading and academic interpretation and discussion to such a book. In fact, it’s hard to get too much out of anything, if you don’t consider the thing you’re looking at to be worthy or serious.
But why shouldn’t it be? I got just as much to say coming out of reading the books of Larry Niven, Frank Herbert, Mary Shelly (shout out to the 18-year-old girl who invented science fiction in her bedroom), or Ursula K. Le Guin as I have from a book by Toni Morrison, or Ernest Hemmingway.
Once speculative fiction is accepted as literature worthy of academic attention, then the realm to what we are allowed to study, and write, and even speak about, are vastly expanded. You can apply the same level of commitment, seriousness, and skill into an essay on Withering Heights as you could a paper on the civil war allegory of the space-western Firefly (the Browncoats were inspired by the Confederates, take from that what you will).
Thinking critically about speculative fiction is important. A critical eye is a critical reader. Putting the value on a work isn’t only important for the reader, but the writer as well. Alan Moore approached comic books as literature, and to this day his book The Watchmen is considered an essential piece of writing.
Do not, perhaps, approach writing speculative fiction with ego, the idea that it is the greatest piece of work ever done, for an ego so often ruins otherwise great stories. But neither should you approach it as something unimportant.
If we embrace different, imaginative forms of literature for what they are, and we do so seriously, then eventually, public perception of these genres will change.
So write a story about magicians, or space aliens, or time travelers. Read these books the same way you would any other kind of great literature. Force a conversation about them in class. Fully immerse yourself in this world of literature. Make it a part of both your professional and creative life. If you are capable of combining what you love and what you do, and you can be proud of that, then you will learn to excel at both. It will make your reading of things you like more interesting, and you’re writing far better than before.
So take your comic books, and your geeky television shows, and all the things you love, and push your understanding of them. Be a writer and literary critic. Be excited about what you like, and make it what you do.
I am a big science fiction geek, and a writer, and a student. I have done these things all fall under one banner, making it into a single focus. Hopefully, each of these interests is benefiting the others
To be completely honest, I’m not sure where all of this been going with this, but to say wow, it feels good. You guys should try it.