The Endless Wars: The Descent

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Should I Be Ashamed of My Reading?

I read. A lot. I always have 3-4 books going at once, and always make a point of stealing back at least part of my badly-raped* and beaten personal time to gaze upon my NookColor or iPad and consume the written word.

* - as opposed to 'well-raped?' Methinks this will not be a phrase that catches on with society at large.

My reading also goes through phases. Before I doused my brain in the Fiction Writing program at Columbia College Chicago, much of my reading was made up of Stephen King and some WWII non-fiction. While at Columbia, I stretched my boundaries a bit to include some of the required reading there. To say that I overdosed on so-called 'blue collar fiction' would be an incredible understatement. While some of it ranks among the greatest literature on which I've ever laid eyes, much of it was little more than a ticket for an undergrad student to name-drop, much in the way that those in the punk community compete to name-drop bands that no one else has heard of. During that time, I fled back to science fiction in a hardcore way, and rediscovered my love for Asimov, my complicated relationship with Heinlein, my deep respect for Clarke, and my torrid love affair with Herbert. All that haughty dislike for genre fiction and nose-in-the-air New Yorker shit drove me back to what fiction means to me, which is a temporary escape in which one can find themselves.

I don't want to read about what I can go outside and do. I want to read about history, I want to read about speculative ideas, I want to be transported to a world other than this.
Don DeGrazia's book, to my right, takes place in real world Chicago, but it's a life few ever get to experience. Best book by a CCC grad ever. Read it now.

Phew. Anyway.

After college, I settled down and got back to a lot of the non-fiction that I'd so enjoyed before. I absolutely buried myself in WWII for a while, and really came to learn at the foot of a lot of great military and world leaders. General Patton, in particular, came to be a hero of mine.

I eventually began to meander and my narrowed tastes began to diffuse again a bit. Spec fiction, straight sci-fi, horror, and that urban fantasy fiction thing began to creep back in, and I even stretched my non-fiction to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Now, though, I've been binging on licensed fiction, and I'm not sure how to feel about it.

I've been enjoying the books, namely the Star Wars and Warhammer 40k novels, but the Columbia College Fiction graduate in me is ashamed. I think that, maybe, a lot of these creative writing programs teach genre writers the same thing that bible camps teach homosexuals.

'We can help you. You're a sinner, and you should hate yourself, at least until you accept Christ / Tom Robbins as your savior. You don't really want to (write about space ships / have sex with butts), you want to fall in line and not upset the herd.'

I guess that's a little unfair, actually. It's not the genre I'm ashamed of, it's the fact that it's licensed fiction. Actually, no, it is fair, based on the looks I used to get when reading work aloud.

Maybe this is a rebellious phase. I spent a bunch of years reading some really serious shit, and it's been fun to just enjoy this stuff. And, the Star Wars label employs some damn good writers, too. These aren't bad books, they're just ... tainted.

Hey, but I'm having a great time, and that's what counts, right? It's not like I'll be walking down the street, only to be confronted by a bunch of ironic Mac-toting haughty jerkoffs, one of whom points at me and yells, 'That's him! He graduated from a creative writing program and read a prequel book to the Star Wars prequel films! FUCK HIM UP!' I sense that they'll beat me to death with Cormac McCarthy and Malcolm Gladwell. Fuck, that's depressing (actually, McCarthy's a great author, and I would feel honored to have my brains and blood spattered on a copy of 'The Road,' especially if it was autographed.)

Anyway, what say you? Should I be ashamed? Anyone out there read William Gibson? If so, where should I start with him? What else should I read?

Anyway, thanks for reading, and if you're looking for a good read yourself, check out my first novel (paperback & ebook direct from publisher), now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!



  1. john gave me a copy of "pattern recognition" last time he was in town, but i haven't gotten to it yet. it sounds like you had a shit experience with people who were more inclined to shit on genre fiction as opposed to wanting to simply make you a better writer (which was the experience i had with the genre writers in my program). fuck what you do and don't look back. i've seen plenty of good stories ruined by workshops and workshop mentality. i always tell those people to press on and finish the piece regardless of what everyone else says. who am i to judge? i don't read it, but i'm not gonna tell anyone else not to write it. that's just dickish.

  2. Thanks, Buch. I was surprised by how uncomfortable genre fiction makes a lot of 'literary genre' writers feel. I always resented that, and really could've handled it a lot better. Besides, why would any writer limit themselves to just one genre? That's just stupid. I float between different genres every few years, and have appreciated the breadth of experiences that's given me. AND, you should read 'it.' You may be surprised.

  3. I read a lot as well. Maybe not as much as you, but definitely more than the average thirty something. Saying you should be ashamed would be to condemn myself as well since I thoroughly enjoy the Mass Effect novels. I also spend most of my reading time with my nose in those books with pictures. (I still maintain it takes at least half a brain to follow a well written comic). With that said,I have a copy of The Road sitting on my desk, untouched, for the better part of a year. I guess we all carry a certain level of shame.

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  5. You know what book you should read, if you haven't already.

    I hear it's great anyway. Haven't found a copy yet, but it seems well worth the cash. The book's called "House of Leaves". All I know is it uses my favorite narrative style (switching narrators back and forth) and it's a horror book about a house called the house of leaves.

    And there's some kind of secret. It sounds great.

    Also I hope you still update this blog. I'm not sure what 2011/08 means. There seems to be a missing number set in there. Either way. Keep on rockin'. And I think it's a shame the podcast stopped. Just sayin'.

    Is there any way I can like, subscribe to this site or something? I guess I can sign up for the email thing.

  6. James,
    Yeah, House of Leaves is great. I read it back in college, but it could use a re-read. Life has gotten in the way of posting, but I'll get back to it soon. Really. As for the podcast, we'll see. Every so often, Tony and I talk about doing it again, but I wouldn't hold your breath. I appreciate that you liked it, though. It's always great to see that someone actually enjoyed it. There are subscription links on the right, and you can follow it via a Google account. That's on the right, as well. I will update this soon, I promise!

  7. James Knoll (PSM)12 November, 2011 11:44

    Oh. I commented on that new post before checking to see maybe there was a reply here.

    I am dumb, it seems.

    Everyone says the book's great. $20 is a lot for a book, but I really need one that can grab me and just make me want to read again.

    You guys, something about that podcast, not sure what, was awesome. And now that I have no school or obligations I can totally afford the time to listen to it. The site's over on the right? I'll check and see if you have an archive...thing set up.

    I'm reduced to watching the exact same hours long videos on the spoony experiment around four or five times over total now, and still going. Something, anything new that is quality (like your guys podcast was) is a great thing.

    The unfortunate thing about this site is every single option to use a profile with it is for something I don't have or lost the password to (wordpress).

    But yeah. I'm gonna go archive digging here. It's something else I do. Hope life's kickin' ass for you man.