I’m on a kick of reading a lot of fanfiction.
This is perhaps ill-timed of me. It’s a week until Wiscon, and I always feel that I ought to be reading Wiscon-y books before the convention. You know — works by the hot new writers, works of serious importance, feminist classics I haven’t yet gotten around to reading. Yet, every single year, the thing I am reading in May is about as far removed from Serious Works of SF/F as it is possible to get. This year it’s fanfic. In previous years I’ve been reading the Phryne Fisher mysteries, or Agatha Christie novels, or the history of the Boxer Rebellion, or ANYTHING IN THE WORLD that is not Serious Works of SF/F.
I’m actually beginning to think that my brain is smarter than I am. There’s a piece of writing advice that is very common, which is that to write you must be well-read. A better and more complex version of that is that to write you must be widely read. If you want to write YA paranormal romance, you must read things besides YA paranormal romance — else you work won’t have anything new or different to the genre. You would, in essence, be writing fanfic of a genre. To write, the idea is, you have to read lots of different sorts of things. That those things sit in your brain and percolate, dissolving and recombining in new and interesting ways. And then the things you’ve learned show up, transformed, in your work.
I think this is rather what my brain does before Wiscon.
I always feel, going in, that I don’t know and haven’t read ANY of the things other people are talking about. I listen, and I learn. And, being me, I talk about the things that I have engaged with recently. I bring something to the conversation that other people have not heard or read, in the same way they do for me.
Do I still feel a sense of shame, of Not Having Done The Homework, every year? Yes. Yes, I do. But no matter my intentions, I don’t think I’ve completed my self-assigned Wiscon Reading List in any year, ever.
What about you, my fellow Wiscon attendees? What are you reading prior to the con? Do you feel you have homework? Do you do it? How does this work for you?