Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

2312, and peer pressure

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Kim Stanley Robinson


The question I’m asking myself today is, ‘To what extent is it important to me to ‘keep up with the field’ of science fiction?

I love science fiction and fantasy, and always have.  In the last two years, I have started becoming more of a ‘fan,’ in the sense of not just reading for pleasure, but also keeping up with the news and events and developments, reading Locus, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, participating in Hugo voting, and even attending my very first science fiction convention (Readercon.  Yes, I know, there’s a whole other blog entry there, but this isn’t that one).

So now I am much more aware of science fiction as literature, for example.  I know some of the writers who are giants in the field and little-known outside it.

I wasn’t that curious about 2312.  I was aware that it had come out, but for some reason, none of the descriptions I read of it made it sound especially interesting to me.  I’m not sure why.  I’m an individual, and I have my own individual tastes.  But it seemed like every reviewer and blogger and podcaster I respect was talking about this book, how important it was, how great.

‘I guess I have to read it, then, even if I don’t really care,’ I said to myself.

I talk to myself a lot.

And so I did.

My question is… was that the right choice?

I do enjoy the process of choosing the Hugo awards.  It has made me feel more connected to science fiction as a field… it has made me feel more like part of the big beautiful SF community.  And from all the talk, this book seems likely to be on next year’s ballot.  I do try to read all the books on the ballot, so I could say that I’ve gotten ahead on my summer homework by reading it now.

But pleasure reading isn’t homework… is it?

By giving it a chance, I was open to the possibility that I had misjudged the book.  It might have been a book that would rock my world, change my life, one of those books I’ll love forever.  As it happens, it wasn’t.  Not a bad book, just not all that interesting to me personally.  But there have been times when my interest in ‘keeping up’ has led me to read books I wouldn’t otherwise have read, and that I loved, or that I didn’t love, but gave me important and interesting ideas.

And of course, I have to acknowledge that I can never keep up.  Not really.  New science fiction is being published every week, far more than I have any hope of keeping up with, even if it were my job, even if I gave up ever re-reading books I already love.  There’s a finite amount of time for reading, and no one can read all the good books.

I’ve occasionally thought about ‘fasting’ from new books for a period of time, and giving myself a few months to just enjoy rereading the books I already own.  I’ve tried intentionally balancing, alternating each new book with a book from my own collection.  I’ve read the ‘new books’ lists and award nominations avidly, occasionally, not at all, every day.

It’s hard to reconcile myself to the knowledge that I can never keep up, even though I know that it’s enough that there are plenty of books to give me a lifetime of pleasure.

When I was younger, I lived in small towns with small libraries.  I had less access to new books.  I reread the same favorites over and over.  Now I live in a city with a great library, and have access to very nearly every book I want to read.  Sometimes it’s a delight, and sometimes it’s just overwhelming.

Maybe along with a coherent philosophy of life, I should be trying to develop a coherent philosophy of reading.


Written by Contented Reader

August 14, 2012 at 7:06 am

Posted in Reviews


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