This post is a continuation of the thoughts expressed in the previous one. If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to just to understand the context. Here I’m going to discuss my reading plans for the year. They’re going to be a bit different than they’ve been.
I don’t make resolutions, but I do believe in setting goals, whether I reach any of them or not. I know from experience if I don’t set some sort of a goal, then I won’t get anything accomplished. Think of this post as a series of goals, goals that are flexible and highly subject to change.
Review copies are wonderful things, but they can pile up on you. I’d like to thank Pyr, Angry Robot, Privateer Press, Solaris, and all the individual authors who’ve sent me review copies this past year. (I won’t attempt to name all the individuals because I’ll leave someone out, and I don’t want to offend anyone.) Since I won’t be teaching an overload at work this year (or at least not the spring semester), I should have some time to get caught up on the backlog.
Some review copies I request, but some are sent unsolicited. I’m referring to titles from traditional publishers with whom I have an established relationship here. I’ve never had an unsolicited book show up from an individual; everyone has always shown me the courtesy of asking first. I do my best to read them all, although with the unsolicited titles there will sooner or later be one or two which won’t be to my taste or will be volume X in a series I’ve not read. But for the most part, I make a good faith attempt to read everything that comes my way. I wasn’t very successful, especially in the second half of the year, but I did try. I’m going to do my best to catch up on some of them over the next few months.
I’m going to be a bit more selective this year about what I review. My plan is to make fewer requests and be more discriminating about which unsolicited titles I read. While I’ll still read more than I pass over, I won’t read every unsolicited thing I’m sent just because it was sent. I’ve always tried to honor review requests from individual authors and will continue to do so, especially for people whose work I’ve reviewed in the past.
One reason I’m being more selective is I’ve gotten to the point where I’m completely out of space. I was looking for a place to put the newer acquisitions because I really wanted to be able to sit in my chair again. There is literally no place to put them without stacking them somewhere that’s in the way. I’m actually considering the dreaded “P” word for later in the year: Purge. If I do, I’ll probably put some stuff up on ebay. I’ll let you know if it comes to that.
Because of space issues and the extensive backlog I’ve got, I’m going to seriously curtail my book buying. There are a handful of authors I’ll buy no matter what, as well as certain titles and anthologies. But for the most part, I’m going to let a lot of new stuff slide unless it falls into the categories I list below.
This year I want to get back to basics. What that means is I want to go back to the works that first attracted me to science fiction and fantasy. There’s a great deal of Howard, Kuttner, Brackett, Lovecraft, and Smith I haven’t read yet. Also there’s a lot by these authors, plus Bradbury, Matheson, and Beaumont I want to reread. I want to do more of the posts on Conan, Howard’s horror stories, and Northwest Smith.
When I was growing up, if you cut me, I would bleed science fiction. I read very little these days. The reasons are the subject for a different post on a different day. I’ve gone into this in the comments on another blog recently and don’t want to repeat myself. I want to get back to reading science fiction on a regular basis, especially space opera, hard science, time travel, and classic works from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. I’m planning on blogging through the Heinlein juveniles in order.
As far as crime fiction goes, there’s such a larger body of work in that field that I don’t feel I have nearly as good an understanding of crime/noir/mystery as I do sff. Hard Case Crime is a great place to start, but there are a number of other novels and writers I haven’t read nearly enough of. In addition to Chandler, Hammett, Cain, and Woolrich, there’s (in no particular order) Charles Williams, Day Keene, John K. Butler, Ross MacDonald, John D. MacDonald, Donald E. Westlake, David Dodge, Lawrence Block, Frederick Nebel, Bruno Fischer, Ed McBain, Harry Whitington, Max Allan Collins, Michael Connelly, and Mickey Spillane. While I’ve read most of these authors (a few extensively), in most cases I’ve only read one or two works. I’d like to read more of some of these guys. Plus there’s some really good work being published by newer authors. I doubt I’ll read everyone listed, but that’s where I’m going to start.
In sff, I want to finish or get current on a number of series by (again in no particular order) Martha Wells, Courtney Schafer, Joshua P. Simon, Gav Thorpe, Ty Johnston, Glen Cook, Bernard Cornwell, Robert Low, Karen Traviss, Paul Kearney, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Jack McDevitt, Mike Resnick, Jasper Kent, Howard Andrew Jones, and Jo Spurrier. Then there are the series I’ve heard about and wanted to start.
This means I’m going to read less boundary pushing and genre bending work and more core sword and sorcery and heroic fantasy. I’ve only read a little of Elric and about half of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. I want to read more of those series, even if I don’t finish them this year. There are several new titles sitting on the shelves I’m wanting to read. Plus there’s all the Harold Lamb and Talbot Mundy I haven’t gotten to. The one exception, at least at novel length, is the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which I’m profiling for Black Gate.
Finally, I want to read more short fiction, in all genres. That’s where the lifeblood of genre is, where new ideas can be tried out and refined. Plus short fiction is a lot of fun to read. I’ve got subscriptions to almost all the major short fiction publications in the sff, mystery, and horror fields, but this past year I hardly read any of them. I want to change that. I also want to read this year’s crop of Year’s Best anthologies, something I once did regularly.
Are these ambitious goals? Yes, of course. Will I achieve them all? Probably not, unless someone locks me in a room full of books for most of the the year and slips me food and drink under the door. But I’m going to give it my best shot and roll over what I don’t achieve to next year. (Where is it written that I have to achieve all goals within a year?) Because of commitments and time constraints, much of my reading in 2013 felt like work rather than fun. I’m going to change that this year.
I also have some goals for my fiction writing this year, but I’m not ready to talk about that yet. Also, I usually list by name in the tags the authors I mention in a post. There’s so many in this post, I’m not even going to attempt that.