Five Essays (and One Book) That Just Might Change Your Mind About Reading Speculative Fiction

OK, so, I’m not talking about reading in general, you see. If you are reading this, you probably have your mind made up about that already.

No, my click bait title is speaking of changing your mind about the act of reading; what you read, what you think is worth reading, how you read it.

Below is a short list of essays (both that I was able to remember reading and that I was able to track down) that shaped my approach to reading, both speculative fiction and non.

1. “50 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Works Every Socialist Should Read” by China Mieville

So I wouldn’t classify myself as a “socialist” per se. I am a bit to leery of any one political system claiming that they have the solution.

Maybe “socialist curious.”

But even if you are a staunch libertarian, neo-liberal, or bible-belt conservative, there is probably something on China Mieville’s list for you. When I found it several years back, it really opened my eyes to the breadth of expression in science fiction, visions that I hadn’t even conceived of, as well as ways of reading and engaging with fiction that I hadn’t considered either.

Even though I doubt Mieville’s intent was to change people’s minds about what they look for in their fiction, that is exactly what happened to me. In the years since, I have begun, more an more, to value science fiction and fantasy that features female, homosexual, or transgender leads; that focuses more on the forgotten elements of society, and on marginalized groups; that is painfully aware of the costs of industry, corruption, graft and militarism.

I didn’t know that one list (the most maligned of internet formats) could set me on that path. But it did

2. “Epic Pooh” by Michael Moorcock

This one is is not nearly as heartwarming.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t read any of Michael Moorcock’s stories. However, if I had only found this crank, erudite, blisteringly pointed (and frankly hilarious) takedown of, well, most British “fantasy ” literature, I would still be happy. A few of the juicier selections for your enjoyment;

The Lord of the Rings is much more deep-rooted in its infantilism than a good many of the more obviously juvenile books it influenced. It is Winnie-the-Pooh posing as an epic.

and

The books (The Chronicles of Narnia) are a kind of Religious Tract Society version of the Oz books as written by E. Nesbit; but E. Nesbit would rarely have allowed herself Lewis’ awful syntax, full of tacked-on clauses, lame qualifications, vague adjectives and unconscious repetitions.

Now it’s worth saying that I still like the writings of Tolkien, Lewis and Nesbit after reading this…but now I can do so with their shortcomings in full view. Try to lower your defenses and read it, even if you are a hardcore Lewis or Tolkien fan.

On to a British writer almost everybody respects…

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