I already own more books than I could possibly read in my lifetime–not that this fact slows the rate at which I buy more books, mind you. Perhaps part of my mind is blissfully unaware of my eventual mortality. Perhaps some scrap of my psyche buried since adolescence thinks I *will* be able to read everything. Thanks a LOT, Tempest Bradford, for reminding me that I’m going to die with most of my books unread.
Seriously, that’s the most controversial, click-bait-y spin I can put on the challenge made last February by K. Tempest Bradford. Read it, why don’t you? Some of the dust has settled… or maybe it’s just been eclipsed by other, more pointless controversies. I blog about as slowly as I read, so I’m only getting around to boosting this idea now.
TL:DR? To paraphrase, Tempest proposes that readers might construct a self-directed reading list that looks beyond white, straight, cis-gendered male writers. Try it for a year, even if you happen to be non-white, non-straight, non-cis-gendered, non-male yourself. You might learn something.
But I take a different approach to what is, basically, the same point. I know my own experience… and it bores me. I read to extend that experience, to visit the universe next door, to sample what it might be like to be someone else. Reading allows me to bolt on enhancements to my factory-standard life without sutures, scar tissue or electrodes on my neck. I suspect most folks who are drawn to speculative fiction are particularly familiar with this interest in literary transcendence, so to speak. The mainstream world confuses it with “escape.” I prefer to view it as a choice to live more fully and deeply.
And I am particularly susceptible to challenges. (Perhaps the less said about that character trait the better… unless proof surfaces on Youtube.)
After I read her article, I scanned my disheveled shelves and scooped up a tall pile of books that I already own which would satisfy the challenge. Some of these works I had wanted to read for years. Worse, some of these works I had *pretended* to have read. Egad, in at least one case, these authors are my friends. Clearly, following the challenge would allow me to stop this madness, assuage some guilt, in addition to gratifying that weird predilection I have to peer pressure.
This mound of books (only a small portion of which is depicted in the photo above) was far taller than I could realistically read in a year at my current rate of consumption so I made further subdivisions. One stack of “non-male,” another stack of “non-white.” I only balked at the non-cis-gendered category for some really egg-headed theory-licious reasons that I won’t delve into here. The piles were still too high, especially when I factored in the new books that I know are coming out this year that would qualify. So I made another set of subdivisions that are relevant to this blog: I focused on works that were any combination of Midwest + Snob + Horror. Such sub-divisions, I believe, would be cool with Tempest.
Note: these are mostly books I’ve already decided I want to read. I’m just going to, y’know, actually READ them.
Note further: I still plan to BUY books by straight white dudes this year. Woe be to one who tries to stand between me and my occasional retail therapy.
I met Tempest Bradford this weekend at MoCon X and we chatted a bit, once I steeled my courage with alcohol. She’s rather charming in person, despite her big bad reputation for making white men cry.
And even if her post, y’know, reared the dark foreboding of the Grim Reaper over my library, one bony finger pointing to my waiting grave.
Wanna know the specific titles I’ve been reading or the ones that are on my shelf? Stay tuned.
Elsa and I make similar points, though with far fewer words and in a largely caffeine-deprived state in this Podcast.