On burnout and fan culture

Terry Brooks, a fantasy writer I grew up reading, talks about wanting to finish his epic Shannara series before dying, but also how this rush and his burnout made it not his best work.

(This is really just an excuse for me to rant about nerd culture for a bit, so buckle up.)

I post this here so you can point to it when self-entitled manchild-nerds start carping about Martin or Rothfuss finishing their stories, or about how the latest Star Wars didn’t reflect their tiny white male hero fantasies. Do you want a good book/movie or do you just want any old thing? Do you want to listen to a story or do you want to make one? Art takes time and isn’t ready until the artist is ready. Plus, if your theory about midichlorians and Admiral Thrawn didn’t pan out, it’s probably because you’re not a fucking artist making movies — you’re just life-support unit for minutiae and factoids about a fantasy story meant to entertain. You’re like a PhD in Uselessness.

(In summary, my old fall back rant: At what point did audiences start thinking they were investors who got a say in a product rather than consumers paying for the chance to view it? Get a life.)

If you’d been thinking about wrapping up the series and writing an end, why did it take you 20-something years to write it?

[Laughs.] Time. There’s really no point in doing it without a strong reason for doing it; and the strong reason was, I was burnt out. I didn’t really have anything more to say about the Shannara world. Number two, I wanted to do some other projects. I had other stories I wanted to tell. Finally, and this is something you can’t identify with, but when you get into your seventies, you start thinking about how much time you have left. I thought, “I’m going to be really pissed if I die and don’t get this written.” The concept that I’d had earlier in life — that I would live forever — might not turn out to be true. [Laughs.]

You wanted to make sure that you wrote the ending.

I tell everybody, I didn’t want Brandon Sanderson writing it! Brandon’s my friend so I can say that. [Laughs.] He’s the famous example of somebody who finished off Robert Jordan’s [work] — and did so better than I thought Robert Jordan. I didn’t want somebody to think he was better than I was. [Laughs.] 

Friday news get down

It’s Friday and we’re all getting ready to hunker down this weekend and survive the plagues, pestilence, slack-jawed riots, and roving gangs of psychotic 80s-punk themed cannibals driving souped-up muscle cars with corrugated metal welded to them for armour. Oh, wait, sorry…. just checked the calendar. That’s NEXT weekend. Enjoy!

Thursday news dump

There is nothing else happening anywhere else in the world except here in this book news post. Repeat that sentence quietly to yourself five times and make a cup of tea.

Do your old genre loves hold up?

This article at Tor is really just an excuse for me to ramble for a bit about how I’ve been rereading a bunch of genre books I read as a teen and how those books have changed in when passing through my older, presumably greyer, grey matter. Solaris (fantastic and bizarre and how did I even find this book as a kid?), Dune (I just don’t have the zeal to go through it all again), Neuromancer (checks out), Dragonlance (so terribly written that I’m ashamed of my younger self for bearing with them), the various David Eddings books (lists of things that happened with some good moments), The Dragonbone Chair series by Tad Williams (a genuinely great fantasy story), Lord of the Rings (soooo muuuuch weather), the Fionavar Tapestry by Kay (masterpiece), etc. Do they all hold up? No. But do they all tell me something about who I became? Sure. And some books, like Solaris and the Fionavar Tapestry, really offer MORE to me now than they did back then. So it’s not a bad exercise to head back and comb through your personal set of golden oldies.

Live footage from America

I recently found myself combing through some boxes of old books and papers and came across a fascinating personal artifact. On the surface it’s a pretty unremarkable object, just a crumbling spiral-bound notebook covered in childish graffiti. But inside is over a decade of my life—a handwritten list of every book I read between 4th grade and college graduation. Looking through it was a bit like spelunking into the past, a unique look at the strata of different life stages, delineated by changes in handwriting and shifting interests like so many compressed layers of rock.

Paging through the tattered old list, I was seized by a sort of anthropological interest. If different parts of the list reflect phases of my life, what would happen if I took a deep dive into one of these distinct stages and revisited some of those stories? One place in particular caught my interest: from about the age of 12-15 there is a sort of genre bottleneck where my tastes suddenly narrowed from an indiscriminate mix of anything and everything to a very distinctive preference for fantasy and (to a lesser extent at the time) science fiction. There were dozens of titles to choose from, so I picked a handful of stories that conjured up particularly strong feelings, like sense memories that come back clearly even when my actual recollection of the stories is hazy (or nonexistent).