Kathryn Hore - Writer

Category: Reading (Page 1 of 3)

Contributor copy

I’m an avid eBook reader. I love my Kindle. I love reading on my phone, on the iPad.

When it comes to eReaders, it’s just so amazingly convenient to be able to take some lightweight bit of tech in my handbag and know it holds hundreds and thousands of books. And if I want to get a new book while I’m waiting at the train station, or in the office, or anywhere, I can just flick across and purchase it on my phone or whatever, and download it in a flash.

As a reader, I adore eBooks.

But as a writer, there is no better sensation than holding a physical, published book in my hands that contains words by me. It’s something I’ll never get over.

Here’s the latest – TRANSCENDENT, the anthology by Transmundane Press, just out:

It’s a beautiful looking book and one you absolutely will want to pick up. Available in the usual places, here are the Amazon links:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Transcendent-Transmundane-Press-ebook/dp/B07MR41CRC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547112769&sr=8-1&keywords=transcendent+transmundane+press

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Transcendent-Transmundane-Press-ebook/dp/B07MR41CRC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547112759&sr=8-1&keywords=transcendent+transmundane+press

Or alternatively, straight from the publishers store: https://www.transmundanepress.com/store.html#!/Transcendent/c/32292305/offset=0&sort=normal

Enjoy… 🙂

Game of Definitions

So I’ve begun 2017 by trying to define what I mean when I think “literary fiction”.

Well actually, I’ve begun 2017 by railing on social media against the state of modern global politics and sobbing into my coffee every time I open up the news media of a morning, but that aside, for the purposes of this site, let’s just say I’ve begun by considering definitions of otherwise ill-defined genres.

As must be obvious with barely a cursory glance at this site, I’ve got an interest in genre, genre theory, and the intersections of genres that might otherwise not be considered natural bond-mates. I’m particularly interested in the hierarchies of genre and cultural assumptions that go along with that, you know, what’s supposedly good, bad or a likely to turn up on the Bad Sex award nomination list. Plus, why they’re considered such, who gets to make such judgements (the cultural assumptions, I mean, not the literary bad sex awards) and why broad-based attitudes towards certain genres prevail.

It’s probably a hangover of my undergrad uni days back in the 90s, when the idea of the Dead White Male canon was being constantly critiqued in literary theory circles and there was me, a bright and innocent new undergrad, going totally wide-eyed and gaping at this thing called Deconstruction. Wow. Or maybe it’s just because reading genre has always been my first passion and even when I pick up something undoubtedly literary, it’s for reasons usually more associated with genre reading – the plot sounds good, the story is interesting, a couple of the characters seem pretty badass. Not because it’s been critically acclaimed as a fine piece of high quality literary writing, because frankly nothing sounds more dull than a book that has fine prose but bugger all else to recommend it. You’ve got to do something with all that quality writing on the line. Make it count with some equally quality story, you know?

So. Anyway. All that said, where was my point again? I think I dropped it down the back of the couch, or perhaps lost it amid three billion angry-crying political retweets that currently suffices as my twitter feed.

Literary fiction: define. Sounds like a VCE English exam question, but I was starting to put together a slab of text about fiction that crosses the literary-horror divide and realised that as much as I like to rabbit on about this stuff, I really don’t have that firm a working definition of ‘literary fiction’ as I perhaps should. So I did what any modern chick with an education and an established career in systematic research and information management does when faced with a point of personal ignorance: I googled it.

Turns out there’s a lot out there in the writing-commentary-o’sphere that don’t have a decent working definition of literary fiction either. At least going by the blogs I cyber-meandered around, I didn’t exactly get to the academic journals yet. But in my initial googling, I did find myself reading the same thing over and over again:

“Lit-Fic: it’s kind of hard to define exactly, but I know it when I see it.”

Yeah, sure you do, champ. And ain’t that just the problem?

I’ve argued many a time that quality – a subjective measure at the best of times – cannot work as a legitimate defining characteristic of literary fiction because it is simply not unique to literary fiction. Quality writing exists across all genres, from erotica to hard SciFi (or should that be the other way around?), from body horror to psychological thriller, from historical romance to swords-and-sorcery grand epic fantasy. I know there’s a contingent out there in the literary commentary world that like to tut-tut about the restraining, confining nature of genre fiction when quality writers try their hand at it (I’m looking at you, certain regular New Yorker contributors), but sorry, that’s basic prejudice from those who don’t actually read the stuff. Genre fiction is filled with writing of all qualities, from the truly exquisite and superb, to the pedestrian and mediocre, to the schlocky train-wreck, I-need-to-stop-reading-this-awful-tripe-but-can’t-look-away dreadful stuff.

What I mean is, no genre can be defined by quality or lack thereof, because there’s quality writing in all genres. There’s awful writing in all genres too. And yes, I do include Literary Fiction in that, so stop swooning and admit some LitFic is pretty damn trite at times.

Hmmm. I supposed I should give some examples. Genre fiction that is high quality. China Mieville, for starters. There’s not a genre he hasn’t ventured into so far, I don’t think. David Mitchell. Yes he bloody does write genre fic, thanks, what you think Slade House somehow wasn’t a haunted house story? Richard Price, for you crime lovers out there. Ann Leckie for some modern SciFi that examines broader questions of gender and humanity while giving us some really rip-roaring space-ship action. Or lets go back a bit in the day. Jane Austen. You don’t get to modern romance without her. Mary Shelley. Kicked off modern horror and modern scifi and the gothic. Charles Dickens. Loved to tell a good scary story, did Dickens. Ursula LeGuin. Gender and politics in space, I’ll always love her for that. Toni Morrison. Beloved was absolutely a horror novel in every way, all the more horrifying because the real horror came from what human beings did to each other, not the ghosts haunting the place. Talking of ghosts, Henry James. MR James. Or let’s get new age. Samuel R. Delany. Want some modernism with your science fiction? Hell, want some gay porn with your science fiction (and who doesn’t?), go read Delaney. Now try Octavia Butler. James Tiptree Jnr. Joanna Russ. Yeah, I’m heading into my early feminist reading lists now, so lets switch back a few centuries again. Victor Hugo. Notre Dame is a monster story, isn’t it? Alexandre Dumas. Matthew Lewis, because The Monk has some of the most gruesome body horror my undergraduate mind had ever encountered and it’s considered the height of the literary gothic. Christos Tsiolkas even. Dead Europe was a horror story, wasn’t it? Kazuo Ishiguro. Cixin Liu. Cormac McCarthy. Margo Lanagan. Shakespeare. Don’t forget him, now.

I could keep going, of course. These are just the books and authors that popped up on my kindle when I browsed it for examples. Some of these writers are unequivocally literary. Tony Morrison, for starters, is almost never described as a genre writer, she is firmly in the LitFic camp, even if Beloved is so obviously a horror story to those of us who study the genre of horror. Cormac McCarthy wrote one of the most recognised (and devastating) post-apocalyptic fictions of the last half century – The Road – and yet he’s considered a literary writer, not a speculative fiction one. Others are commonly placed more firmly in the genre camp; I’ve only ever seen Ann Leckie described as a science fiction writer, perhaps a Lit SciFi writer, or a feminist SciFi writer, but still, she’s science fiction all over. But every writer I mention, and a million more that keep popping into my head, have all written books or stories that can very firmly be placed in well-defined genre categories. And they are all fine, fine writers.

Yet when it comes to some of the older ones, Hugo, Dumas, Lewis, even Austen or Dickens, I’m never actually sure whether they count as Literary Fiction. Literature, yes. One of the commonly accepted defining characteristics of capital-L Literature is that it has “stood the test of time”, and these guys are old, right? Hugo, Dumas, Austen, Dickens and their ilk, they’ve all been remembered, are studied, are considered classics by virtue of their age (but not only due to their age, I should hope). Hundreds of years after they were written we read and admire them still. Yet all of them were writing popular fiction in their day. All of them were writing commercial fiction in their day.

While we have no idea whether today’s LitFic will be remembered in a hundred, two hundred, four hundred years’ time. I rather suspect a good chunk of it won’t. What will be remembered might be… well, we don’t know. That’s the point. Though it does beg the question of just how much cultural production has been lost to time, fine achievements of great worth that simply didn’t hit the right cultural note at the right moment, that didn’t get seen by the right set of eyes to find its way onto a curriculum or into the review pages of a broadsheet, or onto some political banned list somewhere.

And sure, you could say that’s just what happens, not everything gets remembered. But that eclipses the arguments about who gets remembered and why, and whether marginalised voices get appropriate representation or instead it’s only the dominant hegemony which prevails and…

And that’s a whole other essay. One I probably wrote as a baby third year sometime around 1995. You know, Dead White Male canon and all that stuff.

Anyway, longevity only works as a defining characteristic when something’s already been around long enough to prove it’s going to be remembered. Like that Shakespeare fellow. It doesn’t help with defining Literary Fiction right now, or even if there is any connection between “Literature” and modern Literary Fiction. Because I’m conflating two separate categories there, aren’t I? Which is what happens when you start looking too closely at genre. On the one hand, genre is a marketing tool, basic general categories that help bookshops figure out how to arrange their shelving. That give us ways of searching for books online. On the other hand, genre is a way to interpret meaning within a morphing cultural-historical context, and that’s quite a different beast in comparison to deciding where to stick the latest David Mitchell when stocking the bookshelves.

Which means any attempt to define Literary Fiction in negatives – LitFic is not genre fic and that’s its primary definition – get complicated up by the fact that defining hard boundaries for any genre is problematic. So is Frankenstein science fiction, or horror, or gothic fiction, or literature? Is Jane Eyre romance, or gothic fiction, or women’s drama, or social commentary, or a pseudo-erotic fantasy that couldn’t get any sexier if it had actual nude scenes?

(Seriously, people. Go read Jane Eyre with your adult eyes on. Charlotte Bronte would be writing the best slash fic on AO3 if she were around today and I will always love her for it.)

I’m getting off point, so let’s just steer back a bit. Literary Fiction. Let’s recap: we can’t define it by measures of quality, because quality occurs across all genres. You could perhaps argue that quality writing is more consistent in LitFic, while other genres contain a greater percentage of works that are just, well, crap, and I might even buy that argument, but it’s still not enough. LitFic is mostly good, genre fic is good in patches. It just feels like you’re stretching there, if we’re talking definitions.

And it can’t be defined by longevity, except for those books that actually have been around for aeons, and even then we have to ask why they were remembered while others, perhaps written by more marginalised voices, were not. It can’t even be defined by what it’s not, because understanding genre and the meaning derived from genre is not as straight forward even in stories that are filled with spaceships and set in a galaxy far, far away.

So what else? Purpose? Genre fiction is written with a specifically commercial intent, to sell as much as possible, while Literary Fiction somehow has higher aims? Maybe… not.

I’m sure LitFic authors would love to be best sellers. Some of them are. David Foster Wallace, anyone? (Oh and  Infinite Jest is a SpecFic novel too, in case you’d forgotten.) But we’re talking intent, so maybe LitFic authors don’t write with a commercial intent in mind, they write to create art or meaning or some such, and publishers publish them because they’re high quality works that deserve to be published, not necessarily because they’re going to sell lots.

Only as an emerging genre writer, the most common piece of advice out there is to write the story you want to tell, that has meaning for you, and not what you think will be popular, not what you think will sell. Stephen King – as successful a genre writer as they come, lets face it –in his very well received memoir/writing manual On Writing, describes in detail how the first draft is always between him and the page only. He writes it with only one audience in mind, himself, and no other. It’s a sentiment I’ve seen from many writers and one that applies very much to myself as well. Its only in the redrafting process that the first draft is turned into something readable by others, and then it’s all about craft, elaborating and emphasising story structure and character and theme and symbolism as needed.

What I’m saying is that genre writers don’t sit down to write with purely commercial intent any more than LitFic writers do.

Which brings me to one last point. The ‘E’ word: escapism.

One of the most common ways I’ve seen of distinguishing Genre fiction from Literary fiction is by the weight of its content. Literary fiction is somehow supposed to equal deep thinking, complex concerns, introspection, characters driven by internal concerns, journeys that are more metaphorical than actual. While genre fiction is all about great big space battles in the sky with laser beams and badass action.

To which I say only this:

Bollocks.

First things first. There is nothing freakin’ wrong with reading for a bit of escapism. What with global politics as it is today, I’m tempted to go lose myself in fictional worlds on a daily basis and the only thing keeping me from doing so is because resistance is necessary.

Secondly, there might be some escapism in Genre Fic, I’ve also little doubt there is in the LitFic world too. And if you think Literary Fiction has the monopoly on writing with serious concern, you’ve clearly not read much genre fiction.

You cannot tell me the great science fiction and speculative works on our collective genre fiction bookshelves are somehow not concerned with the great questions of life and humanity. You cannot tell me that genres like cyberpunk and trans-humanism aren’t actively engaging with what it means to be human in a world where technology has come to dominate all aspects of life, when that is the very thing that defines them as genres in the first place. That the big epic fantasy novels of war and struggle between nations aren’t actively considering notions of power-politics, classism and the intersection between church and state. That horror novels aren’t bothered with examining our base fears as primal emotions driving humanity. That historical romance novels don’t give a damn about what it means to be in love at certain points in our history where gender roles and sexuality are strictly ascribed.

These stories examine all such concepts, they just do it set in the future, or the past, or other worlds, or with monsters, and use those settings and the tropes of the genres they are situated within to comment upon our current, real-life present.

Or, what, we’ll just write all that off as “high concept” and head straight into that other common LitFic definition: it’s all about character, the small introspections, while GenreFic is only interested in big externalities? Like McCarthy’s The Road was not concerned with the external world and how that impacted character? Or Morrison’s Beloved didn’t have characters situated within a very specific, very big-picture external environment, that of slavery and its lingering influence.

Plot versus character. False dichotomies don’t come any falser. Character drives all fiction. The protagonist makes choices or behaves in ways as determined by his or her character. Those choices and behaviours drive the plot. Sometime the plot is big, huge, we’re saving the world, the spaceships are blowing up, the war is global. Sometimes the plot is small and internal, the need to rekindle hope inside ourselves against the setting of a ruined world, the importance of love and friendship even in lives fated to be short. Such plots can be found across genre fiction and literary fiction both.

The characters always drive the plot. Yes, sometimes the writer gets lazy, or isn’t particularly good, and starts forcing the character into decisions or situations because they want the plot to go a certain way, but that brings us back to questions of writing quality, not distinctions of genre definition.

So where does this bring us? Two and a half thousand words of me going on about the ways literary fiction is defined in contrast to genre fiction and exactly what conclusion can I come to? I still don’t have a decent working definition of LitFic, except maybe that it’s more consistently better quality than genre fic, and even that’s questionable at best. I still can’t articulate in a couple of sentences exactly what LitFic is in the same way I can define Science Fiction or Horror or Fantasy or Crime or Romance, and I’m just as aware that those apparently easy definitions of genres can be just as problematic, the borders and boundaries between them just as murky, once you start examining in more detail, with a socio-cultural-historical eye.

In short, I have no definitive answer. LitFic is just kind of hard to define. Though I’m pretty sure I know it when I see it.

 

Not Guilty Pleasures

Bookshelf1There’s something I don’t get. It’s when people talk about reading as a guilty pleasure. As in, they’re reading it and they’re enjoying it, loving it, can’t put it down. Reading is giving them pleasure.

And they feel guilty about it. Because apparently whatever it is they’re reading isn’t, I don’t know, good enough or something.

Well bollocks to that, I say.

I’m an eclectic reader. A voracious reader. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’ll read anything up to and including the back of a cereal box, if the plot is intriguing enough and the characters grab my interest. There’s a certain quality bar I need the writing skill to match up to, because anything below it tends to get in the way of my enjoyment of the story: clunky prose or ineffective characterisation, leaden plot lines or a POV that shifts all over the place.

The thing has to be written well enough to draw in my emotional investment. But if it can do that, I’m there and I don’t care if it’s the most challenging of high literature or the most popular of, well, pop fiction. Because good writing can be found right across the board.

Now, I’ve got various literature degrees, a librarianship and professional writing quals all framed up on my wall. And my bookshelves reflect that. They also reflect my love of genre and popular fiction. Ulysses sits between a couple of Star Wars original EU novels.* Virginnia Wolf shares a shelf with the Garth Ennis run of Hellblazer comics. Jane Austen cuddles up to JK Rowling (metaphorically speaking), Patrick White next to Terry Pratchett, Joseph Conrad beside Alan Moore.

Oh, you get the picture. And talking about pictures, here, have some bookshelf porn:

Bookshelf2

 

My point is, I’ve heard often of late people saying something like “Oh, XX is my guilty pleasure” in regards to their reading and XX doesn’t even refer to any kind of erotica. Because if it did, I’d at least understand what they meant (though I still wouldn’t understand feeling guilty about it).

If reading something gives you pleasure, then that is one of the finest things in the world. Just don’t feel guilty for loving something because you think somebody else might look down upon it, because that’s what this is actually about. A false hierarchy of culture, a sharply protected canon. A need to shore up the concept of high literature by defining a mass culture to distinguish what it’s not.

And for goodness sake, never, ever, shame anyone else for loving reading even if what they adore is not to your taste. If you do that, you’re not a champion of books and words and literature and thought, you’re just a sad old sod trying to make yourself feel better about your own reading tastes by denigrating someone else’s.

So if Patrick White is your thing, embrace it. If Dan Browne is what gets you in, celebrate that. If you love both, all the more reading fun for you. Yay.

Life’s too short not to read and it’s way too short not to love what we’re reading.

 

* For the record, I enjoyed Timothy Zahn far more than James Joyce. Though if we were talking Dubliners instead of Ulysses, it might have been a closer competition. Dubliners is awesome. Ulysses… uh, yeah, well, those are some very plodding weeks of my life I’ll never get back, hey.

 

Genre Wars

When I say I’m a genre nerd, I don’t just mean I love reading, writing and obsessing over genre fiction. Of course I love all those things, I’m a Geek Girl from way back. But I also mean I love the concept of genre, the mutations of its meaning, the academic study of it, and, you may have noticed, the debates surrounding it.

So I rather enjoyed Sarah Fallon’s piece over in Overland recently, “why does everyone hate speculative fiction?”

As one who enjoys a good LitFic v SpecFic cage match, it got me thinking about the framing of these kind of debates. I’m drawn to these genre war arguments because, firstly, I love genre fic, especially speculative fiction in all its forms. But I also equally love academic literary studies steeped in dense literary and cultural theory, and have long been a student of creative writing.

So between studying the literary canon, and studying the craft of writing, and reading/writing genres often denigrated, at least by those with closed-gatekeeper views of what ‘quality writing’ actually is, I usually come at these debates as a defender of genre fiction. I like to rail against genre’s position as a perceived outsider to an accepted literary canon. Or in other words, if I like a good scary horror tale, don’t you judge me, you LitFic types. Not unless you’re prepared to judge Mary Shelley and Henry James and Margaret Atwood and Thomas Pynchon and Toni Morrison too, because as has been recently pointed out by Grady Hendrix over at Tor, Beloved is a horror novel in every single sense, except for its lack of traditional horror audience.

Now, the title of Fallon’s piece, “Why Does Everyone Hate SpecFic?” does its job and pulls in interested parties like myself to read the full article. Yet when asking questions like that, when framing the debate in such a way, Fallon – and myself, and any others who take a similar approach in defending the right of genre to be taken seriously along side “real literature” – is really just shoring up the literary hierarchy we’re supposedly wanting to dismantle.

“Everybody” does not hate Speculative Fiction, for starters. Going by sheer sales numbers, I’d hazard the love for speculative fiction well eclipses the hate for it in rather significant numbers. Damien Walter in the Guardian isn’t the only one to have noted the market for high end literature isn’t exactly rolling in cash and that it’s the mass genres where people are buying, well, in mass. It’s the GRRM’s, the Stephen King’s, the Dan Brown’s, the EL James’s, the Tolkein’s, the Rowling’s who are beloved by huge audiences willing to shell out lots of dosh to buy what they love.

And sure, David Foster Wallace sold a bunch too, back in the day, but can anybody outside the narrow confines of the literary establishment actually name more than one of his books? Oh, and by the way, Infinite Jest well and truly qualifies as speculative fiction.

Far be it from me to make spurious arguments by cherry picking examples, but isn’t one of the reasons SpecFic and other popular genres have long been denigrated is due to their commercial nature and mass audience appeal? That was at the heart of the whole mass culture/high culture debate in academic circles which I remember pouring over in my uni days. (Hmmm, and wasn’t that academic debate concluded when I did my highly influential honours thesis in the mid-90s? You know the one, read by a huge audience of my supervisor and whichever poor sod they got to mark the thing).

It’s the very popularity of genre fiction which is at the heart of much of the tut-tutting against it, for how can it be true art with all the associated in-depth artistic integrity if someone’s trying to make money by appealing to a mass market? Or so goes the argument.

This has real-world correlations. As a writer trying to sell short fiction to magazines, it’s the SpecFic magazines which pay. Literary Fiction mags, not so much. As in, not at all, really, not unless you’re hitting the New Yorker or something, in which case you’ve obviously already made it. But for us emerging writer types trying to make a name for ourselves, the literary fiction world does not generally bring cash – often because they don’t have any – while the SpecFic world uses payment rates as a measure of professionalism. Markets are defined as Pro, Semi-Pro or Low-paying/Token based around their pay rates: often above 6c/word for Pro, between 2-6c/word for semi-pro, and so forth. This then becomes a measure of career progression, whether or not you’ve “cracked the pro markets”, where you’re selling. How much you’re earning.

It’s a different world, a different mindset. Do we write for cash or does that constitute some kind of artistic selling-out? Does this impact quality or is fine writing possible when trying to make a buck at the same time?

It’s a false dichotomy, of course. A hierarchy of literary-ness with fine literature on top and the genre plebs at the bottom which we all know is bollocks, but which, when we pose questions like “why does everybody hate SpecFic?” and go on to defend the genre and spruik it’s literary merits, we actually just end up supporting. When we ask why does everybody hate SpecFic, we’re actually asking why do some voices in the literary establishment dismiss it as commercial crap without real literary quality, and by framing the debate in such a way we elevate those voices as the ones to take seriously. The ones we need to argue with, to convince, to change their minds and have them accept genre as artistically valid. We’re trying to persuade them what we love is as important and as ‘quality’ as what they love.

It goes both ways. Look at the Hugo Awards dramas of the last couple of years, with the various Puppies factions doing their best to co-opt the voting slate in the name of promoting “real” science fiction and fantasy, as opposed to the perceived pretentions to literature they didn’t like. It certainly started a war-of-words across my social media feeds, all boiling down to the same argument: has Speculative Fiction forgotten its roots, stopped being about good fun spaceships and inter-galactic battles, and started taking itself way too seriously?

Specifically, has it become “too literary”?

The hating on Literary Fiction is, of course, as ridiculous as the hating on Genre Fiction. As if SpecFic had never been literary, pfft. It started literary. It’s always been literary, from Shelley to Morrison and beyond. You think Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren isn’t literary? Doris Lessing’s Canopus in Argos series? The woman won a Nobel Prize for Literature, and that’s before writing her Canopus series, so it’s not like she was just starting out writing dodgy stuff before finding her literary stride. There’s always been high literature within Speculative Fiction, just as there’s always been good, fun, pulpy, schlocky stuff too.

Genre is many things. A set of marketing labels, a series of buckets in which to group like works, a useful way in which to analyse the meaning of works. But what it’s not is an indicator of quality. Writer, teacher, SFF author, Brian Sanderson, has noted that SFF genres utilise a lot of tropes, but the tropes do not equal the genre. In his view, those most often dismissive of SFF are so because they see only the tropes and not the genre. Maybe it’s the same the other way. Maybe the LitFic haters see only the literary tropes. Or maybe they just have a chip on their shoulder.

When arguing for genre fiction to be taken seriously, we perhaps need to remember it already is taken seriously by those who read it and love it and watch it and write it. By those who study it and review it. I started university in the 90s and studied a great deal of science fiction and fantasy during my time back then. The academic world does take it seriously, right alongside the classic dead-white-male literary canon, even if there are individuals who might not like it.

But when we frame debates by setting up genres like Speculative Fiction up as an underdog against a High Literature canon, all we end up doing is engaging with and thus supporting the existence of an illusory literary hierarchy which places our favoured genres at the bottom. A hierarchy which doesn’t actually exist outside of the minds of those who want to keep genre at the bottom of it, and those of us who can’t help but rail against that.

It’s something I’ve long been guilty of because, well, I love a good underdog. And I get my back up when my favourite genres are dismissed by those who consider their taste so much the finer. But maybe it’s time to back away from the debate and just let the work stand on its own. There’s a lot of crap in the SpecFic world. There’s a lot of crap in the LitFic one too. Quality writing is quality writing and that’s not defined by a book’s genre, or its commercial potential, or indeed, even by its cover.

But hey, all that said, I’m not likely to stop reading about, or debating, or arguing genre any time soon, either. It’s way too much fun.

So. January.

Hope you all had a good start to 2016, then. And a lovely holiday season. A lifetime (or four weeks) ago now, of course, but Happy Merry and all that anyway.

It’s been a busy time round my way, what with the switch in day jobs occurring along with the switch in years. I began January closing down the library I’ve been managing the last few years. On the positive side, it’s an add-on to the CV: “experience in project managing the closure of a library”. On the negative side, I hope I never have to actually close one down again. It’s not much fun shifting everything you’ve worked to build over the last three years into a series of boxes that will inevitably go to the big recycle bin in the sky.

What? You mean you’re shocked to hear librarians throw away books? Sorry to skewer your illusions, but librarians are probably far more comfortable with getting rid of, throwing away, re-purposing, recycling, or just plain destroying books than most of the general population, or so I’ve found. It’s part of the job, the collection must be kept relevant, current and on point. That means that on a regular basis the collection must be weeded, deselected or, as I like to think of it, decimated with extreme prejudice.

There’s no room to hang on to books for sentimental reasons, such as it simply being a book that exists. Librarians don’t have time for sentiment, or at least don’t have the budget, resources or physical space to indulge it.

Hi. Welcome to 2016. Where I start the year by discussing the destruction of books for the greater good.

Anyway, after starting January by boxing up a library in preparation for its mass-pulping, I’ve since begun a brand new day job in a different, much bigger library in an academic setting that is (a) very exciting and (b) actually valued by the broader organisation (the uni in question), and (c) full time.

Yes, you read that right: I’ve taken a full time day job. Yes, I still have two little kiddies to raise at the same time. Yes, I still plan to write on an every-day basis. I get cranky if I don’t write every day. It might be late at night, or in my lunch hour, or getting up long before dawn cracks so as to get some writing time in, or just wherever and whenever I have ten minutes to spare. It’s guaranteed to be in stolen snatches of time aggressively hoarded and protected, and never enough of it, ever. But that’s just what a writer has to do. At least a writer with a day job and a family, which surprisingly enough, a lot of writers actually manage to have.

The fact I’ll no longer be commuting by train kills my train-writing time – dammit – but it does open up new reading-listening time. I’ll be driving to work, which means – yay – audio books!

So I’m now on the hunt for good audio book recommendations. So far I’ve listened to JG Ballard’s High Rise as narrated by Tom Hiddleston – which was brilliant, but I’m an old Ballardian, so it’s probably no surprise I fell for that reading.  I’m now about to move onto David Mitchell’s Slade House as read by Tania Rodrigues and Thomas Judd.

Give it to me then, folks – tell me your favourite audiobook suggestions.

(Though seeing as I turned off comments on this site aeons ago, you’ll probably have to drop me a note via the contacts page, or I don’t know, get me the recommendations via telepathy? Osmosis? Goodreads?)

Happy January. Now into the 29 days of February…

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