Tag Archives: reading


First of all, speculative fiction, what is it?

This blog, What is Speculative Fiction, goes into more detail, but I understand spec-fic to be a kind of cross-over or middle ground between the following:

  • Alternate histories
  • Science ficiton
  • Dystopian fiction
  • Fantasy (ish)
  • Horror
  • Post Apocalypic

It’s that middle ground between hard core Sci Fi and a character-driven story, that place where reality seems normal enough until you realise it isn’t. It’s where the reader is challenged to think, what if the world had taken a different course, what if things were not as they appeared? In conversations with readers and fellow writers alike, I often hear people saying you can’t mix Sci Fi with romance or you can’t mix fantasy with literary fiction (well, what about magical realism, for a start?). This is an assumption which is lacking in imagination.

For readers who like to see traditional genres turned on their heads, or who like to journey further into imaginary worlds, there’s speculative fiction.

Literary speculative fiction titles

This excellent blog about novels which straddle the fence between literary fiction and speculative fiction goes into more detail about how this is done. It lists a whole host of well known ‘literary’ works which could be considered ‘speculative’, but some of my favourites in this area are:

  • Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • 1Q84, Haruki Murakami
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Speculative fiction to try out

Aside from my Borderliners trilogy, the first book of which will be out in the new year, there is a wealth of speculative fiction out there. If you’re interested in this mixed genre approach to fiction, why not look at this comprehensive 2013 list of speculative fiction titles to try? I particularly like the following suggestions:

  • In Search of and Others, Will Ludwigsen
  • Anything by Aldous Huxley
  • Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Happy holiday reading!

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Reading for writing

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King tells us he has a well defined routine. He writes in the morning until about 11am and reads in the evening. Every day of the year, without fail. He also says this:

 ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’

And I agree.

I’ve also heard it said that novelists should aim to write 2,000 words and read 2,000 words a day. I liked this so much I took it upon myself to try and stick to it, but in the end I had to go with write 1,000 words and read about 3,000 a day – I’ve changed the ratios a bit whilst keeping the discipline.

Either way, the message is clear – if you want to write well, you need to be a voracious reader.

As an aspiring novelist, reading widely helps me to emulate writing I admire and
It helps widen vocabulary and access recurring themes which fascinate me. When asked to compile a list of my favourite books recently, I was interested to see how many of them shared themes. This was not something I was consciously aware of, having considered myself an eclectic reader!

When I’m working on a project, reading within the genre I write in is particularly useful. At the moment I’m lapping up Gillian Flynn’s books, but also Dan Brown’s! Both have something to teach me about pace and intrigue. I’ve also returned to Kafka and Kundera for philosophical undertones and Nabokov for wonderful descriptions. Murakami’s IQ84 is a new discovery which I am devouring, word by word. The list goes on. The reading goes on.

Just when I feel like I’m up against a writer’s block, I’ll read something… amazing. And I off I go again.

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