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I’ve written about this before, so bear with me.

I read incessantly. Sometimes I stop for a time because I am busy, or because there are other things on my mind, but those times never last long at all. Sometimes a day or two. More often, an hour or two.

Why do I do this? Because sometimes I find someone who has written something good. It may be a piece of prose that sings within me, causes me to see the scene as if I were watching it in a movie with a souped-up emotion track. It may be an idea so interesting that I have to sit back and just think about its ramifications for a few minutes. It may be an argument that boils my blood to the point where, after reading it twice, and then again, I have to stand up and run about the house angrily denouncing the point of view and all its fallacies to anyone who will listen. But for each of these experiences, I have to wade through mountains of lesser material. I do it gladly.

I was not one of the early adopters of the internet. I was born too late for that. But I have been playing with computers since I was tiny. Still, they were always a diversion, a platform for games, a testing ground for programs of one sort or another. It was not until late in high school, when my family got broadband, when I had the freedom to sit at the computer for hours and browse, that I really adopted the internet.

But once I found it, it was perfect. And endless repository of information, about anything I can think of. I can happily sit at the computer for hours, and hours, just following links to new and interesting parts of the internet I haven’t been to before. Sometimes I go to google and type in random words as a search, just to see what shows up. Sometimes it is interesting. Often enough, it is good.

In the past, I have called myself an information junkie. But that is not entirely accurate. For the most part, information for its own sake is not good enough. I have a book about battleships in my room at home. It is a large book, designed for the reference section in libraries, full of blueprints and tables of information. But those are not why I value the information. I value the stories. The battles fought, who won, why.

I have read a dictionary of the english language. It was terribly dry. I forced myself through it. And you know what? It wasn’t a waste. The etymologies of the words were little stories, frequent enough to entice me to keep reading, little tidbits of interesting ideas, like chocolate ships in a vast field of corn bread. Except they seemed much more in context.

I started reading through an encyclopedia soon afterwards, and I couldn’t do it. Because for every little article about something interesting, there were five huge ones filled with tables and figures that weren’t in the least bit interesting. Frankly, I could not care less if Nigeria’s coal imports steadily increased between the years 1965-1980. But I found that the articles about politicians, the articles about history, the articles about war, kept my attention quite well.

History class was still a challenge, though. There was all this attention paid to names, and dates, and places, and none at all to the history itself. I don’t have any interest or memory for the details. So I don’t know the name of the man who led an expedition to a fort which I can’t name within the Canadian border to retrieve cannon held there for General Washington to use during the siege of Boston during the Revolutionary war… but I know the story all the same. I can even tell you the name of the book I got it from. Guns for General Washington. I don’t know the author. But if you want to teach me history, I decided, don’t give me a textbook that talks about the Boston Massacre with a contemporary illustration, reprinted with permission; give me Johnny Tremain.

I think that’s the only real reason why I prefer fiction to nonfiction: the authors feel compelled to write stories, and make them interesting. Nonfiction authors seem to have a compulsion to relate the facts, as briefly and dryly as possible. For a similar reason, I prefer to stay away from most mainstream fiction, and stick toward the edge: science fiction. fantasy. anime. manga. It irks me that the most popular, the best selling fiction always seems to be either steamy romance, cheesy horror, or murder mystery. Because those genres are defined. There is nothing new to say about romance; it’s just rearranging the adjectives and pushing the envelope of popular morality a little bit farther. Horror is hard to convey because the only source of fear are the unknown and your own mortality, and it’s exceedingly difficult to find and author who conveys that fear well. And murder mysteries have the same appeal to me that solving jigsaw puzzles and mounting them does: it may give a small sense of satisfaction, but it’s time better spent elsewhere.

No, when you look for writing that makes you think, writing that has influenced the world, you have to look to the edge. 1984, Brave New World, Alas, Babylon… everyone knows of these works, yet they were all written for a niche market of science fiction writers.

That’s enough of my literary tastes. People will disagree, and neither of us is going to change your opinion for the other. I don’t hate all popular writers. I just think it’s harder to find the interesting ones. Ill give you Vonnegut as the exception who proves the rule.

I write. I despair of ever becoming as prolific a writer as Piers Anthony, as interesting as Robert Heinlein, as clever as Neal Stephenson, or as smart as Larry Niven. But I write all the same, because it’s one way in which I can contribute. I feast upon the Internet every day for interesting ideas, and I leave behind tidbits like this occasionally. Logically, there’s no way I’m putting back enough interesting writing, enough insightful art to make up for what I read. But that’s the beauty of the scheme: if thousands of people each put forward just a little bit of something they thought up and think is clever, there’s a bounty rich enough that it’s unthinkable to try to know it all. I write, I draw, I create, not because I hope that what I am producing is interesting or good now, but in the hopes that eventually I will make something that someone else will look at and say to themselves, “that is good“. I’ll never know when or if that happens, but with luck, the day will come eventually. Until then, I write. And for every word I write, I read a thousand. Otherwise, where would I get my ideas?

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