Another thing the recent comb through my old teen Alyx diaries has revealed is how much reading I did in the Eighties. Books upon books: histories, mysteries, Star Trek tie-in novels, Gore Vidal, Frank Herbert, whatever was lying around the house or the public library, you name it.
Nowadays I read a certain amount of fiction that is just okay. Short stories by writers I’m trying out, for example–pieces that are good enough to finish, but far from dazzling. I occasionally read fun things by competent authors because I’m following a series, or I’m curious to see how a particular concept comes off, or it’s in my fictional sweet spot. Or I’m tired and need something that goes down easy, like a cold beer on a hot day.
If you want to be a really good writer, though, I believe that you have to push yourself as a reader. Not every day, not with every book… but if you restrict your reading to the just okay and the pretty good, you’re deciding to be no more than pretty good yourself.
If you want to be super-fantastically excellent–and why get into this racket if you aren’t at least a bit ambitious?–you also have to read people who are better than you. Who are hard, who sometimes write things you don’t understand and can barely parse, who dazzle, challenge, baffle, delight, and infuriate.
Who are these authors for you? I’m tempted to mention one of my marvellous, talented friends, but to keep things less partial, I’ll open the bidding with Vernor Vinge.