I think one of the things that disturbs me most in the various speculative forums I visit, is the fact that so few talk about the fiction they have read or are reading.
In one such spot, someone asked for recommendations for a certain genre written for a certain age, and you’d think they’d asked if the members wanted to go to the dentist. I envision a lot of head-scratching before a few answers trickled out, most naming some classic, written by an icon.
I couldn’t help wondering, are there no good contemporary books, or are speculative fans not reading?
I happen to know there are good books because I’ve read some. But are self-professed “geeks” reading them? Back in June I wrote a couple posts about reading speculative fiction: “Where Do You Find Your Speculative Fiction,” and “Christian Speculative Fiction: What’s Wrong With This Picture?”
I realize that one of the conclusions I came to from the poll that ran and the comments that followed is this: we don’t read lesser known books because they are lesser known. We stick with the popular and the much-talked-about, not because they are better or the best (though they might be) but because out of all the thousands of books now available to us, we don’t know which are the best.
Contests can help, no doubt. When a book wins an award at Realm Makers or at ACFW Carol in the Speculative category, or a Christy or from one of the conferences such as Blue Ridge or Oregon, we should take note. We should put those books on our To Be Read pile and make note of those authors to see what they write next.
Personally, I find recommendations from people I know to be even stronger. I also find reviews on Amazon or at Goodreads to be helpful. I don’t need to read a book only if it is in the top ten or top one hundred, because I understand how hard it is to get the word out about a good book. But somebody needs to tell me about a book if I’m going to look at it more closely, if I’m going to consider buying it, and if I’m actually going to read it.
Let’s face it. We’re all busy. And books are not simply competing against other books for our time. They’re also competing against TV and movies and games.
I maybe am repeating myself ad infinitum here, but I’m going to do it anyway. We have to pass along our recommendations to others. We have to write reviews, we have to talk books up on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or wherever you hang out in cyberspace. The fact is, we each have more opportunity to influence people all over the world than we’ve ever had before. Used to be you had to work for a news outlet of some kind to have an influence beyond your immediate circle of friends. But no more. We can have a much broader reach. We can touch people with our recommendations like we never have before.
So here’s what I’m asking. Have you read any speculative fiction in 2018? If so, what book or books? How would you rate them? If they are titles you could recommend, pass them along to us. And then put that same recommendation somewhere else on the internet. Maybe write a review for Amazon or B&N, mention it in a group on FB, put up a review on your blog. You know, anywhere that other readers might see what you think about this good book.
Here’s another option. Why not make a list. You know, you see them all the time. Why not make your own. What are your top five speculative books written in this century? Or this year? Or make it top ten or top three. Maybe make your own award with you as the judge. What book would win?
The point is, spread the word. The only way some books will get noticed is if YOU do the talking.