What do writers of f/sf read?
It's not surprising to me that they sometimes read out of their field:
- Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates and The Skies Discrowned) recommends Robert Heinlein's 1941 short story, "By His Bootstraps": "I couldn't have written 'The Anubis Gates' if I hadn't read this. Anyone who has written a time travel story in the past 50 years could say the same."
- Rebecca Moesta (Young Jedi Knights Series) chooses Isaac Asimov's 1951 short story, "The Fun They Had": "It was cautionary for me. I highly recommend it."
- Anne McCaffrey (Pern Series) looks ahead to new author Andrea Kail's short story, 'The Sun God At Dawn, Rising from a Lotus Blossom" in the anthology L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume XIII: "The story is a fascinating glimpse of a reborn young King Tut and his emotional development as he comes to realize his plight as a political pawn."
I say "not surprising" because I read out of the fantasy field a bit myself: Patrick O'Brian, C.S. Forester, Bernard Cornwell, Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft (the latter two sort of overlap into fantasy, but I'm considering them more of the horror vein for my purposes here).
Why is it a good thing to read outside your field as a writer?
Because you want to see how other writers use their tools. You want to study their style, see how they develop their characters, learn how they structure their story. If you read O'Brian, you're looking at the manner in which he represents setting--the authenticity of the time period is crucial to transporting the reader to the story's world. For Cornwell, more of the same, but also how he tempers suspense and action, how he raises the reader's interest and holds it through one harrowing experience after another. King--how he creates undeniably believable characters that suck you in from the first moment you encounter them.
I know you have your own favorite authors outside of the field in which you've chosen to write. Make sure you're studying their work as much as you're enjoying it.
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