The other day I was thinking about my writing and wondering if one of my problems is that I always write the same genre (or genres, since I occasionally do fantasy, but mostly do science fiction, as far as short stories are concerned). I don’t know how many of you who read this blog are writers, but I’m curious how many of you attempt to write outside of your “comfort zone.” For me, my comfort zone is science fiction and fantasy, because those are the genres I tend to read and enjoy the most and the ones that fill my head more often than anything else. But can thinking only of those things hurt your writing? I don’t know. I’ve started to think that for someone like me, it can, because must of what I write seems to suffer from a lack of character and an excess of plot (something that has been identified by some people to be a male thing).
The thing is, while I do read pretty much only science fiction and fantasy, I do occasionally venture outside of that and have, on occasion, enjoyed books so far outside my far outside of my chosen genres that the only thing that remains the same seems to be the language being used (that, of course, is because I can’t read any other languages, although I do have a knack for reading Spanish). For example, I really enjoyed The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan, a science book about the evolution of human intelligence. That might not be a great example, though, since science fiction and science often go hand in hand, even though the former tends to get the science very wrong. So, how about a “literary fiction” example: Fog of the Season’s End by … While you could consider this book a pulp-style novel, it is actually a character piece about people dealing with some of the darkest aspects of South Africa’s apartheid. It is one of my favorite books that I was forced to read while at UC Santa Cruz (in a class on South African literature, actually). Maybe I should write a novel like that (not about apartheid, per se, but something that looks at the world I live in, or something). I often feel like I am not educated enough to do that, though, as if I am not in-tune with the world in the way some of the best literary writers seem to be. My fingers aren’t on the world’s pulse.
I don’t know where I’m going with all of this, except that I seriously wonder if my obsession with genre fiction might be hurting me. I even tried to break out of it on Saturday in an attempt to do something new, only to find myself resorting to the same science fiction things that dominate some of my most recent work (well, a little different, but I immediately found myself needing to go into the future in order to pull off what I wanted to do). Maybe I have a psychological condition that perpetually puts me in the future, or I just don’t care about the present enough to write about it, or I simply want to write stories that don’t work in the world we currently live in (give it twenty years and who knows).
What do you all think about this?