The Crazy Years
On the State of Modern Fiction
by Harding McFadden
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
I have trouble reading modern fiction, most of the time, and I’ll tell you why.
Y’see, when it comes to mainstream fiction, or even historical stuff, is that so much of it is cookie-cutter, shifting character arcs and story narrative in such a way as to offend as few people as possible. The same folks are cast as villains, and are as believable as what you see on CNN, the heroes are a bunch of faultless, perfect Mary Sue’s, and the things that happen to them are so predictable that you can call the last twenty pages inside of the first twenty. Mainstream fiction, with alarmingly few exceptions, is dull, predictable, and plodding.
Which isn’t to say that there’s nothing being printed right now that’s worth your time and effort. There are quite a few small press publishers that are so worth the investment that I actively seek them out. Seems to me that they’re the only ones taking a chance on things, willing to publish stuff that the big boys wouldn’t get near with a hundred foot pole. They’re also the ones willing to publish stuff that isn’t as thick as a brick, with print so small that it puts a 1950’s-era phone book to shame.
So, while there’s still the good folks like Dean Koontz and F. Paul Wilson seeing print with some of the big publishers, most of the folks still worth reading are small press, if not self-published, and I thought I’d take a minute to bring some of them to your attention.
As such, and to start:
Wolfpack Publishing is a group that should most definitely be on your radar. Along with some other incredible stuff, they’re the folks publishing Chuck Dixon’s Levon Cade and Bad Times series, each adventure thrillers worthy of having their names spoken alongside the very best of yesteryear. The second Cade book—Levon’s Night—I have to admit, read late last year or early this year was honestly the best thriller I’d read in a long time. For fans of Batman, Dixon’s name should be nothing new, but for those of you who haven’t tried his prose work, trust me: second to none. Likewise from Wolfpack is Mike Baron’s Florida Man, the single best book I’ve read this year. In each chapter there was at least one moment or scene that made me laugh out loud. For the sake of pimping for these fine folks I’ll include links at the bottom of this to the books in question.
Phoenix Pick is another publisher that should be no stranger to you fine folks, as they are the publishers of TLE’s own founder and headliner L. Neil Smith. And any publisher brave enough to put Mr. Smith’s books out there in these times of PC oppressiveness and violence is heroic at least.
See, there was a time when you could walk into a book store—when they still existed; not like the overpriced coffee shops that call themselves bookstores that we have to suffer through today—and all but guarantee yourself a solid read. There were books by Niven and Pournelle, Heinlein, John D. MacDonald, and bunches of others just waiting there for our hungry minds. Now what’ve we got? Countless Harry Potter YA ripoffs, or worse, brainwashing and dumbing down the youth of tomorrow. Science fiction that’s all but unreadable. Countless media tie-in’s that take up more room than would a shelf containing the complete works of Isaac Asimov.
Hate to say it, but I can’t remember the last time I had anything other than a disappointing time at a mainstream bookstore. Though given the state of mainstream book publishers, how can it be otherwise. Instead, I troll my way through used book stores looking for forgotten gems, or hardcover editions of old favorites.
I read an article a few months ago that stated that a disturbingly large number of kids and young adults don’t read, hate reading, are contemptuous of reading. Given what they’re stuck with, I can’t blame them.
You want kids to read? Give them stuff worth reading. Don’t drop garbage in front of them and expect them to see magic. Give them Heinlein’d Red Planet. Give them Niven and Pournelle’s Footfall. Give them anything that doesn’t suck.
It’s not hard. There were centuries of human history when things or worth and merit were being written. In a few places there are new masterpieces being written. Seek it out. Find it. Don’t accept crap just because it’s the most convenient crap. If it sucks don’t read it. Don’t watch it. Don’t listen to it. Or else there will come a time when everything looks good no matter how much it stinks, just because you’ve forgotten what good looks like. Be picky. Be discerning. Accept only the best. Leave the crap for the toilet.
Was that worth reading?
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