19 February 2010

Nonfiction reading

I'm not a great nonfiction reader. Actually, I say that thinking about books. Give me a novel any day! But I do read the newspapers (though not every day), and I read Time magazine, and sometimes rail about the Pacific edition being full of US news, especially if there's an election on. I mean, I'm like most writers in that I read whatever is in front of me at the time -- I'll eat my cereal while reading the back of the cereal box if there's nothing else at hand. And it's not that I mind the back of the cereal box as much as that I've read it several times already. All right, more than several.

At the moment, though, I do seem to be on a bit of a nonfic drive. Last year I read Captain James Cook: a biography by Richard Alexander Hough and A short history of the 20th century by Geoffrey Blainey, both books that I enjoyed. I'm currently reading Blainey's A very short history of the world, and then have a book lined up about how the barbarian invasions shaped the world. I've been dipping in and out of other history books -- one a pictorial history of the twentieth century, one about history's greatest hits, and really enjoying the experience. I suppose it's not that unusual for a fantasy writer to be reading history, but this is more recent history than the timeframes I'm writing about.

I'm also marvelling at Avatar: a confidential report on the biological and social history of Pandora (James Cameron's Avatar) by Maria Wilhelm and Dirk Mathison. It's staggering to see how much worldbuilding Cameron did. I suppose it helps to have the kind of resources he has behind him. I can't pay someone to develop a Myrad language the way he was able to do for his Na'vi. On the other hand, I respect that he went to that effort. Not everyone would have. Tolkien did of course. But as I say to my classes, it's the whole tip of the iceberg thing -- that you show your readers the tip of the iceberg, but you have to know the whole thing. (I kinda like that I can include an iceberg reference in the same para I'm talking about Cameron's masterpiece!) You can't do too much worldbuilding. Unless of course that's all you end up doing -- there comes a time when you have to say enough and actually start writing. You can always do more as needed.

The other book I'm dipping in and out of is The art of Avatar: James Cameron's epic adventure by Lisa Fitzpatrick, James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Jon Landau. All right, this one I'm not reading so much from a writerly perspective but because I still can't get enough of Avatar. I was the same with Star Wars. Bought the Art of for that as well. And the script. Hmm, I haven't seen that one on the shelves yet . . .


Sherryl said...

I might have to borrow that one about barbarian invasions from you!
But you can keep the ones about Avatar, thanks. :)

Tracey said...

lol. I will, don't worry!