Reading, Writing, and Kindles

On February 25th of the year Two-K-Twelve I watched the animated short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.   For them who missed this Oscar-winning short, here it is:

I watched this short, and right there and then I decided I would return to one of my first loves.  I had forgotten, you see, just what a wonderful thing it is to read.  Movies, cable, the Internet . . . all conspired to slowly draw me into the lazy world of watching.  So much so, that my writing suffered as well.

To give an idea of far I had fallen, one of my favorite sources for amazing science fiction short stories, The Analog of Science Fiction & Science Fact, has an accumulated backlog stretching back to the July/August 2007 issue.

Part of my reading material backlog
Part of my reading material backlog

And this is just one monthly magazine.  There are a number of books I purchased, other magazines I subscribe to, and assorted printed matter which slowly made my To-Read pile more a thing of shame than a potential for joy.

All it took was the above video to shake me from my visual-media-induced stupor, and resolve to read and to write.

Now, you would think I would dive into my reading pile . . . but no.  I had just finished re-watching the short-lived SyFy (stupidest name ever) TV series The Dresden Files. 

While I do not lean much toward fantasy, the series struck me as something different.  Something well done.  Something of value.  How can it be so?  Well, it was cancelled after only one season, so we know it was also too smart and nuanced for the average viewer.  Sound familiar?  Can anyone say Firefly?

Well, it’s not Firefly, but then Firefly is not The Dresden Files either.  Different animals, and both struck chords in me.

I wished there had been more of the Dresden series, so I bought the first book.

Jim Butcher, the author, is now on my shit list.  You see, the books are nothing like the series.  They are multiple tens of times better.  Great characters, great dialog, intricate plots which resolve to amazing climactic scenes, great moral questions, compromises, honor, doing what’s right in the face of impossible odds, willingness to live to what is right as opposed to what benefits one’s self . . . all blended in a fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.

Jim Butcher is exactly the kind of writer I want to be . . . and he showed me just how far I am from being such a writer.  I don’t have enough life left in me to claw my way up to that level of talent.  Bastard!  . . . well, OK . . . without knowing anything about the guy, and just going by his writing (a dangerous thing to do), and knowing writers per force put at least a small part of who they are in their writing, with all that I would have to say I admire the man.  Maybe he’s a jerk in real life, but I don’t think so.

Anyway, I read the first book.  Then I checked out the second book from the library.  Then there were no more to check out.  BUT . . . I could check out books 1-through-6 as an e-book collection.  I could do that if I was willing to buy an electronic reader.

It just so happens that around that time, mid-to-late March, Amazon sent me an e-mail.  I could buy the Kindle Fire (refurbished) for $139.  That seemed to me a good price point for that tablet, and I ordered one.

My refurbished Amazon Fire
My refurbished Amazon Fire

I should say I had been, and still am well ingrained into that whole tactile feeling of reading.  Handling the book, turning the pages, etc.  Great stuff.  But you know what?  The Kindle was not that bad.  In fact, it was nearly great.  It actually was easier reading on the Kindle than reading a book.  Who knew?!?

The opening of Serenity, the movie.
The opening of Serenity, the movie.

Yep, it also streams movies.  Either from Amazon direct, or from Netflix.  There are other sources as well, but those are the two I have.  Also, you can play games, and there are apps that lets me see my blog, Facebook, my G-Mail, etc.  I don’t plan to watch much on it, but I have watched movies on it as I lay in bed just before drifting into my four hours of sleep.  With headphones on, and the thing propped on my chest, I can enjoy watching the series I am interested in without disturbing Melisa.

A crucial scene from The Big Damn Movie.
A crucial scene from The Big Damn Movie.

The thing is, as much as I liked reading on it, it’s a tad heavy to support one-handed.  So, I bought me a refurbished Kindle Keyboard with 3G.  Also $139.

My Kindle Keyboard next to the first of 13 Harry Dresden books
My Kindle Keyboard next to the first of 13 Harry Dresden books

Slimmer, easier to hold, easier to read, and lighter.

As close to reading print as a reader can come
As close to reading print as a reader can come

Let me tell you . . . I now understand the popularity of these things.  I should have looked into them before.

But back to Harry Dresden.  From somewhere near the end of March to today I finished the books-1-through-6 collection, rented and finished the books-7-through-12 collection, and I am on the last one, book 13, about twenty pages in.  Since the beginning of March I read 12 of the 13 Harry Dresden books currently in print.  In a shade over a month (after I bought the Kindles) I read, thoroughly enjoyed, and immensely appreciated ten books.  The 11th, and latest, will be read by this weekend.

That is still not close to what I used to read in “my prime” . . . by “my prime” I mean before PCs, before the Internet, before 400 cable channels, before e-mail, before FaceBook, before Google.  But, it’s a good start.

But what of writing?  Ah, yes . . . I did write a couple of things, and I am not happy with them.  I can’t muster enough drive to get into my writing zone.  In part it’s what I said above.  Damn, these Dresden books are good (subjective assessment – I liked them to no end; others may not be as taken with them as I am), and they make my own efforts look like someone pissing in cursive on a snowbank.

The other part is that I am still in the reading zone.  I had forgotten what an escape it is to immerse one’s self in a story masterfully told, with characters I care and identify with, and with a depth which rivals the complications of real life.  And it’s fantasy!!  Magic!!  Stuff that is not real!!  Who knew?!?

I plan to do a more in-depth review of Dresden, the character, and the storytelling associated with the character, all in a future post.  Suffice it to say my main worry is that I am nearing the end of the Dresden material . . . I’ve not checked, and Butcher might be working on book 14, but it’s not out yet.

What I won’t do is go look to other fantasy series.  I will turn instead to my stash of hard-core SF, and make my way through it.  You see, I’m worried about the Claymore effect.

Claymore was the first anime series I watched (a few years ago).  I thought: “Wow! this is really good!”  I went looking for more, and found I had, on my first try, watched the best anime series I have yet to come across.  Everything else has been less. Again, my opinion only.  Others might differ.

I fear my foray into fantasy might mirror my experience in Anime.  Dresden may be the best, or what I consider the best, of fantasy writing out there.  Better stick with hard science fiction, and be safe . . . at least for now.

So there you have it.  Part of my reduced output has to do with crap the universe sees fit to throw my way.  But a significant part of it is that I also took to heart the gentle push from the video I linked at the beginning of this post, and “rediscovered” reading.

I will pull back a bit, and integrate reading with the rest of my interests, and eventually get back to more regular posts.  Maybe even some writing . . . provided I can shake the feeling of futility in even trying.  We’ll see.

As always, thanks for reading my stuff.


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