So one of the things I’ve been trying to make more time for lately is reading. Yes, the guy who loves books, loves to read, and writes as often as he can, has been a total slacker about reading.
No kidding, I have a gigantic backlog of books I’ve bought and haven’t read, probably around 40 or so. And some of those are books that have been piling up since my college days.
Well ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been reading Star Wars novels. The Expanded Universe, as it is called, is incredibly huge and robust, with hundreds of novels written by dozens of authors!
And that is why I think every Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer should read novels from the Star Wars Expanded Universe. These are stories all written in the same universe, with the same ‘rules’ to how the universe works, and the same characters…but each book or series of books by each author is so wonderfully unique!
Favorites and Least Favorites
One of my favorites of the EU is perhaps the most well-known trilogy, the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zhan. Not only does the story capture the spirit of Star Wars, but it is very well written, in my opinion.
Another of my favorites is the X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole. This in particular is because I really enjoy his writing style, very character-driven, and he does an incredible job of describing action/battle scenes. Just enough detail to give a vivid picture of what’s going on, but not so much that it slows down the story or the action.
On the other hand, my least favorite trilogy so far is easily the Black Fleet Crisis. In fact book 1 of this series is what originally killed my interest in continuing the Star Wars EU almost a decade ago. Grudgingly, I forced myself to finish it this year, and got myself back into the series again. Or so I’d hoped.
Now I’m on the last book of the Corellian Trilogy, and finding that I also am not a huge fan of this trilogy, though I like it considerably better than the Black Fleet Crisis.
Before anyone cries fowl on me, I am not saying they are poorly written books, or that the authors are rubbish. If that was the case, they wouldn’t have been asked to write these stories. Rather they just aren’t my taste. Why? Well, that leads me to why I think Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers should read the EU.
Take it or Leave it
Each author brings something different to the table. And for an author, that sort of exposure to varying writing styles is incredibly invaluable.
Because developing our writing ‘voice’ is perhaps the most important thing an author can do. Now that’s just my opinion, but as a reader, it is the author’s writing style, the way they tell the story, their ‘voice’ that either makes or breaks it for me.
Some authors, like Stackpole, write characters and events in the right amount of detail. He describes the universe just enough that I can see it, filling in what he doesn’t describe with my imagination, and so making it a part of me.
Others, like Roger Allen (Corellian Trilogy) spend waaaay too much time describing the environment or, more often than not, the technology, how it works, why, even though 90% of what he describes is not essential to the story. And it frustrates me.
But that is me. For some, that is the whole point of sci-fi – the technology.
And so reading this multitude of authors, I can figure out what I like, and what I don’t like, and decide which parts to integrate into my writing. It also helps me identify what I consider to be flaws in my own writing style, or perhaps it is better to say aspects of my style I want to change. Aspects I don’t always catch when reading my own stories, but which I catch when I see it in other writers’ stories.
What’s Your Story?
So what about all of you? Star Wars or not, what are some of your favorite novels or authors? (If you say that it’s my book, well flattery will get you everywhere ;) ) What are some of your least favorite? Why? What kind of story telling do you enjoy the most or fiercely hate? I really would love to hear from all of you :D
Thanks for reading!