Monday, September 7, 2015

Canon in Front of Them

For the most part, I respect critics, and I find especially useful those who write about the historical context of a given work, or those who examine the techniques used in a given story. But I have no use for critics who set up a canon of "essential" writers, because I've often learned more about writing from people on the margins of a field than from any central figures.

And so, for example, I've learned more from individual stories by Shamus Frazer, Edward Lucas White, Charles G. D. Roberts, Bernard Capes, and Ralph Adams Cram, than I ever did from Lovecraft, Ligotti, Barker, King, or from any number of writers who are often considered important in the field of horror. I believe that we take away those details of craftsmanship we need to create our own stories in our own styles, and that the best way to find solutions to our creative challenges is to read widely. I also put my trust in random discoveries, in the joy of picking up a magazine, collection, or anthology, and of digging up treasure that might appeal to no one else, but might also show me what I need to do.

I leave canons to composers; they know how to use them. But I read for pleasure, and to learn.

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