Had a conversation yesterday with some other SF fans about the problem of folks who live in a world where they have immediate access to the whole history of a given genre -- to just about everything, really -- and don't avail themselves of it. Fewer people reading SF know names like Clarke or Asimov; I get the impression most people reading "SF" today think it's "all the stuff on bookshelves with the names of video games and TV shows and movies on them".
That brought to mind a bitter question: Why would people want to try and keep up with the backlog of classic movies, books, etc., which they have no emotional connection to in the first place, when they can just sit back and bathe in the firehose of what's being released anew every day, every week? Not everyone who watches a lot of movies is a lover of movies; some of them are just there because they want something moving in front of them on Friday night.
Now, I can stomach such passivity from rank-and-file audiences. I can't choke it down when it's the behavior of people who call themselves creators. I always felt a big part of the point of being an artist of any kind was to also be a student of your chosen art form. Not just in the sense of examining the stuff produced in the field before you, but to look at as much of it as possible, and to understand why and to what end things were done that way.
Some projection on my part may be at work here. This is why I always felt books on how to write were unintentionally misleading or limiting: they can give you a recipe, but that doesn't make you into a chef. The books that made the most difference to me were the ones that were about writers rather than writing per se -- and, of course, the books by those same people. By studying them, I felt like I was better able to develop a program for how my own work had to evolve than if I had simply been handed a checklist and told to follow it.
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Other Lives Of The Mind