Among my memories – some of which are bolstered by the relevant artifacts – I treasure a record titled When You’re In Love The Whole World Is Jewish. It’s a collection of skits on Jewish themes, every last one of which is sidesplitting. The one I have in mind this morning involves a successful businessman named Leibowitz whose son is about to have his Bar Mitzvah. He’s looking for a spectacle that will outdo what a partner did for his son. When a “Bar Mitzvah consultant” suggests that the son read his Bar Mitzvah address before the General Assembly of the United Nations, Leibowitz considers it briefly, then demurs thus: “Not bad, but there’s something missing. I got a feeling it’s been done.”
Here’s the skit, and just try to control yourself:
Now that that’s out of the way...
I’ve become an absolute beast about unoriginality in fiction, especially fiction in the speculative genres: science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The whole point of the speculative genres is to enable the writer’s imagination to roam freely. A writer who elects to mimic someone else’s ideas is wasting the opportunity. A writer who slavishly follows a “hot trend” – e.g., vampire fiction, which has become so obnoxiously repetitive that I refuse to enter a room that contains an item of vampire fiction – has pawned his writer’s gift for a mess of pottage.
This is giving me some difficulty – steadily increasing difficulty, it seems – with finding reading material. Most of what’s called “mainstream fiction” is terminally boring. The thriller genre is even more repetitive than the speculative ones. And no one’s done convincing military fiction since Tom Clancy and Ed Ruggero.
Throw in the contemporary tendency among fiction writers to produce series instead of stand-alone novels, and the hunt for something fresh and new becomes torture.
Among the writers I most enjoy today is Lee Child, the creator of ex-military cop Jack Reacher. Yet Child, too, is beginning to have trouble coming up with fresh crises and conflicts for his nomadic hero to solve. It’s a tough sort of trap from which to free oneself. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been sealing off the ends of the two series I created: I’d rather not get so covered with their adhesive that I can’t come up with something wholly original.
I’ve emitted plaints like this before. But just now I’ve got nothing new to read, and having just returned from a fruitless search of the recommendations at Amazon, the urge was upon me to vent once more. So, fellow indie writers and would-be writers: what have you got for me that hasn’t been done? I’m a hungry reader with time on my hands, I have a large fiction budget, and I’m waiting!