You’ll have seen those mega-tomes you can buy in branches of major bookstores; 1001 Books to Read Before You Die… 1001 Movies to watch, places to go, albums to listen to, etcetera. I was chatting with a mate about the phenomenon – let’s call him Argyle for the purposes of this post – and he was pretty strident on the matter. “It’s nothing less than the complete homogenisation of taste,” he said, furious, as he tucked into his McDonalds.
That last bit was a joke.
Yeah; so I was reminded of Argyle’s comment when I met a gang of YA writers at a Waterstones event in Birmingham recently. They were a great bunch. Cat Clarke, Sue Wallman, Martyn Bedford, blogger Michelle Toy and me. We had a good time discussing thriller writing for a group of attendees. Michelle asked clever questions, we all pitched in.
Martyn teaches on a Creative Writing MA; twenty or so post-grads at a university in Leeds. After the session, I asked him what sort of projects the students were working on. “It’s all epic fantasy. Game of Thrones type stuff,” he said. What, all? “Yeah,” he said. “All.”
Argyle’s complaint again, see? And here’s a linked observation: I quit my job and finished teaching this Easter, moving into full-time writing; fiction and non-fiction. This is something I’ve been planning for a while and in anticipation of a significantly reduced income, I’ve been cutting back. I’ve been bombing round the M60 in a second-hand Citroen that makes the kids in the playground laugh. I’ve got two suits and three ties; second-hand books, one Playstation game, a cheap-as-chips Spotify subscription, a Lovefilm postal account at a fiver a month and a freeview box. “I think you’re going to be OK,” a colleague said on my last day, patently choosing his words with care. “You’re frugal,” he said. “Anyone can see that.” I laughed. We both knew he meant the car.
So anyway – I’ve reached this weird point where I’ve never seen an episode of GOT. Though I will, I will. Work colleagues have stared at me amazed and recommended Narcos, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy. And I’ll get round to them. But I’m watching Deadwood at the moment. It’s great. Good writing is good writing. And maybe there’s an advantage to be considered here, one side effect is that I’m consuming different stories to a lot of others. I’m not being deliberately obtuse or occupying some superior counter-cultural high ground. All I’m saying is – being miles behind isn’t a bad thing. There’s a weird freedom to it.
So I won’t be starting my fantasy epic anytime soon. No sweeping dynastic conflict or competing claims to a throne as a brutal winter approaches. Sheathe your swords, people.
Cowboys is where it’s at. Cowboys.