Something which has become increasingly common in recent years is the number of fantasy authors who, when asked what other genre writers they read/admire, give a reply along the lines of: "Oh, well...I don't really read fantasy, you see."
Take, as an example, fantasy author David Bilsborough. When asked whether he thought fantasy would ever be accepted by the mainstream, he replied:
"I don't see why it should be respected. With the obvious JRR exception, (and possibly Bernard Cornwell's "Starkadder / Vargr Moon") I have to say that I'm not the greatest fan of fantasy, at least not the swords & sorcery tradition with all its preposterousness and banality. I've read a fair few fantasy books in my life, and am always surprised that such stale, hackneyed and vapid pulp should get published at all. I particularly have problems with US fantasy; there are definite exceptions, of course, but in my opinion the Americans just don't get it, with their phoney Olde-Englishness, green tights, bucket boots, square-jawed 'Rone Garet' heroes, pretty-but-with-a-hidden-fire 'Fern Leah' love interests, hissing insidious black-robed 'Sith Mordax' villains, or whatever it is they harp on about in their hollow regurgitations of Conan, Star Wars or Buffy."
While I was surprised that Bilsborough was dumb enough to insult 75% of his potential readership with his embarrassing comments about American writers, what made my blood boil was the fact that he freely admitted not liking fantasy. Ok, he's referring specifically to Sword and Sorcery, but you get the impression that he's far from a fantasy fanboy. Why the hell does he write in the genre then?
The thing is, he's not the only author to happily write fantasy and then distance himself from the genre (yeah, Goodkind, I'm looking at you).
So why don't some fantasy authors read fantasy novels? Are they embarrassed to read fantasy (but not to write it)? Do they not have respect for the genre? Perhaps it's because after spending a day working on their own stories in their own worlds they don't want to then get lost in someone else's world, but I think that is just an excuse. I spend every free waking moment thinking about/working on my own project, and I still love to read fantasy on my daily commute.
I'm not the only person to notice this trend, as Steven Erikson recently mentioned it as well. When asked whether he thought his and Ian Cameron Esslemont's Malazan books were influencing new authors, Erikson bluntly replied:
"I'm not sure anything we're doing is influencing anyone. Abercrombie's stated he doesn't read fantasy. In my few conversations with Richard [Morgan] via email, he too was unfamiliar with the Malazan series. He told me he was taking "Deadhouse Gates" with him on vacation, and I haven't heard from him since."
Is it just me, or was Erikson having a bit of a dig at his fellow authors there for their lack of genre reading?
I'm not saying that those fantasy authors that choose not to read fantasy are at fault; at the end of the day we can all read what we want. It just seems strange that some authors are happy to write in the genre but choose not to read other genre works. After all, aspiring writers are always advised to read deeply in the genre (and without). Does this advice not apply to writers who are already published? I don't think that just because they are already published, they can simply ignore what else is going on in the genre.
What does really annoy me is when the likes of Bilsborough bleat about fantasy being a load of tripe that's not worthy of respect. How is he qualified to make a statement like this when he doesn't even read in the genre? I think he ought to read some Erikson and Martin, and then see whether he still thinks the genre is undeserving of respect.
Another point of interest is that the two greatest living epic fantasists (in my opinion) - Martin and Erikson - are both fully-fledged fantasy fanboys.
Anyway, rant over and opinions welcome.
By the way, if you want to subject yourself to Bilsborough's boring waffle, then check out the interview that Pat did with him here.
The Erikson quote came from the interview on Fantasy Book Critic.