Nine Reasons Why You Or Someone You Know Should Actually Read Fiction

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I recall a conversation with my mom. We were talking about reading and how that compares to watching movies and she said something that has stuck with me like superglue. She said, “For those who don’t read for pleasure, they never know the richness that comes with reading a book.”

So often, I tell people that I am a writer and get this response: “Oh, I don’t read anymore.”

It makes me wonder, why the hell not? It makes me mad. I don’t say you shouldn’t watch TV or movies, but does this have to be mutually exclusive? I mean, come on!

So, here’s my list of why you should ACTUALLY read fiction:

1) Reading makes you smarter. Once upon a time, I did a jewelry show. It was a sales gig. I took the job because I got to travel and I wanted to sharpen my sales skills. Well, I ended up learning a lot about the shopping habits of women, but in the bargain I made this strange little discovery. Every once in a while, someone would come to the booth who I could relate to. Strange to say, but I mean, me personally. Not me the sales guru, the Fabio of semi-precious stones, but lil’ ol’ me.

These people, about 1 in 75, were wonderful. They got all my jokes and my references to seemingly random things. They were articulate. They were…literate! It was actually uncanny how well those people could carry on a conversation about all kinds of things.

Well, everyone of those 1 in 75 were readers. I know because I got wise to it and I started asking them. They read. So, I concluded: WOW, READING MAKES YOU SMARTER!

2) The book is better than the movie: Everyone has heard that one a thousand times, but I will say it again a different way: the book is A LOT better than the movie. Get it? Almost every movie is based on something written, and I don’t mean the script. I mean a book, a comic book ,a short story, a written story. So…seems like a no brainer to me!

3) Reading is more enjoyable than watching movies or TV: Now, at first you could debate this, reasoning that you can get the whole story in two hours versus, say, twenty-five. Yes and no and more at no. The movie or TV show, only has an hour or two to engage the audience.

That means they have to edit the story down to the highlights. It’s like watching the Cliffs Notes. YOU MISS A TON! And that ton is what gives you the richness my mother was referring to. That ton is why the book is always better than the movie. It’s the multi-layered, sophisticated and in-depth version. In other words, the highest quality rendition of the story.

4) Reading allows you to use your own mind to create stuff and therefore allows you to create the story too: Okay. So, ever watch a movie and say, “Hey, that’s not what (that character) looks like!” Or “That’s not how I would have imagined it.” Well, when you read you look at your own imagination. Your mind makes up the images you are reading about. Well, so what? It’s more enjoyable when it’s yours, that’s what. And the character and the world and the universe, become yours.

A visual medium overrides your own mental constructs and just gives you an image. It’s like this, ever had to find your way around town using a map? And then after a few times of using said map, you don’t have to use the map anymore because you learned the route. Well, let’s say you go and use a GPS. A funny thing happens. No matter how many times you travel that damn route, you don’t ever seem to learn it. Why? The GPS takes the place of your thinking mind, that’s why!

Well, if someone else has to provide images for you all the time, after awhile, you won’t be able to provide your own and you’ll just wind up a gaping, drooling fool.

5) Reading is cheaper: I mean, go to the movies and eat five table-spoons of popcorn, then compare that with an e-book or a big, fancy hard copy book. Or buy Game of Thrones episodes. Yeah, pretty obvious!

6) Saying “I’m not a reader” just sounds really bad if you think about it: I mean, what if someone said to you, “I’m not a watcher” or “I’m not a thinker” or “I’m not a speller.” Saying “I’m not a reader” makes it sound like you are unable to read, which is bad for the old personal public relations department and won’t impress any girls!

7) Reading promotes literacy and literacy preserves the language: It’s important that we preserve the language. English is the most expressive language in the world. It’s quite beautiful. No other language has the color and depth that English does. We have so many words to describe so many things and the same thing. It really defies belief. Other languages are cardboard by comparison. We should use it so we don’t lose it!

8) Reading imparts wisdom: When you read, and I am talking fiction here, you find these little pearls, these kernels of wisdom planted in the text. They just happen. They are spontaneous. These nuggets of wisdom are part of what makes reading so rich, as my mother was saying. And you simply will never, never, never get that from a two-dimensional movie or TV show. That medium is just not expansive enough to hold that much culture.

9) And all that leads me to my last and, probably, most important point of why you should read. It’s like this: A government has a very, very hard time controlling a free-thinking and educated populace and that needs no further explanation at all.

Oh, it might take you awhile. More than one book to get back in the groove, if you’ve fallen out, but as surely as I am sitting here writing this, I can tell you, that if you read, you will, sooner or later, prefer reading books to watching them. You will grow tired at the pale and vapid, by comparison, versions of your favorite stories that you pay so much for in the fancy, modern-day cathedrals called movie theaters. You will return to your roots, as a reader.

How to Live Forever

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I used to think that some of my stories would pervert the minds of young women. I suppose any writer goes through this, feeling shame and embarrassment at what sometimes “comes out” when he sets fingers to keypad.

Lately, I had an insight into what horror and dark fantasy is. What it’s trying to accomplish and, you know, I began to see the mission. It’s not how disturbing one can be, or how disgusting things can be described. It’s not how many buckets of blood come crashing in or how many dead bodies pile up. It’s not the number of zombies or the secret societies of vampires. It’s not any one of those things and yet, its all of them.

From Killer Clowns to Exorcist, Jason to Freddie to Joe Black, horror is on a mission.

In my youth I would never have admitted to liking horror and back then, I think it scared me away. When I grew up and became a responsible man, I developed a taste for it. It all started when big Lance showed me the movie Interview with the Vampire. From there I went to the  books and from there, well, down the rabbit hole.

I wouldn’t have been able to tell you why I loved it. I didn’t really know. Oh, I knew I loved the blood, the damnation, the darkness. In later forays into the night, I knew I liked the sometimes oozy, gooey, dripping messes, the unconscionable situations, the eternal dark. I knew I liked contemplating how far down it could all go and still…well, keep going.

I found a way to explain the attraction. I found the mission of horror, at least from one authors perspective. I believe horror can be described thusly: the way we survive death. Or rather, all the ways we live forever no matter our condition.

It may come across as a bit odd to say “survive” the one event none of us are supposed to, yet, isn’t that what horror is telling us? You see, you can survive death by…becoming a vampire, a zombie, a demon, a ghost. It might make you crazy, it might make you beautiful, it might make you mindless and then again, it might make you infinitely wise. It might take your body from you, or give it to you, forever. And if none of that works, perhaps a necromancer will raise you up or remake you into a demon. Your spirit might inhabit a crow, a tree, a dream, some other medium. And even if you don’t catch the virus, curse, spell, you defeat it and there again, survive death, even if it leaves you broken, learned, lost, sad, relieved.

It’s all the ways we live through the end. We must love that idea because we sure seem to tell each other a lot of stories about it.

It brings something else to mind too. It’s a simple idea, but a powerful one. If we have invented all these ways to survive death. If we tell ourselves there are literally hundreds of ways to live forever. Might it not be, that we do?