The immediate outcome is, of course, that I went onto the library's website and put in a request for as many books by these authors as I can comfortably read before May, while still working on all the work that must be done.
Of course, just reading is insufficient. This was brought home to me when I read the first book (by Mur Lafferty). I start asking questions and those questions must be answered. My question for some of these books seems to be what the differences are for the reader when the writer knows his/her setting intimately and understands the people of the places. What are the narrative differences between a writer writing about home and a writer writing about the other side of the world? (Mur wasn't the trigger for this, actually, the Australian accent in Pacific Rim was. Mur's book just reminded me that I was thinking about it.) These differences apply to built worlds and to our reality transformed and it's extremely interesting.
In a way, I'm applying some of the stuff I worked out for the book (that's still being finished, just not this fortnight) and checking it. Also, I'm reading with my eyes open to these issues. And it's illuminating. Most of the books I don't enjoy are ones that don't use a deeper understanding of their setting and the implications that setting has for its characters. It's not the skill of the writer, but how thin the cultural/historical ice is that they're skating on and whether I can see that ice cracking. understanding of cultures other than one's own definitely affects some readers (in this case, me) because it affects the quality of the world-build and the place of the characters within that world.
Last night's CSFG meeting underlined this. I found myself sitting back and thinking what kind of writer was asking what sort of question. Fewer of us than I expected to see had natural instincts as regards the development or understanding of culture and of individuals within their culture, which was a surprise. Some carefully learn skills. Some demonstrate that they were going to get themselves into hot water sooner or later, or simply write stories based on amazingly thin ice.
I really need to rethink how I teach cultural awareness for writers. I've been assuming that spec fic writers operated within the Humanities and had the same basic understanding as, say, a History graduate. Some do and most certainly some don't. So many have goodwill and some think that goodwill and a bit of uncertainty is enough to develop an awareness of people who come from different cultural backgrounds. Thus we see thin ice.
The skills I taught diplomats and public servants, lo, these many years ago, are similar but not at all the same to those that writers need. I knew this on one level, for I've been working with individual writers on these issues for some time. I didn't make more general correlations between what those specific writers were doing and what the cultural framework spec fic writers in general were operating, though.
My research has given me those tools - I shall use these next few books (25-30, given the time I have to read them in) to hone those tools. I even have a class during the second half year in which I can teach using these tools.
By Sunday, I shall have read 2000 pages of fiction, therefore (I've already read 2 of the books I borrowed yesterday), 500 pages of non-academic fiction, and about ten academic articles (and taken notes from them). My reward on Sunday isn't just 12 more books, it's market and DS9 and all the goodness of life. Also, matzah latkes with cinnamon.
Speaking about the goodness of life, I promised someone (this is a "You know who you are" moment) that I would repost this link during Pesach. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAcf1R