I was traveling Monday, and Tuesday was devoted to fixing all the stuff I didn’t do Monday, so it’s only today that I get to post that over at the Guardian, Damien Walters has mentioned me as one of the best 20 SFF authors under 40.
It is a little amusing that I’m primarily cited for Mr. Shivers, the book I wrote when I was 22, which seems so long ago and so absurd that someone thought a 22 year old could do anything of worth that it practically makes my brain hurt.
Old novels are like old photographs to their authors: you recognize that this was you, once, but it seems so alien that you used to be this thing that you can hardly understand it. You primarily see your failures and regrets, the things you didn’t know that you know now: for real life, you see how to talk to the opposite sex, how to behave professionally, how to do laundry, etc.; for writers, you see how this sentence was clunky, this idea was poorly articulated, all this here should have been cut, etc. I know I’m not alone in thinking this: I’ve heard of other authors revisiting their mega-hit works 10 years later with a distinct sense of unease.
I very, very rarely reread anything I’ve written once it’s in its final form. I certainly don’t want to reread Mr. Shivers or any of the rest anytime soon, chiefly because I’m afraid I’ll see all the things I know I can do better now. (I flipped through Mr. S a few times, and I could definitely tell a 22 year old wrote it – but this might be more in my head than it is in the text.) But this is part of doing anything, in that you must make mistakes in order to learn how to do better, and just because you made a mistake in a work, and learned from it, doesn’t necessarily mean that the work is bad. It just means you know more now.
And as a note, I am the sort of person who tends to believe that the thing he’s currently working on is The Best Thing Ever, and everything he’s ever done before was Obviously Just a Warm Up for The Best Thing Ever. Then, when I finish The Best Thing Ever, it immediately becomes another Warm Up. So I guess I’m saying I’m a pretty shitty judge of these things.