Stephen Brust’s “Cool Stuff Theory of Literature”

As part of my NaNoWriMo prep I’ve picked up a series of books to re-read that I haven’t read in a couple of years. My reasoning for this is that reading helps keep my mind fresh, but I don’t want to read something new that could be too distracting when November 1st hits. 

The series in question is Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books. If you haven’t read any of these, I can’t recommend them enough. It’s a long-running, unique, and all around great entry into the sci-fi/fantasy canon. His latest book in the series (yeah, it’s still going) has just been published, so there’s plenty of time to catch up. 

As I’m re-reading these books I’m reminded of an idea of Brust’s that I’d read about awhile ago: The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature

My paraphrasing of it isn’t going to do an ounce of justice so here it is in his own words from an interview in Strange Horizons a few years back:

The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature states that all literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool, and the reader will enjoy the work to the degree that the reader and writer agree about what’s cool — and this functions all the way from the external trappings to deepest level of theme and to the way the writer uses words.

I really, really love this theory. I love it because it seems so true on a lot of levels. As a writer you should write about things you think are cool and as a reader you’re going to seek out stories that you think are cool. 

This theory should also should give writers confidence that there are others out there who will think your stories are cool because you wrote about stuff you thought was cool. You’re not trying to guess what a reader might want to read, you’re writing what you think is cool and the rest will follow.

So go and write about some stuff that you think is cool and give someone else something cool to read. Happy writing!

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