I had already written a blog for this week when I came across Neil Gaiman's lecture for The Reading Agency on 14th October 2013 and decided it could wait. I don't know how I missed the lecture before, but if I did, others who might benefit from Neil Gaiman's words have probably missed it too, so it's worth mentioning here.
    The lecture gives reasons why literacy and universal access to libraries are so important. Not least of these is how reading fiction stimulates children's imaginations. They learn to immerse themselves in different worlds and put themselves in the place of others without feeling preached to. This is particularly true of the science fiction and fantasy genres.
    I once entered a short story competition which claimed to be open to all genres and themes. I had asked for a critique and when it arrived I was rather irritated, because it appeared I'd wasted my fee by entering a SF story. One of the judge's comments was that he had started out writing SF but had decided that he wanted to say something and had grown out of it! Okay, my story had things wrong with it, but he didn't only dismiss my entry, but the whole genre. I can only hope that he heard or has read Neil Gaiman's lecture and has learned better.
    It's all too easy for writer's to get down on themselves and feel they should be doing something more useful. However, we don't all have what it takes to be great nurses or police officers. What writers can do is inspire others. As Neil Gaiman points out, no less a person that Albert Einstein said: 'If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.'
    To all the writers out there–you don't need to apologise for what you do. Stories and those who tell them are important.