“Anyone attaining the age of 999 years shall be deemed dead in law.”

From the life of Richard Pockrich (1690?-1745,) inventor of the Musical Glasses.

“Richard was left at the age of twenty-five an unencumbered fortune of 4,000l. a year (Pilkington, Memoirs), but all his resources he dissipated in the pursuit of visionary projects. He proposed to plant vineyards in reclaimed Irish bogs, to supply men-of-war with tin boats which would not sink, to secure immortality by the transfusion of blood, and to provide human beings with wings.”

Source: Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 45

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Could be written better: “Fu Manchu did nothing wrong.”

“There are some who could have lain, chained in that noisome cell, and felt no fear-no dread of what the blackness might hold. I confess that I am not of these. I knew Nayland Smith and I stood in the path of the most stupendous genious who in the world’s history had devoted his intellect to crime. I knew that the enormous wealth of the political group backing Dr. Fu.Manchu rendered him a menace to Europe and America greater than that of the plague. He was scientist trained at a great university -an explorer of nature’s secrets, who had gone further into the unknown, I suppose, than any living man. His mission was to remove all obstacles -human obstacles- from the path of that secret movement which was progressing in the Far East. Smith and I were two such obstacles; and of all horrible devices at his command, I wondered, and my tortured brain refused to leave the subject, by which of them we were doomed to be departed.”

The Mysteries of Dr. Fu Manchu, chapter 14, by Sax Rohmer.

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Could be better written: “My life is perfect, and everything around me sucks.”

If you want to write, you must read a lot is a useful advice. However, like most proclamations with an almost religious vibe, they have a long string of caveats and exceptions which, although commonsensical, cannot be packed along with the original statements without diminishing their gravitas. To put it bluntly, the advice only works if your read good material, and sometimes not even then.

Not only what you read has to be “good,” an adjective that implies value and, therefore, the ability to discriminate (something that terrifies a lot of people,) but relevant to your goal as an artist and your craft. Obviously, you are not going to learn how to write science fiction by reading Victorian romance novels or Nature Poetry (your descriptions of alien landscapes may be awesome, though.)

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