Over the years, I've taught occasionally at Clarion West, Clarion South, and Old Original Clarion. Literally every time I've taught, a student has come up with a story dealing with the folklore of Appalachia. And every time, I asked the student, "Have you read Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John stories?" the answer was no.
"You should," I invariably said."It would teach you a lot about how this sort of story should be written."
I was talking to an editor recently who was complaining about the newest generation of SF writers. "Not only do they not know the history of science fiction," he-or-she said. "They don't want to know. It's of no interest to them."
Well, I get it. Life is short, and there's a lot of science fiction to read. I belong to the last generation of writers who entered the field having read literally every significant work of science fiction there was -- because that was the last time such a feat was possible.
Still, it's a foolish strategy for two reasons. The first is that if you're going to reinvent everything from whole cloth, your stories are necessarily going to be less accomplished and far less interesting than the works of writers who are going into literary battle fully armed.
And the second is that if nobody reads what came before them, who is going to read your work when you're gone?
End of sermon. Go thou and sin no more. Write better stories.
Above: M81 Galaxy. Photo courtesy of NASA. False color, of course. A bit of astronomy would be another useful thing for new writers to learn.