Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thoughts to Ponder

Eminent squid fantasist Jeff Vandermeer has an interesting post on the state of short stories in genre fiction. Specificially, he states:

But what I’m getting at is this: that it’s just possible that, for whatever reason–perhaps the co-opting of counterculture by all-powerful pop culture, or the rise of delightful but ultimately destructive TV and movie influences, or the proliferation of editors as interested in gathering the same old “names” as publishing excellent anthologies, or a magazine culture rooted in a paradigm thirty years out of date, or perhaps because space aliens have eaten our brains–a lot of today’s fiction is soft, too vapid, without the requisite intellect behind it, with too many stories that don’t go far enough, and too few stories that come from the margins, the fringes, the places that lie outside of suburban, middle-class America or England or wherever. (Can you imagine the gaping hole, for example, if no one “retold” another fairy tale for the next thirty years?)

Some interesting insights there. Of course that makes me wonder if Vandermeer's rant is still applicable to the local spec fic scene given everything's at the ground floor. After all, what's to push at, what's cutting edge if there isn't anything anything to push at the moment or the edge still isn't visible? As some people say, we're still trying to define what local spec fic is at the moment.

Still, something he said in the comments section really rang bells in my head:

As for the issue of new approaches versus old tropes well-told, I think they can co-exist–the new approaches just have to be well-told, too. I like a classic short story as much as the next mammal, but there are stories that are best told in less conventional ways. But what does happen, I think, is that the *fantasy* element sometimes overwhelms the rest of it. Which is to say–in some fantasy stories, the fantasy element provides an excuse to not examine the characters more deeply, to not flesh out the plot more. Because the fantasy element becomes, in an odd way, the plot. I think that’s what you’re talking about with an example like “Mike’s house was lonely, so decided to move to another city.” Yeah, that’s clever, but unless it’s backed up with something solid and meaningful, it’s just another concept in search of a relationship.

As idea-obsessed as I am, I gotta remember this when I'm writing my stuff.

Update: Writer Elizabeth Bear ripostes here:

That assumption that the significant things in life are always dark and edgy? That's a comfort zone too, and a comforting--and I would honestly say adolescent--fixation.John Gardner calls it "disPollyanna Syndrome," the cynical fallacy that the real world is unrelievedly bleak.But it's not. Sorry. Sometimes, the real world--and art--are shockingly perfect. Sometimes the truth is a jewel.

And mine fave writer Kelly Link offers some advice here:

What I would like to see workshop members doing, now, is beginning to submit more ambitious work. The only thing you have to offer an editor, and readers, is you. Your voice. Stories and characters and narrative twists that only you are strange enough to want to write. Take chances. Write stories whose characters and the endings surprise even you.

Which is not a bad way to conclude a thought.


craig said...

You know, that article caught my attention as well. I had to respond to it on my blog.

I'm digging your blog. Do you mind if I link to it?

banzai cat said...

hehe thanks for dropping by. good points on your response, already replied to it.

and be my guest linking though i hope you don't mind also if i reciprocate. ;-)

and welcome aboard!

craig parkes said...

Duly done, and done!

banzai cat said...