Posts Tagged ‘SF/F’

Not What You Want to Write; What They Need

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

I read a fascinating comment by non-fiction author and publisher Bruce Gehweiler, co-author of Breaking Into Fiction Writing!, in a short article in Space and Time magazine. He said, “A universal truth that I have learned is that it is easier to get published by supplying a publisher with what they need, than by trying to find a home for your original work.”

I had never thought of it that way, but all my limited experience with the business of publishing suggests that he’s right. It’s not art; it’s commerce. Decisions are not made for artistic reasons; they’re made, especially in these inceasingly lean economic times, for business ones. Whatever the suits think will sell gets published, and whatever they don’t think will sell doesn’t. They are often wrong, of course, about things on both ends of that equation, but that’s the defining principle.

But it’s also the exact opposite of what the hodres of hopeful writers out there are doing. They have their own worlds and characters, in some cases captivatingly original and in many others numbingly trite. They do yearn to be published, but I think most of that drive is to see their original material in print, not merely to publish anything they might write.

Even though I recognize the business realities, my own first reaction as a writer, as a strong proponant of originality, was dismissive. My original worlds are a huge part of my fiction. Developing their cool visuals and their interesting societies is one of the main reasons that I enjoy writing (and reading). The themes in my fiction often emerge organically from those worlds and the characters. I rarely do well with writing exercises where I’m supposed to take a setting or a theme from someone else and incorporate into a world or a story. I just don’t think in that way.

So am I writing for myself and not to get published? I certainly want my own stuff published, and I’m quite pleased that some of it has been. I do take commercial and appeal considerations into account while writing. But I don’t know that my interest or my writing process would hold while doing work that wasn’t largely original.

We’ll see if I ever get the opportunity to find out. After all, Robert Jordan did get his start with Conan novels, and it would certainly be great fun to write a D&D novel–umber hulks and Drow and shambling mounds, oh my!

Space and Time for Me

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

I’ve been swamped lately with stuff for BCS and I lost nine days to a nasty cold, but I heard a few days ago that Space and Time magazine is buying my short story “Ebb.” Which is awesome.

This one has a long and tortured history, which may be why I feel relieved as much as jubilant. It’s a damn good story, if I do say so myself–not brilliant but definitely quite good. It’s one of my odd hybrids of fantasy and real science–a fantasy setting built around 100% accurate science, but with pre-tech characters who don’t understand that science and therefore don’t expound about it. It’s also one of my most literary pieces, with an unreliable narrator. Several pro editors loved it but had the ending go completely over their heads, and several amateur editors had the science in the setting go completely over theirs (cf. my rant on SF/F writers and editors not knowing basic science).

So I’m glad the story has found a home, and I’m delighted that it will be in Space and Time. They’re getting lots of buzz lately in the indie press world, including a story nominated for the WSFA Small Press Award this past fall. I met their publisher Hildy Silverman at Capclave and enjoyed talking to her. They’re specifically interested in subgenre hybrid stories and this one clearly fits the bill.

So maybe this was kharma? Maybe it was a good story finally winning out on its own merits? Maybe it was the right story at the right place at the right time? Who knows. Selling stories is such an inscrutable process, as I’m seeing again from the other side editing BCS. Ours is not to question why, as the poet laureate said. Meanwhile I think I will buy myself a subscription to Space and Time and see what else has caught their eye.

Artwork and Podcasts

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I’m still knee-deep in stuff for my magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, including licensing new cover art and finalizing our first audio fiction podcast. It was great at Capclave two weekends ago to see some F/SF editors I had met over the summer at ReaderCon and to meet several more.

Now if I could only find the time to write a bit myself….

Slushing from the Beach

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Or trying to, at least–the siren’s call of the breakers just over the dunes is mighty tempting. :) I’m here on the annual trip with my music buddies. We all met 10+ years ago through various bands and studio projects; now we hardly play anymore, but every fall we go to the beach to drink and sit around.

The premiere for my magazine went very well last week–a few technical glitches, but we worked around them. Reaction has been extremely positive so far, which is extremely gratifying–a nice initial validation of my vision.

I’m planning to head to Capclave for the day this Saturday, with a big sheaf of magazine flyers. There’s a panel on online magazine publishing that I could sit in the back of the room for and nod my head. :) But for now, I think I’ll succumb to that siren’s call of the waves.