Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12
Results 16 to 27 of 27
  1. #16
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In a Cloud
    Posts
    12,331
    Actually, Mr. Kay wrote an essay post of far more eloquence than I could manage in response to Dave on his forum. I don't think we can reprint it here, but IM Erfael if you're interested.

    "Dave" is what I've come to call a traditionalist, a rather rigid group which thankfully is not too large. Of bigger size and louder vocals are the reformers, who shoe-box from the opposite direction -- there's a box labelled trash and they put you in it, while putting authors they like in the artist box.

    The authors in the deep genre discussion -- and there are some heavy hitters there, plus editors -- are not really proposing traditionalist or reformer thinking. They seem instead to be responding to those groups, and with a fair amount of frustration. I sympathize, because this is a very old argument. Dawnstorm put up a link in the Scott Lynch thread in the Fantasy forum to Lynch's blog, and the most recent item there has him telling about how Ursula LeGuin had to deal with reformers over Earthsea long ago. In the 1980's, cyberpunk sf was the hot trend and this spilled over into claims that only contemporary fantasy -- elves with computers -- was worth anything from groups of fans. Periodically in sf, there's much debate over what should be allowed to be called sf and what is otherwise masquerading junk.

    If it's just a matter of authors talking about why they write fantasy, and the value of various mythological elements and themes, then it might be helpful. But the presentation of the "deep" concept is that some authors are deep and some are not, and that deep is better -- a standard of quality, creating a caste system. If you are trying to get everybody into the pool, telling them that part of the pool is a swamp is not condusive. It's not that I think these authors shouldn't talk about these issues, but I think the discussion will get lost under the idea of who can get the gold star of "deep" and avoid the deadly badge of "comfort."

    Fiction's "marketing paradigm" is symbiotic, not competitive. That is essentially what a category market is -- a large, symbiotic block allowing 20 authors to be presented instead of 2 to an audience that will buy many such authors, rather than just 1, the most visual symbol of this partnership being the sff sections in bookstores. Publishers also package groups of mid-list authors together to promote and sell them to booksellers. Authors can team up to support and promote each other more effectively than they can alone.

    Authors do get this, which is why they get worried when authors or groups of authors get trashed. Take that Venom spat at a convention a year ago or so. This poor author reads an excerpt of another author's work that he finds strange and kind of funny, has a private conversation with pals about it, and gets jumped on visciously from all sides on the Web. Why? Because of fears that he hurt the Venom author's livelihood, where upon he was threatened with damage to his own livelihood. This kind of thing doesn't help anybody, but it does show the sort of fear that's going around.

    So what then can be done to help authors when fans argue that they should be shoe-boxed and that they belong in the inferior shoe-box? I don't think there's an easy answer for that, or we would have found it already. But I can tell you that social caste hierarchies just reinforce shoe-boxing and don't help anybody much, in my experience.

  2. #17
    agitated and opinionated
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    203
    My question is, why do they feel the *need* to do this? What is the point? What drives them to, as Kat says, "respond to those groups, with a fair amount of frustration"?

    Kat also said:

    If it's just a matter of authors talking about why they write fantasy, and the value of various mythological elements and themes, then it might be helpful. But the presentation of the "deep" concept is that some authors are deep and some are not, and that deep is better -- a standard of quality, creating a caste system. If you are trying to get everybody into the pool, telling them that part of the pool is a swamp is not condusive. It's not that I think these authors shouldn't talk about these issues, but I think the discussion will get lost under the idea of who can get the gold star of "deep" and avoid the deadly badge of "comfort."
    I've read most of the authors on the Deep Genre blog, and in my un-humble opinion, I would say none of them are particularly "deep", nor particularly "quality", sadly. Monochromatic would be a nice way to describe their work, actually.

  3. #18
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In a Cloud
    Posts
    12,331
    Quote Originally Posted by Mathain
    My question is, why do they feel the *need* to do this? What is the point? What drives them to, as Kat says, "respond to those groups, with a fair amount of frustration"?
    Because it can effect their livelihood in building an audience and their ability to continue getting published. Word of mouth is the principle way by which fiction is sold. Bad buzz is not great news, but on the Web, it's become the science of attack. If there are groups of fans on the Internet and they declare you to be X -- whether because they don't like your work, or just because you happen to write a type of fantasy that can be loosely classified as in the same group as other authors whose stuff they don't like or dismiss as unworthy -- then you are being relegated to the X class, which means some fans won't touch you with a ten foot pole. And because this "type-casting" is usually completely inaccurate and unfair -- not to mention unnecessary to be levelled at any author -- it's rather frustrating to deal with. It's essentially being called "poor Irish trash," and you can't come to the country club.

    The problem is that authors try disassociative strategies, where they essentially agree that the X class exists, but declare themselves not to be a member of it. I'm not poor Irish trash, I'm classic British nobility! I'm not a comfort fantasy writer, I'm a literary fantasy writer! I'm not a Tolkein clone, I'm a slipstream innovator! I'm not a genre writer, I'm a deep genre writer! Sound familiar? All this doesn't make the country club culture go away, and can make it stronger. Which is ironic, because the country club class system is built upon the mistaken notion that the sub-categories used in publishing as an organizational device, are instead reflections of the inherent substance of stories and indicitive of writing quality and value.

    Whereas recruitment strategies are more effective, where you declare all flavors of fantasy to have value and be interesting (and therefore yours is valuable and interesting too.) And that's including the tie-in novels of all stripes, all film and television efforts, comic books, graphic novels, manga and anime. Instead of saying, well it's all very nice to have fantasy stories that are just for entertainment and are comforting, but I'm not writing that sort of thing; try saying that no fantasy is just about entertainment and comfort, but instead is a reflection of struggles and ideas in the human psyche. Or just say you think it's all really neat. (This is my view.) There are no poor Irish trash, you find the country club idea confusing, and you're looking forward to seeing what they do in the next Star Wars tie-in novel.

    Which is sort of what the deep genre concept is trying to do, at least as far as I can tell. But unfortunately, they are couching it in country club terms, which means it's not very effective. And plus, "deep genre" is not something publishers can really use well in the catalog copy. It becomes similar to the "what's real sf and the rest is actually fantasy" argument that goes on over in sf.

    I say unto you again, embrace the cheese! Celebrate it! Or not, but I'm still going to keep reading the stuff.

  4. #19
    agitated and opinionated
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    203
    But Kat, don't you think that's a relatively simplistic viewpoint? It's the old "we should all just hold hands and get along with one another" syndrome, and to be quite frank, it has NEVER worked. Nor will it ever work.

    I'm much more of the opinion that tensions within the artistic fields should be encouraged, and that goes for the sff industry as well. Without tension, we would never have seen a development of the field beyond a juvenile, purile level of sff, whether we want to talk about John Campbell smacking his writers upside the head with ideas and standards or the new wave wanting to add literary styles, or the cyberpunks wanting to bring sf kicking and screaming into the present. It's the tension that creates evolution within the genre... and it isn't exactly limited to genre. Look at all of the 'movements' that have shaken up mainstream literature. Look at the modernists, the postmoderns and all of the various others. Do you think Hemingway was saying "let's all just get along? All literature is worthwhile!". Nope. Every subsequent style attempts to tear down its predecessors.

    But I'm getting off on a tangent.

    If there are groups of fans on the Internet and they declare you to be X -- whether because they don't like your work, or just because you happen to write a type of fantasy that can be loosely classified as in the same group as other authors whose stuff they don't like or dismiss as unworthy -- then you are being relegated to the X class, which means some fans won't touch you with a ten foot pole. And because this "type-casting" is usually completely inaccurate and unfair -- not to mention unnecessary to be levelled at any author -- it's rather frustrating to deal with. It's essentially being called "poor Irish trash," and you can't come to the country club.
    Essentially, this extended statement is a bunch of bull.

    For starters, writers DO write type X fiction, and type Y, and type Z. You seem to argue that we should not pigeonhole authors into their particular niches... but why not? Especially in the past decade or two, everything has become more niche-oriented, and that is A GOOD THING. People WANT to find the works that will appeal to their tastes! If I, for example, want to read epic fantasy, then I do not want to be told that Hal Duncan's VELLUM is epic fantasy. When I plop down my credit card to buy a book, I want some sense of what I'm getting, not a blank slate! I WANT categories and niches and identifiable works - and that part of it does not have anything to do with the relative merits of the works in question.

    But where you really move into bull territory is in your thinking the internet buzz and squabbles and discussions have any real impact on an author's sales, which just isn't true. Online is a lot like Fandom, in that it may be vocal, and it may seem like there are a lot of people... but in truth it is a miniscule subsegment of the actual readers that are buying books. Try it some time; sit around in the SFF section of a bookstore and do a poll to see how many of them have ever visited SFFWorld, for instance. This is a puddle. The overwhelming majority of people are untouched by the online communities.

    Further, just how many people are actually influenced by what is said online? We squabble here plenty, but how many people have changed their minds based on what others have said? Have YOU changed your mind, Kat? Do you suddenly believe that only urban fantasy is worth your time?

    Which is ironic, because the country club class system is built upon the mistaken notion that the sub-categories used in publishing as an organizational device, are instead reflections of the inherent substance of stories and indicitive of writing quality and value.
    Ummmmm... which subcategories are those? Last time I looked, there are no slipstream sections in the bookstore. Nor urban fantasy. Nor epic fantasy. These are emphatically NOT publishing categories! These are descriptions that we within the genre have made ourselves.

    And where have you actually seen labels used as an indicator of writing quality or value? Where? I haven't ever seen it. I've seen plenty of people decry one mode or another (for instance, your particular whipping horse seems to be the New Weird [which, entertainingly, isn't even a category that is used by anyone to describe anything!]), but where was it decided that Type A fiction is inherently superior to type B fiction?

    Whereas recruitment strategies are more effective, where you declare all flavors of fantasy to have value and be interesting (and therefore yours is valuable and interesting too.)
    This made me choke, to be honest. Especially since you have displayed a certain ignorance over many different types of fantasy, as well as a distinct lack of knowledge of the history of the genres. (Sorry! But you said you didn't even know any of the writers that I listed in the other thread that are acknowledged classics of fantasy!) Are John Norman's slave girl bondage fantasies of value? Why are all flavors of fantasy interesting, when so many rely on overused tropes, simplistic storylines, cardboard characters, etc? Should these be encouraged?

    Instead of saying, well it's all very nice to have fantasy stories that are just for entertainment and are comforting, but I'm not writing that sort of thing; try saying that no fantasy is just about entertainment and comfort, but instead is a reflection of struggles and ideas in the human psyche. Or just say you think it's all really neat.
    Perhaps. If this were true. Sadly, it is a fantasy in itself; there are many, many books (and, to again be incredibly frank, authors) that are not.

  5. #20
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In a Cloud
    Posts
    12,331
    Mathain, calm down dude! I don't know that I can do your whole post at once, but let me try to clarify here. (Not that we'll likely agree on everything.)

    I've been reading fantasy since I was a kid. As a teenager, I got into adult sff, which made me a weird girl at that time. Then I became a weird woman, and then a weird person (a victory for feminism.) I have continually been told that fantasy is trash, that wanting to write it is stupid. So being told that some fantasy is trash and that wanting to read it or anybody wanting to write it is stupid, does not make much of an impression on me. I've also been told continually for two decades that sff or various parts of it are perpetually in danger of collapse and will be destroyed by the evil forces of one type of trash or another that will take over like kudzu, even as fantasy has grown larger, more international, more varied, more successful and more respected and valued by the mainstream. (Yes, I know, I know, but compared to the past, it's a big improvement in the respect and value area.) So again, this issue is a non-issue for me, and feels very repetitive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mathain
    But Kat, don't you think that's a relatively simplistic viewpoint? It's the old "we should all just hold hands and get along with one another" syndrome, and to be quite frank, it has NEVER worked. Nor will it ever work.
    It's continually worked, IMO. It's the main reason that fantasy has grown larger and become more successful. It's the reason that non-category fantasy writers are now courting category audiences, and that they're now doing mainstream columns about category sff titles. By presenting fantasy as the place to be, rather than as a slum-sewer that has a few nice things, category fantasy has built on its small initial specialty market. By positioning fantasy as a major force in pop culture, all fantasy takes on more value, overcoming the paperback curse.

    Non-fiction and other mediums like music use both competitive strategies and symbiotic ones to sell, but predominantly competitive ones. Fiction flips it -- they use almost all symbiotic strategies, the goal being to build and expand the reading audience. A category market bunches a lot of similar books together in an attempt to get readers to buy not just one author, but a lot of authors, including new ones. Bundling authors for promotional purposes and displays, sff conventions where groups of authors are made familiar to fans, author blurb quotes on the covers, using a bestseller to launch a bunch of newer or midlist authors; if you like this, then you might like this -- all symbiotic, not competitive.

    I'm much more of the opinion that tensions within the artistic fields should be encouraged, and that goes for the sff industry as well. Without tension, we would never have seen a development of the field beyond a juvenile, purile level of sff, whether we want to talk about John Campbell smacking his writers upside the head with ideas and standards or the new wave wanting to add literary styles, or the cyberpunks wanting to bring sf kicking and screaming into the present. It's the tension that creates evolution within the genre... and it isn't exactly limited to genre. Look at all of the 'movements' that have shaken up mainstream literature. Look at the modernists, the postmoderns and all of the various others. Do you think Hemingway was saying "let's all just get along? All literature is worthwhile!". Nope. Every subsequent style attempts to tear down its predecessors.
    Yes, I'm familiar with the whole revolutionary thing, which does tend to get undercut by the fact that the publishers putting out the revolutionaries and the status quo (who were revolutionary in their day,) are the same ones, and not above exploiting the revolutionary underdog idea for marketing purposes. I'm all for movements and encouraging creativity, and I've speculated in these forums on whether authors do need obstacles or the illusion of obstacles to move forward.

    But authors in a movement are bundled together symbiotically for the purposes of marketing that movement, which then adds on to and expands the previous market, not replaces it. These authors don't tear down; they simply go in a different direction. And the movement rises on the substance of what the authors are trying to do in their work, not because they trash-talk other, older writers. As far as I'm aware, for fiction writing, verbally trashing another author or group of authors has not been shown to contribute significantly to an author's marketing or sales. It might even have a negative effect, though that's unclear.

    For starters, writers DO write type X fiction, and type Y, and type Z. You seem to argue that we should not pigeonhole authors into their particular niches... but why not? Especially in the past decade or two, everything has become more niche-oriented, and that is A GOOD THING. People WANT to find the works that will appeal to their tastes! If I, for example, want to read epic fantasy, then I do not want to be told that Hal Duncan's VELLUM is epic fantasy. When I plop down my credit card to buy a book, I want some sense of what I'm getting, not a blank slate! I WANT categories and niches and identifiable works - and that part of it does not have anything to do with the relative merits of the works in question.
    No, I'm not arguing we shouldn't or don't have sub-categories. You didn't look at what I'm saying. You asked me why the authors feel the need to respond to accusations of groups like traditionalists and reformers. I'm explaining that these authors feel threatened. (Whether they actually are threatened or not in the market is an arguable point. I believe they are probably less threatened than they fear.) If you are a fantasy author and you are accused of being comfort fantasy just because you write epic fantasy, that's a difficult situation.

    But where you really move into bull territory is in your thinking the internet buzz and squabbles and discussions have any real impact on an author's sales, which just isn't true. Online is a lot like Fandom, in that it may be vocal, and it may seem like there are a lot of people... but in truth it is a miniscule subsegment of the actual readers that are buying books. Try it some time; sit around in the SFF section of a bookstore and do a poll to see how many of them have ever visited SFFWorld, for instance. This is a puddle. The overwhelming majority of people are untouched by the online communities.
    Again, you were not reading my post clearly. I am not saying that the on-line community necessarily has a strong negative impact on sales. (I do believe it has a strong positive impact on sales and on the establishment of small sff presses.) You asked me why these authors felt the need to respond. I am explaining that they worry that the on-line community is going to have a strong negative impact on sales if they are tarred and feathered with a derogatory label by it. They also worry about negative reviews posted by trolls on Amazon, etc. I think they worry way too much about this stuff and the defensive stance they take toward it is ineffective.

    I am also saying that trashing your fellow authors en masse in an attempt to avoid such negative labels is not a very effective strategy, in my view, which is what this deep genre thing inadvertantly does.

    Ummmmm... which subcategories are those? Last time I looked, there are no slipstream sections in the bookstore. Nor urban fantasy. Nor epic fantasy. These are emphatically NOT publishing categories! These are descriptions that we within the genre have made ourselves.
    If a sub-category got a section in a bookstore, it wouldn't be a sub-category anymore, it would be a category with a large enough fan audience on its own to support a whole individual market. Official sub-categories are used in publishing in cover copy, catalog copy, in promotional materials and the like, as a quick form of communication with fans (so you know it's epic when you use your credit card,) and booksellers. When you see on the book that they put technothriller, or supernatural fantasy or Regency romance, that's an official sub-category. Non-official sub-categories are those terms that get bandied around by fans, reviewers, and others in the sff community.

    And where have you actually seen labels used as an indicator of writing quality or value? Where? I haven't ever seen it.
    Well I'm happy for you that you haven't, as I hate it. But I have seen it on-line, in reviews and other writings. For many, epic fantasy equals trash. Tie-in novels equal trash. Contemporary fantasy equals good, or trash. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I do dislike that a bunch of authors, by virtue of being in the same sub-category, then get told that means they must write awful stuff.

    I've seen plenty of people decry one mode or another (for instance, your particular whipping horse seems to be the New Weird [which, entertainingly, isn't even a category that is used by anyone to describe anything!]), but where was it decided that Type A fiction is inherently superior to type B fiction?
    Actually, I really like New Weird fiction, and I've seen several publishers use the term for their titles in catalog copy at their sites or on Amazon and such, which seems to have made it an official sub-category, at least for the moment. I would prefer a different name for it, I admit, but others picked it and use it. A portion of fans of New Weird -- not all of them, just some -- tend to go after authors who do not write New Weird, and this is the sort of thing that has gotten a lot of these authors a little nervous. Whether they really need to be so nervous is again up for debate. But Gary, for instance, has encountered prejudices as a writer of epic fantasy that led him to bring this topic up. (Not that I'm saying he agrees with me in any way.)

    This made me choke, to be honest. Especially since you have displayed a certain ignorance over many different types of fantasy, as well as a distinct lack of knowledge of the history of the genres. (Sorry! But you said you didn't even know any of the writers that I listed in the other thread that are acknowledged classics of fantasy!)
    Did I say I didn't know them or that I hadn't read them? I do know Peake for instance, but haven't read his works yet. I'll respect your right to believe that I'm ignorant about types of fantasy or the history of the genres, but obviously I disagree, though I certainly don't know everything. In any case, that has nothing to do with the fact that in fiction publishing, recruitment strategies are routinely employed and do seem to work.

    Are John Norman's slave girl bondage fantasies of value?
    Well they were interesting, especially the Priest-Kings part.

    Why are all flavors of fantasy interesting, when so many rely on overused tropes, simplistic storylines, cardboard characters, etc? Should these be encouraged?
    Yes, they should. And they often have personal value to readers, and may have long term value for people, even if they don't personally for you. Because you never know where creativity is going to spring from and how writers are going to develop. And telling writers they can't write something does not encourage creativity. It represses it, IMO.

    But the key issue is that when you declare fantasy fiction to be a sewer, it tends to reinforce the idea that all fantasy fiction is a sewer, includng the authors you like. If we really want to lose the reputation that category fantasy is trash, then it might help if we stopped trashing fantasy. And it would be my suggestion to fantasy authors that instead of buying into the derogatory labels, fearing them, and coming up with weird ways to disassociate themselves from them, they ignore them as not worth their time. (Which seemed to be what you were saying, but I might have misunderstood you.)

    Perhaps. If this were true. Sadly, it is a fantasy in itself; there are many, many books (and, to again be incredibly frank, authors) that are not.
    In your opinion. Which is a perfectly decent opinion; it's just not the only one out there on the planet. Neither is mine.

  6. #21
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    new york, ny usa
    Posts
    4,633
    I return to such controversy! I love it.

    Yes KatG, I have objected in the past to being categorized before being read. And yet, out of necessity, that's how fantasy is marketed in general. But isn't that how marketing works? You clump together everything you think has any similarities if you're a retailer, and you hope that those who browse for one item will take a chance on another similar one.

    Still, I write what i choose to write. No one ever told me I had to write Epic Fantasy. I love it, so I write it. And though the number of people who frequent sites like this one is small, the process by which reputations are made often begins in just such small venues. Unfortunately, the process by which reputations are destroyed can also begin here. I'm not sure if we could evaluate the true power of some of the blogs and some of the voices that proclaim to be afficionados of fantasy. I hear many of the same names bandied about, almost as if they're running in packs. Are they really writing great stuff? And if they are, are they selling in substantial numbers? Can they do both?

    What are editors looking for today? Do they have guidelines handed down from their publishers? Do they have formulas? Are they deduced from point of sale registers at B & N?

    Some of the fantasy blogs speak so highly of some contemporary authors. Will they endure do you think? Will we know their names in thirty years? In a hundred years?

    Do I write deep fantasy? Is it meaningful to try to jump on a new bandwagon? It wouldn't change what I've written and it won't change what I'm writing. Isn't calling it Epic Fantasy enough? We suffer from wanting so badly to distinguish ourselves today because the market is so ruthless and so unforgiving. We don't have much time to prove ourselves. Barnes and Noble gives a new title 60 days. Five years of writing. 60 days on the shelf. So I suppose that any conversation is good conversation, and any publicity is good publicity, even if it's all been said before and it all amounts to a pile of beans in the end.

  7. #22
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    1,443
    Fascinating conversation...partly because I kind of get what everyone is saying (or is that sitting on too many fences?! Ouch!)

    I sit quite comfortably in YA, because there seems to be far fewer "shoulds" there (this goes for writing outside genre, as well). If I was asked, I suppose I would say I wrote epic fantasy; my next book, after I finish my current series, will be something different. Don't know what that might be called, and actually I'm not too fussed to call it anything, aside from fantasy. I have never thought about the market at all; I just figure if I write the kind of book I like reading, there's a chance somebody else will like it too. When I started, as far as I was concerned I was just writing fantasy. But I can't say I spend a lot of time thinking about the label, even if I do spend a fair bit of time thinking about the form and the tradition. But that is probably a writerly approach, and I don 't know of many writers of any kind who actually like being labelled. I see waht KatG is saying, but I also think there is a place - an important place - for discriminations to be made. And argued about. It's how things get worked out.

    In the end, it's all about being read. Being a poet first, I think that it's the quality of readership that counts, not numbers: is my poetry less valuable because it's read by far fewer people? I don't believe so... Is my fantasy less valuable, because it's less "exclusive" and has less snob-literary value? Absolutely not. Critics really don't have as much influence as is often claimed, particularly not on sales (otherwise the Da Vinci Code would have sunk without trace) but that is not to say they don't have influence: they do. And because I am a critic myself, I have never been backwards about arguing with criticism - not as sour grapes (people can think what they like) but when I believe they're plain wrong. So far, I've only done that in the theatre world... The one thing that made me come out and argue with amazon was an accusation of plagiarism, because that is plain damaging and libellous, as well as wrong. Which is to say, I think I can be legitimately criticised for being derivative (though I think that is also wrong) and won't argue with that - that's any reader/critic's right to say, whether or not I agree - but plagiarism is a serious accusation, potentially damaging to my reputation, and I will vigorously defend myself against that.

    But, ahem, I seem to have wandered off topic...

  8. #23
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    new york, ny usa
    Posts
    4,633
    Every author has a different motive for what they write based upon their own personal needs. How can we fault anyone for being mercenary? They have to eat? I choose rather to not comment on books that are clearly written for commercial purposes. But that too is off the topic.

    I'm working with a very talented editor now on the book that I'm readying for publication in December. And I'm enjoying the experience and I'm sure the book will be much better for it. But I can see so clearly how an author's voice can be changed, shaped, altered and molded by the perspective of another. I love similes. I love alliteration. I love wordiness and melodramatic statements. I love 'ly' words. My editor doesn't. Maybe she's right. Maybe I'll sell many more books if I trim all of my wordiness and change my voice. But honestly, each time I rewrite a chapter I lose a little bit of myself. Hey, that might be a good thing.

    As far as categorizing what I do, deep or dark or new or graphic, who the hell really cares? If the story is good and those who read it are moved by what moves me, then I'm satisfied.

    But one question always remains in my mind. What direction are we being pushed by the trends of the day, the demands of our publishers, the bias of our editors? When Eliot wrote The Wasteland he credited his editor Ezra Pound as 'il miglior fabbro' - the better craftsman. They say the text was messy and uncertain before he worked on it.

    If a trend in genre lit becomes a selling point, then does it filter down unwittingly into all that we do? I want always to write better, to write the best that I can. But once something's said, it can't always be taken back. It influences everything we write subsequently. Do we risk losing ourselves in the categories that are created to help market us?

  9. #24
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In a Cloud
    Posts
    12,331
    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner
    Yes KatG, I have objected in the past to being categorized before being read. And yet, out of necessity, that's how fantasy is marketed in general. But isn't that how marketing works? You clump together everything you think has any similarities if you're a retailer, and you hope that those who browse for one item will take a chance on another similar one.
    There's a difference between categorization by general content by a retailer or publisher for the purposes of putting potential buyers in touch with fictional works, and people deciding that a category or sub-category must only contain works of a certain quality, style and long-term value. The first is just an organizational and marketing system; the second is an attempt to create an artificial class system. It's the second one to which you're objecting.

    Are they really writing great stuff? And if they are, are they selling in substantial numbers? Can they do both?
    To some, it is great and to others, it is not so great. Some of them are selling in substantial numbers and some don't, or don't yet. Can they do both is the philosophical question that speculates about the validity of the theory that something considered of literary value by many can never be commercial. As history plainly shows us, this theory is bunk. But it is apparently very powerful psychological bunk, because people persist in believing it even when all the evidence indicates that it is baseless.

    What are editors looking for today? Do they have guidelines handed down from their publishers? Do they have formulas? Are they deduced from point of sale registers at B & N?
    Sigh, no, Gary. I get tired of hearing that I used to work as a skank. Oh wait, I'm ignorant apparently, so I can't comment on these matters anyway.

    Some of the fantasy blogs speak so highly of some contemporary authors. Will they endure do you think? Will we know their names in thirty years? In a hundred years?
    Do you mean they speak highly of new fantasy writers, or of writers who write contemporary fantasy stories? This is confusing.

    I choose rather to not comment on books that are clearly written for commercial purposes.
    Gary, I didn't know you had started giving your books away instead of selling them! How jejeune!

  10. #25
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    new york, ny usa
    Posts
    4,633
    From the bottom first:

    I really didn't start to write in order to make money. And I don't write now in order to make money. I see nothing wrong with doing that at all. That's not my point. But when someone fills in the blanks based upon a formula handed to them by an editor or a P/R department, I just don't care to comment on the specifics of it. I hope they make money and keep the publisher alive so that they can publish other authors who might be more creative.

    I'm just wondering if what is considered great today and gets raved about on the blogs is really meritorious for it's literary value or if it's simply trendy enough to appeal to the those who love anything new and different. Silly point, I suppose. Half of everything will fall somewhere in between. But is anyone writing classic fantasy today? Will anything endure the decade? Martin? Bakker? Vandermeer? Mieville? Gaiman? Who do you think? Who's going to be a flash in the fantasy pan and who will live beyond the internet?

    Testy, aren't you? Is the job of editor today what it was years ago? I don't think so. I was told recently that B & N has even started to dicate cover art to some publishers. How can an editor not be influenced by commercial aspects today? Is it a criticism of the editor? No. It's reality.

    Great literature can sell. Great stories can sell. And they do. I just think that many publishers don't realize that any more. They want a tested format, a sure thing, or they want something with a handle they can grasp onto and toss around. I don't know. Maybe not. Maybe it's a great system and the cream does rise to the top.

    Yes, it's the second one. But they bleed into one another too often now that blogs predominate and everything is instantaneous. Remember the Venom Cock. It's hard to forget.

  11. #26
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In a Cloud
    Posts
    12,331
    Yes, I was testy, but I didnt like the comment about writers who "write for money." However, I well know that there is no malice in you and you wish all writers well, and so I apologize for snapping at you. (I also apologize to Alison -- I'm not ignoring you, I just couldn't fit everything in. Also, I did a post on your book in your forum, but with the action going on in that forum, it will soon disappear, so I wanted to alert you.)

    It does remind me though of this part in the Shakespeare bio I'm reading, "Will in the World." Shakespeare was confronted with a community of London playwrights -- Marlowe, Kyd, Greene -- who considered him a bumpkin and an upstart, not because of his family or his age, but because he had not been to university and they had (which allowed them to call themselves gentlemen,) and because he was not a poet and scholar, but a player, an actor, and so they considered him their inferior and denounced his abilities in pamphlets and the like, even as he worked with a few of them. Of course, the whole world of theater was considered outcast and unsavory in their society, and these men had made themselves outcasts by being playwrights, but within that community of outcasts, they were determined to have further layers of social class. But it's Shakespeare, labelled the outcast of outcasts, who was extremely successful in his time and has gone further than all of them, even Marlowe.

    Which is why trying to figure out who will be annointed, especially of recent entries into the pool, is not something that anyone can really do. It's fun to speculate of course, but it doesn't come to anything and is not worth worrying about. Humans again and again build social classes, systems that have no actual substance to them but which we insist do. (My husband can explain all this stuff in sociological theory terms, but I will not attempt it.) Category fantasy is outcast, and within it, we must have outcasts of outcasts apparently.

    Luckily, nobody can really agree on who those are, so we get things like this deep genre, where authors try desperately to explain that they are not the outcasts of the outcasts, thus confirming that such outcasts must exist, right? Which is why I think it's a bad idea.

    Who's going to be a flash in the fantasy pan and who will live beyond the internet?
    I think you're spending too much time on the Internet.

    Is the job of editor today what it was years ago?
    No, they don't edit anymore, but the acquisition process remains the same.

    I was told recently that B & N has even started to dicate cover art to some publishers.
    Yeah, you'll get told a lot of things about what B&N does that have no real basis in reality. They're the big, bad bogeyman, remember. They give feedback when publishers ask for it (which for fiction is not that often,) and they'll definitely let publishers know what they need in non-fiction. They'll tell a publisher how much they'll order of a big name title and that's definitely not a good thing, especially in non-fiction. But for the rank and file fiction, B&N has utterly no interest in you or dictating to your publisher anything about you at all. Fiction is very low priority for booksellers. It's the showy part of the store, takes up a lot of floor space, but the surer money is in non-fiction.

    How can an editor not be influenced by commercial aspects today?
    Being influenced by commercial aspects is a whole lot different from what you were talking about, Gary. The trends you see now are stuff that publishers were dealing with 1 to 2 years ago and are already slumping. Publishers are looking at other, newer areas by the time you've noticed there's a trend. Which is why it's not worth it for authors to chase trends. Editors are not all the same, their publishers are not all the same and their strategies don't stay the same. Some editors are very market-oriented. They have made certain predictions about what will happen and they chase those predictions. Others just go with their interests and often "counter-program."

    In either case, they're looking for books that are "commercial" because they know they'd buy it themselves. They then have to argue and convince lots of other people, in editorial and management (not marketing,) to let them buy the rights. Whereupon the house has to then do the same thing to booksellers. Saying a book is commercial means squat. So what -- thousands of books are commercial. What else you got? (And a literary style is a highly commercial aspect.)

    There are no guidelines, formulas and checklists or dictates from the booksellers or all that other crap. If you want to believe in fairy tales, go ahead, and make editors the big bad witch (or I suppose the big, bad witch's henchmen.) Sometimes they act like it. But the Orwellian flourishes get to be a bit much.

    Yes, it's the second one.
    They're excited, is all. It's only fair. They were all excited in the early 1990's about epic. Admittedly, there weren't a lot of blogs then. It's already shifting, though. I'm hoping comic fantasy is the next to get the spotlight -- there are a few signs this may be the case. But probably it's going to be just the 20th century-set stuff. Also, epic is already rebounding.

    The problem isn't that they are passionate about contemporary fantasy. It's that they feel they must elevate it above other fantasy in order to be the king of the outcasts and get all the money and attention, which means regulating something else -- epic usually -- to the status of outcast of outcasts. Because they always think it's competitive, instead of symbiotic.

    But here's the thing, positive word of mouth usually has much more effect than negative word of mouth in fiction publishing. There are too many titles coming out for negative word of mouth to have much chance to do stuff, and too many blogs to keep track of. Overall, people on the Net seem much more interested in finding stuff they may like, than hearing about what others think is bad. And of course, a lot of the buyers aren't on the Net at all, as you've often pointed out. They pick up word of mouth in the old ways -- their friends.

    Another long post -- my apologies.
    Last edited by KatG; June 30th, 2006 at 11:00 AM.

  12. #27
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In a Cloud
    Posts
    12,331
    Quote Originally Posted by alison
    I sit quite comfortably in YA, because there seems to be far fewer "shoulds" there (this goes for writing outside genre, as well). If I was asked, I suppose I would say I wrote epic fantasy; my next book, after I finish my current series, will be something different.
    Children's uses age groups as the sub-categories, so when your stuff is put into the children's market, your sub-category is YA. Adult fantasy doesn't have age groups -- they use general content. So when it's in adult fantasy, it's epic. Is your new work going to have a more contemporary setting?

    I see waht KatG is saying, but I also think there is a place - an important place - for discriminations to be made. And argued about. It's how things get worked out.
    I should clarify that I'm totally for people having negative opinions about different works and authors. I have negative opinions and express them frequently. I just don't like the outcasts of outcasts thing -- grouping authors under imaginary labels that claim to have substance, and condemning entire groups of them because they chose a particular type of story.

    My objection again to the deep genre concept is not that I think those authors advocating it are actually doing the above. It's that they are trying to work against it by agreeing that it's true.

    But, the Internet is the place for a lot of idle chatter and hashing things out, like you say. And maybe this sort of thing is part of the process. The Net has given authors a venue for promotion and a way to reach out that they haven't had or haven't had on such a large scale before. So I probably worry too much about this stuff too.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •