Let’s Get Serious!

In which I alienate Phish fans

What is it that makes readers connect? Sincerity and honesty. The kind of sincerity I’m talking about might be called being “serious” but as Alan Watts pointed out, the word “serious” has a sort of dry unfunniness about it, and that isn’t what I’m getting at. Fantasy literature in particular has this problem, much less than it used to, that it’s hard to take seriously a book about wizards and dragons. Ursula LeGuin seems to have eventually convinced everyone to take such books seriously, but not without plenty of books getting written to convince people otherwise. Wizards and dragons sound like childish topics, until you read Gene Wolfe, Stephen R. Donaldson, or dare I say Robert Jordan?

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Wonder Woman, Symbolism, and Propaganda

Wonder_WomanThis week I read a little more of a book called Do the Gods Wear Capes? by Ben Saunders, an English professor at University of Oregon. Saunders’ basic premise is that comic books, far from being mere entertainment, or perhaps because they are entertainment are a good way of exploring moral and ethical questions. Comic books embody a certain religious ideal that in older times would have been occupied by campfire stories or even religious stories. Sometimes parables, sometimes just stories for fun, but they always include godlike characters. The difference between what is and what we desire is the driving force, according to Saunders, of all storytelling, philosophy, and religion. Superheroes, with their rather blind ethical sense (in the era that he profiles) have a lot in common with gods, more than in just the powers available to them.

Continue reading “Wonder Woman, Symbolism, and Propaganda”

Miranda, Caliban, and Jacqueline Carey

People all have their own reasons for loving or hating Jacqueline Carey’s books, but they all agree she is a great writer.

It’s no secret that Jacqueline Carey is one of my favorite writers, and if you’ve read any of her work it should be clear why. The skill with which she crafts her work is evident from the very first word, and even when she’s writing stuff that I can’t stand to read (like her Agents of Hel series), I still acknowledge she’s doing it better than almost anyone else. She’s most well-known for her Kushiel books, set in Europe with an alternate history where Christianity never really took off, but an early offshoot of it took off like crazy. Continue reading “Miranda, Caliban, and Jacqueline Carey”

Moana’s Journey

The psychology and symbolism underlying Moana are present in all great stories, and Disney knows how to tell them

Erin Tettensor, who also goes by the pseudonym Erin Lindsey, brought a blog about Buffy the Vampire Slayer to my attention, so earlier I was going to write about the face I make when people say “you write about women” or “you write about strong female characters” but I am pretty bored with that topic.

Instead, let me tell you about Moana. I just watched it for the first time and I regret not trying to see it in the theater. This is yet another movie that hits all the bases: it’s the first film telling of this legend as far as I know, it has great animation, great music, and above all a great story. Just like Frozen the tension is drawn out, the characters are engaging and the hero’s journey is rewarding. The Hero’s Journey has gotten something of a bad reputation because it has been abused, but at the heart of it, if you read Joseph Campbell’s book and really grasp the meaning of it, you see how it underlies all great stories and unifies human experience in the progression of our dreams. Continue reading “Moana’s Journey”

Short stories

My novel went out to publishers some time last week, and that’s exciting, but now I’m back into a long waiting period. There’s this weird thing in writing advice where nobody talks about anything except getting an agent, so getting an agent was a strange letdown where my entire six months depended on a long drawn-out process of waiting. Now I’m getting that back in waiting to hear from publishers. I try to keep in touch with my agent, but I don’t want to bug him when there’s nothing for us to talk about. I’m now homeschooling a kid, and continuing to work on Firesage, which is going a little slow since it’s hard to find a consistent work schedule with the new adjustment.

I had decided to see if anything happened fast before I sent out any more short stories. All of them have been rejected except for one that’s been with the same market for almost three months (their time limit). That one I’m interested in, because it’s a prestigious market with a ready supply of subscribers, and only one author appears in any issue. The rest I have sent to a variety of interesting markets. My space colonization story “The Fault is not in Our Stars but Somewhere Between Jupiter and the Asteroid Belt” has gone into the black hole of Analog’s submission pile. That will take at least six months to hear back from.

I sent “Killing Montherek” to Flame Tree Press, a British publisher that is an offshoot of a fine gifts and calendars company. I felt a little weird sending it to them, as even though they are a SFWA-qualifying market, I had never heard of them and didn’t know whether they were “for real,” as in if they had good standards, or if they could really distribute their books well. I totally changed my mind the next day when I was at Books-A-Million in West Lebanon. There was a whole shelf featuring their anthologies, which were beautifully bound with fantastical Victorian-esque covers. Their shtick is to put brand-new stories from new authors alongside classics from Bram Stoker, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Robert E. Howard. Totally my thing.

I sent “The Harp” to Spark, which is a literary genre-fiction market. I have a hard time deciding where to send that one, since it is clearly fantasy, about sorcery, but its theme is decidedly sensual, so that rules out quite a few places that would otherwise be good for stories about sorcerors.  On the other hand, it’s not particularly kinky, more cerebral, so that rules out a lot of places that are more topical and weird.  I’m just going to keep sending these out until they stick somewhere.

I recently heard an author saying that you should only send stories to the top ten markets and trunk them if they don’t get published there.  I’m not buying that for now.  I know these stories are good, but they are not fashionable.  They are probably considered old-fashioned.  I’m not after prestige with other writers; I’m not even after the money.  I want people to be able to read these stories, and I want the opinions of good editors, not all of whom work at the top ten short story markets in SFF right now.  I am not trying to impress the top writers in the field.  Most of those markets seem very trendy to me, and unlike other people, I do not write just what those particular editors want.  So it might take longer, but I’ll see that people have a way to read them eventually.