sartorias: (Default)
I know I posted on this the other day, but because the discussion was so interesting, and because I hope that people might respond--and make suggestions of good books to read--I modified the post a bit and put it up at BVC.

I am trying to reach another circle of readers--and if one or two people link, and/or suggest some good reading or post a quick review, then the word gets out.
sartorias: (Default)
I know I posted on this the other day, but because the discussion was so interesting, and because I hope that people might respond--and make suggestions of good books to read--I modified the post a bit and put it up at BVC.

I am trying to reach another circle of readers--and if one or two people link, and/or suggest some good reading or post a quick review, then the word gets out.
sartorias: (Default)
The Crystal Ceiling: Is there still a distinction between "women’s" and "men’s" fantasy and horror?

I found it interesting, and disappointing, that the panel was all women: Kate Elliott, Charlaine Harris, Nancy Kilpatrick, Jane Kindred, and Malinda Lo.I don’t know how many men volunteered, who picked the panelists, whether it was a man or a woman, but when I walked into that panel and saw all women getting up on the podium, I thought "Here's our conclusion before a word is spoken."

C.H. talked about the organization Sisters In Crime. They count reviews, as they have found that male writers consistently get reviewed far more frequently than female writers, and by a significant ratio. They contact magazines and newspapers to make them aware of this fact.

K.E. spoke of an article she read recently in which a woman in Australia, who was looking at the content of reviews, observed that "Men's work can be flawed but still important. If women's work is considered flawed, that it can't be important."

C.H. mentioned an encounter with somebody at which she was told that she was lucky to have such good sales. She went away from that thinking, "Is it possible that I have good sales because I'm a good writer?"

N.K. said it is far worse for women in the horror field.

Question: is there a difference between men and women's fantasy and horror?

C.H. said yes. It begins with cover choices, marketing, and pay.

At that point, K.E. made what I thought was the most significant contribution to the entire panel. This is something that she has talked about on her LiveJournal from time to time, and that is that the male gaze is still the default cultural point of view. That means, whenever men look at is important, from persons to politics to entertainment. It is important for everybody. Whatever women look at is for women, of lesser significance.

Her daughter went to a quilting show [Correction:] museum. Quilting is largely considered a craft, but not an art, at least by men. Lo and behold, among the many displays by female quilters, there was one by a man. His quilts were labeled as "art" quilts. The rest of them were all crafts.

The rest of the panel was pretty much corroboration of this observation, everybody mentioning incidents or statistics in support.

That male gaze thing certainly holds true in fantasy. Even when women write epic fantasy on a large scale, covering the same sorts of subjects that male writers do, the male writers are interviewed, they are consulted when the subject of fantasy comes up, their works are reviewed everywhere. Very few women get that sort of attention--we can just about name them all.

The conclusion of the panel was not a downer, however. Everybody agreed that one of the ways to change things is to use our voices, and the media available to us. Talking about women's work, its significance, its entertainment value, and who might enjoy it if you like X, Y, or Z, and linking to interesting discussions, is one way of getting the word out about books that are otherwise ignored by the standard media.
sartorias: (Default)
The Crystal Ceiling: Is there still a distinction between "women’s" and "men’s" fantasy and horror?

I found it interesting, and disappointing, that the panel was all women: Kate Elliott, Charlaine Harris, Nancy Kilpatrick, Jane Kindred, and Malinda Lo.I don’t know how many men volunteered, who picked the panelists, whether it was a man or a woman, but when I walked into that panel and saw all women getting up on the podium, I thought "Here's our conclusion before a word is spoken."

C.H. talked about the organization Sisters In Crime. They count reviews, as they have found that male writers consistently get reviewed far more frequently than female writers, and by a significant ratio. They contact magazines and newspapers to make them aware of this fact.

K.E. spoke of an article she read recently in which a woman in Australia, who was looking at the content of reviews, observed that "Men's work can be flawed but still important. If women's work is considered flawed, that it can't be important."

C.H. mentioned an encounter with somebody at which she was told that she was lucky to have such good sales. She went away from that thinking, "Is it possible that I have good sales because I'm a good writer?"

N.K. said it is far worse for women in the horror field.

Question: is there a difference between men and women's fantasy and horror?

C.H. said yes. It begins with cover choices, marketing, and pay.

At that point, K.E. made what I thought was the most significant contribution to the entire panel. This is something that she has talked about on her LiveJournal from time to time, and that is that the male gaze is still the default cultural point of view. That means, whenever men look at is important, from persons to politics to entertainment. It is important for everybody. Whatever women look at is for women, of lesser significance.

Her daughter went to a quilting show [Correction:] museum. Quilting is largely considered a craft, but not an art, at least by men. Lo and behold, among the many displays by female quilters, there was one by a man. His quilts were labeled as "art" quilts. The rest of them were all crafts.

The rest of the panel was pretty much corroboration of this observation, everybody mentioning incidents or statistics in support.

That male gaze thing certainly holds true in fantasy. Even when women write epic fantasy on a large scale, covering the same sorts of subjects that male writers do, the male writers are interviewed, they are consulted when the subject of fantasy comes up, their works are reviewed everywhere. Very few women get that sort of attention--we can just about name them all.

The conclusion of the panel was not a downer, however. Everybody agreed that one of the ways to change things is to use our voices, and the media available to us. Talking about women's work, its significance, its entertainment value, and who might enjoy it if you like X, Y, or Z, and linking to interesting discussions, is one way of getting the word out about books that are otherwise ignored by the standard media.
sartorias: (Default)
At WFC last weekend, on Thursday night, someone made a reference to purple prose. Context made it clear that everybody understood what was meant. An hour later, in another conversation altogether, someone made a slighting reference to lyrical writing, making air quotes around the word lyrical. When I asked what was meant, I got an interesting volley of answers, too fast to write down.

First, everyone agreed that though purple prose generally is trying to be lyrical, not all lyrical prose is purple. So what makes it purple?

Sentimentality--overly ornate--Did you know that the original meaning of lyrical prose meant bad prose?

"Not bad in the sense of bad grammar or spelling," someone else said. "Bathos."

I pointed out that ‘ornate’ can be in the eye of the reader. There are some literary traditions, especially non-English speaking, that delight in figurative language, especially complex metaphor.

Half agreed, then someone said that she didn’t know if it was translators’ problems, or writers for whom English is a second language, but too often the ‘ornate’ turned out to be ornamental adjective and adverb built around clichés. But the ESL writer might not recognize that a phrase so rare it becomes poetic in Estonian, or Thai, has been overused to deadness in English. And the other way around (after which that conversation dwindled into attempts to write in other languages, and how tough it is.)

I was sufficiently intrigued to ask different groups of people through the weekend what they understood the term "purple prose" to mean. After all, it was a con full of writers. And not one of them was confused by the term. They all knew what it meant. What I found interesting was the variety of definitions.

The most frequent definition had to do with overloading adjectives into sentences. I believe it was Ellen Kushner who pointed out that purple prose could also be the loading of adverbs into a sentence to bolster an ineffective verb.

Other definitions included overelaborate--pretentious--an effort to sound poetic but failing --and mawkish. There was a lot of agreement about sentimentality instead of real emotion.

The two times I tried asking for examples of specific works broke up the discussion, because so often such questions come down to taste.

But people did offer concrete examples to which others would agree. I will get to those in a moment. The first subject I wanted to dig into was sentimentality. Most agreed that this was excessive or affected attempts at Big Emotion, often without it being earned. Of course, how you earn emotion wasn't so easy to pin down. But there was more agreement about cheats, such as introducing characters who are too good to be true that experienced readers know are redshirts--to be offed in the next chapter in order to make the reader feel sorry for the hero.

As usual, examples weren’t so easy to agree on. One person said she was totally disgusted by the introduction of Kvothe’s parents in The Name of the Wind. They were so perfect that they simply had to be killed ten pages later. But someone else mourned, "Nooo! You cannot touch that awesome book!"

So we went back to discussing specifics in prose without mentioning books, short stories, or authors. One person said that poetic oxymorons drove him nuts, but it seemed to him that writers who employed a lot of that trick were praised for it. Overused metaphors--overused superlatives piled on--trite expressions masquerading as new expressions, but not really. Like "A shiver trickled down her spine."

Another person pointed out that such clichés, whether sentimental or not, were not always recognized by readers as such. This is how a lyrical writer for one person is syrupy for a writer, who (supposedly) has a keener ear for trite and overused expressions. Uncritical readers will accept the author’s claim to poesy without recognizing whether poetry actually happened.

Commenting on that, somebody pointed out that such expressions serve to remind the reader "Important Emotional Moment Here!" So the reader might acknowledge that the characters are feeling it, without actually feeling the emotion themselves. And many readers don’t actually want to feel emotions such as gnawing fear or heart-breaking grief. Clichés are safety valves. But they can also keep the book from being memorable.

I wondered if this might explain why a given ‘lyrical’ book, though popular now, is forgotten two years down the road. It's like the author told us what to feel all the way through but we didn't actually feel it, there was no genuine emotion on the part of the reader, and so the story is easy to forget. In contrast, the book with genuine emotion, or complex emotion that rings true to experience, draws us back to reread. It doesn't have to be bad emotion--it can be good, too.

Anyway, I asked if anyone else had automatic sentimentality triggers. Like mine is ‘achingly vulnerable.’ "Throes used seriously." "Abound." "Utterly, especially when no one is uttering anything--utter darkness, utter despair, utter nutter." *snickers*

"Myriad." "No, I like that word!" "But it’s practically lost its meaning, it means thousands, ‘myriad emotions’ how can anyone have thousands of emotions?"

While that jetted off into another subject, I recalled a word from a couple centuries ago--‘poetaster’. That was someone who wanted to be seen as a poet, and who might put together strings of popular ideas, clothed in threadbare classical metaphor, but who didn’t (or couldn’t) do the work of real poetry.

I mentioned that to a couple people while conversing in a corner of a noisy room. We talked it over. Would the modern poetaster be the person whose prose throws out breathless metaphor and superlatives that are commonly employed ("gazed into the very depths of despair") without actually furnishing any real insight? All the trappings are there--usually restated in increasingly bombastic words, as if the writer senses that it’s not quite working.

Bombastic: "Eyes that project emotions, especially from behind.'Behind her eyes he saw the depths of the abyss. . ."

"Redundancies for emphasis, like ‘Fundamental bedrock, or blackest midnight.’"

"’Very’ as an adjective," someone said, to a hail of agreement, and "Behind her eyes he saw the very depths of despair."

Another commented that ‘very’ as an adjective almost always modifies clichés, as if to give them more heft. I thought of several, like ‘the core of one’s being’ modified by ‘very core of one’s being.’ Doesn’t help. That one is a definite sign of sentimentality--an overused signal for deep emotion without actually having to do the work to make that emotion personal or insightful.

The examples came fast, ‘very abyss’ instead of ‘abyss, ‘the very idea’ instead of ‘the idea’ but it can cheapen any ordinary noun: ‘very heartbeat’ ‘very joy’ ‘the very thought.’

Someone pointed out that very, like any other intensifier, can be effective once in a while, but like semi-colons, once you find a sprinkling on every page, the effect lessens correspondingly.
sartorias: (Default)
At WFC last weekend, on Thursday night, someone made a reference to purple prose. Context made it clear that everybody understood what was meant. An hour later, in another conversation altogether, someone made a slighting reference to lyrical writing, making air quotes around the word lyrical. When I asked what was meant, I got an interesting volley of answers, too fast to write down.

First, everyone agreed that though purple prose generally is trying to be lyrical, not all lyrical prose is purple. So what makes it purple?

Sentimentality--overly ornate--Did you know that the original meaning of lyrical prose meant bad prose?

"Not bad in the sense of bad grammar or spelling," someone else said. "Bathos."

I pointed out that ‘ornate’ can be in the eye of the reader. There are some literary traditions, especially non-English speaking, that delight in figurative language, especially complex metaphor.

Half agreed, then someone said that she didn’t know if it was translators’ problems, or writers for whom English is a second language, but too often the ‘ornate’ turned out to be ornamental adjective and adverb built around clichés. But the ESL writer might not recognize that a phrase so rare it becomes poetic in Estonian, or Thai, has been overused to deadness in English. And the other way around (after which that conversation dwindled into attempts to write in other languages, and how tough it is.)

I was sufficiently intrigued to ask different groups of people through the weekend what they understood the term "purple prose" to mean. After all, it was a con full of writers. And not one of them was confused by the term. They all knew what it meant. What I found interesting was the variety of definitions.

The most frequent definition had to do with overloading adjectives into sentences. I believe it was Ellen Kushner who pointed out that purple prose could also be the loading of adverbs into a sentence to bolster an ineffective verb.

Other definitions included overelaborate--pretentious--an effort to sound poetic but failing --and mawkish. There was a lot of agreement about sentimentality instead of real emotion.

The two times I tried asking for examples of specific works broke up the discussion, because so often such questions come down to taste.

But people did offer concrete examples to which others would agree. I will get to those in a moment. The first subject I wanted to dig into was sentimentality. Most agreed that this was excessive or affected attempts at Big Emotion, often without it being earned. Of course, how you earn emotion wasn't so easy to pin down. But there was more agreement about cheats, such as introducing characters who are too good to be true that experienced readers know are redshirts--to be offed in the next chapter in order to make the reader feel sorry for the hero.

As usual, examples weren’t so easy to agree on. One person said she was totally disgusted by the introduction of Kvothe’s parents in The Name of the Wind. They were so perfect that they simply had to be killed ten pages later. But someone else mourned, "Nooo! You cannot touch that awesome book!"

So we went back to discussing specifics in prose without mentioning books, short stories, or authors. One person said that poetic oxymorons drove him nuts, but it seemed to him that writers who employed a lot of that trick were praised for it. Overused metaphors--overused superlatives piled on--trite expressions masquerading as new expressions, but not really. Like "A shiver trickled down her spine."

Another person pointed out that such clichés, whether sentimental or not, were not always recognized by readers as such. This is how a lyrical writer for one person is syrupy for a writer, who (supposedly) has a keener ear for trite and overused expressions. Uncritical readers will accept the author’s claim to poesy without recognizing whether poetry actually happened.

Commenting on that, somebody pointed out that such expressions serve to remind the reader "Important Emotional Moment Here!" So the reader might acknowledge that the characters are feeling it, without actually feeling the emotion themselves. And many readers don’t actually want to feel emotions such as gnawing fear or heart-breaking grief. Clichés are safety valves. But they can also keep the book from being memorable.

I wondered if this might explain why a given ‘lyrical’ book, though popular now, is forgotten two years down the road. It's like the author told us what to feel all the way through but we didn't actually feel it, there was no genuine emotion on the part of the reader, and so the story is easy to forget. In contrast, the book with genuine emotion, or complex emotion that rings true to experience, draws us back to reread. It doesn't have to be bad emotion--it can be good, too.

Anyway, I asked if anyone else had automatic sentimentality triggers. Like mine is ‘achingly vulnerable.’ "Throes used seriously." "Abound." "Utterly, especially when no one is uttering anything--utter darkness, utter despair, utter nutter." *snickers*

"Myriad." "No, I like that word!" "But it’s practically lost its meaning, it means thousands, ‘myriad emotions’ how can anyone have thousands of emotions?"

While that jetted off into another subject, I recalled a word from a couple centuries ago--‘poetaster’. That was someone who wanted to be seen as a poet, and who might put together strings of popular ideas, clothed in threadbare classical metaphor, but who didn’t (or couldn’t) do the work of real poetry.

I mentioned that to a couple people while conversing in a corner of a noisy room. We talked it over. Would the modern poetaster be the person whose prose throws out breathless metaphor and superlatives that are commonly employed ("gazed into the very depths of despair") without actually furnishing any real insight? All the trappings are there--usually restated in increasingly bombastic words, as if the writer senses that it’s not quite working.

Bombastic: "Eyes that project emotions, especially from behind.'Behind her eyes he saw the depths of the abyss. . ."

"Redundancies for emphasis, like ‘Fundamental bedrock, or blackest midnight.’"

"’Very’ as an adjective," someone said, to a hail of agreement, and "Behind her eyes he saw the very depths of despair."

Another commented that ‘very’ as an adjective almost always modifies clichés, as if to give them more heft. I thought of several, like ‘the core of one’s being’ modified by ‘very core of one’s being.’ Doesn’t help. That one is a definite sign of sentimentality--an overused signal for deep emotion without actually having to do the work to make that emotion personal or insightful.

The examples came fast, ‘very abyss’ instead of ‘abyss, ‘the very idea’ instead of ‘the idea’ but it can cheapen any ordinary noun: ‘very heartbeat’ ‘very joy’ ‘the very thought.’

Someone pointed out that very, like any other intensifier, can be effective once in a while, but like semi-colons, once you find a sprinkling on every page, the effect lessens correspondingly.

WFC swag

Nov. 1st, 2011 06:33 am
sartorias: (Default)
Some exchanges I thought interesting to be typed up. but first, goodies.

WFC's a great con for finding cool stuff from small presses as well as books just out, or even ahead of release. Like The Freedom Maze, by Delia Sherman. The Small Beer Press people went to great effort to secure a stack for sale three weeks early. A quick glance through promises excellence--this one needs to move up the TBR list for Andre Norton Award purposes.

I bought Larry Hammer's translation of One Hundred People, One Poem Each from him in the con lobby before the last copy could vanish. It's a beautifully printed little book--the link is to the Kindle version. This is a translation of a compilation made in 1235 of the 100 best poets. Larry has been writing up his translation process over at his LiveJournal. His witty explanations for word choices and meanings have been entertaining me for months. The poems show the Japanese, the translation, and each has a footnote to give the English reader some context. I put it by the bedside so I can dip into a poem or two before I sleep.

I mentioned this one before, but I will again because I enjoyed it so much, and because I want to support a fine small press--Madeleine Robins' Miss Tolerance is back! The new one is called The Sleeping Partner. I've loved this alternate Regency, and Miss Tolerance (an Agent of Inquiry), ever since the first one came out, Point of Honour. If you like Regency romances in the silver fork (Georgette Heyer) mode, Book View Cafe is offering three of them here.

WFC swag

Nov. 1st, 2011 06:33 am
sartorias: (Default)
Some exchanges I thought interesting to be typed up. but first, goodies.

WFC's a great con for finding cool stuff from small presses as well as books just out, or even ahead of release. Like The Freedom Maze, by Delia Sherman. The Small Beer Press people went to great effort to secure a stack for sale three weeks early. A quick glance through promises excellence--this one needs to move up the TBR list for Andre Norton Award purposes.

I bought Larry Hammer's translation of One Hundred People, One Poem Each from him in the con lobby before the last copy could vanish. It's a beautifully printed little book--the link is to the Kindle version. This is a translation of a compilation made in 1235 of the 100 best poets. Larry has been writing up his translation process over at his LiveJournal. His witty explanations for word choices and meanings have been entertaining me for months. The poems show the Japanese, the translation, and each has a footnote to give the English reader some context. I put it by the bedside so I can dip into a poem or two before I sleep.

I mentioned this one before, but I will again because I enjoyed it so much, and because I want to support a fine small press--Madeleine Robins' Miss Tolerance is back! The new one is called The Sleeping Partner. I've loved this alternate Regency, and Miss Tolerance (an Agent of Inquiry), ever since the first one came out, Point of Honour. If you like Regency romances in the silver fork (Georgette Heyer) mode, Book View Cafe is offering three of them here.
sartorias: (Default)
today's post fits the theme of the weekend.

I have been having a terrific time at World Fantasy Con.Imagine wall to wall writers--from those with experience to new writers seeking to find ways to share their work. New ways--many conversations about ebooks, who's doing it right, what to do, do we need publishers and editors, what share should they have when it is print versus phosphors.

I participated in some very interesting discussions that I will write up when I get home.
sartorias: (Default)
today's post fits the theme of the weekend.

I have been having a terrific time at World Fantasy Con.Imagine wall to wall writers--from those with experience to new writers seeking to find ways to share their work. New ways--many conversations about ebooks, who's doing it right, what to do, do we need publishers and editors, what share should they have when it is print versus phosphors.

I participated in some very interesting discussions that I will write up when I get home.
sartorias: (Default)
Heading on down in a few hours, here.

I've an idea that this is one con that is mainly going to be happening in the lounges and around the pool and in the bars. From what I can gather, Neil Gaiman's eager fans bought up most of the 1000 possible memberships earlier in the year, months before the writer community habitually stirs itself to scrape together membership costs. So many writers are just showing up.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing many folks in person who I usually only see in phosphor form.

Then it's back to work, and also to think about Nebula nominations. So far, though it's been a terrific year for good books, Jo Walton's Among Others is still at the top of my list. For YA, this is going to be even tougher . . . the latest good read is Nnedi Odorafor's Akata Witch.
sartorias: (Default)
Heading on down in a few hours, here.

I've an idea that this is one con that is mainly going to be happening in the lounges and around the pool and in the bars. From what I can gather, Neil Gaiman's eager fans bought up most of the 1000 possible memberships earlier in the year, months before the writer community habitually stirs itself to scrape together membership costs. So many writers are just showing up.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing many folks in person who I usually only see in phosphor form.

Then it's back to work, and also to think about Nebula nominations. So far, though it's been a terrific year for good books, Jo Walton's Among Others is still at the top of my list. For YA, this is going to be even tougher . . . the latest good read is Nnedi Odorafor's Akata Witch.
sartorias: (Default)
As the season of Yuletide Madness approaches (imagine waking up Yule morning with a story written just for you) the discussion of fan fiction also came up at WFC, in all its complexity.

There are many writers whose reaction to fan fiction is the visceral one, akin to discovering a slug in your salad. Others are flattered, or shrug it off, or don't mind as long as no one expects them to read it. Most of the viewpoints I've talked about in other posts, but one came up that I hadn't heard before, and that is how fan fiction can actually bring readers to a canon. What happens is that a really good fan fiction writer posts a story, her fans read it, and love the setting and characters so much they go out to seek the story source.

One person pointed out that that is exactly what is happening with some of the established continuations of storylines and worlds--like the complexity that Deborah Ross is bringing to the Darkover world, as she continues that storyline. And ditto with the Avalon storyline that Diana L. Paxson is exploring--coincidentally also from the creative pen of Marion Zimmer Bradley. I found that so interesting that I might do an interview with them, when their new books come out early next year.

From there the discussion branched out to other really successful continuations.

More on elves... That line creeps between cracks of intention just gives me neck prickles.

How Japanese artists saw Western dress
sartorias: (Default)
As the season of Yuletide Madness approaches (imagine waking up Yule morning with a story written just for you) the discussion of fan fiction also came up at WFC, in all its complexity.

There are many writers whose reaction to fan fiction is the visceral one, akin to discovering a slug in your salad. Others are flattered, or shrug it off, or don't mind as long as no one expects them to read it. Most of the viewpoints I've talked about in other posts, but one came up that I hadn't heard before, and that is how fan fiction can actually bring readers to a canon. What happens is that a really good fan fiction writer posts a story, her fans read it, and love the setting and characters so much they go out to seek the story source.

One person pointed out that that is exactly what is happening with some of the established continuations of storylines and worlds--like the complexity that Deborah Ross is bringing to the Darkover world, as she continues that storyline. And ditto with the Avalon storyline that Diana L. Paxson is exploring--coincidentally also from the creative pen of Marion Zimmer Bradley. I found that so interesting that I might do an interview with them, when their new books come out early next year.

From there the discussion branched out to other really successful continuations.

More on elves... That line creeps between cracks of intention just gives me neck prickles.

How Japanese artists saw Western dress
sartorias: (Default)
Before I leap madly into catching up with chores around here, a few explanations and so forth.

My summation of the con? It was, this intense, sprawling, disorganized, mad conversation that ranged over hours, with people coming and going, sometimes in the formal setting of the panels and breaking out of it. This is not just exhilarating, but necessary. Even though it has its irritations--like being blown off (again) by X, and hearing Y, who really should know better, say from a panel what sounded to me like (and context is everything, see below) "Oh, those horse and castle fantasies--they're all exactly the same. I haven't been able to read them because they are indistinguishable from one another--nothing new for the past twenty years." My first thought, "You haven't read any because they are all the same, is that judging books by covers?" Though he did reference one he'd began, and it felt like others he'd read--so . . . that means they are all the same? Second thought was, "Is this a jab at women writing epic fantasy?" Another irritation was missing several people I'd wanted to meet up with but we never seemed to get into the same physical space--and when I finally caught up with one, it was at moment when so much else was going on we barely had a chance to communicate.

But. The exchange of ideas, the correction of misapprehensions, the new ideas, the sense that others are in the same boat on this or that issues--that is as necessary as food and air.

Funny moment. I'm in a conversation with an editor who started as a junior aid in publishing when young, and was telling some crackup stories about various happenings in publishing of the past. Then a name of an author now dead came up, and I said, "I heard he was a nutbar."

The editor looked at me, and there was this suppressed mirth, the lips slightly parted, the hold-the-breath hesitation, and I said, "What. No, I know. You're about to say, 'You writers are all nutbars.'" And hoo boy, then came the laugh!

From the comments and a couple of emails I see how easy it is to misstate, or to lead to false conclusions, especially when just throwing down quick summaries without the context, etc. No vocal tone. You know how it is.

So a few things.

First, the "Mormons" question.

I clearly made a mistake by conflating conversations, and what happened at panels, at Sirens, with conversations early on at WFC. In my head, there's this jumble of voices and images, and sometimes I see patterns ranging across these differing moments and start yapping as though everyone sees them, too.

First issue: the sense that many readers, especially feminists, on hearing Stephenie Meyer's background, began reading that background into the books. (Compare early reviews, when nothing is said about Meyer at all, to later, when there are reviews that assume an LDS ideology being sekritly fed to girls in order to turn them into Stepford wives. Yes, I am being sarcastic, but yes, I did come away from reading some reviews that bring up the M word in this manner, and also I heard some people speak pretty much in those terms. Including at a panel at Sirens.)

Second issue--"Mormons" and science fiction and fantasy. Actually, I think there is an awesome panel topic here, because there are a lot of hot new writers on the scene who are, or have been, members of the LDS church. How do they deal with the negative vibe from the genre? How do they deal with the more conservative element of the church, who may look askance at the spec fic world? Why are there so many fantasy and SF writers from the LDS community--is the yearly con at BYU, "Life, the Universe, and Everything," the inspiration? I've been to that con--it was a fantastic experience. [See above about WFC]

Sidenote and plea: I so hope this topic is not going to loose off a spew of LDS-hate; the church has its range of voices and points of view just like every other segment of society. And Us Against Them lines aren't always so easy to draw if one strives to understand and not just to condemn--for example, take a look at the spewage aimed at Orson Scott Card after he wrote sympathetically about a gay character--I've always loved this book for the way he just pegs what music can do to you. Anyway, I think there is a possible interesting discussion here.

Second clarification and its context.

Bad editors. Actually, I should have said there were two conversations, one about rude editors, and how writers have to take it and pretend not to notice the slamdunk, because bitching about it online is sure to make it real tough to sell anything.

And yes, I know that there are rude writers. See above about past writers who were . . . not known for their elegant manners. At WFC I experienced this enormous sense of relief to be among a bunch of writers who felt they could finally talk about vexing issues without the shadow of public exposure that is a big part of being online. And some of what we expressed was that anxiety-making sense of being helpless about series cutoffs, crap advances, phone calls never returned, weather-vane vibes, etc.

O am fully aware that three tables away, four editors sitting in head-bent, earnest conversation could very well have been core dumping about writers who are late, who turn in messes, who rant about more money when their books just aren't selling, who post crazed riffs that cause an avalanche of necessary cleanup, and the editors have to sit lip-buttoned.

The potential for adversarial tensions resulting from being on either side of the negotiating table is a part of this life. It is good to be able to share, to vent, to get your perspective straight--it does not mean that the talkers all go away with the conviction that "all editors are bad."

Okay, now there was also a conversation about bad editors. The crux of this one was noting who didn't stay long in the business, and why they would want to edit when they don't actually know how to edit. How did they get there--the whole "got a business degree, and books are widgets" thing--editors who are strategic editors--that is, see the whole story, and those who are tactical, that is, really get in at the prose level, and different editing styles--who's been around a long time, and whose editorial viewpoint seems to have changed over the decades. When writers edit.

Last, YA, YA versus general genre, when writers (some encouraged by editors) write YA. The context of this one was a friend (who can speak up here or not as they choose) who has a long backlist of adult work, who is thinking of commencing YA. Whom to approach about that proposal? Will that long backlist work for or against the writer? Who is actively seeking YA--editors in both YA and general--whose lines are working and not led to a discussion of what makes YA work, and what doesn't--and why some books read like adult (are the kids reading them?) and some don't, and why some fail but they should have taken off. My example was Graham Joyce's delicately spiky The Exchange--here's this terrific writer for adults who really pegged a teen book. I liked that book, but more to the point, I could see myself checking it out several times as a teen, as I tried to assimilate it all. Why isn't it a big seller? It should be! We talked about this kind of thing the entire weekend long--in fact, I would say that there was a YA subtheme to my experience of the con.

Anyway, there was a lot of consensus, as Melinda Lo commented on yesterday's post, on emotional immediacy being a key ingredient. She didn't write Ash aimed at the teen readership, nor did Cindy Pon intend to write a YA with Silver Phoenix--but someone saw the potential to reach teen readers, and was right. So we, a bunch of writers, were talking round and around about this.

Then yesterday, I had breakfast with someone who has that strategic vision--has always has, but it seems to me from my distant vantage to have gotten sharper over the years. She said she knew first thing out the gate that Harry P (and Twilight) would be big enough sellers to cross into social phenoms. She said they had all the markers--and my thought is, a lot of those markers are "wish fulfilment" and "accessibility." She also described that tension between the things that sell big and the things that we readers might love passionately, but which sell for beans, as the conflict between story and art. They do not have to be mutually exclusive--Pride and Prejudice still works because it's a brilliant marriage between story and art. Lord of the Rings.

But even being conscious of this tension doesn't give a magic recipe for success.

Okay, I think I got it all done--now to work off the calories from the DAW dinner Saturday night, which was absolutely fantastic (food and company) and get cracking.

First, a couple of really nifty links--after a reminder that [livejournal.com profile] thistleingrey has put up some superb panel reports.

From [livejournal.com profile] randwolf

and the Symphony of Science from from [livejournal.com profile] estara
sartorias: (Default)
Before I leap madly into catching up with chores around here, a few explanations and so forth.

My summation of the con? It was, this intense, sprawling, disorganized, mad conversation that ranged over hours, with people coming and going, sometimes in the formal setting of the panels and breaking out of it. This is not just exhilarating, but necessary. Even though it has its irritations--like being blown off (again) by X, and hearing Y, who really should know better, say from a panel what sounded to me like (and context is everything, see below) "Oh, those horse and castle fantasies--they're all exactly the same. I haven't been able to read them because they are indistinguishable from one another--nothing new for the past twenty years." My first thought, "You haven't read any because they are all the same, is that judging books by covers?" Though he did reference one he'd began, and it felt like others he'd read--so . . . that means they are all the same? Second thought was, "Is this a jab at women writing epic fantasy?" Another irritation was missing several people I'd wanted to meet up with but we never seemed to get into the same physical space--and when I finally caught up with one, it was at moment when so much else was going on we barely had a chance to communicate.

But. The exchange of ideas, the correction of misapprehensions, the new ideas, the sense that others are in the same boat on this or that issues--that is as necessary as food and air.

Funny moment. I'm in a conversation with an editor who started as a junior aid in publishing when young, and was telling some crackup stories about various happenings in publishing of the past. Then a name of an author now dead came up, and I said, "I heard he was a nutbar."

The editor looked at me, and there was this suppressed mirth, the lips slightly parted, the hold-the-breath hesitation, and I said, "What. No, I know. You're about to say, 'You writers are all nutbars.'" And hoo boy, then came the laugh!

From the comments and a couple of emails I see how easy it is to misstate, or to lead to false conclusions, especially when just throwing down quick summaries without the context, etc. No vocal tone. You know how it is.

So a few things.

First, the "Mormons" question.

I clearly made a mistake by conflating conversations, and what happened at panels, at Sirens, with conversations early on at WFC. In my head, there's this jumble of voices and images, and sometimes I see patterns ranging across these differing moments and start yapping as though everyone sees them, too.

First issue: the sense that many readers, especially feminists, on hearing Stephenie Meyer's background, began reading that background into the books. (Compare early reviews, when nothing is said about Meyer at all, to later, when there are reviews that assume an LDS ideology being sekritly fed to girls in order to turn them into Stepford wives. Yes, I am being sarcastic, but yes, I did come away from reading some reviews that bring up the M word in this manner, and also I heard some people speak pretty much in those terms. Including at a panel at Sirens.)

Second issue--"Mormons" and science fiction and fantasy. Actually, I think there is an awesome panel topic here, because there are a lot of hot new writers on the scene who are, or have been, members of the LDS church. How do they deal with the negative vibe from the genre? How do they deal with the more conservative element of the church, who may look askance at the spec fic world? Why are there so many fantasy and SF writers from the LDS community--is the yearly con at BYU, "Life, the Universe, and Everything," the inspiration? I've been to that con--it was a fantastic experience. [See above about WFC]

Sidenote and plea: I so hope this topic is not going to loose off a spew of LDS-hate; the church has its range of voices and points of view just like every other segment of society. And Us Against Them lines aren't always so easy to draw if one strives to understand and not just to condemn--for example, take a look at the spewage aimed at Orson Scott Card after he wrote sympathetically about a gay character--I've always loved this book for the way he just pegs what music can do to you. Anyway, I think there is a possible interesting discussion here.

Second clarification and its context.

Bad editors. Actually, I should have said there were two conversations, one about rude editors, and how writers have to take it and pretend not to notice the slamdunk, because bitching about it online is sure to make it real tough to sell anything.

And yes, I know that there are rude writers. See above about past writers who were . . . not known for their elegant manners. At WFC I experienced this enormous sense of relief to be among a bunch of writers who felt they could finally talk about vexing issues without the shadow of public exposure that is a big part of being online. And some of what we expressed was that anxiety-making sense of being helpless about series cutoffs, crap advances, phone calls never returned, weather-vane vibes, etc.

O am fully aware that three tables away, four editors sitting in head-bent, earnest conversation could very well have been core dumping about writers who are late, who turn in messes, who rant about more money when their books just aren't selling, who post crazed riffs that cause an avalanche of necessary cleanup, and the editors have to sit lip-buttoned.

The potential for adversarial tensions resulting from being on either side of the negotiating table is a part of this life. It is good to be able to share, to vent, to get your perspective straight--it does not mean that the talkers all go away with the conviction that "all editors are bad."

Okay, now there was also a conversation about bad editors. The crux of this one was noting who didn't stay long in the business, and why they would want to edit when they don't actually know how to edit. How did they get there--the whole "got a business degree, and books are widgets" thing--editors who are strategic editors--that is, see the whole story, and those who are tactical, that is, really get in at the prose level, and different editing styles--who's been around a long time, and whose editorial viewpoint seems to have changed over the decades. When writers edit.

Last, YA, YA versus general genre, when writers (some encouraged by editors) write YA. The context of this one was a friend (who can speak up here or not as they choose) who has a long backlist of adult work, who is thinking of commencing YA. Whom to approach about that proposal? Will that long backlist work for or against the writer? Who is actively seeking YA--editors in both YA and general--whose lines are working and not led to a discussion of what makes YA work, and what doesn't--and why some books read like adult (are the kids reading them?) and some don't, and why some fail but they should have taken off. My example was Graham Joyce's delicately spiky The Exchange--here's this terrific writer for adults who really pegged a teen book. I liked that book, but more to the point, I could see myself checking it out several times as a teen, as I tried to assimilate it all. Why isn't it a big seller? It should be! We talked about this kind of thing the entire weekend long--in fact, I would say that there was a YA subtheme to my experience of the con.

Anyway, there was a lot of consensus, as Melinda Lo commented on yesterday's post, on emotional immediacy being a key ingredient. She didn't write Ash aimed at the teen readership, nor did Cindy Pon intend to write a YA with Silver Phoenix--but someone saw the potential to reach teen readers, and was right. So we, a bunch of writers, were talking round and around about this.

Then yesterday, I had breakfast with someone who has that strategic vision--has always has, but it seems to me from my distant vantage to have gotten sharper over the years. She said she knew first thing out the gate that Harry P (and Twilight) would be big enough sellers to cross into social phenoms. She said they had all the markers--and my thought is, a lot of those markers are "wish fulfilment" and "accessibility." She also described that tension between the things that sell big and the things that we readers might love passionately, but which sell for beans, as the conflict between story and art. They do not have to be mutually exclusive--Pride and Prejudice still works because it's a brilliant marriage between story and art. Lord of the Rings.

But even being conscious of this tension doesn't give a magic recipe for success.

Okay, I think I got it all done--now to work off the calories from the DAW dinner Saturday night, which was absolutely fantastic (food and company) and get cracking.

First, a couple of really nifty links--after a reminder that [livejournal.com profile] thistleingrey has put up some superb panel reports.

From [livejournal.com profile] randwolf

and the Symphony of Science from from [livejournal.com profile] estara
sartorias: (Default)
We'll be hitting the road in a couple of hours or so, so last report.

This is just free form throwing out of conversations.

How POD needs to become the new model for book printing, which creates less of a eco footprint--way future bookstores might look--people doing browsing differently now (on line)--need to wander shelves and touch and look at books. Hope that used bookstores stay with us as there is a deeply satisfying feel to a book printed 180 years ago, owned and loved by others. (Love discovering old notes and things in old books.)

Bringing one's backlist into e-book form; Book View Cafe and its evolving business model. (Lots of conversation about Book View Cafe.)

Language in fantasy (after a panel)--when language gets in the way of the reader--sloppy worldbuilding (Q "What do you mean by sloppy?" A "I mean when I have to memorize a zillion terms for supposedly new things, but then I find stuff like 'She aped his movements' when there is no sign of apes in the world, and I really hate 'Okay' in fantasy or far future sf worlds")--long discussion of "okay", when it trips the reader, when it doesn't--can't imagine okay ever falling out of use--history of cuss words, words found in Chaucer--

New writers and agents--agents--bad agents

What makes a YA voice--genre writers trying YA (or being talked into it by editors, and why those books fail) --simple language vs. simplistic language--tone--what kids actually read vs. what adults think they should be reading (reasons adults want kids to read a thing, not always for reasons you think)--

What exactly constitutes emotional payoff--how that works for adults, for kids, hardest of all payoff for both--adults as well as kids got emotional payoff from Potter--emotional memory makes old favorites work whereas the book encountered as an adult might not work (L.J. Smith in this context: those who first read them as teens love them still, others who encountered them as adults find them less engaging)

Bad editors, but you can't talk about them on line so they can stay bad with no repercussions

New York in 1959, when Bob Dylan arrived in town and musicians thought he was just carrying the guitar around as a chick-magnet until he took out his harmonica

Oxford versus Cambridge--Oxford in literature

German food (regional food) -- weirdest foods ever had

Stooges vs. Marx Brothers

Authors who try to gain readers by building a cult around themselves (when it works and when it doesn't--Neil Gaiman currently made a cult figure ("wins awards because he's Neil Gaiman, but in ten years, will people read the books in the same way?)

Dogs and how they communicate

New authors and books one loved--books outside the usual white person context--big love for Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix--Malinda Lo's new book--

Old favorites we wish were still in print--old faves that are really dated now
sartorias: (Default)
We'll be hitting the road in a couple of hours or so, so last report.

This is just free form throwing out of conversations.

How POD needs to become the new model for book printing, which creates less of a eco footprint--way future bookstores might look--people doing browsing differently now (on line)--need to wander shelves and touch and look at books. Hope that used bookstores stay with us as there is a deeply satisfying feel to a book printed 180 years ago, owned and loved by others. (Love discovering old notes and things in old books.)

Bringing one's backlist into e-book form; Book View Cafe and its evolving business model. (Lots of conversation about Book View Cafe.)

Language in fantasy (after a panel)--when language gets in the way of the reader--sloppy worldbuilding (Q "What do you mean by sloppy?" A "I mean when I have to memorize a zillion terms for supposedly new things, but then I find stuff like 'She aped his movements' when there is no sign of apes in the world, and I really hate 'Okay' in fantasy or far future sf worlds")--long discussion of "okay", when it trips the reader, when it doesn't--can't imagine okay ever falling out of use--history of cuss words, words found in Chaucer--

New writers and agents--agents--bad agents

What makes a YA voice--genre writers trying YA (or being talked into it by editors, and why those books fail) --simple language vs. simplistic language--tone--what kids actually read vs. what adults think they should be reading (reasons adults want kids to read a thing, not always for reasons you think)--

What exactly constitutes emotional payoff--how that works for adults, for kids, hardest of all payoff for both--adults as well as kids got emotional payoff from Potter--emotional memory makes old favorites work whereas the book encountered as an adult might not work (L.J. Smith in this context: those who first read them as teens love them still, others who encountered them as adults find them less engaging)

Bad editors, but you can't talk about them on line so they can stay bad with no repercussions

New York in 1959, when Bob Dylan arrived in town and musicians thought he was just carrying the guitar around as a chick-magnet until he took out his harmonica

Oxford versus Cambridge--Oxford in literature

German food (regional food) -- weirdest foods ever had

Stooges vs. Marx Brothers

Authors who try to gain readers by building a cult around themselves (when it works and when it doesn't--Neil Gaiman currently made a cult figure ("wins awards because he's Neil Gaiman, but in ten years, will people read the books in the same way?)

Dogs and how they communicate

New authors and books one loved--books outside the usual white person context--big love for Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix--Malinda Lo's new book--

Old favorites we wish were still in print--old faves that are really dated now
sartorias: (Default)
Saturday morning at WFC--I'm down in the lobby with tea and borrowed laptop so my roommates can sleep.

A lot more stuff, some very intense--the sort of thing writers desperately need: frank talk with other writers as reality check, especially about the business, (especially right now), but which are not sharable. (And I only mention this as a signal to other writers who are thinking about attending these things. This part of the proceeding is a real plus.)

It is so very good to meet LJ people and see the actual face behind the phosphors.

[livejournal.com profile] thistleingrey (who I keep missing, and hope to meet today) has an excellent summation of some of the panels.

Several conversations circling around the tension between what is popular and what longtime readers consider good. The frustration of being a longtime reader and finding oneself harder to please--for various reasons. . . not superiority (though one finds that) but because we humans like patterns, but at some point familiar drops over into predictable. When and where predictable/comfort becomes predictable/boring?

[I can answer that for me, though for no one else: if you make me laugh, then I am along for the ride, no matter how familiar. If it is serious (especially serious with preachy overtones) I am gone.]

Shock prose does not equate insight. (that includes poetic prose that leans heavily on the oxymoronic.)

Criticism--has everyone gotten online killed criticism? Yes--no--being polite--netiquette--don't slam those in your circle--fatiguing sense after mutual shout-out praise of friendship circle's books. "I am beginning to think of those "My awesome buddy's awesome book squeeee!" as commercials--loud and content free."

Content free. That stayed with me--I think there is something important here. Supposed reviews that are all friend squee, or whatever squee, being essentially content free. Hmmm.

Anyway I caught this off my fast LJ triage last night before I crashed--on the supposed death of criticism, by Bookslut, which so parallels my thoughts that I was all wow.

My thought has been that online-ness means that everyone is an authority, and we no longer regard critics as the gateways to what we were taught in school is "good literature"--especially with the classics being examined yet again, and the definition of good literature changing.

Anyway time to go, but here's the link--scroll down to Oct 30.
sartorias: (Default)
Saturday morning at WFC--I'm down in the lobby with tea and borrowed laptop so my roommates can sleep.

A lot more stuff, some very intense--the sort of thing writers desperately need: frank talk with other writers as reality check, especially about the business, (especially right now), but which are not sharable. (And I only mention this as a signal to other writers who are thinking about attending these things. This part of the proceeding is a real plus.)

It is so very good to meet LJ people and see the actual face behind the phosphors.

[livejournal.com profile] thistleingrey (who I keep missing, and hope to meet today) has an excellent summation of some of the panels.

Several conversations circling around the tension between what is popular and what longtime readers consider good. The frustration of being a longtime reader and finding oneself harder to please--for various reasons. . . not superiority (though one finds that) but because we humans like patterns, but at some point familiar drops over into predictable. When and where predictable/comfort becomes predictable/boring?

[I can answer that for me, though for no one else: if you make me laugh, then I am along for the ride, no matter how familiar. If it is serious (especially serious with preachy overtones) I am gone.]

Shock prose does not equate insight. (that includes poetic prose that leans heavily on the oxymoronic.)

Criticism--has everyone gotten online killed criticism? Yes--no--being polite--netiquette--don't slam those in your circle--fatiguing sense after mutual shout-out praise of friendship circle's books. "I am beginning to think of those "My awesome buddy's awesome book squeeee!" as commercials--loud and content free."

Content free. That stayed with me--I think there is something important here. Supposed reviews that are all friend squee, or whatever squee, being essentially content free. Hmmm.

Anyway I caught this off my fast LJ triage last night before I crashed--on the supposed death of criticism, by Bookslut, which so parallels my thoughts that I was all wow.

My thought has been that online-ness means that everyone is an authority, and we no longer regard critics as the gateways to what we were taught in school is "good literature"--especially with the classics being examined yet again, and the definition of good literature changing.

Anyway time to go, but here's the link--scroll down to Oct 30.

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