August 29th, 2010

The Red Tree

No, I'll never be comfortable with "squids" as the plural of "squid."

Despite the pills, I somehow managed not to sleep enough last night, and this morning I feel like ass. On top of that, it's hot again, and there's plastering being done in the House, so there is noise, which is like the cherry on the hot-fudge sundae of this morning's fresh hell.

That said...

Yesterday, I wrote a very respectable 1,785 words on the new story, the one based on Vince's illustration, and also found a title for it, "Fairy Tale of the Maritime." I did not, however, find THE END. I hope that will happen today (if the noise relents).

There's a very insightful review of The Red Tree by Audrey Homan at Strange Horizons. I found one very minor error, conflating Dr. Charles L. Harvey and Sarah's chagrined agent, Dorry. Other than that, this is what I mean when I talk about genuine reviews vs. "reviews."


So, back to the subject of my science fiction, which I raised a few days ago. Specifically, why my science fiction doesn't seem to be as popular as my dark fantasy, even among my more dedicated readers. The subject came up when Sonya was visiting a while back, when I pointed out that only one of my Subterranean Press books has ever failed to sell out quickly, and that the one book is A is for Alien. True, the limited sold out fairly quickly, but the trade edition is still available from the publisher, more than a year and a half after publication, a situation unprecedented with my subpress editions. By comparison, The Ammonite Violin & Others was released less than two months ago and has already sold out. So, I began asking myself, what gives? And I really don't have an answer.

Assuming that my sf is as well written as my fantasy (which I do assume), the only tentative explanation I have been able to arrive at is that my sf is, admittedly, out of step with contemporary sf. And, both thematically and stylistically, it's something of a peculiar fusion. I don't write "mundane science fiction." Even though I don't really have a problem with that school's basic precepts, I find most of the stories produced by its adherents to be dull as dishwater. I don't write about the Singularity, both because I find the idea highly untenable and because I have no particular interest in the subject. Also, I'm not even remotely interested in the idea of sf as a "progressive" or predictive medium. My sf is somewhat retro. It's not "in step" with the current vogue (which will change in a few weeks).

What I do write is, I think, essentially a latter-day "New Wave" sf, heavily influenced by my love of cyberpunk and, to a lesser degree, the immediate precursors of New Wave sf (Bradbury and Fritz Leiber, for instance). The stories are usually about the characters, more than they are about the science and technology. They are dystopian. They are grim, because I cannot imagine a future that isn't grim, given the data at hand. The science in my sf isn't rock solid, but it's pretty hard, better than average, I think. There is a distinctly cosmicist flavor to my sf, due to the influence of Lovecraft and Ligotti (and a host of philosphers). And I find the human mind pretty much as alien as anything we're likely to ever find. In the end, if it has anything so direct and simple as a message, my sf is saying that man is not special, and the universe is uncaring, and technology will not save us. We are our own worst enemy. And the future will look a lot like the present, only with more clutter, more people, and a world grown more inhospitable to humanity because of humanity's unrelenting and shortsighted exploitation of it. My sf looks inward, even when it's looking outward. In short, it's a bummer.

And this might account for some of the lack of attention that A is for Alien received (very few reviews, relative to most of my books, for example), but I find it hard to believe it accounts for the fact that the collection still hasn't sold out at the publisher. So, really, I don't know what's going on here. But it troubles me, and frustrates me, because I intend to continue writing sf, and expect to do another sf collection someday, and I'd like to think it will be better recieved than A is for Alien. Publishers continue to encourage me to write sf. My sf story "Galápagos" was recently honored by the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. I have three sf stories commission for the next year. So it will keep coming. But it baffles me, this thing with A is for Alien. And I just thought I'd talk about it here. Hopefully, I have not been incoherent.


Not much else to say about yesterday. Spooky made a peach cobbler. We watched the new episode of Project Runway. I did some nice rp in Insilico (thanks, Blair). I got to bed at a decent hour, and still didn't get enough sleep.

And now I have a story to finish.