Yesterday, I managed to find what I hope is a very good idea for an sf vignette for the next Sirenia Digest, but then discovered I was nowhere near the right head space to start writing it.So, instead, I proofed two more stories from The Ammonite Violin & Others. One of them just happened to be "The Ammonite Violin," and the other was "The Lovesong of Lady Ratteanrufer." These are, I think, two of the very best stories I have ever written, though, so far they really haven't been read by anyone who isn't a Sirenia Digest subscriber. There is an easy simplicity to the language, and the stories both proceed so naturally. And I have no idea how I did it, in either case. Also, yesterday the postman brought my contributor's copy of By Blood We Live, which reprints one of my pieces, "Ode to Edvard Munch," which also first appeared in Sirenia Digest. Oh, and hardback copies of Herbert's Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.
During Thursday night's reading in Boston, I was asked a question. My general attitude at such things, when it comes to Q&A, is everything's fair game, especially if it's something I've already talked about here or in my fiction, which is almost everything in my life. So, it's hard to hit me with a question that takes me by surprise, catches me off guard, whatever. But Thursday night, I got one. I was asked, since I have stated that The Red Tree is heavily autobiographical, and since Sarah Crowe (the novel's narrator) makes self-deprecating comments about her own writing, which include calling it "genre drivel," does this mean I hate the genre I'm writing in. And yes, I was taken by surprise, which, I can't help but feel is how I was meant to be made to feel by the question. Here I am, sitting in a bookstore that specializes in fantasy and science fiction (and gaming), and the Big Question is thrown down before me like some kind of gauntlet.
The truth, of course, is that I most emphatically do not hate the "genre." And Sarah Crowe isn't saying that she hates fantasy, either. And the book makes this quite clear. I don't entirely recall how I answered the question Thursday night. I was tired and hoarse and busy signing books. But I've thought about it for three days now, and here is my considered answer. Obviously, I do not hate fantasy. Or science fiction. Or dark fiction. Many, if not most, of my favorite novels and short stories fall within these categories. And that's easy to see from looking back over the blog and various interviews. Not the sort of thing I can fake, a posteriori, to try and save face. You come into my office, and you'll see that most of the hundreds and hundreds of books on the shelves are fantasy, sf, weird fiction, magical realism, etc. I idolize men and women like J. R. R. Tolkien, William Gibson, Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson, Harlan Ellison, Madeleine L'Engle, Richard Addams, Ray Bradbury, Mark Z. Danielewski, Peter S. Beagle...it's a very, very long list. So there can be no doubt that I do not "hate the genre I write in." I read very little else. Well, except non-fiction.
I think this question arose from a misreading of Sarah's sentiment. She is characterizing her impressions of her writing, not a genre. I could give numerous examples from within the novel where it's obvious that she likes sf and fantasy a great deal. It's the literature she goes to for comfort. Now, what I would say is that I hate the crap, and most of what lines bookstore shelves is crap, whether we're talking genre nor non-genre literature. I especially hate the formulaic crap, and dishonest writing. But that has nothing much at all to do with f and sf. I could just as well point a finger at romance, or mystery, or crime novels, or westerns, or whatever. I do not exclude any field of literature from that which I might love. I only exclude sloppy, lazy writers, or writers who clearly try to cater to the whims of their readers. But that's a very different thing than hating a "genre" (a term I do, in fact, hate).
I'm not sure whether or not this has clarified anything, or only muddled matters more.
Last night, well...not much to last night. I was exhausted, for no reason I can quite put my finger on. The stress of the past week, I suppose. We played some WoW, and watched three more episodes of Space: Above and Beyond. That was about it.
And now, I should go. If you've not yet picked up a copy of The Red Tree, I hope that you will do so today. Thanks.