Up a Slipstream Without a Paddle

Because I’m perpetually behind on my blog-reading, I only just found out that the proprietor of Lobster and Canary is going to attend Arisia at Cambridge, MA, the largest sf/f convention in New England.

The items on L&C’s particular schedule are of particular interest…

  • Non-Standard Fantasy
  • The Undefended Borders of SF
  • Interstitial Fiction: Dancing Between Genres
  • Inherent Darkness of Fairy Tales
  • The City as Character
  • Myth and Folklore in Fantasy

Of course, Daniel is scheduled to read as well, but I wanted to focus on the panels listed (I assume they’re panels).

(Oh, and yes, Calista — I now regret not coming and will plan to come out next year.) šŸ™‚

Anyway, picture the sort of fiction that comes to mind when you hear those topics–love it or hate it–and you’ll have a good idea of the sort of stuff I aim to write. Aim, and still fall quite short of the mark. Still, unless the “please feel free to send us more” is part of certain markets’ form rejections, I remain hopeful. In any case, it brought to mind a conversation I had yesterday which dislodged a memory of a blog post from writer Steven Barnes…

You should read ten times as much as you intend to write. Want to write 1000 words a day? Read 10,000 words. Furthermore, this reading should be BETTER than your current ability, and BETTER than your intended goal, if possible. Want to write comic books? Read pulp fiction. Write pulp fiction? Read popular fiction. Write popular fiction, read bestsellers. Write bestsellers? Read classics.

And you want to write classics? Well…pick your grandparents very carefully.

I’ve internalized this advice to the point where it actually took me a second to remember where it came from. But it begs the question, what do I read that’s “better” than my intended goal if I want to write what I say I want to write?

Now, I’ve done or am doing most of the “required reading” — Feeling Very Strange, Interfictions and Interfictions 2, Conjunctions 39 and 52, Tin House 33, The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, (edited to add:) Trampoline, and most of the individual short story collections published by Small Beer Press, and others. But there are times when I feel like I’m being shown how to do the breaststroke before being taught how to properly do a front crawl. Don’t know where the swimming analogy came from, but it’s as good as any.

And I guess the main reason I’m thinking about all of this–assuming it’s not a symptom of the Andromeda Strain I’ve been fighting off the past few days–is that I seem to be feeling a bit of existential angst about my writing. I don’t even care about, Will this pay off in the end, or not? I care more about, Am I doing this right or just spinning my wheels? Are my goals reasonable? What am I doing as a writer?

Also, Who the hell am I as a writer, anyway?

4 thoughts on “Up a Slipstream Without a Paddle”

  1. The City as a Character is probably everything I ever wanted to hear/work on/discuss ever. How I wish I was there!

    Otherwise, I totally understand and totally feel you. Working through my genre-crashingness has been tough and slow going. Almost annoying. Picking through what to read, what to ingest. I don't have time to read so much sometimes, what am I supposed to do?

    I hope we'll BOTH figure it out at some point, for sure.

  2. True that, M! It's difficult trying to write in a genre/style that refuses to let itself be defined.

    Y'know the old addage for artists still applies: Most of my favorite musicians say they "play the kind of music I want to hear." Same with writers, then–I try to write the stuff I like to read. The only real way to do it, IMO.

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