1.12.2009

To Hell With All The Hand Ringing

Let me preface this post by stating that I'm no arbiter of literary sensibility. There are six books in my to-be-read pile, and they include The Pisstown Chaos, Fathom, The New Weird, The Restless Dead, and The Empire of Ice Cream and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (third time for that title).

Now, I wholly expect all of these books to be quite good. Priest and Ford are excellent writers, and I'm excited about reading The New Weird after looking at its intriguing introduction. I've also been reading select stories from The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (2005). In looking at Ellen Datlow's notes on the year in horror (2004), it's clear that we've lost a lot of markets for dark fiction in the last four years. And in reading the introduction of New Weird, it's also pretty clear to me that there are persistent leanings within genre fiction to capitalize on whatever marketing notoriety might result from labelling a trend a "movement."


As I said, I don't profess to be any industry insider on what I write or what I call it. I don't subscribe to any horror newsletters. I'm not a member of the HWA. I don't know anything about what happens over on the various horror forums.

And I guess that makes it difficult to answer a question that comes up a lot with friends and family: what kind of writing are you working on?

When pressed, I usually tell them I write dark fiction. I often think of myself as a horror writer. And I often tell them that I write the kind of stuff I enjoy reading. That's Lansdale and King and MacDonald and Hiaasen, among dozens of other writers.

I keep hearing that, unless your name is Seinfeld or Fey or Frey or something like that, you'll never get published in this down economy and shifting industry. I keep hearing that writers need to pander to the market, and maybe adjust the content, tone, style, etc. of their projects to make a piece commercially viable. And all of that has merit.

But how do you go about doing that? How do you adjust your work so that it contains things, ingredients or elements or whatever you want to call them, that will make it more appealing to the gatekeepers?

How do you find a home for work in a pool of markets that seems to shrink by the month?

I don't know how you can. If you write the kinds of stories that you like to read, and you aren't interested in just posting them on a blog for free in a little corner of the internet, you'll just have to wait until the world of words comes back to your province.

I wish there was a better answer, and I'd love to hear any alternative theories out there, but whether you're writing bizarro fiction or post modern or gothic or new weird or stories suited only for left-handed-albino-midget-eskimoes, you'll just have to keep writing them and beating the bushes.

I know it's not the best answer for a complex subject, but I don't think the individual response should be that you begin work immediately on your vampire-romance set in a high school up in the Pacific Northwest.

Unless, of course, that's the type of thing you write...

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