Absolutely unique, just like everyone else.

When everything ‘unique’ then nothing is. Something generic would be. When everyone is a rebel, they aren’t rebels, they’re the establishment. ‘Speaking truth to power” stops being impressive if you ARE the power, and what you’re saying is very acceptable to them.

I can seriously say none of these things are my problem. I happily acknowledge that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and I try – particularly in shorts, which I regard as a ‘learning discipline’ because they’re hard to write well, to write in the style of various authors whose work I deeply admire… and also the kind of writing I don’t do by nature. It’s a stretching exercise, and I hope it makes the novels I write better.

Larry Correia just fisked some silly prat bemoaning the fact that men, having been almost entirely excluded by the ‘rebels’, uh, the publishing establishment – which has far far higher proportions of every declared ‘Victim’ group — from gay to female — than the population from publishing it, don’t read literary fiction.

Logically, the people who choose to write in any genre are proportional subset of those who read it. Let’s imagine 90% of readers of gardening books would have some interest in gardening, at least 90% of writers of the same would love gardening, and the other 10% either fake it really well, or sell very badly. You could say the same about sailing or cooking or cycling… Nobody is shocked because the group who enjoy reading that, also produce the people who want to write about it. Mysteriously, this only becomes a problem when people they feel ought to (because reasons, like either they feel they influence or get money from, or both) don’t read it…

The problem here is you’re left with a ‘chicken or egg’ situation. They want a group that don’t enjoy reading what they’re writing to buy it and read it. The woman writing this comes up with all manner of reason (mostly drivel) why men are (or at least should be) more like women and enjoy literary fiction – almost entirely written by women. Defined by her largely as no action lots of chit-chat and emotion.

You know, it would probably be ‘speaking truth to power’ and real rebellion against their establishment, if some of these ‘literary’ writers (that I never head of most of) tried something really bizarre – even in short form. Tried to write a fast-moving action piece with no chit-chat, and no angst or emotion. Just learning how to do it, would help to make their prose better – even for their normal audience, because these skills all feed back and enrich your writing. And yes, this is not the pot calling the kettle a dark shade of ebony… I do this. Yes, action, outdoor adventure is my natural area. Male characters who like to build and do are what I am and what interests me.

So: I keep pushing myself to experiment, to try to get myself into the headspace of people and styles that are not easy for me. I’ve just been going through some of my old shorts with a view to putting them on Amazon. Most are exercises in imitating the style and story type of various authors. One was an attempt at Kornbluth (if anyone even knows who he is anymore). One was a challenge to myself to write in first person – I’d never done that, really – in the style of Eric Frank Russell – where the reader KNOWS it is all a joke, a mockery, and there is no attempt to suspend disbelief – but it is funny (this was what produced the idea of the Bolg stories). I did several pure Celtic – in the style of the ‘Son of Apple’ (which experience I then used in DRAGON’S RING and DOG AND DRAGON and the fair-folk in CHANGELING’S ISLAND. And I wrote what I still consider one of my best shorts – as a talk/emotional story between two women in a very exclusive hotel. No action, per se. Me. Rough-tufty fish-farmer writing dialogue between two upper-class women in the cool elegance of the Hotel Mirroir, with a pianist on a grand piano playing Ravel in the background.

Actually, the story stems from a woman I met. Her husband was part of (and I have no idea of his role, and I won’t say what country, except that it was one friendly to the US) some form of secret service. She did not ever know quite what he did, and sometimes he’d come home – no notice, pack and leave. She had no idea how long he’d be gone for, or where he was going. Her only clues were how big the bag and if the clothes were warm or cool. She never knew if he would come back. She lived, raised her children and stayed sane – in a manner of speaking, through that, and reached his retirement — and I don’t think he was allowed to walk across the street without her after that. He was a very pleasant but taciturn man. She… she was like fine crystal. You got the feeling the terrible pressure had shaped her – stretched too thin, and then etched her into careful patterns – but it left her on the permanent edge of shattering. That was the woman… with a man who came back. What of the partner of the one who did not? She cannot ask what has happened. She might be told something, or not… but she cannot ever tell anyone. Can you get inside her head? Can you imagine those days, turning to weeks, turning to years?

Step outside your comfort zone to write. It will make you a better writer when you step back inside it, and may even broaden your appeal.

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

35 comments

  1. Just another not your typical fairy tale princesses, without anything odd about her atypicality.

    1. These days, I actively search for fairy tale princesses who like to embroider and accept the notion of a dynastic marriage. It’s such a nice change…

      1. “Princess Sophie was not your typical fantasy princess. She had no interest in sword work. She didn’t want to learn magic. She was not about to run off and have adventures; adventures were likely to leave you cold and wet and hungry and with something hideous stuck in your hair. She knew that her father wanted her to marry Prince Alan from the next kingdom over and have lots of children by him in order to cement the alliance. This was fine with her. Alan was a nice man, even if she wasn’t wildly in love with him, and she liked children. She looked forward to being Alan’s Queen Consort.”

        Of course, with that beginning, you just know that she’s going to end up on a wet, cold, hair-mussing adventure that probably involves an enchanted sword…

        1. Yes, but her “happily ever after” probably involves getting home in one piece, marrying that Prince Alan and having lots of kids with him, so it simply wouldn’t be proper.

          Of course then you’ll probably have stories about the next generation, with one of the daughters being absolutely entranced by the stories of her mother’s adventure, and her mom desperately trying to get through to her that it’s not nearly as fun as she things.

        2. And Prince Allan will figure in somewhere either rescuing her or being rescued by her or both (all of which are traditional in fairy tales)

          1. Very traditional.

            Or perhaps his father does. If she gets stuck in “The Goose Girl.”

            Personally I prefer “The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward.” Or “Little Catskin.” Where the heroine and hero respectively fulfill those roles.

      2. Yes! Sane princesses who aren’t mentally ill by the standards of their culture.

      3. Well, my lady, I think you might enjoy “The Wolf and the Ward” and “The Princess Seeks Her Fortune” for hitting at least one of those.

  2. I never thought of Russell as being mocking, not in the fiction of his I’ve read.

    1. And then there’s the sequels to that, ‘Dust on the Sea’ and ‘Cold is the Sea’. Lots of scenes of women chatting about their feelings in that last one. Of course, they are Navy wives worried about the dangers their men are facing, so that probably wouldn’t count in that ‘persyns’ eyes.

  3. > in the style of Eric Frank Russell

    Russell’s style varied quite a bit. Some of it was “stodgy British”, some hilarious, some quite “modern”, though probably unusual when first printed.

    “Wasp”, “Men, Martians and Machines”, “Sinister Barrier”, and all the short stories… btw, the SF magazine collection at archive.org has scans and OCRs of a lot of Russell’s work from old British magazines that never got printed or collected in the US.

    1. Two of his best shorts (IMHO, anyway) are “Still Life” and “And Then There Were None”. But I *never* read anything of his I considered less than very good. And as noted, the range of his stories was as wide as any I’ve seen.

    2. I found a paperback copy of “W.A.S.P.” in my mother’s books when I was a teen. I absolutely loved it!

    3. If you can find it, there was a Ballantine edition of his novel, Plus X (as it was titled in Astounding), and later reprinted as part of an Ace double as The Space Willies — but the original, uncut version was only printed once, as Next of Kin. Any version is good — but the full version is the best.

  4. Wait, you’re a fish farmer? Are their any good references in historical aquaculture practices you could recommend?

    One of the things I’ve been working on, I realized they’re probably getting fish, and I’ve mostly been engaging the the great handwavium to discuss anything involved in it.

    1. Fish weirs are cool. It’s like a dam/fish trap thing. And the fish stay alive until you can collect them, so they’re nice and fresh. Totally not fair, totally used by lots of neolithic cultures.

      1. Ah, that is awesome. I knew there had to be some way to passively catch fish if you’ve got the whole river to yourself, and gill nets are an absolute mess on a river.

    2. Fish farming is old. The big problem was always spawning or getting small to rear to big. One of the simplest variations is medieval carp pond, used by most monastries not close the sea to provide friday fish. Carp – caught from the wild (nets, traps even hooks) were put in the pond. The level was dropped. Weeds flourished on the new exposed ground. The pond was then flooded to the brim with muddy water. This ‘faked’ the flood/inundation which triggered natural spawning – on the now submerged vegetation.
      Fish-catching is more likely still. Scoop-netting fry and putting them in ponds. Traps and dozens of forms of net have been used.
      Your big issue in most places is seasonality. There’s a glut of fish at times. Smoking, drying and salting were the norm. Smoke – hard smoke is not today’s ‘smoked salmon’. Look at Bacalao for dried and salted. Kapenta for an example of just dried – and a change to your ideas on what ‘fish’ means when you are poor and hungry and desperate for protein.
      Contact me and ask if you have questions.

      1. Ah, very cool. Do you know if they’d typically have mixed operations or if specialization was an early thing? Basically, farming staples and supplementing with fish farming?

        Or if each required sufficient skill investment and time overlap that you need enough people to have specialists?

        I’m also guessing seasonality varried by fish and region? I.e. you’d potentially have winter fish, summer fish, etc?

        Thank you,

        Harry Voyager

  5. I view the latest layoffs at Netflix with cautious optimism. 150 Woke-ists, pink-slipped for being… Woke. Or as I like to call it, producers of toxically unwatchable propaganda.

    If the biggest media organization in the world can see lightning and hear thunder, there may, eventually, be hope for the publishing industry. Maybe after the Big Four experience their share prices having a close brush with penny-stock territory.

  6. The wife of the guy who was in a classified business reminds me of a story that got declassified. There were people who worked for Kodak who developed film of classified satellite imagery. One of them collapsed at work from a heart attack and died. Since he was working in a classified environment, his family was not told anything about the circumstances of his death, literally until the article was published – decades after his passing. I need to save links so I could have linked this.

  7. Anyone who’s never encountered Kornbluth *or* his collaborations with Pohl, needs to do so. NOW. Both.

  8. Well, if Agatha Christie did it, it’s got to be a good idea, right? (Partners in Crime is a series of detective short stories, each a parody of a (at the time) well known author.)

  9. :waves hand:
    I’m a woman.
    And I like literary stuff.

    … I can’t stand literary fiction, though.

    They’re not defined by women writing stuff that is literary.

    They’re defined by “take a bunch of stupid, political potshots against the strawman enemy.”

    Before anything else, it’s *boring,* and then it’s also offensive, usually both at the same time.

    To try to explain… I like urban fantasy. That is, fantasy books written in the setting of modern times.
    ….I do not like explicit pr0n that ramps up on a level that you can chart from “k, silly assumption” on to “WHAT THE EVER LOVING WAHTZIT DIDIN’T YOU OPPOSE THIS LIKE A BOOK AGO?!?!?”
    C. Chancy? Yeah! Like a dozen in Laurel K Hamilton? Er…..

    1. I’ve had several lady authors I know bluntly tell me that roughly 90% of all modern urban fantasy is really just softcore porn with a few vampires and witches for spice. I haven’t read enough of the stuff to know how true they are.

      1. I’d probably phrase it as female aimed titillation– think like how every danged female is in latex or low cut shirts in generic movies– but otherwise….

        They’ve forgotten how to appeal to folks.

        So they go for pushing sex-related buttons, because that works. Mostly. Kinda.

        The Urban Fantasy stuff can hit the same buttons as :translates badly on the fly: Japanese boy’s action anime, and then add in emotional themes, and THEN it goes off the rails.

        The obnoxious part is that a lot of them HAVE good writing, and then they go all “Alright now STOP! Pervy time.”

        If they let it be just a section, it would even work– I’ve read romances where I can skip over the, er, specific stuff. The character development otherwise holds up.

        But the problem stuff either derails, or never has the actual world stuff.

      2. I may just have had bad luck, but a lot of Paranormal Romance tripped my “bad relationship run away!” buttons. When I wasn’t laughing in all the wrong places. Urban fantasy is more of a mixed bag, if you put Charles De Lint at one end of the spectrum and Larry Correia at the other. And even then, De Lint really wanders over the map in terms of action, philosophy, and characters. Ilona Andrews seems to do a good balance of action and kissing, and hers* are closer to thriller pacing.

        *”She” is a husband and wife team, which helps keep things balanced.

        1. The thrill of the forbidden in a world where you insist that there is no mundane reason to stay away.

  10. Concur on the trying something different. Different genres require (for lack of a better term) different approaches. And shorts ARE hard to write. There are tradeoffs you must make to get the whole thing in 8000 or so words.

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