inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #76 of 126: from EILEEN (tnf) Sat 11 Jan 03 23:59
    

From EILEEN:


Ellen, I have to agree about the need for story, but I'm not sure you can
produce narrative by fiat. Sometimes it needs to be extracted forceably from
the writer, like a tapeworm.

When I was simply a short-story writer, and not in this weird half-world,
both editor and writer, I found narrative the most frustrating and puzzling
of the things I was commanded to do. Go where? Do what? Tell what fucking
tale?

Now, when reading submissions, I find myself hungering for story in some
cases, and begging for relief in others.

I think most writers -- most human beings, actually -- have an innate sense
of story, but they repress it. They squish it, or they draw it out
unnaturally. A writer of narrative fiction (as opposed to a radically
experimental writer) should be trying for some balance of narrative with
other elements (such as delineation of character, or resonant description).

It's hard to do that and commit science fiction at the same time.

Good luck to us all, writers and editors. And hybrids.

What do you think?


Eileen
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #77 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sun 12 Jan 03 08:17
    
Hi Eileen,
I don't think I've ever particularly been fond of stories that are
plot-driven to the exclusion of all else --I'm always looking for the
perfect combination of style/plot/character/theme--whatever works for
the story the author is telling. But isn't that what every editor
wants? 

Of course there are writers who are better at one aspect of writing
than another but that doesn't mean I, as a reader and editor, can't
hunger for the perfect combination!
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #78 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sun 12 Jan 03 09:26
    
I think I remember someone bringing up obliquely the issue of
"experimental fiction." What I mean by the term is an untraditional
means of storytelling and untraditional revelation of character or
plot. 
I personally don't enjoy reading experimental fiction unless I don't
_notice_ that it is so while I'm reading. If the experimentation is
intrusive it takes me out of the reading experience. Experimental
fictions I have loved are _The Bone People_ by Keri Hulme, Terry
Bisson's "Macs," the use of first person subjunctive (I think that's
what it's called) in Michael Bishop's "Life Regarded as a Puzzle of
Many Colored Cats." 
Of course, many of yesterday's experiments become today's commonplace.
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #79 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sun 12 Jan 03 09:49
    
While making my breakfast I just thought of a few writers whose work
is often experimental in structure and/or style and usually works for
me: Kelly Link and Kathe Koja and Jack, certainly some of your Dryco
series is experimental and works as such. 
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #80 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sun 12 Jan 03 14:36
    

I mean: Michael Bishop's "Life Regarded as a Jigsaw Puzzle of Highly
Lustrous Cats." 
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #81 of 126: Martha Soukup (soukup) Sun 12 Jan 03 14:50
    
E-mail from Bert Brown:

At the risk of making things worse....

My wife has=AD=AD patiently=AD=AD warned me time and again about my e-mail
manne
r.
I'm sitting here in a room alone with a glowing fiend (who's no friend) on
my desk and I shoot off what seems to me at the time a couple of decent
sentences, but there's no one facing me to say "what the macarena are you
talking about Bert?" before it's off into the world.  Welcome to the 21st
century.

Hmmm.  What the macarena *was* I talking about?  Okay, some of it was
facetious, like the Ticktockman stuff.  Some of it was baiting you because
you seemed to be eluding Womack's questions about what you publish.  The
problem is, you two are friends and I'm eavesdropping on inside info with
which I cannot fully engage, assuming a false camaraderie.

Let me try again, and thank you for the forbearance.

What future does the sci-fi/fantasy/horror short story have?  Not every
story published is awesomely wonderful, not by a long-shot.  Some of it
makes me want to ask the writer what the macarena they were thinking.  But.
I think of this time as the golden age of the sci-fi/fantasy short story.
Yet people voice repeated complaints about the quality of short fiction
today.  I thought perhaps you had been as well.  Magazine circulations are
down, short story collections are rare and don't sell very well, (insert
dire augurs of the death of the genres here).  Am I missing something?

As an editor, you see a lot more crap than I ever will and you have a bette=
r
understanding of the tastes of the reading public than a schmuck like me.
Do you see a lack in the stories being published (or just the stacks of
submissions in the slush pile), and if so, what is the lack and how can
writers address it?  You mentioned Story.  What, specifically, about Story
are you not seeing that you want to see?  Or is this a situation of "if you
have to ask, you'll never know"?

Concerning collections: I guess I was thinking of writers like Robert Reed
and Ian MacLeod, who have had published only one collection of stories (to
my knowledge).  Both are fairly prolific and their collections gathered onl=
y
a fraction of their work, most of which is excellent.  As for Jack Dann and
a long list of other writers, their older collections are hard-to-find and
don't generate royalties.  Dick and Sturgeon are dead and never enjoyed the
benefits of their retrospectives.

Here are some more things you already know: your e-zine pays very well; mos=
t
markets can't afford to; people don't actually buy stories, rather they buy
mags or anthologies.  I don't want to sound like a capitalist, but writers
of short stories don't make much money; certainly not enough to live on.
(Not that novelists are sitting on mountains of cash, though some of them d=
o
pretty well.)  This tends to skew the short story writer population toward
the artsy-fartsy, craftsperson end of the spectrum.  Yet there are slots to
fill, like clockwork, week after month after quarter.  Craft takes time.
The allied fantasy genres are old and have a lot of backstory for writers
and editors to honor and figure out how to innovate upon.  Editors get
jaded. Sophistication leaks in from the top.

Are readers being unreasonable in their expectations on genre writers?  Are
the difficulties the genre is having balancing art and commerce resolvable?
Do you think new technologies like on-demand publishing will help short
story writers make a better living by keeping their work available in
royalty-bearing form?  Or do you think people will never buy collections no
matter what?  Is the difficulty in selling story collections tied to your
view of what's missing in sci-fi/fantasy?  Is there a way to induce writers
of Story to toil their productive lives producing short fiction which will
leave them in penury?  Or should the love of Story be enough for would-be
toilers?  Or should we hire pick-up artists to delete all the history of th=
e
genre so writers can start from scratch?  I'm one step away from a meeting
with a pipe; I can feel it.  I suppose it would be an honor, but only until
the blow landed.  Then it would just hurt, I think.

Finally, I realize now my phrase "thud and blunder" is one of each.  I
didn't mean it to sound so dismissive.  I hope I can stop the bleeding with
a little crow-eating first-aid.  I mentioned writers like Steele and Garcia
y Robertson because I find their work to be excellent examples of...
action-adventure sci-fi/fantasy, which I sometimes enjoy.  Baker's The
Caravan from Troon, Shepard's Over Yonder, Reed's Hero and Swanwick's The
Dog Said Bow-wow are sheer   pulse-pounding excitement.  Usually though, I
want to read something less visceral, such as MacLeod's New Light on the
Drake Equation, Emshwiller's Water Master, or Shepard's A Little Night
Music.

I hope your snobometer is quieting down.  And your raving-lunaticometer.

Bert Brown
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #82 of 126: Maure Luke (maureluke) Sun 12 Jan 03 19:05
    
Hi! This has absolutely nothing to do with the literary discussion,
and is only peripherally related to the cat discussion, but:

Ellen, at World Horror Con this past April, I met you and Kelly Link
when you two called me over about my shoes (incidently, this was at the
Evanston Library mass author signing, and had I been aware that you
were going to be there, I'd have brought a bagful of books). I gave you
a link to buy them online, and it was wrong. You can find the kitty
shoes here, if you scroll down a bit:
http://www.instepdrmartens.com/tredairsandals.htm
and they're apparently on sale, right now.

Short fiction is my favorite medium, and I am always delighted by your
anthologies. Thank you for them.
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #83 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sun 12 Jan 03 19:15
    
Bert, you make some good points. 

Maure, I remember you and I remember your great shoes.
Thanks for the correction of the url. I'll be checking it out.
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #84 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Sun 12 Jan 03 19:17
    
Maure,
I too love the short story and hope I can continue working with them
forever. Every time I think I'm getting jaded another wonderful story
comes my way.
Ellen
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #85 of 126: Doris Datlow (jonl) Mon 13 Jan 03 07:11
    
Email from Doris Datlow:

I'd love to jump in with y reactions but don't know how.  I never knew that
you had "cupping" done to you.  You remember that I still have my
grandmother's set of cups and once asked you what I could do with them and
you thought I could donate them to some German named medical museum.

As to some of my favorite N.Y.  places... I absolutely adore the Met.
Museum of Art and would love to move into the furniture exhibit.  I would
promise the curator to only reside there at night when the museum is
closed.

I sorely miss the old Alexander's Department store where one could dress
like a celebrity for lower class prices.

And how about the old Roxy, Capitol, and Radio City Music Hall where you
could see the most wonderful stage shows with a first run movie for very
reasonable prices.

And the best place of all, The Horn and Hardart Cafeterias where for a
handful of nickels you could dine on the best quallity food.

Ellen do you remember that Chinese Restaurant where grandma had taken you
when you were about 8?  I remember that she told me how you knew just what
you wanted and ordered for the both of you.  "The House of Chan"  I
believe.  That is also long gone.

Your favorite places and mine would be very different I'm sure.

When I worked for Grandma and Grandpa, Grandpa would go out to lunch and
ask Grandma and me what he should bring us back for our lunch and we often
requested a corned beef sandwhich from Shmulka Bernstein on Essex Street.  
Or Grandpa would take me to Ratner's on Delancey Street where I would order
something with their sauteed mushrooms. You must have eaten there at some
time.  They were still in business until fairly recently.

How do you find time to keep up this daily interview?  Wow!!
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #86 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Mon 13 Jan 03 08:18
    
Hi mom,
I do remember grandma taking me to the Roxy once in awhile. Those were
the days when there were still newsreels before the double feature. I
don't remember going to the House of Chan with her but when we still
lived in the Bronx I remember our regular Sunday night Chinese
Restaurant dinners. 

And the Horn and Hardart was always a treat. 

I don't remember ever eating at Ratner's.
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #87 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Mon 13 Jan 03 09:42
    
I'll try this again, as my original post appears to have vanished
after I hit "post."

Hi Mrs. Datlow, we met once before when you & Mr. Datlow drove us to
the Borders in New Jersey, and we went to the deli afterwards. Hope
you're well.

Bert, I see no reason at all why I should ever want to hit you about
the head with a pipe; quite the contrary, many thanks for asking Ellen
such good questions in my absence.

Martha, thank you for such a high estimation of my talents though such
pipery ("pipe down") is best kept theoretical, I believe.

Hi Eileen (see you soon), yes getting writing out of me is often
harder than removing tapeworms, save on those all-too rare occasions
(some might call them "psychotic breaks") when it all just flows out of
my head. Presently even Howard W. is outproducing me, a sobering
thought.

And hi Ellen. First of all read the actual review of Bill's book this
morning and it's a complete rave. (William Gibson's newest is on the
front page of next Sunday's NYTimes Book Review.) This is the sort of
thing that makes publicists very, very happy. (NOTE: I am a publicist
not for WG's publisher, Penguin Putnam, but for HarperCollins US.) 

Ellen, in line with this, what have been your experiences with
promotion and publicity? Getting books into the stores is the first
hurdle; but getting attention for them, once they're in the stores, is
the next, and highest. Getting publicity for anthologies and story
collections is also especially challenging. And, I mean your
experiences not only with your own work but with those authors you
edit.(I'm thinking especially of the great press Jonathan Carroll got
for his last). 
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #88 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Mon 13 Jan 03 10:37
    
Hi Jack,
I'll be getting my own NY Times Book Review section in the mail today
too --looking forward to the review!

It's very difficult getting publicity for _anything_ the publisher
doesn't earmark a lot of marketing money for. But one can do a few
things on one's own. I sent out postcards of the cover of a couple of
my early anthologies-- That was when I had more time and energy :-) I
do try to go into bookstores when I have a new book out and ask
management if I can sign store copies.  I've done lots of signings and
most of them are just depressing. Doing a reading seems to help attract
people because they're getting something for nothing. 

On of my anthologies, ALIEN SEX, actually had it own display at the
old B Dalton on 5th avenue and a porn movie was named after it--I was
very proud (LOL).

Being in the field for a long time I know a lot of reviewers in genre
and on the cusp of the genre and will try pushing writers whose work I
like--eg Jonathan Carroll. I'm shyer with my own anthologies although I
do make sure everyone who needs them gets review copies.

I'm running out the door. More later....
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #89 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Mon 13 Jan 03 15:35
    
By the way, back to "cupping"-- and the glass cups you have mom. I
called the Mutter Museum to see if they could use them in their
collection but they have plenty. I'm afraid they're more common than
one would think--maybe you could sell them on ebay though...

Back to publicity. Most of my books get reviewed in the field and out
of the field but I'm finding that publicity for children's anthologies
is even harder to get than for adult anthos. Terri and my children's
and YA anthos did not get reviewed in Publishers Weekly and we were
told that that's not unusual (THE GREEN MAN, our YA title was at least
mentioned). 
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #90 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Mon 13 Jan 03 18:39
    
Bert, regarding the two authors below whose work you suggest be
collected I agree completely that both of these excellent, prolific
writers need second collections of their short fiction. Macleod's first
collection was published in 1997  and he has a second collection
coming out from Golden Gryphon --title, etc tba --it's on his website.
Reed's first collection was published in 1999. 

It's rare that writers have collections coming out more than every
several years. They just don't sell well enough for a publisher to put
them out more often. Unfortunately, that's the reality of the
market--small press or large.

>>>Concerning collections: I guess I was thinking of writers like
Robert Reed and Ian MacLeod, who have had published only one collection
of stories (to my knowledge).  Both are fairly prolific and their
collections gathered only a fraction of their work, most of which is
excellent. 
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #91 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Tue 14 Jan 03 08:21
    
We rarely do signings only except with some of the bigger authors,
nowadays. As Ellen notes, signing-only events for the average author
are depressing; I'll go further and say throat-slittingly awful. Like
more than one author, I've had, in the past, signing-only things
(Dalton was big on these, you see where Dalton is today)at which
absolutely no one shows up -- why should they? As Ellen further notes,
at readings at least there's some entertainment value sometimes
involved (note, I say sometimes -- I've also been to plenty of readings
where I'd have loved to bounce something, a pipe perhaps, off the
author's head to get him/her to show at least some expression, emotion,
*anything* in the voice). 

Ellen, do you remember the time you, me, Terry Bisson, Cadigan and
Paul Park went to that mall in New Jersey and sat there staring back at
Phil DePardo for two hours? I think you & Pat might have escaped long
enough to go off and get in a little shopping.

Speaking from the business end, anything the author is able to do is
much appreciated. With many books, there's absolutely nothing set aside
in the budget with which to work, save for getting out galleys and
review copies.
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #92 of 126: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 14 Jan 03 09:20
    
Jack, maybe some authors need a backup band!
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #93 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Tue 14 Jan 03 10:25
    
Jack, I vividly remember that horrible signing. Phil spent much of the
time arguing with the bookstore people and we just hung out and
chatted, which is what happens far too often at signings.

Mall signings have been uniformly awful for me. There was one in
Florida and my parents brought me. I don't think anyone asked me to
sign a book. Depressing.  And there was one Gordon Van Gelder attended
in the B. Dalton on 8th street on a dark and stormy night --we went to
support the authors. I can't remember who they were but no one showed
up but us. 

Jon, a backup band would be good!

Jack, you've done wonderful readings-particularly the ones you've done
with Elliot Sharp's band as back-up. Those have been well-attended and
fun.
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #94 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Tue 14 Jan 03 10:28
    
Ellen, your post slipped in just ahead of mine -- here follows mine as
just this minute written.

Jon, that's an excellent point. Lucius, Cadigan & I have all read with
the modern guitarist Elliott Sharp accompanying us at various places
downtown during the past several years (there've been other authors but
I'm drawing a blank off the top -- Ellen, who else has Elliott played
with?)and those have all been great events as far as turnout goes. (I
got my largest crowd ever in Santa Monica back in 1995 when Henry
Rollins introduced me.) Neil Gaiman (who draws wonderfully well on his
own, thank you) did a gig at the Bottom Line with the band Magnetic
Fields at the start of his American Gods tour here in NY back in June
01, and that was also a great success. There are plenty of other
writers who've appeared with bands, jazz instrumentalists etc. and done
fine -- Kerouac used to do it pretty regularly until fame and alcohol
caught up with him.  

Musicians and writers -- two great tastes that taste great together,
no doubt.
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #95 of 126: Jack Womack (jack-womack) Tue 14 Jan 03 10:31
    
Ah, the authors on that dark and stormy night at that miserable
B.Dalton's: those would have been myself and Brad Denton. That was
early 1993? It was for Elvissey, which was spelled wrong on the sign in
the window -- I think my name may have been spelled wrong, as well. It
was snowing out, and cold, and Brad and I sat in the front, and I
think you and Gordo and Rob were in fact the only people in the store.
Carrie wisely stayed home, I recall, knowing how well these things tend
to go even when the weather's good. There's no exaggerating the
satisfactions of the literary life.
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #96 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Tue 14 Jan 03 10:36
    
Sorry Jack :-)

When Tony Daniel was producing Seeing Ear theater for SCIFI.COM he had
Elliott play with Pat Cadigan and taped it --I was at the taping and
it was wonderful. I don't know if Elliott participated in any other of
those audio recordings.

Siri Hustveldt read to Elliott's band to. (I think that's her first
name). 

Kelly Link recently did a gig with Magnetic Fields too--they invited
her--I don't believe they played to her reading--I assume Neil G also
read before or after them but not simultaneously.

The readings to Elliott's music always makes me think that's what the
beats were doing back in the 50s. 
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #97 of 126: gone (scraps) Tue 14 Jan 03 10:38
    

I remember a very fine reading with Jack and Terry Bisson reading Bisson's 
"They're Made Out of Meat".
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #98 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Tue 14 Jan 03 10:42
    
Ha, yours slipped in before mine this time :-)

I thought it might have been you at the ill-fated B. Dalton signing. 

As a publicist now (and author) do you have any good advice for
writers effectively publicizing their work (without being obnoxious
about it).
What seems to catch a book review column editor's eye (non-genre)
--are they special hooks to hang fiction on? (nonfiction is easier).
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #99 of 126: Ellen Datlow (ellen-datlow) Tue 14 Jan 03 10:44
    
Hi Scraps!

There have been a few fine readings of "They're Made out of Meat."
Imagine, if you will, (those who haven't heard it): two native
Kentuckians with two different accents reading the all dialogue
short-short. 
Didn't Jim Freund record it for Hour of the Wolf? Is WBAI long-running
radio show?
  
inkwell.vue.170 : Ellen Datlow, editor, Sci Fiction
permalink #100 of 126: With a finger-snapping ovation, (tinymonster) Tue 14 Jan 03 10:57
    
And YOURS, Ellen, slipped in before mine!

Yep, from what I understand from old, old Well posts, Neil opened for
the Fields.  (This was only months before I discovered him... oh,
well.)

(Funny you should mention Neil, just when those observations about
lonely, desolate signings was reminding me of a line from that intro he
did for <soukup>'s book... something where authors sign books "with
glee, or don't, with gloom."  Oh, well, I'm digressing now.)
  

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