Writing and Politics

I flared up yesterday at a facebook friend’s post. I hate those sudden bursts of anger, since my goal in life (aside from being a good writer and a good friend) is to be even-tempered. It was not politics, it was literary theory — the idea that there is a dichotomy between fiction about people and ’cause’ fiction, fiction with a political agenda, and that cause fiction is inferior. I am pretty sure I misunderstood what my friend was saying.

My response was not so much about the friend’s post, as it was about my own issues. I dislike literary fiction that is about personal and familial problems. I suspect this strain in US fiction derives from the McCarthy witch-hunting era, which (I think) stripped politics out of American art and literature. We are still dealing with the effects. Genre fiction mostly escaped the witch-hunting, because it wasn’t taken seriously. My own work has been criticized for being too political, so I have a personal interest here. Yes, my work is political. I don’t think it makes it less good. In fact, I think it makes it more interesting.

But what is important here (to me) is my anger flare up had very little to do with my friend’s post and a lot to do with my own issues. What interesting (I guess) is the flare up is about writing, not politics by itself.

Writing is my way to be political.

 

May

The day is glorious: a bright blue sky with little puffy clouds like grazing sheep. The fruit trees are blooming. The lilacs are blooming. The tulips are blooming. Plants I can’t identify are blooming. It used to be, before global warming really hit, that spring here was short, with one perfect week in May when everything bloomed. This is that week.

Age

One thing I hate about aging is the deterioration in my typing. The wrong words keep appearing. When I talk I sometimes say the wrong word and often can’t remember the right word. I was at a meeting of people I have known for years recently. They are more or less my age. The entire conversation was full of “what did you say?” — due to decline in hearing — and “I can’t remember the name.” I used to think that Shakespeare was too negative in his — or rather Jacques’ — seven ages of man:

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Now I am not so sure Jacques was wrong. Of course, he was a jerk and cynic. Here in St. Paul it’s a glum, gray day and I am recovering from oral surgery. I might be more cheerful on another day.

 

 

On Why I Write Short Fiction

I decided to add a few anthologies and magazines with fairly recent short stories to the grid on the home page.

Why are my short stories and short story collections fairly recent, and my novels are not?

A distinguished editor told me in 1994 or 95 that, given the publishing business then, my career as a novelist was dead. I had never liked dealing with the New York houses, and I did like dealing with magazine and anthology editors, who mostly seemed like nice people. (The New York book editors also seemed like nice people, but there were too many screw ups.) So I switched over to writing short stories, novelettes and novellas. I wrote in series: the hwarhath stories, the Lydia Duluth stories, the Big Mama stories. The hwarhath and Big Mama stories have come out in collections, and one Lydia Duluth story — Tomb of the Fathers — has been published as a stand alone. It got way too long and is almost a novel according to Nebula Award rules. I have called Tomb a novel in my bibliography.

Since the early 1990s, publishing has changed a lot. The New York houses have consolidated into — what? four mega firms? — that have lost interest in mid-list authors. As a result, small presses are much more important than they used to be. Self-publishing has become a more or less attractive alternative, now that ebooks can be sold on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (It used to be you’d end with boxes of self-printed books and no good way to market them. According to a friend of mine, 5,000 paperbacks fit under a standard size ping pong table. She knew, because that’s where she kept her self-published mystery.)

So was I right to switch to short fiction? Maybe not, given that there are really fine independent presses now, and self-publishing no longer requires a ping pong table.

On the plus side, I really like the novelette and novella lengths. They are long enough to have richness and complexity, but not so long that I get tired of writing.

 

Website 2

I am fiddling around, trying to learn how to post on this website. I have all my novels, collections and chapbooks listed and am thinking about posting at least a few short stories. But not today. The air conditioning is not yet on, and my home is overly warm. Plus I have a headache…

I am not sure what my favorite cover is. I like the nebula on Hwarhath Stories cover, designed by Kath Waltham. The cover for Big Mama Stories is by Ta-coumba Aiken, a local Twin Cities artist, and I like it a lot. The cover for Tomb of the Fathers is by the wonderful Jeanne Gomoll. I like it a lot as well.

I like the cover of Lady Poetesses from Hell, designed by Joan Marie Verba and using a photo I found from the USGS website for the Hawaiian volcano Kiluea. Hidden Folk‘s cover is by John D. Berry and very classy. Maybe I shouldn’t try to pick a favorite…