24 August 2006 by Published in: writing 3 comments

Can you name some author whose novels you prefer to their short stories? I’ve been trying to do this for days. I’m having trouble coming up with a list. Some people I can’t vouch for, because I’ve never read their short (or long) work, but in nearly every case where I’ve read both, I prefer the short stories. Stephen King is my token exception, but maybe that’s just residual effects of that meh short story of his I read out of McSweeney’s. Weird, innit?

I finally finished the Ellison tome and I can safely say I’ve read all the Ellison required for one lifetime. There was some seriously amazing stuff in there, don’t get me wrong, but one thousand pages can hardly be claimed to be a distillation of the choicest morsels. Sadly, I was underwhelmed by “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman”. The included screenplay occasionally had me reaching for a knife to gouge out my eyes, but I’m sure that’s just my movie aversion kicking up. Likewise, reading about Hollywood bores me, so the whole “Nights & Days in Good Old Hollyweird” section tested my resolve to read the whole book. On the other hand, “Jeffty is Five” continues to be the most amazing story ever, Ellison’s reporting from the Selma march wooed me completely, and if once in my entire life I write a story as good as “A Boy and His Dog” then it’s pretty much die happy time. Oh, and “At the Mouse Circus” hit me in all the right spots, even though I know I didn’t scrape up anywhere near all the meaning that’s in there, and I can’t wait to read it again sometime.

The slushbomb story fizzled. I had two scenes that didn’t go together, and in fact may have belonged in different stories (though I know they were in the same world with the same protag which is really frustrating). I just wanted a nice, three-scene story on a traditional arc to test the waters at F&SF with. Oh well. To the vault with you until you grow a plot, you wannabe cyberpunk piece.

So in discussion of why the slushbomb is or isn’t a good idea (discussion in which I did not participate, mind you) on an email list I belong to, someone linked this blog posting by Jed Hartman. Besides being incisive (if a little too liberal with the disclaimers), it made my brain tingle in three ways :

  1. The suggestion of degendering by submitting with only your initials and how that might make editors auto-assume you are female made me realize that my initials (A.S.) would be really amusing to use in submissions. If I ever write something Tiptree nomination worthy, I’m so doing that.
  2. Jed says:

    “So instead, the idea, from my point of view anyway, is to have more editors who are naturally inclined (without conscious bias or intent) to buy stories by women. Regardless of your own gender, do you generally like the stories you read that are by women as much as or more than the ones that you read that are by men? (I’m not talking about conscious choice here; I’m saying, do you find yourself reading a story and liking it and then noticing it was by a woman, over and over again?) If so, have you ever considered editing a magazine? Or a Year’s Best? Or even publishing a virtual Year’s Best?an online list of what you would put into a Year’s Best if you were editing one?”

    Something chimes in my head. I can do that? A virtual Year’s Best? Huh. How come I never thought of that on my own? So there you go, something you may see from me at some point, because that’s how things start in my head, with that little ding and followed by the “huh” that means I’m mulling it over.

  3. Jed also ponders whether SH’s focus not just on character driven stories but on stories about relationships is the reason for SH’s slant toward women authors, when most of the rest of the industry appears to slant against. He seems to have a handle on a lot of things, and obviously he knows more about the industry than I do, but this seems off mark to me in at least one sense : I don’t recall ever reading a story (SFF or otherwise) that wasn’t about relationships. Maybe it’s projection on my part, and the other stuff falls by the wayside when I’m reading. Maybe it’s the slippery nature of a word like relationships. Still, all those award-winning Ellison stories? About relationships. Just last night I read “Alien Stones” by Gene Wolfe (that man’s a genius, can I get an amen?) and it’s about relationships more intensely and directly than ninety percent of the things I’ve read written by women. Obviously there’s a difference in what SH buys and what F&SF buys, and the difference is more than I generally like what’s in SH better, but I don’t think relationships is the key factor, by any means.


Fri 25th Aug 2006 at 11:57 am


Fri 25th Aug 2006 at 6:55 pm

Sorry, in an effort to abbreviate I was more obtuse than I intended : SH is Strange Horizons, F&SF is Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine.
SH published Elizabeth Bear’s story http://www.strangehorizons…. "Two Dreams on Trains" which I liked, Merrie Haskell’s neat fairytale reworking http://www.strangehorizons…. "Huntswoman", and the very cool http://www.strangehorizons…. "Cloud Dragon Skies" by N.K. Jemisin. Among other things.
Also edited the entry to add links to magazines when I referred to them.

Wed 06th Sep 2006 at 6:05 pm

A couple belated (and unrelated-to-each-other) comments:

1. I prefer Sterling’s novels to his short stories, among those I’ve read, but my sample space is small.

2. Glad to have sparked thoughts! If you do put together a virtual year’s best, drop me a note and I’ll probably link to it.

3. Yeah, the "relationships" thing is still something I’m pondering. When K. said it, it felt right, but I haven’t quite figured out a way of thinking about it that gives a clear categorization to any given story. Which leads me to think that "about relationships" is a little bit too broad/vague, but I think it may be a start on an interesting and useful description.

…It was also useful to me as a meta-idea: the idea that there might be somewhat gendered axes on which to measure stories other than the traditional "boys like stories about gadgets and girls like stories about people" axis. So even if "relationships" turns out not to be quite the right label/distinction/categorization, it opened my mind to the idea that there might be such labels that aren’t as stereotypical as the ones I’d been thinking of. …If that didn’t make any sense, then just ignore this paragraph.


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