Friday, June 11, 2010

Taos Day 6

An interesting note about the manuscripts critiqued at Taos Toolbox this year: Only three of the fourteen are science fiction. Clearly fantasy rules among aspiring writers. Also, all but two of the manuscripts are novel excerpts rather than shorter fiction, a trend I've also noticed in other groups I've taught. Is the next generation of writers less interested in short stories?

A version of what is currently published also came up in the afternoon, when Walter took us through Samuel Delany's NOVA, pointing out how Delany had used foreshadowing, layering of symbols, and doubling of characters. The question arose: If this were a first novel by an unknown author, could it even get published in today's SF market? NOVA's dense prose, oblique approach to plot, and unsympathetic, psychopathic main characters might make it a tough sell to publishing houses increasingly under pressure to bring out books that will sell a lot of copies. No consensus was reached about NOVA. Personally, I don't think it would find a publisher today.

Memorable quotes from the critique session:

"There is no story that can't be improved by the addition of the right monster."

"I liked the Prologue once you got to the place where people's eye sockets are bleeding."

"The Harry Potter movie just came out tomorrow."

AND, from Walter Jon Williams, this deathless lyric poetry:

"Here we are at Toolbox,
All our happy crew.
Here we are at Toolbox --
Where the hell are you?"


teflaime said...

Clearly fantasy rules among aspiring writers. Also, all but two of the manuscripts are novel excerpts rather than shorter fiction

I would wonder if both the rise in fantasy and the interest in longer fiction are the results of the current self-fulfilling prophecy that both science fiction and short fiction are falling out of favor with the reading public?

I know that there has been fierce debate on the science fiction question in the blogs of speculative fiction authors with an agreement that sales numbers are smaller (though, I personally attribute this to the recent strange belief amongst publisher that good science fiction novels should be longer rather than more normative in length. What happened to the 60K word science fiction novel of my youth?)

And, while I probably don't frequent the blogs that talk about it much, I see oblique references here and there to people complaining about the lack of short fiction outlets (and other complainging about how the people who complain about said lack don't seem to be supporting those same outlets that exist).

Unknown said...

I agree that NOVA likely wouldn't get published today. Most of Delany's work wouldn't if he were a nobody trying to publish stuff like Tales From Neveryon and so on. To be fair, I think that's true of pretty much every book pre-1980, with some exceptions.

Steven Francis Murphy said...

More fantasy? Bleech.

That explains why there is less and less in the community that is worth reading.

S. F. Murphy
On the Outer Marches

Oz said...

I would have said four, including Christian's in that group. Lawrence, Lou, and myself are clearly in some sort of science fiction camp, you're right.


Anonymous said...

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Nancy Kress said...

Oz-- You're right! I left one out. There are four SF mss.