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?"