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Black Sheep

May 26, 2010

Since so many literary journals suggest that I familiarize myself with their content before submitting my own work, I tend to read a lot of work by other writers. It occasionally occurs to me that the writing of others  sounds very little like my own, a fact which alternately worries and pleases me. On the one hand, it’s nice to think I have a unique voice, but on the other hand, I have yet to publish a full-length short story, so maybe I’m doing something wrong. Maybe what I think of as “unique” is in fact amateurish, unpolished crap. I’m not really inclined to believe this is true, but sometimes, in my darkest moments of staring at the screen with tears of frustration streaming down my face, this fear does arise. And fear leads to hate (“I hate you, published writers of fiction!”), which leads to anger (“Greer smash computer! Greer SMASH!”), which leads to suffering (“Ow, goddamit, my hand!”).  A path to the dark side, this is… (also known as “non-fiction”). Yeah, Yoda, eat your heart out.

Anyway, one thing that really stands out to me when I read stories by other writers is that their characters appear to think Deep Thoughts, which are often brought on by Personal Emotional Trauma. My characters do not think Deep Thoughts or have Personal Emotional Traumas. They think strippers are hot and get horrible food poisoning instead. I know that fiction is an art form, and that art is supposed to elevate us beyond the estate of mere animals, blah blah BLAH, but I’m much more interested in the mundane than in the revelatory. I’d rather write about someone eating a sandwich than someone learning an important truth about herself. If one of my characters is locked in the bathroom, he’s not contemplating suicide, he’s masturbating.

I also feel like the goal of writing purely for the reader’s entertainment is not foremost for other writers. At least, I’m not that entertained by stories about a woman sulking at a kid’s pool party because she wants children of her own, or the sister of an anorexic talking about how horrible the anorexic sister’s life has become, or a woman who keeps the  fetus of her miscarried child in the freezer and obsesses about paleontological metaphors (all stories I have read recently).  To be honest, I often don’t finish reading the samples most literary mags make available because they bore me.

For me, the primary goal of my writing is entertainment. I write this blog in the hopes that it will make a few people chuckle. My fiction tends to be either satire or adventure story, or a combination of both. Unfortunately, I have a lot of trouble finding a home for my work, because apparently being funny or entertaining  is the same thing as being anti-intellectual. It’s also apparent that genre fiction and literary fiction are mutually exclusive terms in the publishing industry (someone should really tell that to Margaret Atwood). Space travel, laser guns, and a few odd jokes make me low-brow, but a story about a fetus in the freezer is a straight ticket to publication.

Yes, I could try to publish in the sci-fi market. Too bad there are so few reputable sci-fi magazines.  I pine for the Golden Age of sci-fi, for the days of Asimov, Bester, Clark,  and Dick. Then again, in those days I’d have to go by “G. Hed,” or maybe “G. Sanderson,” since my married name sounds a bit ethnic. I thought that science fiction was becoming more accessible and mainstream once again, with so many sci-fi movies coming out recently that are attended by just as many normal people as nerds. I think it sucks that literary magazines won’t open their pages (and their minds) to stories that are well-written and well-characterized, that just happen to take place on Ganymede or involve killer robots.

Clearly, the solution is to create my own totally awesome publication that accepts quality writing regardless of genre.  That sounds much easier than writing a story with no aliens or vampires or vampire aliens in it. If I can’t join ’em, I’ll beat ’em.

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