Sunday, December 06, 2009

If You're Bitter About Writing, Then Quit

Through Nick Mamatas, I read this blogpost with a long quote from Lucius Shepard's novella "Dog-Eared Paperback of My Life".

Choice Quote:
"[...] Of my many failings, the most galling was that I had wasted my gifts on genre fiction. I could have achieved much more, I believed, had I not gone for the easy money but, like Cradle Two, had been faithful to my muse.

Typically, I didn't count myself to blame but assigned blame to the editors and agents who had counseled me, to the marketers and bean counters who had delimited me, and to the people with whom I had surrounded myself—wives and girlfriends, my fans, my friends.

They had dragged me down to their level, seduced me into becoming a populist. [...]"

Read the rest.

The complete passage isn't merely a fictional portrait of a fictional embittered writer (a commercially successful, one, mind you!). The entire text paints a portrait of writers who resent other writers and also hate themselves.

I've had different jobs. I can't say I enjoyed all of them equally, or had fun all the time (but who does? Is life supposed to be permanent bliss?).

So like any other work, the craft of writing has its ups and downs... as does the business of meeting readers and other writers. But does anyone in the world have the privilege to pick and choose which parts of the world they feel like interacting with? Hardly.

Reading the entire quote, I get the feel that Shepard is lampooning everybody including himself - writers and readers alike. Which is fine. (Even as I also thought, "Oh, cry me a river will you...")

But if I should encounter that bitter, self-pitying attitude in real life, without the irony or humor, I'd disapprove of it. Why should writers feel especially entitled to complaining about how they've wasted their lives and talents on doing inferior work for an audience of fools?

I believe in craft. I believe in the joy of doing a good job. I believe in self-expression. I believe that fiction and storytelling are as essential to human existence as breathing. I don't believe in bitterness; it's merely the bad side of human nature and shouldn't be elevated to "truth" or "honesty" because it isn't.

I once read an interview with Alistair MacLean, the bestselling thriller writer, where he claimed that he never wrote a good book, only junk.

Was he being sincerely self-hating, fishing for compliments, displaying false modesty, or just neurotic? I don't know and I don't care. But he did not make a good impression.

No matter what work you do, unless you're a slave and can't quit: If you're bitter about your job, then quit. If you're neurotic about writing, guess what: The world does not owe you therapy. So write, or don't write. It's up to you. There is no shame in doing other things for a living.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kameron Hurley On Writers Getting "Branded"

Read Kameron Hurley's essay "Branded: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly."

Choice Quote:
"I think that as much as we like to pretend that what gets us ahead is our originality and creativity, writers – whether consciously or not – end up either being branded or branding themselves over the course of their careers."

Friday, November 20, 2009


Tearing your hair out at rejection slips that make little or no sense?
Save your hair!
Instead, play... BOOK REJECTION BINGO!!

Game board created by the eminent Kameron Hurley
(whose short story "The Women of Our Occupation" you must read.)

Kameron noted, on her blog:
"It was terribly fun to write up... lots of these are based on rejections of now-famous books."

Ouch, publishers. Ouch.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Stephen King's CARRIE Was Rejected HOW Many Times??

Gee, I didn't know that Stephen King's breakthrough novel was rejected 30 times.

Surely it must be part of a massive conspiracy to make big publishing houses seem like a bunch of clowns...?
(The same conspiracy that made so many unsuspecting big publishers make the apparently conscious decision to reject an apparently unsellable manuscript called HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE.)

Read the list of 14 bestsellers which were rejected many, many times. And don't give up.

(Thanks to Ashok Banker for the link suggestion.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Must-Read Ashok Banker Interview

On the World SF News Blog, this must-read interview with the bestselling Indian author Ashok Banker.

Choice quotes:
"People sometimes assume that writers write and readers read to escape from reality; in my case, it was always the other way around. My home life was so surreal, so dark-fantastic, that I read and wrote to stay real. I was afraid I might vanish like a fading grin upon a tree branch, so I quickly carved my initials with a pocketknife."

"To be honest, I’ve all but given up on getting published anywhere outside India and have stopped trying. The system itself is designed in such a way that it’s become all about pleasing agents and editors, not about writers talking to readers directly."

I'm in awe of this guy.

Also check out Ashok Banker's website/blog. And buy one of his books, will you?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

BBC Documentary About Philip K. Dick

Unmissable documentary about the life and fiction of Philip K. Dick; lots of SF authors appear in it (including the late Thomas M. Disch).

Friday, May 22, 2009

MAGIENS ARV ("Heirs To The Magic") Official Website Is OPEN!

On May 23, Norwegian state radio (NRK) starts broadcasting my fantasy series MAGIENS ARV ("Heirs to the Magic"). It is also available online:

The series' official website (in Norwegian) is now up and running, and you can download the first episode directly from the site.

MAGIENS ARV official website at NRK

Additional content will be added to the site later (i.e. further episodes in the series). Right now the site contains concept art, a map (all fantasy must have maps), character artwork and unlockable bonus material.

Oh, and there's a PC game too:
MAGIENS ARV - the game (with Norwegian text), for Windows PC

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Radio Series MAGIENS ARV (a.k.a. "Heirs To The Magic")

It's official: The radio series I wrote for Norwegian state radio (NRK) starts broadcasting and webcasting on May 23, 2009.

MAGIENS ARV premieres on NRK

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

John Scalzi: "10 Things to Remember About Authors"

Acclaimed SF writer John Scalzi explains "10 Things to Remember About Authors".

Choice Quote:
"And no, being a fan of an author’s books or series doesn’t count as being actively involved in that author’s life. You are actively involved with his or her books; that’s not even close to the same thing. "

To be honest, the possibility (however microscopically slight) that one day, my books might become as popular as his, frightens me just a little bit.

Because "fans" can sometimes act like they "own" the writer and/or the writer's works and has the right to make demands, according to the Unspoken First Law of the Obsessed Fan:

"I love this, therefore it is mine."

I shouldn't have to tell you that this is the first step toward a dysfunctional relationship.
Try telling your spouse/significant other (in a suitably creepy voice), "I love you, you're mine, I OOWWN YOOUU..." and see how far that gets you.

I'd rather have Readers than Fans. A Reader has no need to make demands. A Reader enjoys a book, has no need for a never-ending book series. A Reader recognizes that a fictional character isn't his/her Secret Identity.

On the flip side, Readers feel no obligation to buy your next book just because they "have to." Which is fine with me. I can relax and write what I want, not the sequel that the Fans Have Demanded.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Binyavanga Wainaina: "How To Write About Africa"

By way of Nick Mamatas, this hilarious satire of the most tired, shopworn literary cliches about Africa:

Binyavanga Wainaina: "How To Write About Africa"

Choice quote (and I hope this upsets all the right people):
Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her.

Africa is the only continent you can love — take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated.

Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.