Recommended Reading

WRITING 02It’s that time again—the Locus Recommended Reading List has been published at their web site. If you don’t know what this is, Locus has more or less been the trade magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy field for a lot of years. Every year they do a recommended reading list of the previous year’s fiction in several categories – novels, YA, collections, novellas, etc. You can see the entire list here. This time, my story from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, “Cherry Blossoms on the River or Souls” is included. Keep in mind that the LRRL acts as the unofficial “long list” for the 2013 Locus Awards, which will be decided by the votes of readers and subscribers. And yes, it’s always nice when your work is noticed in a positive way. Or, really, noticed in a negative way. The trick is to be noticed at all.

If you think I’m kidding, I invite you to take a look at the Locus reading list for 2013. Notice something? Yep. There’s a reason it’s referred to as a long list. Do you know how one gets a story or novel or collection on the Locus list? Two of the magazine’s contributors/editors/reviewers have to agree it belongs there. Sometimes, I am told, if a person argues passionately enough, it only takes one. Now, think of all the stories/novels whatever that did not make the list. For example, Yamada Monogatari did not make the list for collection. I’m disappointed but not surprised. It wasn’t reviewed by Locus and so didn’t come to their attention in any meaningful way. But there’s a lot of work out there in that same boat. And a significant percentage of it is of comparable or even better quality to what did make the list.

All this is not to complain but simply to point out a very basic reality—not every piece of fiction published in a given year is going to get any significant notice, regardless. There is simply too much of it. Great from a reader’s standpoint—there’s an embarrassment of riches out there. Not so good from the writer’s perspective. It’s hard not to feel like one snowflake in an avalanche. I mean, you’re there, but so what? Almost no one would miss you, and certainly not that small group of skiers you’re aiming at. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll graduate to the status of one drop in a bucket. If you melt really well.

Put away the knives and nooses, this isn’t about despair. It’s about why we do what we do. If you’re writing to please other people, stop that. Find something more useful to do with your life while you still can. If you’re writing for posterity, for your own sake knock it off. Seriously. Posterity doesn’t give a damn. I’ve pointed out this fact before and it bears repeating—most writers, good, bad, and brilliant, are completely forgotten within fifty years of their shuffling off their mortal coils. I’d even go so far to say that most of them don’t even make it that long. If you’re doing it to make a living and you’re accomplishing that, great. You’re one of a rare breed.  If you’re writing fiction for yourself, if writing makes you a better, saner human being than you would otherwise be, also great. I can think of few better reasons

Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.