February Snow

It’s a seasonal thing. I’m getting a later start on this blog because, well, it snowed last night. Not an unsual thing here in central NY state in February, but when it snows there’s snow, to state the obvious. Snow covering the path to the garage, snow covering the steps and sidewalk, snow covering the car and driveway. It has to be, as they say, “dealt with.” So I spent part of the morning shoveling and pushing snow from where it was to where it needed to be. Then a break for lunch and, now that the car and driveway were cleared, a trip to the store for supplies before the next round of snow hits. It’s sort of a recurring theme.

Another recurring theme this time of year is that it’s 1099 time, which means publishers that paid you for work last year send the proof. Not quite as good a reminder that you really are a writer as the original checks, but in the same vein. Considering that I only published two original stories last year* (not counting the originals that went up during Story Time) , it was a bit of surprise to discover that both “In Memory of Jianhong, Snake Devil” and “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts,” published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies last year made the Locus Recommended Reading List in the short story category. That was a pleasant surprise. Not a huge deal but still a lot better than a poke in the eye.

More snow is predicted for tomorrow night. Best to make sure one knows where one’s shovel is.

* Edited to Add: Actually, there were three. The third was “The Cat of Five Virtues” in Tales of the Sunrise Lands. Amazing how much trouble I have keeping track.

Reviews and Whatnot

Quick Sip Reviews takes a look at Beneath Ceaseless Skies #235.  Aside from the fact that they liked the stories, it’s nice to find a review site doing short fiction reviews. You don’t see that much anymore. Novel reviews are easy to find by contrast, and part of the reason for that is there is so much short fiction it’s hard to keep track of even for dedicated fans. Novels are a little more manageable, though in sheer numbers they’re not too far behind. Even so, it’s easier to specialize in one facet of our fractured genre at novel length and keep a handle on things that way: Space Opera, Mannered Fantasy, Alternate History, Historical Fantasy, Hard SF, whatever.

Short fiction is a little harder to categorize, at least at first glance, and you sometimes can’t be certain how to pigeonhole something until you’ve read it, and sometimes even then. It sounds rather crass and limiting, to “pigeonhole” like that. It sounds limiting—and it is–but how else to break down the avalanche of material into manageable chunks? Once upon a time it was easier, there wasn’t so much and everything in genre was either sf or fantasy, and a reader/reviewer usually preferred one or the other. Now I don’t know how anyone could hope to keep up.

There are still some places where short fiction is reviewed regularly. Locus does a decent job, and has top notch reviewers. Locus was and is the trade magazine for the sf/fantasy field and it’s in any practitioner’s best interest to keep on top of what’s going on, yet I have to confess I recently let my subscription lapse after (mumble) years. Why? I’m still trying to figure that one out myself. I think it has something to do with how I’m seeing myself in relation to the genre, and considering things that I once thought were true which now I know aren’t. Pretty vague, I know, but right now it’s the best I can do. I’d still recommend it to anyone with an interest in what’s going on in sf/fantasy. No one place covers the field better or more completely.


Standard Reminder: Since I’m now on a weekly schedule with the Story Time page, on Wednesday the 11th of October “The Trickster’s Wife” will be replaced by something else. Read it while it’s there.



Locus New and Notable – February 2015

Yamada_BTG_cover-V06b-PrimeYamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate made the Locus New and Notable list for February. My books have made the list a few times and it’s always cool. Especially when they say things like this:

“Parks is a versatile fantasy writer, but he excels at fiction inspired by Japanese culture and mythology, and this is no exception.”

Granted, in reviewer-speak “versatile” is often a euphemism for, “Would you find one kind of thing to write and stick to it, please?” Regardless, I consider it a compliment of the highest order.


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.


Reviewing the Reviewers

Now and then like clockwork there will be grousing about the quality of reviewing in the field, especially in short fiction. Shouldn’t be a surprise that the talent pool in reviewing is somewhat uneven. Excluding reader reviews (see Amazon.com) many online reviewers are also writers of various levels, and that talent pool is about as uneven as things get. Still, a little perspective may be in order. Continue reading