Anticipation….Wait For It….Part 2

The quest for a cover for Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter continues. Publisher, Designer, and I were trading images back and forth in email yesterday. We may have found something that’s going to work. The Designer and I like it, so if the Publisher is agreeable we may have our starting point. I think it would be very difficult not to produce a great looking cover with this particular image, so I’m feeling optimistic. Once I have something “official” to show I’ll put it up here, but that probably won’t be for a little while yet.

In the meantime, and for your amusement, here’s the rough draft of the cover copy. It’ll probably be changed. Or not. Hard to tell with these things:

“In an ancient Japan where the incursions of gods, ghosts, and demons
into the living world is an everyday event, an impoverished nobleman
named Yamada no Goji makes his living as a demon hunter for hire. With
the occasional assistance of the reprobate exorcist Kenji, whatever
the difficulty–ogres, demons, fox-spirits—for a price Yamada will do
what needs to be done, even and especially if the solution to the
problem isn’t as simple as the edge of a sword. Yet no matter how many
monsters he has to face, or how powerful and terrible they may be, the
demons Yamada fears the most are his own.”

And, apropo of nothing, I thought I had a decent grasp of the early years of Rock & Roll. How the hell did I manage to miss Link Wray? Srysly.

“Don’t Share That! You Don’t Know Where It’s Been!”

What does this mean? Maybe it means there’s nothing new under the sun. Or there are only so many ideas that can exist at one time. Or someone else is always smarter than you are. Or Ray Bradbury’s passing has me unhinged and I need to talk about something at least marginally less depressing. Lots of potential significance to hand out, for those interested in significance. Sometimes I am. Interested, that is. Not significant. And I certainly wouldn’t rule out the “unhinged” part.

That bit of surreality brought to you by my prior reading, a collection of interviews with the likewise gone but always eccentric Edward Gorey. He said, among other things and I do paraphrase, “I have this crazy theory–I think that good art is not about what it seems to be about.” The interview was from, oh, twenty years ago or so. It just smacked me on the head because, now and then when I do panels at conventions, some wannabee/hopeful/beginner/glutton for punishment sometimes asks, “How do you know if a story you’re writing is going to be any good?” The obvious answer of course is “You don’t.” Even so, at least in my case, there eventually comes a point, usually before the end, when I do, in fact, know that I’ve hit the mark or missed it. And I’ve said it so many times it’s become my stock answer, mostly because it’s true: “For any given story, you have to ask yourself two questions: 1) What’s the story about? and 2) Ok, now what’s it really about? If I can answer both questions, then the story usually works.” This is not meant to be flip. On the contrary, it is deadly serious, since the first question refers to what happens in the story, but what happens in the story isn’t the story. On the surface, “Romeo and Juliet” is about a family feud, but that’s not what it’s really about. Anyway, Gorey said it first. Or at least before I did. Probably because it’s really obvious. Well, once you see it, that is. Like most “obvious” things.

Okay, there’s also something else we need to get out of the way while we’re both here–I have no Inner Child, okay? I am my Inner Child. I think Ray Bradbury is primarily responsible for that–he certainly led by example. So what I’ve got here is an Inner Fatuous Old Man, and sometimes he takes over. Maybe like now.

Just consider the source.

PSA or Blatant Commercialism — Why Can’t it Be Both?

3rd Story CollectionThis is an excerpt from thePublisher’s Weekly review of ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER OF HEAVEN–“Gods, mortals, and entities somewhere in between provide provocative reflections on human nature in this breezy collection of 14 fantasy stories… The title story is a delightful folktale meditation on the mysteries of love and friendship. Parks (Hereafter, and After) relates these tales in a lyrical style that is sympathetic without being sentimental, straddling the boundary between the realistic and the romantic.”

Never mind all that. The unique thing about this particular collection, my most recent, is that it was my first regular hardcover. The trends and realities of current publishing also dictate that it will be my last. Any other books/stories appearing in hardcover, like the Yamada novel from PS Publishing in the UK, will be strictly limited editions and, to be blunt, a bit pricey. There were only so many of this regular hc printed, and when they’re gone, that is IT. No more. It’s trade paper and ebook from here on out. That’s not a sad thing, it’s just the way things are, but if you’re one of those readers who just like a book in hardcover, now wouldn’t be a bad time to pick it up. End of PSA. Or commercial. Whatever this is.

Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Prime Books.

Following the Wrong Gods Home

I was reading over an old blog post on the subject of short stories versus novels, and the thing that struck me about whatever I was ranting about was how dated the thing was. Irrelevant, even. I am constantly reminded that so many “truths” that I had internalized to the core of my being about the writing and publishing of sf/f just aren’t true anymore. Some were never true at all.

It’s something I should be used to by now. Back when I was struggling to “break in” at even an entry level, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, and where I was trying to get to. The field had fairly clear parameters. I knew what magazines “counted” and what my targets were. For writers, I knew who the major players were. But a funny thing happened on my way to entering the field—by the time I got there, it wasn’t the same field. Remember the phrase, “There were giants in the earth in those days”? Well, there were. My first sale was to the venerable Amazing Stories, the absolute oldest of the magazines and arguably the first real sf magazine, period. By the time I sold my second story, to Asimov’s SF, Amazing was no more. My third story sale was to a magazine that didn’t even exist when I was targeting the first two, SF Age, now also gone. For the first fourteen years that I was selling stories my “go to” market was Realms of Fantasy, and now? Poof. Gone.

And it wasn’t just magazines. I had my heroes, writers who were almost like gods and goddesses to me. And by the time I felt somewhat part of the field, again, it wasn’t there anymore. Many of the old gods had died off or retired. New people, like me, were filling the niches. Some would go on to be major players, people I’d never even heard of in the preceding years. I was where I wanted to be, but it wasn’t where I thought it was. Continue reading

The Sky is Falling – Not

Or: “Rumors of the short story’s death are greatly exaggerated.” 

It’s obvious to even the casual observer that the print sf/f magazines are holding on by the skin of their metaphorical teeth, but as I’ve pointed out before, that’s been true for a long time. When I was starting out as a wannabee, the Ted White Fantastic Stories was my holy grail, and it probably never had a circulation greater than 20,000. It’s fair to say that the situation is not getting any better. Are the current print magazines tenable long term? Probably not, and I’m not happy about that, but people who should know better constantly confuse the decline of the traditional magazines with the death of short science fiction and fantasy. Which is equating a particular delivery system with the product, to use the cold capitalist designation. Or to put it another way, a lot like saying the death of the stagecoach meant people could no longer travel.

Magazine circulations are declining in general. This is not confined to the fiction magazines. This is across the board. There are a lot of reasons for this: time, competition, distribution…. I’m sure you can think of your own. If you love a magazine that still appears in physical paper form, subscribe. Heck, if there’s an online magazine that deserves support, do your bit there, too; it’s all good. Regardless, the short story form will be around. Maybe book publishers will sponsor them to draw attention to their book lines, as Prime did once and Tor is sort of doing. Maybe they’ll go to NPR fundraising models like Strange Horizons. The point is that venues will remain, and people will write short stories to fill them. For that matter, people will write stories solely to collect them in books, and self-publish if they have to. There may or may not be any money in it, but other than Howard Waldrop, almost no one has made any kind of living off short fiction for half a century or better. Hasn’t slowed things down in the least.

The reason is simple. People tell stories. That’s what we do. And until someone invents a true full-immersion VR (don’t hold your breath) there’s simply no other medium that can do what narrative fiction does: puts you in another time and place. Makes you see through another’s eyes. Lets you see through another’s eyes. Lets you feel, taste, smell the world of the story, experience it in every sense of the word, not simply observe. Reminds you of things you didn’t realize you knew. Tells you things you never knew. We’re a species of storytellers, and story listeners. That’s not going to change. The short story form itself will be around simply because not every story is an epic, but every good story is important in its own way. They’re part of what we are.

Does that sound a little self-satisfied? Arrogant? So be it. I think it’s true. While I may now mourn Realms of Fantasy just as I still mourn Fantastic, Galaxy, SF Age, et too many ceteras, I know the short story will go on. I’m not the least bit worried.

A little more problematic is the notion that only short story writers actually read short stories these days, that there are no actual readers any more. Kinda like poetry. Which to me rings false immediately because I read poetry. Not in any organized or systematic way, but I do it. And I am not now and never will be a poet. Yes, of course short story writers read short stories. It’s part of the job to study a form you’re trying to master, and the writer who did not start out as a reader is a rare bird indeed. Yet even a cursory examination of the premise that there are no readers proves it simply isn’t true. Even a quick informal poll in an online f/sf discussion board showed that writers were at most about %25 of the readership. Granted, that was a self-selected sample, but telling for all that. The readership is and will remain fragmented, simply because there are so many competing mediums, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. It many not be enough to sustain short story writers commercially, but this is nothing new.

As someone who loves the short story form I suppose I should get all worked up about its so-called death. I would if I believed it for even a moment, but it just ain’t so. All the rest of it, as the zen Master Yogi Berra once said, is just déjà vu all over again.