Normally, it being April first, I’d be pulling some sort of April Fool’s nonsense, but I’m overdue with some announcements so I’m just going to keep this post short and true.
I’d like to announce the winners of my Crossing the Streams contest. The grand prize winner will be announced soon, and some lucky individual will be receiving a free copy of a book from EVERY author in the contest.
Here’s how I described what I wanted to see from my contest entries: “In the body of the e-mail, all you have to do is name your favorite sword-and-sorcery/heroic fiction novel/story that has NOT been made into a movie, and explain why it should happen. You don’t have to go into great detail if you want.”
As promised, I chose one winner at random, and another winner who wrote the most interesting explanation. There were a number of entertaining stories, several interesting sounding books suggested to me that I’d never heard of before, and a number of entries to which I gave a mental fist pump in agreement.
Despite the fact we’ve just returned from a vacation to the Virgin Islands, here at Jones central my children are most excited by the local convention, EvilleCon, which they’ve been attending for the last two days, one dressed as Maes Hughes (from Full Metal Alchemist), and the other as Aloise (from Black Butler). Apart from hanging out with friends and others who love the industry, I think they’ve both been most excited to chat with Vic Mignogna, who they’ve found warm, personable, and passionate about artistic pursuits.
I happen to be a fan of Mignogna’s work myself — he gave voice to Edward Elric, my favorite character in the best anime I’ve yet watched, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, acquiring the American Anime Award for Best Actor in 2007 for his performance. But as if that wasn’t enough, he’s one of the guiding forces behind Star Trek Continues.
Regular readers of the blog may recall the last time I blogged about Star Trek Continues and how much I enjoyed seeing what felt very much like a lost episode from the original series of my favorite show. (I likewise blogged about it over at Black Gate.) Well, when my son returned from EvilleCon last night he told me he’d seen part of another Star Trek Continues episode, “Lolani,” which was released in February. Somehow I had missed the release!
It’s a lot easier for me to be generous about other genres than it used to be. I’m trying to decide if that has something to do with me mellowing with age, or if it’s because there’s a whole lot more sword-and-sorcery available than there was ten years ago … or if it’s simply that I don’t feel shut out anymore now that I’m writing sword-and-sorcery stories for a living.
Fantasy seems a lot more popular even among the mainstream readers than it used to be, although the dividing line between fantasy and sword-and-sorcery still seems pretty blurry. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to define the difference, but I often feel like I’m shouting in the wind. The common conception remains that if it’s got swords and magic, it must be sword-and-sorcery, regardless of pacing or the focus of the plot. But let’s set another discussion of sword-and-sorcery aside for the nonce and focus instead on genre prejudice.
I think a lot of science fiction and fantasy writers and readers feel like low faces on the totem pole because their favorite fiction is sneered at by people in the know. A while ago, I started to realize that MOST writers felt like their genre was being kicked to the curb. Horror writers have been going through a hard time now for a good long while. YA writers, well, they “only write YA,” and God help the urban fantasy people, whom are in fashion to be hated. As writers and readers, we all turn up our noses at all the things we find wrong with some one else’s genre. Really, that’s all that’s happening with the literary criticism of genre work. It’s easy for us genre people to detail the things we find annoying about literary fiction, but it turns out lit fic writers feel harried themselves.
In a work as varied as The Arabian Nights there are naturally some portions more popular than others, probably because some are more easily adapted into standalone tales of adventure. I think we in the West are more familiar with the Nights as a concept than a whole, and many of us have only read or watched adaptions of the most famous of the tales.
Don’t presume that means that the best of the stories have all been filmed and that there is no point reading the rest. There are plenty of excellent, lesser known yarns within, and surely part of the fun of reading the nights is watching the puzzle box interrelation of stories within stories within stories. Admittedly, there are some portions that I don’t like as well and don’t revisit, as with any short story anthology, and many people feel the same, although you’re likely to get a slightly different list of favorites from whomever you speak with.
Today I want to draw attention to one of my favorite sections, “The Wily Dalilah and Her Daughter Zaynab.” If you’ve ever read my musings, you might expect this to be a tale of swashbuckling adventure set in distant locales, swimming with magic rings and djinn and evil wizards. “The Wily Dalilah,” though, is set only in Baghdad, and there is no magic to speak of within the entire story. There are no daring princes with swords, or mysteries, only a clever old woman running a series of con games. Over the course of the narrative, Dalilah, with occasional aid from Zaynab, foments so much trouble in Baghdad that she draws down the attention of the caliph himself.
I spoke to some creative writing students at a local university a while ago and I tried to tell them something it took me a long time to understand: when you begin your writing career, you’re joining a community.
By writing career, I mean your first published work. In my case, I was first printed in a ‘zine titled Gauntlet. Before I submitted my story to the magazine, about the only thing I knew about Gauntlet was that it was open to heroic fiction and sword-and-sorcery. I was making a common mistake — I didn’t know the market.
It’s hard to know ALL the markets, especially when, in those bygone days of yore, to know about the magazine you had to buy an issue. (Most of those little magazines couldn’t be leafed through at local bookstores because they weren’t carried.) Today we submitters have it a little simpler because most magazines have web sites where fiction can be sampled. And, of course, an increasingly large number of magazines ARE e-zines.
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