Plethoria Mediocrita?

Over at Ticonderoga Online, punkrocker1991 muses in his editorial about the state of modern SF writing in Oz.

Yes, we’re publishing more, but is our writing getting better?
I’m not convinced.

Healthier, he says, but not stronger.

(Also, he mentions my name. I wish he wouldn’t do that, it makes it harder to quote him without appearing self-involved, even when he’s not particularly flattering me.)

Firstly, I’m not well read enough to know if Russ is correct about more ‘gems’ appearing ten years ago, but I like his honesty & his willingness to cast a critical eye on what’s around him — without rancour.

I wonder whether the proliferation of short story markets means people are resting on their laurels. Does an increase in opportunity for publishing necessarily equate to a decrease in quality? Is ‘diversity’ the same as ‘some of these fail some basic tests of robustness, but we had spare pages so here they are’? Has complacency crept into our approach to writing? Do we say, ‘oh, somebody will pick this up, it’s OK, I’ll stop there & go do something else’?

For me, no. I’m still surprised when someone agrees to publish my stuff. I prefer the writing of many other authors to my own. I am aware my stories are flawed in ways I can’t spot when I think I’m done with them. They’re limited by my own limitations, by the fact I write too slowly (write a little, rest a little, write a little…) & the fact I’m just plain lazy. I want writing to be easier. I’m always slightly annoyed when it isn’t. But I still try, because it’s embarrassing to have my flawed little monstrosities limping through the world with their jaws hanging loose and readers poking at them, testing their weaknesses. “See, this one has broken elbows!” In fact, it occurs to me that writing a story is much better than publishing a story. It’s *publishing* that breaks a story, I’m sure.

Yes, friends, that last sentence was an example of self-indulgence.;)

I had a fun exchange with Shadowed Realms, where I kept threatening to give them something sub-standard for Issue 9 (femmes fatales) to see what euphemism they’d come up with for ‘rejected’, & they kept threatening me with spiders. And finally Angela Challis called my bluff. ‘You couldn’t live with yourself,’ she suggested, and she was right. When I send sub-standard stuff to an editor, I do it out of ignorance, not arrogance. I couldn’t do it knowingly.

Doesn’t mean I can’t *unknowingly* send something sub-standard, of course. Mwahahah– … er …

Would I try any harder if there were less markets available? No. I am still working at getting better. I am slow because I go over & over every damn story re-examining every damn word, worrying at it like the proverbial dog-with-bone. I must stop doing that. At times it drives me nuts, & I’m not sure it’s helpful.

Stuck to my wall is a bunch of quotes, & one says:

‘Write quickly & you will never write well. Write well & you will soon write quickly.’
–Marcus Fabius Quintilianus

How damn soon, that’s what I want to know.

I digress. I would be working just as hard if all my stuff was being rejected, it’s just that I would probably also be more annoyed with myself. Or maybe I would be just as annoyed with myself.

Yeah. Yeah, I’d probably be just as annoyed with myself.

But I would be less grateful to the editors & readers, & without the positive energy their kindness gives me, perhaps I would be trying a little less, & perhaps I would be giving up a little more.

I suspect what feeds writers is different to what feeds readers. I suspect we can’t exactly reconcile quality reading material (for readers) with early validation (for writers).

But it’s all in the trying, eh?