Jean-Luc Godard once said that criticizing one film entails making another film (as my good friend Steven Savage discussed earlier).
It's all too true in my case. I wrote my books (see the sidebar at right) because I was reading what passed for fantasy and found it uninteresting, and so I decided to critique it by writing my own response. What constitutes "success" in such an endeavor can be misleading, though: I didn't write them to displace other works so much as to show that there is more than one way to skin the cats of fantasy. The work is ongoing: Flight of the Vajra is meant to be my own response to what I see as a great deal of deeply unsatisfying SF, but I make no promises there.
What I would never do, though — and what I hope other people have the good sense not to do, either — is use that as a way of defraying criticism about my own work.Read more
One of the problems with — or maybe better to say attributes of — SF&F is the fact that the world of the story is entirely your construction. The upside to this is you can construct the world that best suits the story you want to tell; the downside is that you can also cheat like crazy and get away with it.
But, hey. You're the author, and you have final say over what goes, so everyone else's grousing about what you've pulled out of your hip pocket is just that, grousing. Right?Read more
Harlan Ellison once said, in an interview with Frederik Pohl, "Flowers for Algernon strikes directly to the core of what is wrong with most science fiction. There are no people in the stories. We are very strong on gadget, we are very strong on theory and concept, but we have yet to create our Gatsby, our Ahab, Emma Bovary, Huckleberry Finn."
Is it an overgeneralization to say that many SF&F authors give human behavior short shrift? No, not simply behavior, but human character — a sense of how people are, what they do and do not do, and why. I lay no claim to being a master of this art, only to sensing just how tough it can be to write a sentence that will make someone else nod with recognition.Read more
It's been said, not wholly incorrectly, that a story is not what it is about but how it is about it. This was once about how a given approach to a piece of material — a family drama, a comedy of errors, etc. — allowed new insights into what was happening within the material. But as of late this has become interpreted as an excuse to elevate style and form above all other considerations — above theme, above content, above a story about interesting people, above whether or not the work in question will be worth giving a damn about once all the noise about the mere fact of its existence has died down.
No question that at first it was exhilarating to explore style and form at the expense of almost everything else. The mistake was in not taking the lessons learned there and then applying them selectively back to the stories that are most worth telling and hearing.Read more