Saturday, May 24, 2008

Year's Best Fantasy. Not!

I’ve been reading (slowly) a collection called The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories: 9, edited by Arthur W. Saha. This was published in 1983 by Daw Books and I have to say that I’m disappointed with nearly every story in the anthology. In the first place, none of them seem to have much fantasy in them, at least not the kind I like to read. There’s a story about a guy who wakes up “in” the book Moby Dick (which won a Nebula, btw), a deal with the devil tale, and a tale about a modern guy who inherits a castle in Ireland and has to use voodoo to keep it.

That last story is “Square and Above Board,” by R. A. Lafferty and the editor introduces it with “…depend on the unique and puckish talent of R. A. Lafferty, himself of the Irish, to spin a tale that is anything but ominous.” That says it all, if you read “ominous” like I do to be “spirited,” “energetic,” “powerful.”

The problem with these stories has nothing to do with the writing, which is uniformly polished and professional. It has to do with subject matter. The writers here are, it seems to me, desperately striving for either literary merit or to provide a lighthearted distraction that doesn’t trouble anyone too much, that is for a feeling that is “anything but ominous.”

But I don’t read fantasy to avoid being “troubled.” I don’t read it simply for a light chuckle with my after dinner sherry. I read it for power, for emotion, for something damn well ominous.

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In writing news, I’ve sold a zombie western tale to the Bits of the Dead anthology, and my silly fantasy tale, “Mirthgar,” was published in Strange Worlds of Lunacy, which is out now, in print, and also as a much cheaper download. I just got my contributor copies and haven’t had time to read the other tales yet. Looks pretty good, though. Another of my humorous fantasy stories has just been published in Flashing Swords: Special Edition Summer 2008, but I don’t think it’s available for general purchase yet. The story is “Worms in the Earth: Barbarian’s Bane.” I’ve posted about both these tales before so forgive me if this sounds redundant.

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I’d also like to call everyone’s attention to Ello’s blog post on The Lolita Effect. This is an important work on how the media, and our entire culture, sexualizes girls at younger and younger ages. Ello will have the author, Dr. Gigi Durham, as a guest on her blog on Wednesday and she’ll be answering questions. Although I didn’t have a daughter, I see the kind of harm this pervasive influence is having on young women and I hope you’ll stop by for a moment to lend Ello and Dr. Durham your support.

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33 comments:

Travis Erwin said...

Charles I'll download your story and give it read sometime over the weekend. I look forward to it.

Erik Donald France said...

"But I don’t read fantasy to avoid being “troubled.” I don’t read it simply for a light chuckle with my after dinner sherry. I read it for power, for emotion, for something damn well ominous."

Exactly! And true of most art, as it should be.

Also concur on the Lolita Effect.

Mary Witzl said...

I like ominous stuff too. Just like I like coffee with real caffeine in it and I wouldn't touch alcohol-free wine with a barge pole. They make ominous sound like a bad thing there, and how weird that is!

As for the Lolita Effect, this strikes me as so sad. Someone gave our girls play lipstick, mascara, make-up -- the works, really -- when they eldest was six and the youngest was three. I dumped it into the trash before they could see it. An entire kit of play make-up for a six-year-old is a whole different thing from swiping your mom's lipstick and having a go in her high heels. I'll definitely be at Ello's on the 28th.

Britta Coleman said...

Congrats on the sale! And as a mother to a daughter, I'll pop over to Ello's post. Thanks for the tip.

Steve Malley said...

Congrats on the sales!

Condolences on the reading...

laughingwolf said...

i'm with you, charles, even if it's tales from 1983!

watering stories down, for any reason, is tantamount to censorship, no matter who 'does it'....

hope to make it to the wednesday event, i have two daughters, but that's not the only reason i want to be there

Donnetta Lee said...

Yay for you, Charles! Doing a wonderful job. Ms. Lana is proud of you, I'm sure!
Donnetta

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis Erwin, you'll get a bunch of funny stories for that download, all relatively short. let me know what you think.

Erik, agreed, literature and art in general should ahve that quality.

Mary Witzl, I know, I had to do a double take on that, 'anything but ominious' line. Made me think the editor didn't quite know why he was selected stories.

Britta, thanks. I appreciate it.

Steve Malley, danke.

Laughingwolf, sometimes I think writers and publishers worked together to kill their readership by feeding the people indigestible pap in the name of story. Yes, Ello's Wednesday should be worthwhile.

Donnetta, thanks. Lana is hard on people but I seem to get a pass even when I'm not doing that good.

Lisa said...

Congratulations on the new stories in print! I'll be at Ello's too. The topic is so creepy to me and I'm curious about author's focus on the media as the culprit who is sexualizing children. Although the media is to blame to a point, parents are the ones who are ultimately letting little girls dress provocatively, paint their nails, pierce their ears and wear makeup.

MarmiteToasty said...

Ive tried reading fantasy stories but I really struggle, Im more into at the moment Harlen Coben and Kathy Reich... crime investigation stories.... maybe Im really a police pathologist at heart LOL...... ok ok I always love a nice romantic story once in a while.... thats the fantasty part lmfao...

Contrats with the sale....

x

Michelle's Spell said...

I'm with you on the troubled thing -- if I wanted pablum, I'd watch television (and do watch television when I want something relaxing). It occurs to me that reading is a medium of engagement, not total escape. Thanks for the heads up on the Lolita factor. Although I'm a big advocate for women (emphasis on women not girls) expressing their sexuality any way they choose, it disturbs me deeply to see clothes at Target marketed to ten year olds that would not be out of place at the strip clubs on Eight Mile. It ruins childhood in some fundamental way and sets a bad precedent -- nowhere to go and nothing fun to look forward to like make-up or crazy clothes when one gets of the age to wear them because of choice, not because of some creepy societal norm.

SQT said...

I need to go over and read Ello's post. I have an 8-year-old daughter and the way young girls are being sexualized scares me to death.

laughingwolf said...

i hope to be there, should be highly informative....

Charles Gramlich said...

Lisa, you're right, and I hope some discussion will happen on Wednesday about how too many parents are shirking responsibilities. Of course, the parents are only one, albeit a major influence on their kids.

Marmitetoasty, I've heard Coben is really good. I'll have to give him a try.

Michelle, exactly. TV is where to go for pablum. The problem as I see with the media is that they feed too many young girls the idea that to be 'free' and 'independent' you need to be ??? This takes away their free choices.

SQT, I'd personaly hate to be bringing up a young girl right now. It definitely gets harder all the time.

Laughingwolf, I will see you there.

Christina said...

Congratulations on the story. I think I have a collection of "Best Fantasy" but I only read one story in it. It was good, a bit confusing, I need to reread it again.

Travis said...

It seems to me that a writer gets his readers to invest a little more in the characters and the story if there are ominous things waiting in the wings.

Imagine LOTR without the spectre of The Ring and its impact on the Ring Bearer?

Shauna Roberts said...

Congratulations on the sale and the publications!

Thanks for the alert about Ello's blog on Wednesday. I've sent notes to some relatives and friends with daughters in case they're interested in the discussion. I plan to stop by, too, even though I don't have any daughters, because it's such a troubling issue.

CrazyCath said...

Charles - just checking in. I'll read properly later (it's 3.30am here!). Just wanted to say thanks for dropping by, hope you are doing ok, I am thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way and....

....get a cat. Really. But get a kitten. Babies grow with you. (If you are planning on coming this side of the pond Bubble is pregnant... *grin*)

*hug* for you. (Just cos you're in biker leathers doesn't mean you can't have hugs! lol)

Josephine Damian said...

Charles: Kudos on the sales!

You know when I first heard the "fantasy" genre talked up I thought it was books about, well, err... you know, fantasies - naughty thoughts! lol Took me quite some time to get that it was about witches and warlords, Merlin-types and dragons. Stuff like that.

Greg Schwartz said...

Charles, congrats on the acceptance and publication! I'll definitely stay away from that "fantasy" anthology.

X. Dell said...

(1) Thanks for the link to Ello's blog. Interesting post. I'll be interested in reading the follow-up interview with Dr. Durham.

(2) Congratulations on your sales.

(3) I certainly understand what you're saying professional/industrial abhorence of anything potentially "ominous." I'm afraid that pre-audiences gravitate towards tales that they think readers will like--never mind that readers would probably like more diverse fare.

As for me, I'm not really into the fantasy genre. So I wouldn't really know what to expect from a fantasy story.

Charles Gramlich said...

Christina, this collection was certainly a bit pretentious and overly complicated.

Travis, exactly. You want some tension, some potential conflict and danger or else why are you reading?

Shauna, thanks. By the way, I'm working on a character named Shai, who will fit the mold you made a request for in the Taleran book I'm working on.

Josephine Damian, and I never thought of fantasy as any other way until one time I was doing a websearch on fantasy "markets" and found a whole bunch of crazy stuff I never expected to find.

Greg, thanks. I submitted a bunch of poetry today, including to Lilliput REview. I liked the samples I got.

Shauna Roberts said...

That is so cool! I'm looking forward to Shai.

Greg Schwartz said...

yeah, Lilliput's a great little mag. Good luck!

Cheri said...

Many years ago I was with girlfriends in a store when we came upon the delicates section and found several little girls browsing the thongs. They could not have been more than seven, maybe eight. Once the mother chaperon came over and told them only to not get "the black ones, they will make you look slutty." Great parenting.

Bernita said...

Congratulations, Charles!

I read recently a tale that supposedly featured Irish vampires.
Unfortunately it was the same trite vampire who just happened to be Irish, a little background mythologynotwithstanding.

benjibopper said...

congrats on all these new publications!

and your comments about that anthology really resonate with me. it's what i often can't stand about new literature: it's all pretty and nice and well-written but has no meaning, it doesn't hit me in the gut. it's boring.

cs harris said...

A zombie western? Woa. Congrats!

ChrisEldin said...

Congratulations on the good news on the writing front.

I do pick up different genres depending on my mood, so I can understand your disappointment.

Danette Haworth said...

Charles,
Wow--you are prolific! Congrats on all the recent pubs.

Zombie/western--sounds like a great hook!

Charles Gramlich said...

Shauna, I'm having fun coming up with Shai's character.

Greg, thanks.

Cheri, lovely. That story curdled the cream in my coffee.

Bernita, thanks. As for vampires, too many generic ones out there.

Benjibopper, thanks. And yes, if a fiction story doesn't do 'something' emotional to you then I'm not sure I see the purpose in it.

Candy, it's called "Once Upon a Time with the Dead."

ChrisEldin, thanks. I tend to read a very wide variety of stuff myself.

Dannette, yep, a zombie western featuring Cole Younger and Jesse James among others.

Lana Gramlich said...

Congratulations, baby!

Rachel said...

Yay for zombie western stories!!!!!!!!