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Is short fiction (in SFF) relevant?


Kat

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[quote name='Dylanfanatic' post='1482306' date='Aug 15 2008, 20.03']I mentioned them only because someone further up (I forget whom and could care less for looking it up) had claimed both were known for novels only. Therefore, I mentioned that only as a correction to an erroneous claim. I have no energy for joining this fray, since it seems it's verging on becoming a circular argument. :P[/quote]


Actually, you never read the what was written.

I'm well aware of the short work of both Mieville and Erikson. However, as was stated before you jumped in the Kool-Aid without knowing the flavor, was that neither cut their teeth on it.
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Like I said, I skimmed through it and caught what others were saying besides you (which is part of the reason why I didn't recall who first stated it). And since Miéville's "Looking for Jake" and "Different Skies" were published in 1998 and 1999 respectively, around the same time as [i]King Rat[/i], one might quibble and note that he was experimenting with both forms at the beginning of his career as a published author. Not to mention that the stories found in the [i]Looking for Jake[/i] collection range from 1998 to 2004, indicating that he has continued to write the occasional short story in addition his novels. Furthermore, "Jack" was recently reprinted in [i]The New Weird[/i] anthology to serve as an example of his work, so for the [i]others[/i] who were claiming that Miéville was known strictly as a novelist, things such as this would seem to belie that point.

The rest is a matter of perception and interpretation. I just happen to disagree respectfully with your claims in regards to the field as a whole. Matters of taste and not disputing them and all :P
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I suppose short fiction is relevant today in the sense that there are still authors who cut their teeth on short stories and then move on to become fine novelists. This is undeniable.

It's also clear that far fewer do this today then decades ago, when all the big guns started on shorts and then started novels. This is clearly not the case anymore today. Maybe one could convincingly argue in some cases that they *should* be doing it ( such as some of those who write needlessly long fat fantasies), but many aren't.

When it comes to relevance to readership though, it's my impression that there's really only a relatively small group of folks that reads SFF short stories as well as SFF novels. Many feel like Werthead does, that there are so many interesting novels coming out each year that they do not even have time to look at short stories. And novels are obviously prefered over short stories, so the short stories draw the short stick.

It does help when single author collections are published, but then that is pretty much only done in SFF by small press like Prime books, Small Beer Press, Golden Gryphon. Tor, Bantam and Del Rey are not doing it, check their output. Almost nothing. There is no worthwhile market even for whole collections of single author stort stories and that is why *none* of the major publishers are putting it out there. Short story writers rely on small presses to publish them, and then only those few authors who are considered good enough. And fair's fair, even among those only a few are actually worth reading. Most of the stuff is not good at all.

Teresa

No, it's not worth thinking about, unless you're a person who is obsessed with positive discrimination for female authors and the achieving of quota. I don't care for that way of thinking. I know you do though, so maybe you should put a disclaimer in your signature that says " [i]I am recommending these books to you, but please note that I will always choose a woman's novel over a man's because I think women should be discriminated positively[/i]."

That sounds insane, doesn't it? So consider.
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Regarding "Influential" or not ( particularly in the case of Ted Chiang), I would argue wait a bit and judge. Everygiven time has its bestsellers, has its authors one thinks "wow, everybody has read that, this guy will be so important) but which somehow ends up being a sf evolution deadend. Sometimes this means good books getting forgotten by not being relevant enough( though the saying goes, there are no books remembered without a reason). Looking back now to books of the 70s, we might discover that maybe Octavia Butler is perhaps more influential than hmm, dunno Joan Vinge maybe. That while Dying of the Light did not set the world on fire way back then, it seems to have inspired Chabon to write sf-ish stuff. Influence is pretty hard to judge on its own time, sf is a mass of interrelated stuff, and some of it becomes sort of dead ends.

Regarding Chiang´s non-influence, let us all agree to disagree. I think one bestselling YA series ( and it truly is massive. Weird how Westerfeld only became really popular when turned to YA. Not flattering to SF. BTW I think the series is pretty bad) inspired by one of his stories, references in essays and editorials by the scientifically literate, and great respect by those who actually do read him is not nothing actually. so what, he does not sell as much as Goodkind or is as loud as Scalzi. in 30 years, who is more likely to be still read?

PS - though regarding influence on and judgement by subsequente generations, I just saw the most beautiful new hardcover classic-type edition of Valley of the Dolls. :stunned: zomg, not sure I am ready for it to enter the canon and I don´t even care about canon and all that...
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[quote name='Stego' post='1483180' date='Aug 17 2008, 00.48']How can one call themselves a supporter of SF short work and not have read The Rediscovery of Man? Fucking seminal.[/quote]

I didn't say I hadn't read Smith's sotries; I said I was going to buy the book.

I was hoping this discussion would get reframed, as Dylanfanatic suggested, so it could be more productive. Obviously, that's not going to happen.
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Regarding relevance...

The majority of people don't read books; is reading books relevant to people?

The majority of people who read books don't read SF&F books; are SF&F books relevant to book readers?

So with the question "is short fiction in SF&F relevant?," we're talking about a minority already within a minority within a minority.

And the answer is probably the same in all cases: it's relevant to those who do.
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[quote name='Stego' post='1483194' date='Aug 17 2008, 06.15']I'm well aware of the short work of both Mieville and Erikson. However, as was stated before you jumped in the Kool-Aid without knowing the flavor, was that neither cut their teeth on it.[/quote]

Except that Erikson's first published work was a collection of short stories and he often gives props to the writer's course at Iowa's Writer's Workshop that he went to, which emphasised short fiction (I think some of his published short stories were works that originated from material he wrote for that course).

As for Mieville, he was writing and publishing short fiction a decade before his first novel, when he was still a teenager.
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[quote name='Werthead' post='1483319' date='Aug 17 2008, 10.27']Except that Erikson's first published work was a collection of short stories and he often gives props to the writer's course at Iowa's Writer's Workshop that he went to, which emphasised short fiction (I think some of his published short stories were works that originated from material he wrote for that course).[/quote]

I don't think anyones first thought when you mention Erikson is "SHORT fiction" however. Just like GRRM is best known for ASOIAF.
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That's not in question. However, it was erroneously stated that Erikson did not cut his teeth or get started in short fiction, whilst he blatantly did, as is the case with GRRM.
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[quote name='Shryke' post='1483389' date='Aug 17 2008, 11.58']I don't think anyones first thought when you mention Erikson is "SHORT fiction" however. Just like GRRM is best known for ASOIAF.[/quote]

As for the last part, even that depends upon which group of fans you ask. When I attended the November 2005 signing in Nashville, there were quite a few questions regarding Martin's hopeful return to SF writing, so while here the SOIAF series is most popular, for large segments of his fan base, especially the older fans, it's his earlier short stories and novels. And having read a bunch of the former, I don't blame them, as I like his short fiction better than SOIAF. But that's a topic for another part of this site, no?
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Too true. There is a base of SF fans who will always remember GRRM as possibly one of the best SF short story writers of the 70's, and are waiting for him to get back to it while he gets his Extruded Fantasy Product (tm) out of his system.
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I'm sure there are. Just like I'm sure there's people who know Erikson or Mieville best for his short stories. No ones denying that. We're simply saying those people are a small minority compared to the other fans, who love GRRM for ASOIAF and Erikson for Malazan and Mieville for Perdido Street Station.
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How certain are you of all of this? As certain as the people here who find it hard to believe that Lynch and Abercrombie aren't selling near NYT Bestseller list numbers? ;)
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I'm referring to perspectives from inside a rather insular area. Judging by the fans here, you'd think SOIAF was universally Martin's best/most-popular work; talk to many convention regulars, and it'd be his short stories/older novels. I mentioned Lynch and Abercrombie only because some here were "shocked" that neither one won the Campbell and that Kowal, who is known for her short fiction, did. But go to other parts of the SF/F fandom meeting grounds and different perspectives come out.
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[quote]Judging by the fans here, you'd think SOIAF was universally Martin's best/most-popular work;[b] talk to many convention regulars[/b], and it'd be his short stories/older novels.[/quote]

And your talking to me about insular perspectives?
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[quote name='Dylanfanatic' post='1483469' date='Aug 17 2008, 20.01']How certain are you of all of this? As certain as the people here who find it hard to believe that Lynch and Abercrombie aren't selling near NYT Bestseller list numbers? ;)[/quote]

[i]Last Argument of Kings[/i] pre-sold 11,000 copies in the UK before the book came out.

To get onto the NYT bestseller list, [url="http://www.tessgerritsen.com/blog/2007/07/18/how-many-copies-sold-is-a-bestseller/"]you need to sell[/url] about 5,000 copies in a slow month (say, January) and 10,000 in a busy one (say September).

So Abercrombie [i]is[/i] selling NYT Bestseller list numbers. Just not in the USA (in the UK you need rather more to get on the [i]Times[/i] Bestseller list, indicating to me that the NYT method is fucked: how can a country with five times the population have to sell the same number of books to become a bestseller?).

[quote]talk to many convention regulars[/quote]

Convention-going regulers represent an even tinier slice of SF&& fandom than people who post on the Internet. They're also generally dismissive of big-selling authors. Robert Jordan, Raymond E. Feist, Terry Brooks, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman and David Eddings are all huge-selling authors but you don't seem them being discussed at cons much.
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Re-read that link, Wert. It's not 5K a month ;) Also, the UK is invisible to me here, for obvious reasons when talking about the NYT...

As for the insularity bit, shall I quote the song that Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton made famous, "Islands in the Stream"? After all, I've been hinting at that (if not stating it directly) for a while here... ;)
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[quote name='Ran' post='1483444' date='Aug 17 2008, 14.18']Too true. There is a base of SF fans who will always remember GRRM as possibly one of the best SF short story writers of the 70's, and are waiting for him to get back to it while he gets his Extruded Fantasy Product (tm) out of his system.[/quote]

Definitely. I also think GRRM should (after ASoIaF) get back to real sf and leave the whole cliche epic fantasy a rest for a bit. ;)
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[quote name='Dylanfanatic' post='1483637' date='Aug 18 2008, 00.08']Re-read that link, Wert. It's not 5K a month ;) Also, the UK is invisible to me here, for obvious reasons when talking about the NYT...[/quote]

Actually, I knew it was sales per week (as the sales are per week for the UK [i]Times[/i] as well), I merely forgot to specify it as sales-per-week in January or September. It has zero impact on the argument.

Also, moving the goalposts of the argument after it has been rebuffed is not really sporting behaviour. It does, however, fully qualify you to join the editorial staff of [i]Locus[/i].

[quote]As for the insularity bit, shall I quote the song that Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton made famous, "Islands in the Stream"? After all, I've been hinting at that (if not stating it directly) for a while here... ;)[/quote]

I have absolutely no idea what context you are saying this in. Are you saying that people on Internet message boards hungering after the next 'big epic fantasy series' and ignoring the cutting-edge stuff coming out of Spanish-language countries are an insular lot? Are you saying that Worldcon-attendees are an insular lot? I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here.
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