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Is short fiction (in SFF) relevant?


Kat

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What goalpost moving? I'm the one who said:

[quote]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? wink.gif[/quote]

You're the one who brought up the UK numbers, which had nothing to do with my original statement. I meant US sales and US sales alone. After all, Hasselhoff was popular in [i]Germany[/i], not the US ;)

Islands...plural. Fandom, pretty much divided into islands of opinion. That's what I meant. As for the comment about the Spanish-language bit, what the hell does that have to do with this? I'm not the one bringing it up, implying it, or anything like that. To be quite blunt, forum people here are very likely to be oblivious of the concerns of those who actually [i]read[/i] the short fiction being produced these days. To continue arguing that one is one way or the other without making concessions to the needs/desires of the other SF audiences is pretty much pointless to me. Things are different between subgenres, countries of origin, age groups, etc. I'm too lazy to search for it on my laptop now (I have it on my desktop), but I'm thinking about Elizabeth Bear's comments on the "scene" and Patrick Nielsen-Hayden's recent comment about the age gap on Tor.com's blog about it. Go read that and then reconsider what I'm noting here.
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[quote name='Dylanfanatic' post='1483712' date='Aug 18 2008, 02.22']What goalpost moving? I'm the one who said:

You're the one who brought up the UK numbers, which had nothing to do with my original statement. I meant US sales and US sales alone. After all, Hasselhoff was popular in [i]Germany[/i], not the US ;)[/quote]

This is not an American board, many of the posters who have been discussing these two authors are not American and the vagaries of the American market alone are of limited value in a discussion which stretches across international borders.

Indeed, some might say that trying to impose a solely American viewpoint on an international discussion board was rather...insular, do you not agree? ;)

If you were trying to rebuff my argument a better tack to have taken would have been to point out the criteria to get on the NYT bestseller lists aren't exactly transparent, and the role that pre-release sales play in first week sales is largely unknown. However, the spirit of my point remains intact.

[quote]To be quite blunt, forum people here are very likely to be oblivious of the concerns of those who actually [i]read[/i] the short fiction being produced these days.[/quote]

This statement is cause for concern, particularly in light of a growing number of complaints about the tone some discussions in this subforum have taken over the last few months. In this very thread there have been a number of people, notably Ran and cteresa, among others, arguing very strongly in favour of the relevance of short fiction to the overall genre, even if the relevance to individual readers is in question. However, you again tar everyone in this forum with the same brush, make substantial generalisations and give the impression of adopting a position of judgement over other posters which I am not convinced you have earned (or at least, earned in a fashion that other people in this thread have not).

So qualify that statement. Why are forum people [i]here [/i](as compared to where?) 'very likely' to be 'oblivious' to the concerns of those who read short fiction? Several people in this thread have made it clear that they read and appreciate short fiction and consider it important to the genre and literature in general, so your statement has already been proven to be incorrect.
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OK, let's start by the assumption that this is not an American board. Fair enough, although Americans make up the majority of SF readers in the Anglo-American market. That is a valid point to make, considering the old adage (American-centric, doubtless) of "if you haven't made it in the States, you haven't made it at all." Since some are going to argue relevance/success based on sales numbers, which market's sale numbers are we going to consider? Defining the terms of debate and all that.

If we are going to consider disparate sales markets, with their own sets of readerships, then how does one construct an interpretative model that carries water with the other markets? From what I've seen over the years, UK tastes differ from American ones; neither has a monopoly on good/bad things, but each is quite distinct in many ways. But that carries the discussion into another area, one I frankly don't have time to engage in right now (nor will I for the rest of the week, it seems).

As for the NYT list, I said it outside of your argument and apparently before it, so why would I be rebuffing it, when I was referring to something else?

As for the tenor of things, I think you presume a bit too much hostility on my part, as "oblivious," while certainly not a "positive" word, is not quite the pejorative you seem to have taken it to be. No other term occurred to me at the time for a condition of ignorance of (again, not in the pejorative sense) what is transpiring elsewhere. Your bringing up of my love for non Anglo-American literature (which I couldn't tell was meant to be an odd [i]ad hominem[/i] or not in its tone) actually is pertinent to the point in retrospect; in other literary markets, the short fiction form is even more visible than in the Anglo-American ones. Yet most here are going to be oblivious/ignorant of what is transpiring in various markets due to the language/interest barriers. However, that does not negate the importance of what is transpiring in those other markets for those who are aware of them.

Now as for the tarring, judgment, etc. are you sure you aren't reading certain things into this that I never have said/done, consciously or not? I'm not exactly known for being someone who isn't willing to participate in give and take and to learn from the exchange, so your tone is a bit...puzzling.

And as for the forum/elsewhere bit, well, how about those who comment on the various short fiction e-zine sites? Think their observations of what is transpiring within short fiction SF/F might be a bit different than what has been made here on many occasions over the years? As for the final comment, don't forget those who've stated the opposite. Some of those commenting could be the exception that proves the rule, without further evidence. I'm open for counter-arguments, just not for sure if I'll have the time to engage in them immediately, due to work.
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Note to those who get their posts deleted:

You know the rules of the forum. If you don't care for the discussion or some facet of it, drop out or do something more worthwhile than flinging perjoratives around.


Back on topic,

Hey, relevance of short fiction -- NYT #1 Bestselling author George R. R. Martin must think it's relevant, since he's finished up a novella and is co-editing not one but two short fiction anthologies. :P

Basically, I think everyone can agree about it being relevant. It may be minimally relevant to certain people, or at least they consider it minimally relevant because they don't personally read it and it doesn't greatly matter to them what role or impact it's had on the authors they read.

But looking at it objectively from the ground up -- the history of SF/F, the development of SF/F, the development of SF/F writers -- it has an undeniable role even today. Less than it used to? Yes, but it's still significantly more than zero relevance when looked at the modern genre as a whole.
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Okay, I'll try this again.

[quote]I'm not exactly known for being someone who isn't willing to participate in give and take and to learn from the exchange, so your tone is a bit...puzzling.[/quote]I think that's a very insulated viewpoint that happens to be quite incorrect.

[quote]And as for the forum/elsewhere bit, well, how about those who comment on the various short fiction e-zine sites? Think their observations of what is transpiring within short fiction SF/F might be a bit different than what has been made here on many occasions over the years?[/quote]No one has argued, once, that short fiction doesn't exist. No one has argued that its fans do not exist. What originally was argued was simply whether or not short fiction as a subgenre is relevant. We really didn't define that well, but it's clear that short fiction is not particularly relevant monetarily (especially compared to what it was like). What isn't clear is whether it's important or otherwise relevant to the SF/F community as something other than a monetary vehicle. Put it this way: if you took away the ability for anyone to get their first work published unless it was 250 pages long, would that be particularly detrimental to the SF/F industry? Would we not see some authors that are good?

While I think the answer to that is yes, we would lose a few authors, I think it's also clear that we would not be losing a significant chunk of the authors out there, and the ones we did lose (Chiang for instance) would have a voice in some other facet. In that respect, the genre is not particularly relevant by itself. It's just a shorter form of fiction, and that's about it.
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[quote name='Dylanfanatic' post='1483201' date='Aug 17 2008, 01.55']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.[/quote]


So, when one thinks of Mieville, they think of his short work?

No, of course not.


Because it is irrelevant.
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[quote name='Stego' post='1484142' date='Aug 18 2008, 14.08']So, when one thinks of Mieville, they think of his short work?

No, of course not.


Because it is irrelevant.[/quote]

[i]Looking for Jake[/i] is excellent from start to finish.

But [i]Perdido Street Station [/i]and [i]The Scar [/i]will be the first things mentioned on his obituary.

There are very few authors who are known exclusively for their short work (and Ellison is by far best known for [i]The City on the Edge of Forever[/i], so that doesn't track either) now that I think of it. Prior to [b]ASoIaF[/b] you could possibly have applied this to GRRM, since before the big fantasy series [i]Sandkings[/i] was his best-known work, but [i]Fevre Dream[/i] was probably the bigger-selling, so maybe not.

So I think I agree with the premise that short fiction is where an author can kick-start their career, but unless they work on novels they are likely to appeal only to a small, niche audience. And a lot of short story writers may be fine with that.
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You can't think of him strictly as a novelist, because he is not strictly a novelist, as already indicated. You can't say short fiction is irrelevant to the career of China Meville, because it is not, as already shown a couple of times over.

You can be a lot of things. You can be _best known_ for a certain thing, while still doing, you know, other stuff. It's all relevant to what they're doing and where they're coming from.

Frankly, were I an author being told a certain segment of my work was "irrelevant", my first impulse would be rather rude. ;)
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Mieville's short work is rather awful. I would hope he'd grimace and agree that it was irrelevant, much chagrined that people had read it. Perhaps in 20 years.

Sorta like George when people bring up "The Night of the Vampyres."
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[quote name='Ran' post='1484227' date='Aug 18 2008, 10.16']Stego,

You can think of anyone as you'd like. People don't start these discussion threads to find out how you classify things and people in the world, though. ;)[/quote]


False!
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[quote name='Werthead' post='1484178' date='Aug 18 2008, 09.35']Completely off topic Stego, but did a copy of [i]The Steel Remains[/i] find its way to you in the last few weeks?[/quote]


Last weekend at Worldcon, yes. I have yet to unpack, however. Please PM me an address to forward it to.
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[quote]Frankly, were I an author being told a certain segment of my work was "irrelevant", my first impulse would be rather rude. wink.gif[/quote]It's irrelevant as a classification. If you were an author taking it that way, I'd say that you were being deliberately perverse and insular. The point isn't whether the writer is writing short fiction; the point is that they're writing fiction. That's it. The days where being a master of a short story meant anything are long gone. Being able to write a short story is good and all, but the important thing isn't the short part. The important thing is the 'good story' part.
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Well, for fans in the know and searching out good fiction, sure.

But I believe the important part, like it or no, is to write quality long form. That is what will have any sort of impact. That is what has the most relevancy today. That is what people will remember.

What do people remmber from 75? The Forever War.

What do people remember from 84? Neuromancer.

What do people remember from 65? Dune.

Ask yourself this question, and be honest. What owrk of literature defined the last year for you? The last decade?

Short fiction lacks relevancy.
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I think it's possible that someone out there could write a short story that would be remembered as well as anything out there. This decade's Most Dangerous Game, if you like. In general the long form is going to be bigger because more people write to it and it sells better, but I totally can believe someone could write a short story that was utterly brilliant and had popular appeal.

But that doesn't make the form specifically relevant. It just means that one author is really, really good.
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I don't get this idea that it has to be popular and something everyone reads. That's one part of relevance to the genre. The other part is: who's reading it, and what effect does it have on them?

When young Richard Morgan read Poul Anderson's short stories for the first time, it pushed him on his way to being the novelist he is today. When young Michael Chabon read George R. R. Martin for the first time, it too pushed him on his way to being the novelist he is today.

There are two parts to fiction: creation and consumption. The popularity schtick is overly biased towards consumption.
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[quote]When young Richard Morgan read Poul Anderson's short stories for the first time, it pushed him on his way to being the novelist he is today. When young Michael Chabon read George R. R. Martin for the first time, it too pushed him on his way to being the novelist he is today.[/quote]Okay.

When a young author reads Richard Morgan, are they going to read his short stories? If they read Chabon are they going to be influenced by his short stories? Seriously, the argument that because short stories have been influential in the past means they'll be influential in the future is exactly wrong.

It doesn't have to be popular and be something everyone reads, but that is one way to measure relevance. Another is how influential the genre is. And from all indications, short fiction is fairly low on the totem pole of influential reads for younger authors these days. There's less of it, what there is kinda sucks, fewer good authors cut their teeth on it before moving on and when they do their work is not particularly widespread.
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Morgan was mostly influenced by Poul Anderson's Boat of a Million Years, which is a fixup Novel, so... yeah. Maybe.

He also says he was equally influenced by James Ellroy's White Jazz and LA Confidential.
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