The Lies We Tell Ourselves … and … The Politics of Control and Fear

I will apologize upfront for the fact that putting together my “Crossroads” page is taking a lot longer than I originally thought it would. A number of things keep coming up that demand front and center style attention and so it will be a little longer before that particular section of the website is ready to share with the world. I thank you for your patience.

This does not, however, mean that I am lacking for things which I would speak to you about. No indeed. One might well ask ‘why, whatever else is a blog for?’

And so, without further ado, this week’s eclectic roundup:


1. Fiction and Fictions – Lines, Blurring, and a New Standard for (Quantifiable) Failure (and ChiZine, Who Succeed Rather More Than Capably)

ChiZine Publications runs a monthly reading series called the Chiaroscuro Reading Series (or CRS if you’re into acronyms), the most recent event of which was The Unholy Three (held August 10 – the next one is A Chill in the Air, happening September 14 so if you’re in Toronto drop by for a ridiculously good time [click the CRS link above for info]), wherein Ian Rogers, Simon Strantzas and Richard Gavin spoke and read from their works. I was in attendance because I go to all the ChiZine events which I am able to attend barring scheduling conflicts, partly because I love the opportunity to listen to ChiZine’s authors read, partly because the people behind ChiZine (Sandra Kasturi, Brett Alexander Savoury, and all the other assorted ChiZinites) are thoroughly awesome people, and partly because the audience for these events tends to be made up of friends in the Toronto Writer’s Community.

Now, during the course of The Unholy Three event I finally had the opportunity to meet Michael Kelly, with whom I have previously only conversed via e-mail. Though that resulting conversation ranged far and wide something that I mentioned in passing has been germinating in my consciousness since the event and subsequently burgeoned roundabouts of yesterday. Michael and I were talking about publication venues in relation to the discussion of his editing Chilling Tales 2, speaking to the submissions he was receving for the anthology and I mentioned, somewhat tangentially, a post of Jed Hartman’s over at Strange Horizons. The post in question was one wherein Hartman entreated authors submitting to SH to produce more than one story and send that one work round to every publication in the known universe,  hoping for that seminal piece to be their ticket to fame and fortune.

Specifically, Jed Hartman mentioned an idea that struck me as so absolutely ludicrous that it simply has to be true: people actually expect a single story sale to be their ticket to never having to write again. Now, first things first, the idea of writing only once is to my mind utterly anathema, as it should be to anyone who is a writer/author. Seriously, if you only want to write one piece in order to make a shitload of money, score a movie deal, go on Oprah, have people bending over backward to lick the grit and fecal matter from your worn-only-once, I-could-have-bought-Hawaii-for-how-much-these-cost shoes then you don’t deserve to call yourself a writer.

Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that being a writer does not mean you stay chained to a desk day in, day out, producing constantly at a hack’s pace, while the world passes you by. Writers lead multiple lives (most of us kind of have to in order to actually make a living), usually doing many things. But the important part of that sentence is the root word live. We don’t ignore the world, but neither do we expect it to strip and bend over for us (well, okay, I can’t speak to all writers’ expectations, but I certainly don’t expect that).

It’s true too that there are a large number of writers who take several years to produce new work. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this (though your fans wish you would produce more work, more often, so get over the damn block and dig out your typewriter). It’s not long waits between creative periods that are the problem, it’s the people who don’t treat writing as what it is who debase the art. Because, yes, writing is Art, with a nice big capital “A”. If you’re making oodles of money at it more friggin’ power to you, but heart and soul the work of a writer is to create something that informs, entertains, provokes, prods and pursues. There is both duty here and a measure of simple and abundant joy in the primal act of creation.

All of the above is actually quite probably why the act of writing is seen by those who are not and will never be artists (like the aforementioned ‘holy shit if I can make one piece stick there’s a goldmine in them thar hills’ people) as something frivolous and wasteful.

Take Rob and Doug Ford for example (Toronto’s titular mayor and de facto mayor respectively). Their recent assaults on Margaret Atwood, the Toronto Public Library system, and really writing in general (if you missed this, have a glance at Article A and Article B of the Toronto Star – and those are just the first couple, this crap’s still going on) would be ludicrous if it didn’t feel like someone, somewhere just around the corner were going to start suggesting burning books …

Obviously my reaction comes across a little strong. Being a writer I really can’t imagine it being otherwise though. But, ask yourself, if you’re not writing because you want to then why are you writing? Is it for a paycheque? Given how few writers ever hit Stephen King numbers you’re far better off finding something more lucrative to do with your time. I rather expect that most of the people reading this blog are going to be people who already write, and who do it not because there’s ‘gold in them there hills’ but because we can’t not write, so in a sense I’m preaching to the choir (one that can, you know, actually sing), but sometimes you just have to tilt at the windmills anyway.

For those who are interested I dug up the link for the Jed Hartman post to which I referred earlier in this post: “Don’t write just one story“.

And while you’re at SH it’s also worth your time to look at John Clute’s SH “Scores” review column for this week. The article talks about Urban Fantasy, looking at Beagle/Lansdale’s The Urban Fantasy Anthology and Datlow’s Naked City anthologies. I don’t think there is a way not to enjoy John Clute’s writing, fiction and non-fiction, but this particular piece resonates rather especially well with me since I was in the World’s Biggest Bookstore on the 16th thumbing through a copy of the former anthology, and it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who thinks there’s something grievously wrong with the way we as both community and readership currently approach/define “Urban Fantasy“.


2. Anarchists Have Too Many Rules

In the wake of riots in Britain and closer to home, and a culture embracing violence as more and more of a cultural norm (both as the cause of the problem and a “justifiable” solution), questions of civil liberties are soon sure to be put front and centre yet again.

It’s nothing new by any stretch of the imagination. Censorship is the easiest and most expedient reaction to “hey man, there’s a problem, go fix it for me”. So is a truncheon, but that doesn’t make it a good solution. In any case, Cory Doctorow ranks among the most thoughtful of voices standing up for an intelligent approach to solving our (global) societal problems, and there’s an excellent, if brief, article up at Craphound called “CCTV deterrence and the London riots“, which I suppose is actually a fragment designed as a re-direct to Doctorow’s article “Why CCTV has failed to deter criminals” published in The Guardian. Go forth and read.

I, in turn, now sail [me] forth, to seek and find. Or more accurately to wander off and eventually lie down. Well, if you can’t butcher Whitman at 3 am (local time) when can you?

Night all. Tune in next week (or sooner). Same bat time. Same bat channel.

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