Thursday, February 4, 2010

mixed up like baking soda in the crack sack

As a budding writer of speculative fiction, it bugs me whenever I see it done badly. Sadly, that's often the case. A lot of it adheres too firmly to genre conventions, meaning that it satisfies them without giving any additional thought to language, plot, character, theme, etc. This is a trap I'm trying to claw my way out of, too; after all, flying cars and clockwork robots and such are cool, and provide immediate excitement in a gimmicky way that doesn't happen in comparatively bloodless Literary fiction. But toys can only take you so far - without any real attention to craft, those stories are just new additions to the ragpile of forgettable (or outright bad) genre fiction. Jay Lake and Piers Anthony fall into this category, as their work is full of predictable conceptual elements and really awkward sex scenes. Not that I begrudge them any of their success, but they're two examples I could pull from the aether right away.

Luckily, spec-fic is opening up, and more/different voices are getting involved. I just finished N.K. Jemisin's "The Effluent Engine," written as part of the A Story for Haiti fundraising effort, and it's an engaging piece of steampunk that diverges from that genre's usual Dickensian Britishness. As a teaser, the passage “…everyone got what they wanted, trading ’round and ’round, a graceful waltz — only occasionally devolving into a knife-fight” reminds me very much of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video. Give it a read.

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