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[personal profile] greygirlbeast
Despite the pills, I somehow managed not to sleep enough last night, and this morning I feel like ass. On top of that, it's hot again, and there's plastering being done in the House, so there is noise, which is like the cherry on the hot-fudge sundae of this morning's fresh hell.

That said...

Yesterday, I wrote a very respectable 1,785 words on the new story, the one based on Vince's illustration, and also found a title for it, "Fairy Tale of the Maritime." I did not, however, find THE END. I hope that will happen today (if the noise relents).

There's a very insightful review of The Red Tree by Audrey Homan at Strange Horizons. I found one very minor error, conflating Dr. Charles L. Harvey and Sarah's chagrined agent, Dorry. Other than that, this is what I mean when I talk about genuine reviews vs. "reviews."

---

So, back to the subject of my science fiction, which I raised a few days ago. Specifically, why my science fiction doesn't seem to be as popular as my dark fantasy, even among my more dedicated readers. The subject came up when Sonya was visiting a while back, when I pointed out that only one of my Subterranean Press books has ever failed to sell out quickly, and that the one book is A is for Alien. True, the limited sold out fairly quickly, but the trade edition is still available from the publisher, more than a year and a half after publication, a situation unprecedented with my subpress editions. By comparison, The Ammonite Violin & Others was released less than two months ago and has already sold out. So, I began asking myself, what gives? And I really don't have an answer.

Assuming that my sf is as well written as my fantasy (which I do assume), the only tentative explanation I have been able to arrive at is that my sf is, admittedly, out of step with contemporary sf. And, both thematically and stylistically, it's something of a peculiar fusion. I don't write "mundane science fiction." Even though I don't really have a problem with that school's basic precepts, I find most of the stories produced by its adherents to be dull as dishwater. I don't write about the Singularity, both because I find the idea highly untenable and because I have no particular interest in the subject. Also, I'm not even remotely interested in the idea of sf as a "progressive" or predictive medium. My sf is somewhat retro. It's not "in step" with the current vogue (which will change in a few weeks).

What I do write is, I think, essentially a latter-day "New Wave" sf, heavily influenced by my love of cyberpunk and, to a lesser degree, the immediate precursors of New Wave sf (Bradbury and Fritz Leiber, for instance). The stories are usually about the characters, more than they are about the science and technology. They are dystopian. They are grim, because I cannot imagine a future that isn't grim, given the data at hand. The science in my sf isn't rock solid, but it's pretty hard, better than average, I think. There is a distinctly cosmicist flavor to my sf, due to the influence of Lovecraft and Ligotti (and a host of philosphers). And I find the human mind pretty much as alien as anything we're likely to ever find. In the end, if it has anything so direct and simple as a message, my sf is saying that man is not special, and the universe is uncaring, and technology will not save us. We are our own worst enemy. And the future will look a lot like the present, only with more clutter, more people, and a world grown more inhospitable to humanity because of humanity's unrelenting and shortsighted exploitation of it. My sf looks inward, even when it's looking outward. In short, it's a bummer.

And this might account for some of the lack of attention that A is for Alien received (very few reviews, relative to most of my books, for example), but I find it hard to believe it accounts for the fact that the collection still hasn't sold out at the publisher. So, really, I don't know what's going on here. But it troubles me, and frustrates me, because I intend to continue writing sf, and expect to do another sf collection someday, and I'd like to think it will be better recieved than A is for Alien. Publishers continue to encourage me to write sf. My sf story "Galápagos" was recently honored by the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. I have three sf stories commission for the next year. So it will keep coming. But it baffles me, this thing with A is for Alien. And I just thought I'd talk about it here. Hopefully, I have not been incoherent.

---

Not much else to say about yesterday. Spooky made a peach cobbler. We watched the new episode of Project Runway. I did some nice rp in Insilico (thanks, Blair). I got to bed at a decent hour, and still didn't get enough sleep.

And now I have a story to finish.

Date: 2010-08-29 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hornlessbull.livejournal.com
Regarding your science fiction, it is of the same quality as your dark fantasy. If I had guess why your SF is not as popular as your fantasy is the explanation. The SF feels very like your dark fantasy except the explanations for story events are more scientific and less Other. The strange dark otherness of your fantasy seems more real, more explainable in your sf.

For all the horror in ‘Riding the White Bull’, explanations exist. The monster is just an alien, the people are just people no matter how genetically twisted. While otherworldly and alien, it is not Other. The dark haunting Otherness of the mud puddle from ‘Standing Water’ remains inexplicable. SF seems to always demand a reason for things even if it is in the style of Bradbury or Lovecraft. Fantasy demands no explanation. The inexplicability of fantasy can give it a haunting quality that does not exist in SF.

Date: 2010-08-29 08:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

For all the horror in ‘Riding the White Bull’, explanations exist. The monster is just an alien, the people are just people no matter how genetically twisted. While otherworldly and alien, it is not Other. The dark haunting Otherness of the mud puddle from ‘Standing Water’ remains inexplicable. SF seems to always demand a reason for things even if it is in the style of Bradbury or Lovecraft. Fantasy demands no explanation. The inexplicability of fantasy can give it a haunting quality that does not exist in SF.

While I don't think I necessarily agree, it's an interesting perspective, and one I'd not considered.

Date: 2010-08-29 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragau.livejournal.com
I devoured A is for Alien, so fast that when I finished it, I read it again. Markets are fickle beasts; few works no matter their greatness can survive bad timing or the wrong marketing strategy. Who knows, maybe potential readers did not like the cover and/or the title. If I may be frank, the title A is for Alien struck me as somewhat affected, and I connected it with Sue Grafton, whose writing I find insipid. I overcame that senseless prejudice, and now I own a book to which I will return many more times.

Date: 2010-08-29 08:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Who knows, maybe potential readers did not like the cover and/or the title. If I may be frank, the title A is for Alien struck me as somewhat affected,

Well, Thank you for buying the book, and I'm pleased you liked it.

As for the cover, Jacek Yerka is an artist I'd wanted to work with ever since I saw his collaboration with Harlan Ellison (another important influence on my sf).

As for the title, it was meant to pay homage to Ray Bradbury's two classics, S is for Space and R is for Rocket, as well as underscoring the book's dominant theme of aliens and alienation. I have to admit I've never heard of Sue Grafton.

Date: 2010-08-29 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragau.livejournal.com
S is for Space and R is for Rocket

Oh! Why didn't I make that connection? I started reading Ray Bradbury's novels in 4th grade, and his short stories got me through high school.

As for the cover art, I like it and how the greens contrast with the maroon background.

Date: 2010-08-30 12:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Oh! Why didn't I make that connection?

Neil Gaiman's M is for Magic was also an homage to Bradbury.

Date: 2010-08-29 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miakodadreams.livejournal.com
As one who has not yet read A Is for Alien, I think hornlessbull pretty much nailed my main reason for putting it off. I read Bradbury, Clarke, etc. when I was a kid, but wandered away from SF around 7th-8th grade in favor of horror and fantasy. I really do think it was the unexplainable aspect of the stories that drew me away; the science just seemed too sterile, the characters too flat, the realities not malleable enough.

I have read SF since then, along with any number of other genres, it's just not what I usually go looking for. Based on your description above, though, I'll have to give it a try. You usually have me fretting for your characters within the first few pages, so it sounds like my usual reasons for bypassing an SF collection don't apply here.

Date: 2010-08-30 12:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

I have read SF since then, along with any number of other genres, it's just not what I usually go looking for. Based on your description above, though, I'll have to give it a try. You usually have me fretting for your characters within the first few pages, so it sounds like my usual reasons for bypassing an SF collection don't apply here.

Honestly, I don't see a fundamental thematic distinction between my sf and everything else I do; The Dry Salvages is one of the most "Lovecraftian" things I ever written.

Date: 2010-08-29 09:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] troublebox.livejournal.com
I’m guessing there are a fair number of dark fantasy/horror fans that just aren’t that interested in reading SF; and, at the moment, you don’t have the SF-centric fanbase to make up for those lost readers. Yet. This will change, of course, as you publish more and more SF. Before long, you’ll have a whole new, parallel fanbase – one that will completely ignore your dark fantasy/horror work.

I think that’s just how genres work. Unfortunately.

Date: 2010-08-30 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

I think that’s just how genres work. Unfortunately.

Which is one reason I've resisted genre labels....

People don't want to think outside boxes, and I don't want to write within them.

Date: 2010-08-29 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] corucia.livejournal.com
I think that you have similar issues with the reception of your SF as Peter Watts, of 'Blindsight' and 'Starfish' fame (http://www.rifters.com/crawl/). His work is even more dystopic and hard SF, and he's had trouble with recognition and sales, even though he often gets very favorable reviews (he's currently up for a Hugo for his novelette 'The Island'). I suspect that both of you are butting up against one of the fundamental differences between SF and fantasy - at some deep level, readers can dismiss fantasy as true fiction, no matter how disturbing it may be, but at that same level the reader can't as easily dismiss SF, because it is supposed to be grounded in reality. Thus, the bleaker SF can have a fundamental impact that fantasy cannot, leading to an unconscious rejection of the SF. I'll further argue that the better the science grounding of the SF, the more likely it is to be avoided if the conclusions resulting from it are too disturbing. As most readers don't have a strong science background, it's harder for them to identify flaws that might allow them to dismiss something that appears to be rationally-based, whereas fantasy always has the underlying unreality that permits dismissal.

Date: 2010-08-30 12:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

I think that you have similar issues with the reception of your SF as Peter Watts

Someone I truly ought to read.

I suspect that both of you are butting up against one of the fundamental differences between SF and fantasy - at some deep level, readers can dismiss fantasy as true fiction, no matter how disturbing it may be, but at that same level the reader can't as easily dismiss SF, because it is supposed to be grounded in reality. Thus, the bleaker SF can have a fundamental impact that fantasy cannot, leading to an unconscious rejection of the SF. I'll further argue that the better the science grounding of the SF, the more likely it is to be avoided if the conclusions resulting from it are too disturbing. As most readers don't have a strong science background, it's harder for them to identify flaws that might allow them to dismiss something that appears to be rationally-based, whereas fantasy always has the underlying unreality that permits dismissal.

This is quite good, and I hope you don't mind if I quote in in tomorrow's entry. This is something else that had not occurred to me, but seems to have merit.

Date: 2010-08-30 03:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] corucia.livejournal.com
I hope you don't mind if I quote in in tomorrow's entry.

Sure - I'm happy to contribute to the discussion...

Date: 2010-08-31 12:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] derekcfpegritz.livejournal.com
DEFINITELY read Peter Watts. But don't waste your time on the Rifters trilogy: it's...really nothing special at all--just your usual "bioengineered race of fish-people fighting for freedom" stuff. However, Blindsight is just...astonishing. When I first heard about it, my thoughts were: "This cannot be good. Vampires in space? Aliens who cannot communicate because they apparently aren't self-aware? A seeming Singularity driven by bioneered sociopaths? How the hell can all that fit together?"

Oh, it can. And it does. Brilliantly. Blindsight is like the mutant flipper-baby offspring of Event Horizon, 2001, and Rendezvous With Rama.

Date: 2010-09-01 04:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] corucia.livejournal.com
I think that you have similar issues with the reception of your SF as Peter Watts

Someone I truly ought to read.


He's posted a number of his shorts as PDFs on his website, if you want a taste:

http://www.rifters.com/real/shorts.htm

The PDFs are links on the right-hand side. I'll recommend 'A Niche', 'Ambassador' and 'The Island' as giving a broad overview of his general style and topics.

Date: 2010-08-29 10:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kurtmulgrew.livejournal.com
Peach cobbler... can't believe I've lived in the south my whole life and I've never tried that. Was it good?
Your body may not want to sleep if it isn't tired. Maybe some workout or walking or something would help.
Maybe that won't help.. I don't know. Hope you feel better. Oh, I just got "The Ammonite Violin" and "The Red Tree" in the mail, about to start reading, just finished "Silk" and you desribe things in such a way that I would never think of. It's so beatiful and amazing, I love it!

Date: 2010-08-30 12:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Peach cobbler... can't believe I've lived in the south my whole life and I've never tried that. Was it good?

It was exquisite. How can you never have eaten peach cobbler? Next you'll say you've never had fried okra.

Your body may not want to sleep if it isn't tired. Maybe some workout or walking or something would help.

I suspect this is part of it, yes.

Date: 2010-08-30 01:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kurtmulgrew.livejournal.com
Nah, I could eat a ton of fried okra.
Edited Date: 2010-08-30 01:28 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-08-29 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] v1ewfr0mbugtown.livejournal.com
Caitlín,

I couldn’t say why there’s a difference in the selling of your sci fi versus dark fantasy. I think all your work to be tremendously good. I don’t have anything pithy or greatly cerebral to add except to say that from reading your blog for so long, your many friends and fans who comment don’t seem the sort to be taken in by “genre” descriptions. (Though I am sure these are only a small percentage of those who buy your books.)

In paging though my copy of “A is for Alien,” I’d say A Season of Broken Dolls could reasonably fit both genres and be at home… this story and Bradbury Weather were my two favorites from the book. I’ll need to re-read for anything more in depth, but I’m as mystified as you are!

(I'm not sure where my italics go when this posts!)

Date: 2010-08-30 12:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

your many friends and fans who comment don’t seem the sort to be taken in by “genre” descriptions.

I'm not especially fond of the whole "genre" thing myself, but it's inescapable.

Date: 2010-08-30 12:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stillsostrange.livejournal.com
Although I have a preference for fantasy over SF, I love your science fiction, and would happily read more of it (and at novel-length). For me the problem with a lot of SF isn't explicability, but rather the lack of a sense of beauty and horror and strangeness. That seems more an issue with the fiction than with the science, or just a preference on the author's part. I often find your SF to be more profoundly haunting and unsettling than your fantasy, and I want very much to be haunted by books.

Which doesn't answer your question at all.

Date: 2010-08-30 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Which doesn't answer your question at all.

No, but thank you for saying it.

SF vs.

Date: 2010-08-30 02:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moto-chagatai.livejournal.com
Well, for my two cents. Your works are bloody expensive if you're not a fan that has picked up everything as it was published. I paid $80 to get "To Charles Fort etc etc". And I don't talk about what I paid for Candles for Elizabeth and the Dancy Chapbook. I know your fantasy and love it, I don't know your SF and have no opinion. Simple economics, and my limited resources therein, dictate that I buy your fantasy collections rather than your SF. At least until I've caught up with your publications...and there are other authors that eat up some of my budget too.

SF In General

Date: 2010-08-30 04:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] uulemnts.livejournal.com
Science Fiction, in general, doesn't sell as well as Fantasy. So maybe that's the only reason. I personally love your Science Fiction stories, but do not read very much in the category. I love some of the classics, like Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Left Hand of Darkness.

Well

Date: 2010-08-30 06:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spank-an-elf.livejournal.com
If I love the writer's voice I'll read the story no matter what the genre.

Re: Well

Date: 2010-08-30 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

If I love the writer's voice I'll read the story no matter what the genre.

That's the way it works for me, as well.

Date: 2010-08-30 12:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaz-mahoney.livejournal.com
All this talk of A is for Alien... I just went ahead and ordered it. I'm looking forward to getting it! I don't read as much science fiction as I do fantasy, but in all honesty I didn't know much about the kind of SF you write.

Now I've taken the time to read this entry and look into it, I see that it is much the kind of science fiction I think I'd prefer. I'm not interested in utopias, nor am I particuarly interested in the Singularity. The idea of 'retro sf' does interests me, however, so you just sold it to me right there with that mention. (Not that you were trying to.)

I also read a review that said something like, if you like films like Bladerunner and Alien(s), you'll enjoy this collection. That sounds pretty good to me. :)

Date: 2010-08-30 03:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gargirl.livejournal.com
That really is an excellent review of The Red Tree, it seems very honest and persuasive.

I don't know why A is for Alien didn't sell out. I have my copy and I love it. To me, your sci-fi seems bleaker than your other work but I've thought that might be so because there is less that is familiar there to relate to. I guess I can imagine dark subterranean tunnels full of monsters better than I can the technology and landscape of a possible future? Maybe.
I am looking forward to reading The Dry Salvages in the best of book that's in the works.

Reconsider genre?

Date: 2010-08-30 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] landinn.livejournal.com
Given your thoughts, might I suggest you consider something like steampunk or some other alternate reality with heavy scientific themes?

Alternatively, there is line that many sci-fi readers aren't that eager to cross in terms of the dark and scary. They are more philosophically bent toward academic study and stories that really highlight technology but have humanity come out as the "good guy" in the end.

Just some thoughts on appealing to the right audience.

Re: Reconsider genre?

Date: 2010-08-30 09:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Given your thoughts, might I suggest you consider something like steampunk or some other alternate reality with heavy scientific themes?

I've had several steampunk stories published, though none were included in A is for Alien.

Alternatively, there is line that many sci-fi readers aren't that eager to cross in terms of the dark and scary. They are more philosophically bent toward academic study and stories that really highlight technology but have humanity come out as the "good guy" in the end.

Which means, in essence, that sf readers prefer fantasy...

Re: Reconsider genre?

Date: 2010-08-30 10:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] landinn.livejournal.com
Cannot argue with that assessment. There is a Science Fiction discussion group over on LinkedIn. You might consider asking some questions there; they are mostly very intelligent professionals that discuss not just the genre but some of their motivations. I tend to read mostly fantasy and some sci fi. In the last few years I've tended more towards urban fantasy. But every now and then a good sci fi story will cross my reading list.

Date: 2010-08-30 10:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alumiere.livejournal.com
On your SF... I think part of it may be that the SF you write is much more literate and focused on character and world development than a lot of the "popular" SF I see doing so well. Unfortunately, much like any other type of story too many people want it easy - lots of futuristic gadgets, things blowing up, stereotypes and caricatures.

But one of the things I like about your SF is that you make me think, and the dystopian future is where we are heading all too fast. So your SF feels right, realistic, in a way that David Weber (Honor et al) and Simon Green (Deathstalker) for example don't. Not that I don't enjoy those authors, but they're silly fun, books that I borrow from friends or the library and read once. But the books that I buy, keep and read over and over are the ones that make me think, that posit realistic futures and characters that live and learn. And your SF does that, and well.

It may be that the SF readers like me, who want to think, haven't found your work yet, and the readers who buy your dark work aren't SF readers, so they don't think they'll enjoy it. I think in time word will spread and your SF will find it's audience, including I hope some of your current readers who don't like SF - I'd like to see more SF that forces people to think, and to see it sell well, so while it may be selfishness on my part, I will be happy to see more.

Date: 2010-08-30 11:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] derekcfpegritz.livejournal.com
So what should be the plural form of squid? Squaedi? Squidi? Squud?

Date: 2010-08-31 12:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

So what should be the plural form of squid?

Squid. Same as with fish.

Date: 2010-08-31 12:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] derekcfpegritz.livejournal.com
But the plural of "fish" is "fishes." At least according to the 1905 dictionary I use for vocabulary mining!

Date: 2010-08-31 02:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

But the plural of "fish" is "fishes."

Pffft.

Date: 2010-08-31 02:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kathryn-aka-kat.livejournal.com
There is a hurricane coming and it will be awful till it passes, the air circulation bringing up hot & humid hell till then.

Team Luxe blew it from the beginning in their initial decisions, and if Gretchen was, er, not very self-aware of her role in it, she had willing collaborators in the disaster.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

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