Monday, May 29, 2006

It's a matter of Rank - a ramble that loses focus at the end

This is going to be a ramble, and bear in mind that it's merely my opinion. I've noticed a certain, well, I'd almost call it mean-spirited argument going around the traps. I must admit a bias because I'm involved as an editor on the project mentioned, and its was kind of review in which the reviewer was, in the nicest way possible, dissing stories they hadn't read yet. It's this whole ranking of authors thing.

I was going to say that I rank authors by how much I enjoyed them. But then I realised I don't really rank authors at all. I don't have a tiered system of authors. I go into every story, as a reader, with expectation and hope, and a name I recognise or do not. Which isn't to say that others don't.

There are many ways you can rank authors. Rank them on sales and the greatest writers are Agatha Christie, Dan Brown, and so on. Rank them on what everyone's talking about (everyone being a group of maybe three-four hundred - in the world, maybe forty in Australia - SF fans(mainly writers) who are into "the Scene") and it's writers like Kelly Link and Margo Lanagan, and Naomi Novik. Rank them on who's been around the longest. Or who has had the greatest influence. Or who's the cutest. Or who can bench the most. Or who is highest in calories. It's so arbitrary, and transitory.

Every author develops along a different arc. And every author has a different set of expectations, about what they are writing, why they are writing, and what they expect to get out of that writing. I love publishing my stories. But I don't write for publication, I write to work stuff out, and write the way I do, because it is the only way I can do it. If I was a journalist I would write stories about these things that way, if I was an academic I would explore my obsessions more critically - and God knows that would probably end these disjointed rambles.

Sometimes I write to tell a story. Sometimes I don't, all I want to do is convey an emotion, or follow a certain beat that a bunch of words and thoughts have provided. And some stuff I write because it's fun, and I like struggling with narrative, or I'm flirting with my wife.

I honestly don't know why other people write. And I don't feel in competition with them, or a need to rank myself against them. I've been writing fiction since I was about five, I'm only thirty three, I expect to write fiction until I die. But I'm not doing that for anyone else. I'm doing that for me. It's not a compulsion, it's just a thing I do, and it's helped me, and sometimes it sucks, but, hey ,there's always something new keeping me going.*

I'll be posting an interview with Chris McMahon up here soon. Enough of this shit about me, eh.

*BTW I'm ranked lieutenant of the Australian SF reserve army. I have never fired an adjective in anger, only verbs.


Shane Jiraiya Cummings said...

Lieutenant Jamieson, if it's the discussion I've been involved with, then I apologise for that. You make a good point, which in my need to expunge, I didn't properly consider - read the stories before making a value judgement.

That aside, there have been several anthologies released of late that I've been very disappointed with, including one I was associated with and the predecessor to FJ. My lament is that the talent pool of Aussie writers, as big and as expanding as it is, is being stretched a tad too thin. At the same time, several projects are raising up writers who may not have honed their craft to a fine enough degree.

Trent Jamieson said...

Point taken, Shane. And you don't need to apologise - that's what blogs are all about - it makes them interesting. And it's cool that people are passionate enough about what's being published to be concerned.

I'm just grumpy today, still getting over a cold.