Saturday, April 01, 2006

Crabby About Awards

Lou Antonelli is a relatively new author with whom I am unfamiliar. This isn't news; I don't have time to read everything that's out right now, and even if someone crosses my path at some point, well, I have more friends writing than I have time to read.

Anyhow, Lou has written a post on his blog that, among other things, takes some unwarranted shots at Rich Horton. Go read what he's written and then come back here to read my response. I initially started writing some of this as a comment on his blog, but figured it made more sense to keep it here. Like I said, I don't know the guy, and it doesn't make any sense to accidentally start a minor flame war.

Even with misunderstanding (or worse, mispresenting) what Rich actually said, I don't understand why Lou thinks him a "jackass" and a "moron" and claim he has "affectations." I know he hasn't been publishing for terribly long, but that shouldn't be an excuse for such thin skin when it comes to reviewers. Especially when Rich didn't even review Lou's story in the first place.

It's always a shame when stories we strongly admire don't get the recognition we feel they deserve (although I firmly agree with Ray Feist that the Nebula is nothing but a glorified bowling trophy. I'm also on record that the Hugo is more akin to a car salesman's award. And don't get me started on Canada's Aurora). Would I turn one down if the voters decided I had written something that matched their tastes? No, I wouldn't. But my shorts remain knot-free in the meantime. As far as being ignored instead of poorly reviewed, well, we put a lot of our selves into our own stories, and for them to fall into the void can be frustrating and depressing.

This year, Peter Watts and I were lucky enough to get our story "Mayfly" onto the Locus Recommended Reading List. Now, "Mayfly" was not the only story I had published last year. As a matter of fact, Rich had earlier reviewed my collection and had given it quite favourable notice. However, when time came for the year-end roundup, the collection was not mentioned in any column, nor was it on the list. Neither was "Summer's Humans," the original story therein.

Disappointing, yes. Worth calling Rich names? I don't think so. First, and to me more important, I'm no longer interested in burning bridges. If I strongly disagree with someone, so strongly that I'm pretty sure I would have no interest in having a beer with that person, I may gripe privately to my wife, but otherwise I keep my yap shut. If they say or do something truly offensive, that's another story, and of course I won't hesitate to speak up, but there are limits to what I'll say and how I'll say it. Second, why would I ever want to offend someone who has pretty much established himself as one of the two or three most important short fiction reviewers in the industry? What good could this ever do? I really doubt that Rich would ever use a personaly antipathy rising out of something like this to strike back, but if it were me, I'd think seriously about steering clear of someone like that lest something I write gets misconstrued.

Honestly, there are more important things to worry about. And hell, the guy made a sale to Asimov's, a market I have yet to crack. That would have been enough to make me happy right there.

When a critic who influences the selection of collections or Year in Review lists complains it was a weak year for short stories, it's like a father calling his own kid ugly. He created the problem.

There was a lot of good work in 2005 that didn't get the recognition it deserved. I feel a lot worse for people like Jim Van Pelt, Tom Purdom, and Steve Utley, for example, who had some really good stuff.

As for myself, what I write is not in the mainstream of s-f. I still like stories that are fun. The heart of the genre is humorless and dystopian. The Onion just dope-slapped the genre for stories that have cardboard characters and crappy plots.

I'm just gonna do what I like and what I enjoy, and screw the critics - which really should be the attitude of all authors.

But when someone likes Horton sits as a self-appointed arbiter of what's appropriate for a literary genre - and especially when he pulls the genre in a direction I think is wrong - well, yeah, I guess I might sound crabby. Point taken. I'll think about it in the future.

I didn't get your point about "burning bridges"? You can't burn bridges that didn't exist in the first place.
Lou, I don't see where Rich complained that it was a weak year for short stories. I just went digging in the Asimov's message boards to confirm that he wrote this:

"This is by far the weakest ballot category among the fiction."

Ballot category, he said. He said nothing about the year in short fiction in general. This is what I meant about misunderstanding or misrepresenting.

Self-appointed arbiter or not (and I strongly disagree with that assessment), Rich also now reviews for Locus and as of this year is doing Year's Best volumes for Prime Books. The man reads pretty much every single work of short fiction that appears in our field.

I also wonder how you feel that he influences the selection of collections, other than the ones he is now doing on his own. I would guess that Gardner and David make their own decisions about what appears in their books. Indeed, that's why Sean Wallace at Prime got Rich into the same game; the books will have a lot of differences.

And as far as burning bridges goes, it ain't necessarily Rich I'm talking about. My guess is every editor out there is mature enough to want to buy your work if you write something of quality, but your professional relationship would stop pretty abruptly after that.

Rich Horton a "self-appointed arbiter"? I have never understood why aggrieved people use the term "self-appointed" to denigrate someone whose comment they dislike -- I'm a self-appointed novelist; nobody asked me to do it -- but for what it's worth, the charge is untrue. Rich was appointed by Locus to write that piece.

Everything Derryl said is very well-advised.
I'm surprised no one noticed the day I made the original post. Perhaps I should had made those comments separate from the ones about AggieCon. Then it would have been obvious I was taking advantage of April Fools to rip Rich a second asshole.

That being said, I'm glad my diatribe provoked some comment. I don't agree with Horton's taste, but I took advantage of the calendar, combined with some Texas bluntness, to make my point in the most pointed way possible.

To the extent you both took my April Fool's rant seriously, thanks for the feedback. I actually listened to you. Maybe it did some good. Enough said.

Umm, BTW, who cares what I think? I'm a nobody. I'm surprised anybody paid any attention. Do people really read these stupid blogs? I just do this, I guess, because you're supposed to. I'm a journalist ny profession, so I write for real every week. I really think blogs are so much blather. Blogs, spam, porn and chain letters are the Four Horsemen of the coming Internet Apocollapse.
Writing about how the prime minister's wife changed the color of the famous black door on 10 Downing St to the color red WAS funny.

"Perhaps I should had made those comments separate from the ones about AggieCon." Yes, than the slight backpeddling would have been more believable.
Saying you're ripping Rich a new asshole and claiming misunderstanding because it's all an April Fool's joke is a bit disingenuous. And I'm speaking from experience here when I note that it doesn't matter whether or not you think you're a nobody, things you say online have the great potential of coming back and biting you on the ass.

Sorry, I forgot you Canadians don't have a Bill of Rights which guarantees the right of free speech.

We Americans fought for our freedom. Texans fought twice.
"Sorry, I forgot you Canadians don't have a Bill of Rights which guarantees the right of free speech."

Section Two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees, among other things, freedom of expression. I also said nothing about you not being allowed to say what you like, but then, your history of misinterpreting is well established.

Beyond saying that, we're done here. Contrary to the evidence, you're a grown man who can take care of his own messes.

Good heavens, he's just a callow boor.

Delete him from memory, Derryl.
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