Saturday, February 16, 2013

Publication and Style

My first pro publishing credit, "Misbegotten," seems to have been well received; it even earned Lois Tilton's RECOMMENDED ranking.
Elerit gives the initial impression of a hapless character, but he proves to have deep resources and strong attachment. Another well-imagined setting increases reader enjoyment.
The story is available in both print and podcast form in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. As a magazine that publishes high-quality "literary adventure fantasy," BCS has been in my sights for some time, and I'm very pleased and honored to have my story on their website.

In other news, I've finished a new novel and am now seeking a home for it. Its tentative title is Bronze Sword, Green with Eld. Broadly speaking, it might be described as a philosophical pulp-action epic fantasy. It's set in the same steam-age metropolis and paleozoic counter-earth as my short fiction.

I've been focusing on style over the past year. As regular readers of this blog know, I'm an afficionado of the old Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. Unfortunately, though, the style of these works is often either atrocious (Hodgson) or too mannered for a mainstream audience (Dunsany, Eddison). They'll always be favorites of a select few who can look beyond (or learn to savor) their eccentricities, but, if a writer wants to gain a wide audience, he had better avoid emulating them.

That's a lesson I've learned. On the other hand, though, fantasy calls for a distinctive style, a style with a certain indefinable something more, as attested to by Ursula K. Le Guin's "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie." The existence of a book like The Tough Guide to Fantasyland bespeaks a vein of genre fiction that purports to trade in wonder but has actually been drained of all magic, danger, and imagination. So, here's my quandary. How do you retain that aura of mystery and sense of wondrous substantiality while writing in a style that's succinct, artful, and accessible?

Le Guin herself is one of my favorite fantasists in terms of style. Two other post-Tolkien favorites that come to mind are John Crowley and Gene Wolfe. I've often turned to their works for guidance. But where I've really found the answer is Raymond Chandler.

Chandler's writing is highly nuanced and richly textured, but the reader hardly notices it. His sentences are terse, yet packed with color and metaphor. His Los Angeles is a universe in miniature—a fantasy world, almost—a living, breathing force that's anything but a flat backdrop. His pungent, gritty, tarantula-on-an-angel-food-cake style is inimitable, of course, but he solved a lot of the problems that I've been trying to solve. What's more, my stories have a distinctly urban (not "urban fantasy," just urban) feel, borrowing motifs and atmosphere from my favorite film style—film noir. Think Touch of Evil, Kiss Me Deadly, Gun Crazy, Criss Cross, Detour, The Set-Up, Night and the City, Asphalt Jungle, The Maltese Falcon. What better guides than the great writers of the hardboiled school?

So, that's what I've been doing with myself. Writing, thinking, honing my craft, submitting pieces for publication.

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