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My interview with MALEVOLENT creator Harlan Guthrie went live on THE SINISTER SCOOP earlier this month, so be sure to check that out!
I also just announced that I will be interviewing comic creator and all around artistic great Kyle Starks this month, and that article will be coming out in May.
Still making steady progress on edits to get it to a second round of beta readers. Currently at about 50% completion of this read through. All other projects are on standby at the moment!
For a long while, I’ve had a lot of ideas and feelings about being a writer percolating at the back of my mind. After my conversation with Harlan Guthrie, and our in-depth discussion on the reality of being a creative, those ideas finally crystallized into something real that I feel like I can vocalize in an at least halfway clear manner.
Early on in my real-writer journey, I fell in with the Taco Bell Quarterly craze of raging against the literary machine and discussing the anti-glamorous life many creatives lead. But as I shifted my focus more and more towards genre fiction, I started to second guess the entire world I’d been raging against. I stopped focusing on the literary-ness of everything and started following more and more indie authors, more hard-genre writers, and more horror media creators. As I entered that space I found a world absent of self-important pretense, of constant cloying for membership to the exclusive club of literary writers. Instead I found a community of writers who just love to fuckin’ write. Who support each other. Who offer free to submit, paying markets that encourage the entry of new writers. Who publish anthologies based on vibes, not the hunt for understanding from an abstract literary empire that no one really understands.
In other words, in the genre writing scene, I found the world Taco Bell Quarterly hopes to create. I don’t know any other way to put it.
What shocked me though, as I started to fall more and more into this genre space, is how totally unaware so many literary writers seem to be of its existence. More times than I can count I have seen a writer complain about the intricate, gatekeeping issues of the literary fiction space, and wish for a myriad of improvements. An overwhelming number of times, that improvement is already a common, expected factor in the genre publishing space. That is not to say that genre publishing, which makes up an overwhelming majority of the entire field, is not strife with its own problems. Getting an agent and getting published is intense and more difficult than most expect. Marketing for books, even once they are published, is inconsistent and rests largely on the shoulders of the author. Self-Publishing isn’t much better, often expensive and almost always a sunk cost, all to publish into an overstuffed space dominated almost entirely by one corporation.
So, like I said. Genre has its own problems. But the thing is, those issues are ALSO Lit-Fic’s issues.
So, if Lit-Fic is strife with additional problems that genre seems absent of, despite its own issues, then why aren’t writers, not necessarily publishers, but writers, taking genre’s lead? I pondered on this for a good while, but it wasn’t until my interview with Guthrie that I really started to see what might be the heart of the issue.
Throughout the second half of the interview, Guthrie talked a lot about “writing for the medium,” and while we weren’t talking about genre or literary versus genre fiction, the topic struck a chord with me in a way I did not expect. I don’t have an M.F.A., but I am, or was, an academic. I’m a historian by training, and throughout my undergraduate studies I took a handful of creative writing courses, all of which focused exclusively on Lit-Fic. Genre was discouraged for a number of reasons I won’t go into here. I say that only to say: I am familiar with the space and the expectations it contains. I understand the gatekeeping and expectations intimately. In fact, of my three published/accepted short stories, all of them are literary fiction. And to me, there is the crux of it all. I am a published literary fiction writer, but I also write genre and participate in genre spaces. I participate in genre spaces, because literary spaces are filled with anger, frustration, and constant pretentious comparisons.
So, as I ruminated on this juxtaposition, I wondered why many of the TBQ warriors demanding a more open, welcoming space didn’t just transition to the genre space. Why are so many literary authors perfectly happy to ask for paying markets and welcoming spaces, but scoff at the idea of just hanging out with the genre-writing public. The non-M.F.A. holding, day job working, good-times loving part of the writing community. You know…the NANO crowd.
Fighting to find a table at the literary community has a long and storied history in literary writing, but that sort of thing is what TBQ hopes to push away from. But at the same time, a lot of Lit-Fic writers still decry genre and focus on only “real” writing. In other words, they aren’t writing their story, they’re writing to push themselves into a space that has a number of restrictions, of expectations. They aren’t writing for their story, they’re focused on writing literary fiction, on writing for the medium, not the project. Literary writers are trying to find a way out of the gated community that is Lit-Fic, they’re trying to find a way over the wall. All the while trying to claw their way into a “genre” of fiction that has the highest gates of all. Instead of just writing their art and being part of a group that wants them, they aren’t writing the story and letting the medium follow. They’re writing for the medium. A lot of my fellow literary writers spend, from my perspective, more of their time complaining about writing than they do actually writing. In the modern social media landscape, being a Lit-Fic writer is more about complaining about Lit-Fic publishing than it is about actually writing Lit-Fic.
Like Guthrie said, “…if you are a creative, and you want to create, don’t start at the finish line, sit down and think of what kind of story you want to tell.”
Or, if I might put it in a more blunt way taking a slightly modified page from Brent Cobb’s songbook:
Sometimes sayin’ nothin’ says it all and then some more
Conjecture causes bull and fuels unnecessary wars
Poets know hiding the truth somewhere between the lines somehow
Makes it seem worth more for those looking to find
Some answers to the troubles this life brings
Shut up and sing
Maybe it’s time for Lit-Fic to drop the pretense and stop complaining about the sheets that are on the bed we made. Shut up and write.
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