I owe everybody email. Sorry. I’ll get to it soon, honest.
In the mean time, Jeff Vandermeer has a a very nice rant — buttressed by his Best American Fantasy reading experience — about the state of short fiction, one that dovetails with a lot of my own irritations. It’s called “The Triumph of Competence” and it’s worth a read.
As I thought about this further, I visualized a story mill, similar to a puppy mill. An endless churning sound as thousands of writers typed and handwrote the first drafts of stories destined from conception to be good enough. Good enough for publication. Good enough to pass muster. Good enough to earn an appreciative nod. It was a depressing thought.
I kept coming back to words like rough and wild and pushing and punk and visionary. Words for what I was reading were more like twee, comfortable, recycled, reasonable, well-rounded, whimsical, unoriginal, well-behaved, and fuzzy.
Sometimes I worry that, while we’re congratulating ourselves on moving beyond nostalgia for a simpler time of barbarian swordsmen, drawing-room occult investigators, and Heinleinian Competent Men, we’ve just fallen victim to a new nostalgia for the golden age a generation or two later of ethical vampires, elves on motorcycles, and fairy-tale retellings with Thomas Canty covers.
I keep hoping we’ll hit Peak Retro, but no luck so far.
(Don’t worry; of course I’m not talking about you.)
Anyway: Not writing crap is a good start. But Point This Doesn’t Have Anything Wrong With It isn’t a good place to stop.