AS: Christie, I really do believe there are many ways to be an author, but only one right way: whatever way is right for you. Social media isn’t for everybody, and it’s easy for writers to get caught up in conventions and schmoozing, or any number of other things, and forget to make time and energy to put words on the page.
CY: And there are just as many ways to be a reader! I recently joined an SFF book club for the first time, and it’s been an illuminating experience. There are eight of us, all of whom have read broadly; the discussions are wild! There is definitely no consensus on what makes a “good” story. What I thought was a totally gripping narrative, another person described as a “dystopian slog.” It often comes down to a simple difference in taste, and what elements of a story a person connects with.
AS: That really resonates with me. I think we often forget that “good” is subjective, and we often talk about it as an objective Truth. Picasso is a great example: before he went wild, he mastered realism; then he went wild and many people couldn’t understand what he was doing, they didn’t think of it as “good.” I think that with pretty much most types of art, where you will find critics, experts, and fans lauding one piece of work, you will also find detractors of that same piece, including other critics, experts, and fans.
CY: Writers often ask us, “What are you looking for?” Readers similarly ask, “What can we expect from you, as editors?” My answer is always the same: I’m looking for a story that I haven’t read before. Barring that, I’m looking for a story that illuminates the human condition, that helps me understand something about what it’s like to be someone who is not me.
AS: Agreed. So, sooooo agreed! And I think when you read broadly, what that looks like can be incredibly varied. I mean, for movies, for example, my favorites include The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen, The Color Purple, The Sound of Music, Blade, Brazil, Do the Right Thing, The Matrix, Alien and Aliens, Cabin in the Sky, The Silence of the Lambs…. And I read just as broadly. I also think that things which were at some point fresh and new get redone, over and over, and quite often aren’t as fresh and new as the authors (or movie producers!) think they are. Then again, sometimes a different perspective can really breathe new life into familiar ideas.
CY: Thinking more about that book club — I now live in a med-school town, and most of the other members are people with advanced degrees in medicine and/or psychology. Intimidating, to say the least! These are very smart people who read a lot, and who look to genre as a way to escape and explore ideas in a safe space, where lives aren’t actually on the line. Would you believe these people—who literally save lives—were intimidated by me, because I’m a “professional editor”?!
What I told them is this: A genre pro is just a fan who took it too far. In the end, we’re all here for the same reason—we love to read.
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In this issue’s short fiction, Pamela Rentz takes us on a journey of place and identity in “Obstruction,” and Zebib K. A. explores the complexity of being and feeling strange in “Heirlooms;” in flash fiction, Allison King asks what happens when a rabbit wants to be a dragon in “Breath of the Dragon King,” and Gwynne Garfinkle’s “Emily and the What-If Imp” gives voice to an undesired darkness; for poetry, we have “Halsing for the Anchylose” by Stewart C. Baker and “Twilight Mind” by Jennifer Crow. Plus essay “Worldbuilding With Legs” by Premee Mohamed, author of And What Can We Offer You Tonight, The Annual Migration of Clouds, and The Void Ascendant. Enjoy!
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