Showing posts with label Maxim Jakubowski. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maxim Jakubowski. Show all posts

03 August 2022

To Protect the Innocent, and Other Reasons



About a decade ago at a mystery conference a friend told me about an anthology he had been invited to write a story for.  Hmm, thought I.  I could create something for that one.

Instantly I had an appropriate story idea (and that's the way it always works, kids, ha ha).  I pulled out my notebook and wrote down the title and a one-sentence summary.  I believe I even wrote down the last paragraph.

Now as it happens, the editor never invited me to submit for that book.  And that's fine.  You can't ask everyone to the dance.

But I wrote the story and since then it has been looking for a happy home.  No luck, until Maxim Jakubowski announced he was going to edit a book called The Book of Extraordinary Femme Fatale Stories.  

Jakubowski is a well-known author and anthologist in Britain. Back in the nineties I had stories in two of his books (and am very fond of them, since one earned me my only Anthony Award nomination, and the other got me my first recognition from Publishers Weekly).  So I figured I might have a chance.

"The Dance of Love and Hunger" is narrated by a young man who is not the brightest and a bit too malleable.  His friends already talked him into a jail sentence.  Now he has fallen in love with a beautiful musician and when both of their families have financial troubles... well, stuff happens.

I originally set the story in Bellingham,WA, where I live, but the story is just so  bleak I couldn't bear to impose it on my lovely city, so I changed the names to protect the innocent.  Bellingham was named for one of the people involved in George Vancouver's expedition to the Northwest, so I magically changed it to Broughton, an officer on the ship.

Cornwall Avenue drifted east on the English coast and became Devon Avenue.  Indian Street turned into Treaty Street.  Which brings me to an interesting anecdote, because Indian Street also changed its name in real life.

Back when I worked at the university library I spent some time on the search committee.  One day it was my duty to drive a candidate to campus.  He was actually an alum of the school but had been out of town for several years.

The streets in this neighborhood were: Forest, Garden, High, Indian, and Jersey.  But when we reached the appropriate corner he said "They changed the street name." 

"That's right," I said.  "Indian Street is now named for Billy Frank, Jr.  He was an important Native American leader in the state."  

We drove for another block and then he blurted out: "But now the streets aren't in alphabetical order!"

"I know!" I said.  "Why couldn't they find a Native American who's name began with I?"

Something only a librarian (or someone with OCD) would even notice.

"The Dance of Love and Hunger" made it into The Book of Extraordinary Femme Fatale Stories, which was released on July 26.

 



23 April 2019

Writer in a Raincoat


As Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character Rod Tidwell repeatedly shouted in Jerry Maguire, “Show me the exposure!”
Too warm for a raincoat.
But is “exposure” enough? There is an on-going discussion among writers—and, perhaps, among creatives of all artistic genres—about whether one should ever create art without compensation.

Staunch proponents at either end of the spectrum—from those who advocate that we never write for free to those who advocate that publication is itself sufficient reward—hold firm to their beliefs, but the reality for most of us falls somewhere in the middle.

FOR THE LOVE

Many of us saw our first publications in high school literary magazines, student newspapers, church bulletins, company newsletters, and small-town newspapers. We wrote whatever we could and saw it published wherever we could.

I know I did, working my way along a trajectory that included junior high school literary magazine, high school literary magazine, high school newspaper, underground newspaper, college newspaper, and science fiction fanzines. I wrote fiction for semi-prozines (publications that paid fractions of a cent per word) and fillers for well-known consumer publications.

Over time, I sold longer work to better-paying publications, yet I never stopped writing for non-paying publications. The more I earned from sales at the upper end of the pay scale, the more I could afford to place work at the lower end of the pay scale. One, in a sense, subsidized the other.

FOR THE MONEY

I am amused by the number of writers who claim to only write for paying publications and who make the claim in blog posts for which they were not paid.

Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. Perhaps fiction is an art form and blog posting isn’t.

Or maybe it’s a knowledge of what is and is not marketable. Regularly placing short stories with top markets might make one less inclined to consider non-paying short story markets. Similarly, other than copy intended to promote myself or my work, I do not write advertising and public relations material for free.

But a short story?

If I wrote fiction only for paying publications, my office would be ass deep in unpublished manuscripts.

FOR THE EXPOSURE

Any editor who offers to publish my work “for exposure” and hopes to “someday” offer payment to contributors is clearly delusional, and I want no part of their unrealistic business model. But an editor who admits to producing a small-press publication as a hobby, financed with pocket change and no real hope of ever turning a buck, has my respect.

In one form or another, I’ve been them.

As a teenager, and continuing into my twenties, I published a science fiction fanzine, printed initially on a spirit duplicator, then for many issues on a mimeograph, and the last few issues on an offset press. The quality—the writing, the art, the production values—all improved as I learned about printing and publishing, and my experience with the fanzine helped me land my first real employment.

Along the way, I published the work of many great science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers who provided articles and columns without pay (among them: Robert Bloch, Algis Budrys, Grant Carrington, Don D’Ammassa, David Gerrold, Charles L. Grant, Thomas F. Monteleone, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle) or wrote letters published in my fanzine’s letter column (including Richard A. Lupoff, Barry N. Malzberg, Christopher Priest, William Rotsler, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Robert Silverberg, Bob Tucker, Ted White, and Gene Wolf).

It seems as if I’m humble-bragging, but the point is that these writers, and many others like them, wrote without pay when they could have blown me off when I asked.

These writers were my role models, and if they were willing to occasionally write without pay, who am I to behave otherwise?

FOR THE HELL OF IT

So, I do sometimes contribute to non-paying publications—if I like the editor, or the theme appeals to me, or, in the case of non-fiction (such as SleuthSayer posts), I feel I have something to say or can use the forum to pay it forward.

But asking me to write something for “exposure” is an insult.

Don’t insult me. Don’t insult other writers.

If I really want exposure, I’ll wear a raincoat and stand on a street corner, whipping it open every so often to show passersby my short . . . stories.

Coming in May: The Book of Extraordinary Historical Mystery Stories (Mango), edited by Maxim Jakubowski, which contains my collaboration with Sandra Murphy, “Gracie Saves the World.”