Showing posts with label THe Digest Enthusiast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label THe Digest Enthusiast. Show all posts

14 August 2018

Not Like Us


by Michael Bracken

Hanging out with Kevin Tipple
at The Wild Detectives shortly before
Noir at the Bar-Dallas,
August 2, 2018.
About a month ago, as I write this, I dined with an early career writer who shared his experience during a recent writing workshop’s critique session. One of the authors who workshopped this writer’s story criticized him for cultural appropriation because he—a middle-aged white male—wrote about an older black woman.

My immediate response was a flippant, “If you aren’t creative enough to write about people who aren’t like you, you aren’t creative enough to write.”

I’ve thought often about that discussion, have not changed my opinion, but realize I may not be the person best suited to make the argument. After all, a lifetime of both male privilege and white privilege likely colors my viewpoint.

WRITES LIKE A WOMAN?

Several years ago, Bev Vincent experienced a similar dilemma, which he describes in “Apparently I Write Like a Girl,” when an editor rejected one of his stories, stating, “It’s quite a challenge for a writer of one sex to explore writing from the perspective of the opposite sex. Bev Vincent has not done a convincing job.” Bev is male and the protagonist of his story is male. The editor saw his byline, falsely presumed his gender, and savaged Bev’s story based on that false presumption.

I had a similar experience many years ago when an editor rejected one of my stories because it had a male byline and a female protagonist, and the editor expressed her belief that no writer could successfully write from the opposite gender’s perspective.

WRITES LIKE A WOMAN!

I’ve never presented myself as other than what I am—a middle-aged, middle-class white male—yet I’ve sold more than 350 stories with female protagonists and at least 100 stories in which the protagonist differs from me in some other significant way (ethnicity or sexual orientation, for example). In most cases the acquiring editors matched my submissions’ protagonists more closely than I did.

AND NOT JUST LIKE A WOMAN.

For an interview published in The Digest Enthusiast #8, Richard Krauss asked, “In ‘Professionals,’ Out of the Gutter No. 2 (Summer 2007), the narrator is a gay prostitute. In ‘My Sister’s Husband,’ Pulp Adventures No. 27 (Fall 2017), the narrator is a middle-aged woman. How do you ensure your characters act and speak authentically, with respect to their gender, sexual orientation, race, etc.?”

Part of my response described how I develop characters: “The key [...] is to build characters from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Regardless of our gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and whatever else divides us, we share many commonalities. We want to love and be loved. We want to feel safe and free from fear. We want to be happy and healthy. We want to be appreciated by our families and respected by our peers. The list goes on and on.

“If we build characters from the inside out, the characters will ‘speak’ appropriately and more genuinely than if we build characters from the outside in and rely on stereotypes.”

BUT SHOULD WE?

Where is the line in the sand that we dare not cross when writing from the perspective of a character unlike ourselves? I don’t believe such a line exists, and if it does, I hope a rising tide washes it away.

Rather than limiting ourselves for fear of offending others, we should instead strive to create characters out of whole cloth, making them as authentic as our skills allow, and we should strive to improve those skills with each story we write. We should not be accused of cultural appropriation simply for writing about those who are not like us, but should rightly be called to task if fail to do the job well.

And those who critique our work should not make presumptions about our work because of who wrote it, but should instead judge the work on its own merits. A piece of writing succeeds or fails within the context of itself, not because the fingers on the keyboard were male or female; old or young; gay, straight, or bi; black, white, or any other shade of the rainbow.

We all benefit by reading and writing about characters that are not like us.

John Floyd and I have stories in the third issue of Black Cat Mystery Magazine, the only writers to have fiction in all three issues. I’m uncertain how many stories John has upcoming in BCMM, but I have three in the pipeline, so we’ll likely share space between the covers several more times. Fellow SleuthSayer Eve Fisher also has a story in the third issue, so order your copy now and get a SleuthSayer three-fer.

22 September 2016

Rich, Engaging, Storied Digests


Richard Krauss
by Joe Wehrle, Jr.
The first time I met Richard Krauss was at Left Coast Crime in Portland a couple of years ago. He gave me a copy of the first issue of his magazine, The Digest Enthusiast. I liked it a lot. I liked the second issue even better because I was interviewed in it.

This month I got the idea of inviting him to tell us why digest magazines fascinate him - and maybe you too. Take it away, Richard!
—Robert Lopresti


by Richard Krauss

In February 1922 an innovative new reading experience emerged: Reader’s Digest. The first edition was 64 pages and measured about 5.5” x 7.5,” a magazine small enough for readers to carry in a pocket or purse.

In that era, the word digest referred to previously published content in a condensed or abridged form; but as the years went by the word also came to define a publishing format.

By the 1940s—and particularly 1950s—these smaller-sized magazines were more economical to produce than the pulp magazines that dominated popular fiction on newsstands before WWII. In the mid-twentieth century there were hundreds of digest magazine titles targeting every popular market—mystery, western, romance, adventure, science fiction, etc. Many lasted only a few issues, but others went far beyond, racking up impressive runs over a dozen years or more.

Fate magazine brought readers “true reports of the strange and unknown” beginning in 1948, and continues its unique mission through over 700 issues spanning nearly 70 years in print.

Lawrence Spivak, who first published Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in the fall of 1941 also launched a companion digest magazine devoted to fantasy in 1949 called The Magazine of Fantasy, under the editorial guidance of Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas. By the second edition it expanded its purview to Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF), and like EQMM is still delivering the goods—it recently published its 727th issue.

 In 1953, Manhunt exploded onto newsstands with a brand new, serialized novel by Mickey Spillane, concurrent with the height of his popularity. Manhunt #1 sold half a million copies and launched the beginning of the magazine’s phenomenal 114-issue run, inspiring dozens of similar titles like Verdict, Murder!, Pursuit, Guilty, Menace, Conflict, Trapped, etc.

Westerns fared better in regular-sized magazines, but a few digests like Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, Gunsmoke, Western Digest, Western Magazine and others, appeared on newsstands before the public’s interest in the genre shrank.

The proliferation of detective and mystery digests was eclipsed only by science fiction. Analog holds the distinction of the longest running science fiction magazine, reaching issue 1000 in June 2015, and is still going strong every month. It began its life as the pulp magazine Astounding Stories in 1938, changing its title to Analog in 1960, and its format to digest-size in November 1943.

In many ways the storied past and present of digest magazines is yet to be recorded. There is far more to tell than it may seem at first glance. In fact, the relative lack of information about the titles and history of these “lost” gems inspired me, along with a small band of like-minded fanatics to begin recording their story.

What titles do you remember? Which were your favorites, and which would you like to read more about?

Thanks to Robert Lopresti for the invitation to share a few covers and thoughts here at SleuthSayers. The Digest Magazine Blog provides daily news on current digests, old favorites, opening story lines, and lots of killer covers. Our magazine, The Digest Enthusiast, covers similar territory in greater depth.