I was standing on the side of a multi-tiered lecture hall at the University of Brighton when Gina Wisker, one of my hosts for the evening, snapped the picture on the left. I didn’t see her take it. I was preoccupied with the stories I was going to present that night, queuing them in memory, getting ready.
I’d caught a red-eye into Heathrow the night before, spent the day getting to the Brighton Metropole (site of the World Fantasy Convention), and then took a cab crosstown in rush hour to the University’s Falmer Campus. I should have been tired, but I felt focused, ready to go.
My presentation that night centered on the same readings that I would give later that week at WFC, but it also included reflections on fiction and how a writer knows when his stories are ready for submission.
At the end of the presentation, I collected a stack of questions from the audience. Some I answered there. The rest I took with me, promising to address a few more of them at this blog when I got the chance. That was two weeks ago, so I suppose it’s about time I make good on my word.
As I did at the presentation, I have selected the questions at random.
What are your thoughts on the ghettoization of genre fiction? Why do people dismiss genre fiction?
The ghettoization of fantasy and science fiction is much less an issue today than it was in the middle of the last century. We live in an age where genre novels frequently outsell so-called mainstream and literary works, and when movie titles such as Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Oz the Great and Powerful, Gravity, and Star Trek: Into Darkness rank among the top-grossing films of the year. As for the top grossing films of all time, just take a look at the top-40 list from Internet Movie Data Base (at left).
I guess the takeaway is that today’s genre writers shouldn’t be overly concerned with having their works automatically relegated to a literary ghetto.
And as for those people who dismiss genre fiction? I wouldn’t pay them any mind. After all, we’re not writing for them, are we?
Is academia a good place to develop your writing, or should stories be written for a wider audience?
Colleges and universities have become friendly places for genre fiction, with plenty of graduate programs offering MA’s and MFA’s in popular literature.
For the past ten years, I’ve served as one of the residency writers at Seton Hill University’s program in Writing Popular Fiction, and there are many similar programs at colleges and universities across the United States.
I’ve also had the good fortune to work as a consulting editor for Dissections, a peer-review journal specializing in horror literature. Perhaps you’re familiar with that publication. (It’s produced out of the University of Brighton and edited by Dr. Gina Wisker.)
I might also recommend The International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts, or ICFA. It’s a gathering of academics and genre writers from around the world, and it’s well worth your time if you can get there.
What or who has influenced your writing?
When I was in my early teens, I bought a subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. When the first issue arrived, it contained a story titled “Bait” by Bob Leman. I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever read. Years later, I learned the Bob lived right across town. I got in touch with him, and he became my mentor.
Bob’s writing carrier spanned four decades, but he only produced fifteen stories, all but one of which were published in F&SF. The stories have been collected in the book Feesters in the Lake. Bob didn’t care for the book’s cover when it came out. Perhaps you can see why. (That’s the cover on the right.) Nevertheless, the book stands as the definitive collection of his work . If you can find a copy, buy it.
What draws you to fantasy and science fiction?
The sense of wonder. It’s the thrills and chills that I encountered when I first read that Bob Leman story back in January 1967. And it’s a desire to pass that experience along to a new generation of readers, which is what I’m going to try to do as soon as I finish this blog post. I’ve got a half-finished story waiting . . . and I’m eager to see how it comes out.
If you have questions or comments about any thing posted here, feel free to let me know. Likewise, please let me know if you’d like to see a follow-up post based on a few more questions from my stack of question cards. You can reach me at the contact buttons above . . . or the comment box below. Always good hearing from you.
That’s it for now. New stories are waiting.