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January 11, 2004

Open thread 4. Haven’t had one of these in a while. No doubt somebody has a comment or three on recent sidebar links. [03:34 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Open thread 4.:

LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 07:20 PM:

I certainly got a chuckle out of the Clinton's joke writer piece. I liked how Mark Katz went toe-to-toe with the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, over a joke the latter vetoed because it wasn't funny.

' "Ted, hold on," I said in disbelief. "We need some ground rules here: The national security advisor can kill any joke he likes on the grounds that it compromises national security. But he can't kill a joke because he doesn't think it's funny."

' The authoritative tone of my voice belied the fact that as the White House joke writer, I was more than a few rungs below the national security advisor on the organizational chart. Nevertheless, Ted was sympathetic to my plea and agreed to take the joke back to his boss.

' On Ted's next trip back to see us, we learned the unlikely outcome of this unlikely showdown: Sandy Berger blinked.'

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:27 AM:

I enjoyed the color photos of NY piece.

It's interesting, though: The streetscapes of the early 40s seem LESS exotic in color than in B&W.

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 07:36 AM:

Q. Which operatic composer is most popular on the Jawa's homeworld?

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:01 AM:

Doesn't the market for fantasy novels and series seem rather lopsided in comparison to the market for fantasy short fiction. What is the relation between the two? Is the latter primarily a springboard to the former? I'm asking because I have an interest in writing short fiction, but none in writing long fiction.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:28 AM:

Niall, I'm sure I'll regret this, but which?

Bryan, I'd say the market for short fiction in general is always pretty small, but you're right to observe that there are usually fewer places for short fantasy than for short SF. Basically, you've got Realms of Fantasy, a portion of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, various small-press periodicals, and intermittent anthology projects.

As to whether fantasy short-fiction publishing is "primarily a springboard" to novel-writing, I suggest that this is the wrong way to think about any commercial publishing enterprise. To the extent that fantasy short stories get published, it's primarily because at least some people want to read them.

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:55 AM:




bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:02 AM:

'As to whether fantasy short-fiction publishing is "primarily a springboard" to novel-writing, I suggest that this is the wrong way to think about any commercial publishing enterprise. To the extent that fantasy short stories get published, it's primarily because at least some people want to read them.'
I agree that's the case from the point of view of the magazine publishers, I wouldn't expect them to consider themselves in the business of providing springboards to novel writers.

I'm wondering in the context of the industry as a whole. Outside of Manly Wade Wellman (who is of course more horror), can anyone name a professional fantasy short story writer?

How long would one have to plug away at short fantasy writing before publishers would consent to risk a collection of short stories? And I don't think I've seen a collection of fantasy short stories devoted to a particular author for a while.

It's worrisome to me that I don't think Lord Dunsany would ever get anywhere in the field nowadays.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:04 AM:

I don't want to rewatch the star wars movies with jabba in them, so explain the Puccini! comment please.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:25 AM:

damn, jawa!

when is movable type gonna have support for setting text size from browser settings (this is an MT blog right), I really can't read stuff this small? getting old, too much programming, *grumble grumble*

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:20 AM:

Bryan, the problem may simply be your browser. Microsoft Internet Exploder, in particular, is notorious for its inability to allow the user to set text sizes.

I use Mozilla Firebird on my Windows machines and Safari on the Mac, and both allow me to resize the text on MT-generated pages without any problem. Both browsers are free (as in free beer) and easy to install, and they're certainly as "standards-compliant" as any other major browser, which is to say, nobody's perfect but I rarely encounter a web page they can't deal with. These days I mostly keep Internet Explorer around for the occasional "e-commerce" web site that absolutely insists on misbehaving with other browsers.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:41 AM:

"Can anyone name a professional fantasy short story writer?"

If you mean someone who makes a living writing fantasy short stories, well, I'd be hard-pressed to name someone who makes all or most of their living writing any kind of short fiction. However, just glancing up from my desk at Tor, I'm reminded that Charles de Lint, for instance, has published no fewer than four story collections in the past decade (Dreams Underfoot, The Ivory and the Horn, Moonlight and Vines, and Tapping the Dream Tree), all of which have sold well enough to stay in print--indeed, we just recently reissued the first one with a slick new cover by John Jude Palencar.

We certainly have no special aversion to single-author fantasy collections. The real problem is that most single-author collections barely sell at all, relative to the same author's novel sales, no matter what their genre; so publishers naturally tend to do collections only for particularly well-established writers. Of course publishers make exceptions all the time; for instance, Teresa didn't acquire and publish two Avram Davidson collections because of the enormous sales of his novels. She (and Tor) did it because Davidson was simply one of the great writers in the genre, and the books, despite their modest sales, are an ornament to our list.

As for Lord Dunsany, I note that the Dunsany family website lists thirteen different in-print titles for sale from various publishers, which is doing better than a lot of living authors. I'm not under the impression that Dunsany did all that much better when he himself was alive.

Elric ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 11:03 AM:

Thanks for posting the link to the Katz material. I had the pleasure of doing a proof read on Clinton & Me, and it was a really fun project.

Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 11:44 AM:

Even though I'd expand on Patrick's list slightly for reasonably-sized (or at least reasonably-paid) fantasy short fiction markets, there is no power on this earth that could convince me to even try to make a living selling nothing but short fiction. (I'd add, by the way, Strange Horizons for sure, and if you're writing dark fiction, Chiaroscuro, although it's not strictly speaking a 'fantasy' publication, just a publication that sometimes has fantasy stories.)

Figuring on both a limited market (even when adding in all those semi-prozines, some of which are very good but nonetheless pay less than the larger or better-funded publications) and only rare collections and anthology deals, I don't think it'd be possible for any but a particular prolific, talented, and lucky author. A longish story in a relatively well-paid magazine is still unlikely to pay more than about $400; a 2500 word story in a semi-pro might pay you $75.

Not that making a living off novel writing is an easy prospect either, but it's a more likely one. What I would aim for is a split between the two (in my case slanted towards novels, but it would work slanted towards shorts with regular novel production, I suppose). Or a part-time job and part-time writing might work, or part fiction and part non-fiction (though that has its difficulties too, but non-fiction can pay much better, even if it doesn't always).

Actually, let's face it: making enough money off writing to live off of is a daunting task no matter what genre, length, and frequency of writing you go for. I figure at the rate I'm going, I'll be about 50 before it's possible...

Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:02 PM:

The fashion photography sidebar was interesting especially because Scavullo died a few days back. Newsday's obit this morning reproduced a number of Scavullo photgraphs and Cosmo covers, and what was most striking about the images (or at least those chosen for this half-page feature in a semi-tabloid) was their sameness.

I understand from an editorial and marketing standpoint why the Cosmo covers needed to look very much the same, but all the women look very much the same, all posed similarly and made up similarly, even dressed similarly.

These are not all women who look that much alike IRL, and to an extent the look in the photos was representative of the time, but it was interesting to see how Scavullo seemed to be reducing women to an archetype of his choosing. Alas, the only woman of color included was represented just by a headshot. I would have liked to see if Iman could really be made to look like Brooke Shields.

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:34 PM:

Dunsany wrote short fiction because there was a huge market for short fiction, he was undoubtedly an odd person but he admits in his autobiography that he wrote to be published -- I suspect that if he were alive he'd be writing 900 page novels in series.

I wonder what they would have been like?

I do love Dunsany.

How can Jon Courtney Grimwood say that there's no British tradition of magic realism? I live in a world that contains Dunsany stories about walking through London and seeing a sign on a shop that says "Licensed for the sale of weasels and jade ear-rings" and going in to buy a lengths of river by the ell, as if this were perfectly normal, and if that isn't magic realism, what is?

Steve ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:25 PM:

Patrick, I hope my email in response to your Heinlein question made it to you; if not, please drop me a note.

The New York color photographs are great -- early color photograph always throws me, although the gold standard for that is this collection of Tzarist-era Russian photography. I just think of the past in black and white.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 03:26 PM:

'if that isn't magic realism, what is?'
I'd agree that qualifies as magic realism, however I think it's usually conflated with a style of english whimsy, that Ursula K. LeGuin had a good name for in languages of the night, but I can't remember it. Something about Dickens exemplifying the fantastical reality...?

My understanding also was that Dunsany did pretty good in the short fantasy department financially. Not as well as I thought he did nowadays. Perhaps that is an argument for allowing long copyrights. Crap, if it earns, earns quickly, the good stuff often takes a while.

I say 'thought he did nowadays' because, despite the evidence of the Website. I tried to order some Dunsany about a year ago - after about six months with it never coming through I finally just cancelled the order. I will try it through the linked website now though.

'Microsoft Internet Exploder, in particular, is notorious for its inability to allow the user to set text sizes.'
I would have to go look, but I think that IE might actually be standards compliant on the inability of setting text sizes. The reason for IE not allowing text to be resized is if the styling for a site is absolute, for example, in your css you have .blogbody with a font-size of 14px, IE will allow resizability of text in cases where one has font-size: small or x-small xx-small, large, larger, or IIRC percentage fonts (been years since I set a font at a percentage)


I can of course be wrong about the standards compliancy on this point, but for setting text size for content(as opposed to text size for menus, sidebars etc) I prefer sizes defined using these relative values.

I've had crashing problems with Firebird, hence using IE, also I know the IE object model pretty good, so I've got alot of tools to customize it. hardly have the time to learn a new browser that well, as I don't really do browser stuff anymore.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:12 PM:

Aufer me ad arenam made me snort hot tea all over my sweater, and my wife loved it too. I printed out the words and translation and gave them to the liturgist at our parish, who giggled on and off through Saturday night Mass while humming the tune.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 02:31 AM:

In re the net sent thing.

Get it away from me! DOS is why I thought I hated computers. If I have nightmares tonight it's your fault.


Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 07:49 AM:

Bryan, the Puccini reference was a small joke inspired by my purchase at the weekend of a Naxos CD for the princely sum of 7 euros called "The Best of Puccini" (I listen to a lot of "classical" music, but I'm not an opera fan [sotto voce: yet]).

Anyhow, the name Puccini was rattling around in my head, and the old pattern recogniton wetware found a match:

The Jawas are the little guys with glowing eyes in dressing gowns from the movie "Star Wars", not to be confused with Jabba from the later movies.

Mostly they speak in indistinct high-pitched muttering, but early in the film, when the droid R2D2 is ambushed in a desert canyon and shot with a tazer gun, a Jawa calls out an order, a rare example of a clearly heard word of the Jawanese language, which sounds something like:


Hence my post, and a host of other obvious questions. What kind of mushrooms to Jawas like? Which character in Disney's "Alladin" is most popular with Jawas? What do Jawas call courgettes? Which Renaissance polymath is revered by the Jawas? Which Pacific atoll was formerly a secret Jawa base? Which director has won the most Oscars on Tattoine?

Or getting further afield: What do Jawas drink on the MetroNorth commute from Grand Central to Bronxville? What make of speeder sells best to Jawas? What's the name of the One Duke of the Jawas?

Authors note: too much of this may strain your vocal cords. Imitate Jawas sensibly.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 06:13 PM:

I was quite a DOS monkey in my day. Even wrote some utilities to make up for its inadequacies (all obsolete). (I was very proud of using the increment substatement of a "for" loop to walk a b-tree in one of them.)

I still have to use DOS sometimes at work. I don't enjoy it. I think it's hilarious that the kid found DOS "cool" and I'm seriously tempted to send the stupidass computer liason a one-word email.

If I restrain myself, the word will be 'Hey'.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:02 PM:

I'm thinking no more caffeine for you tonight, Niall. ;)

Launching boldly into a tangent, is anyone out there thinking of going to MiniCon this year? My better half and I are pondering it... I've lived in Minnesota all my life, but still haven't been to one of these (though I've been at Convergence since 2000). I know hardly anyone on the Minicon/Mnstf side of the fannish tracks, and I don't quite know what to expect.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 02:00 AM:

Niall: Porcini, the Genie, zucchini, Brunetto Latini, Bikini, and I Don't Know.

I'm stumped on the further-afield questions. Possibly the Jawas on the MetroNorth are drinking moccachini.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 03:04 AM:

Which director has won the most Oscars on Tattoine?


But who do the Jawa auteurs always turn to for musical scores for their films?

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 05:19 AM:

Fellini is the man. Bruno Latini is more mellifluous than my original thought, Da Vinci. If I were a Jawa auteur with some creative control, I'd want a score by Enrico Nicola Mancini.

Last time I rode the MetroNorth, you could buy cocktails from a guy with a little cart on the platform for the commute, and while I'm partial to pink gin, Jawas naturally prefer a dry martini.

As for speeders, I was thinking of this:

And the Duke? Uno Jawa, una voce!