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The Post Completion Guilt

So I got that feeling you get after you finish a high pressured task - where you keep forgetting you've finished and keep getting up to go back to the slog.

And maybe I'm so wired I'll watch The 4400 and Battlestar Galactica although I would be better to tape them.

The best bit about having read for my Year's Best list, aside from being able to say I did it, was having a buddy to chat it over with. benpayne and I would shoot emails every day: have you read this? what did you think of this? I can't wait to discuss this one with you.

What I am most surprised about in the specfic community is the low level of intelligent discussion on published works. There's much talk about how Aussies have trouble breaking into markets. There's much pointing out of reviews made of one's work or noting of works enjoyed. And there's also the odd outcry at a comment made by someone else. What there isn't is a lot of discussion on why something was good or was not good and not a lot of room allowed by writers for discussion by onlookers.

I must admit I am likely in a privileged position - my mother and uncle are avid readers and are always up for discussion on works. Often I will come to the Friday night dinner table and say outrageous things to start a discussion, like, "I hate Charles Dickens, I think he's a misogynist and he writes boys books" and a healthy discussion will ensue. I might be completely wrong but I never entered the debate so married to my position that I am unable to hear the other side of the discussion. Ideas and perspectives are cool. If we all thought the same thing, there would be no need for democracy and elections.

Thus you can understand my surprise at the reaction to my comments on hating flash fiction. In retrospect, I still really hate flash fiction. I've read a lot of response to my comments about the place thanks to lots of emails pointing me in various directions. The one that amuses me the most is: "clearly she doesn't know what she is talking about". Heh. I thought about this a lot and ... I pretty much do know if I hate something. It's much the same as how I know I hate peppermint icecream, nails down a chalkboard, peanut butter, swimming at the beach and the West Australian newspaper. I can't describe it ... when you hate something, you just *know* [1].

What noone has actually asked me is .... why I hate flash fiction. Talk centred on whether it was appropriate for me to make the claim or whether I was qualified to make the claim [2] and whether you *could* hate a form (I've hated poetry for years and noone told me that was wrong) but noone ever asked me why. Also noone gave actual examples of really brilliant short fiction and dared me to hate it. It makes me sad that we exist in a community that doesn't embrace debate openly. I get to discuss with a lot of people privately (in person or via email) what I think of what they write or what they publish. Those people have learned to accept critism and most of them have learned an important skill - how to improve by taking advice because they are fallible. And they are the ones who have broken into the overseas markets. And they are fun because I will say "I hated that story in [blah]" and they say, "Oh yeah? why" and off we go. They are also open to explaining things because, heck I'm fallible too (no!).

It can be a fun place about these parts, putting egos aside and realising there is room for everyone. The room we need to make though is for the sideline critics and commentary. You know, to let those who read what is written a chance to participate. If you keep making fun of the kid at the back of the room when he answers the teachers questions differently to you, eventually he'll stop putting his hand up.

I guess the question that I am most interested in asking is, is the last story you got published the best one you want to have ever written?


[1] In case you're not sure, I'm still joking.
[2] If writing makes you a writer, then reading makes you qualified to comment on what you read

Comments

( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
speshal_k
Jan. 7th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
If writing makes you a writer, then reading makes you qualified to comment on what you read

So yo.
cassiphone
Jan. 7th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I wondered if you'd seen the abusive comment on Shane's blog (not by Shane, by a passing reader) who said that you'd obviously never written a word of flash fiction, so what would you know about whether it's good or not?

There's so much wrong with that. It implies very strongly that the only reason to write (and publish) is to impress other writers.

Our community is very writer heavy - it's a complaint I've heard more and more about Natcons, for instance. It doesn't bother me overly because I am a writer, but I can see it's a problem if readers feal they are being demaned or ignored just because they don't join the chorus of wirters patting each other on the back.

Writers are perfectly entitled to pat each other on the back, it's aprt of the process, but, but, but...

Hey, GJ, why do you hate flash fiction so much? And when you say flash fiction, does that include mine? :)
throughsoftair
Jan. 7th, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)
Our community is very writer heavy - it's a complaint I've heard more and more about Natcons, for instance

Heh. It was a special moment for all of us writers in the room (you know, the ones who have launches and fill all the panels and do signings and act as guests and all that) when the chair of the last Swancon opened proceedings with "Welcome to the Con we managed to rescue from the writers!"

When it comes to our stories, being a writer entitles you to one thing, and one thing only: to write them. You can't control the reading, nor the 'message' the reader takes from the story. Hell, I've had readers come up to me and discuss perfectly valid readings of my stories that I didn't even know were in the story.

OH, and for the record: I hate Dickens' stories, too. Dickens himself, well, he's never said anything bad about me.....
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 8th, 2007 02:02 am (UTC) - Expand
planeterry
Jan. 7th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, so why? And why do you hate peanut butter?

And how do you come up with 9 best spec fic flash stories when you hate it? And why do you read them?
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 8th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC) - Expand
girliejones
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC)
I did see the abusive comment on his blog. I tried to get upset about it but it's so ridiculous. Firstly, that commenter doesn't know who I am. Secondly, if I need qualification to read his stuff .... well then. He ain't gonna be hitting the New York Best Seller list any time soon.

And the thing that I keep coming back to is this ... I really really hate flash fiction. I mean it makes my blood boil. It makes me watch to scratch my eyes out or sit and cry. I am not someone who takes well to time wasting. I hate it. I don't even wait for the green man at the intersection. The amount of flash fiction I read this year - what would be between 150 and 200 pieces - mostly wasted my time. There were 10 I liked (I have to fiddle with my list as I have listed a flash as a short). 10 out of 200 is pretty crap odds. And the other 190 were not vying for a place. A hell of a lot were sitting in a rating of 2 or 3. Drivel I call it.

There's so much wrong with that. It implies very strongly that the only reason to write (and publish) is to impress other writers.

Exactly. I hate this contempt some of *those* writes have for readers. They spend all this time creating something for ... I dunno... their friend to read and applaud? If I'm not supposed to read it and comment, why publish it our in the public domain? Should I make a list of all the writers who want to be on that list and just not bother with them?


Writers are perfectly entitled to pat each other on the back, it's aprt of the process, but, but, but...

Absolutely they are but in a writer's group or in a private writer's mailing list. You are not entitled to expect that every reader will do so nor that every review will agree with your own personal opinion of yourself. Nor are you entitled to email me and demand that I change the review to do so.

I don't like being demeaned. As a reader or a person. I am highly intelligent. I read a lot. I am qualified to decide IF I LIKE SOMETHING OR NOT. And you know what I do when writers email me stuff like that? I take it to Friday night and show it to my uncle, who has formal qualifications to have the opinion and we laugh long and hard.
girliejones
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:40 am (UTC)
And when you say flash fiction, does that include mine? :)


Firstly, I don't like everything you write. But I know that I can tell you that and I know that you aren't gonna hate me or start a mass passive aggressive movement against me for having said that.

Secondly, what flash fiction of yours have I read?
(no subject) - cassiphone - Jan. 8th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 8th, 2007 05:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cassiphone - Jan. 8th, 2007 08:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 8th, 2007 10:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cassiphone - Jan. 10th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
girliejones
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:48 am (UTC)
Hey, GJ, why do you hate flash fiction so much?

Most flash fiction is unfulfilling. That's the bottom line.

It falls into several categories.

There's the joke or twist ending. If you go with a joke ending, you need to be masterful with timing. That means you need to pace the whole piece towards this joke. Very very hard to do. Takes a lifetime of writing to develop the skill. Highly unlikely you'll be the novice writer who successfully pulls it off.

With the twist ending .... OMG!!! In this day and age with my access to media, do you really think I didn't see the vampire/ghost/dead brother thing coming?? I mean COME ON!!! If you are going for a twist INVENT A NEW ONE!

Vignettes. OMG I hate them. In three paragraphs you have time to paint a scene. SO WHAT? I mean seriously, SO WHAT??? I think vignette writers should have to work harder to justify my time when all they've done is paint a scene. SO WHAT?

Action/Emotion ... if the intent is to create a mood or emotion in a flash piece, you have to remember that I have absolutely no connection to the scene, the scenario or the characters other than what you put into 250 words or whatever. If you throw me into a high paced scene without any explanation, it's just a man running down a hill thinking he's being chased by a vampire/ghost/dead brother. Why do I care? I have nothing invested in the outcome. Any so-called punch in the final delivery will leave me unaffected because I had nothing invested in any outcome. It's simply not enough space for me to buy into anything.

I just don't care. I want to care. That's what I look for in recreational reading.

The pieces that I listed in my year's best made me laugh, made me sad ... they made me feel. I'm not saying it can't be done or that it's not a difficult skill. Those who do pull it off are highly talented.

What I am saying is it's too much hard work for me with very little payoff to find these mere few.
(no subject) - planeterry - Jan. 8th, 2007 06:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 8th, 2007 06:12 am (UTC) - Expand
benpeek
Jan. 7th, 2007 10:05 pm (UTC)
i so would've told you that hating poetry is wrong.
girliejones
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
Heh. Discussed it at the last Friday night in relation to my comment on flash. I admitted I have not read much poetry and my exposure to it was most World War I poets. Ugh.

I like Sylvia Plath and Dorothy Parker. I know that says a lot about me!
I think mostly my exposure to poetry was so limited that I have no skills to go out and read poetry for myself - I just don't know how to appreciate the form.
(no subject) - exp_err - Jan. 8th, 2007 02:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 8th, 2007 02:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cheerselfears - Jan. 8th, 2007 03:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - exp_err - Jan. 8th, 2007 03:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cheerselfears - Jan. 8th, 2007 03:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - exp_err - Jan. 16th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 16th, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - exp_err - Jan. 16th, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cheerselfears - Jan. 16th, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 8th, 2007 02:29 am (UTC) - Expand
girliejones
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:52 am (UTC)
Also? I really really really HATE rhyming couplets.

And people who write rhyming poetry in speeches to express how they feel UGH.
(no subject) - benpeek - Jan. 8th, 2007 02:29 am (UTC) - Expand
exp_err
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:02 am (UTC)
Brilliant flash SF (I also commend to you "100 Great SF short shorts").

Brilliant SF poetry (scroll down to the poem).

But if you hate them, you hate them.
girliejones
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:52 am (UTC)
Luckily, you fall into the "trusted source for recommending flash fiction" or else I'd have to leave this till 2008!
girliejones
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
Oh yeah I read this piece of flash already - it was good.

I'll need to get a copy of the 100 Greats
girliejones
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
I really just don't like poetry
planeterry
Jan. 8th, 2007 06:12 am (UTC)
Excellent poem! Thanks for linking it!
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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