Friday, February 14, 2020

My Offer: Indie Short Fiction Reviews

Bridge, Golden, Light, Mystical, Dramatic, Woods

We've got a problem. By "we" I'm referring to this community of pulp-admiring independent fiction writers that got together in a burst of energy a few years ago and set up this site. "We" also means "me" because it's been over a year since I put anything up on this community site. There's not a lot of energy around right now. Sorry about that.

We don't really do outrage marketing. We don't really get into fights. We did a few roundtables a few years ago and came to the general agreement that what we needed to do was improve our output so we had something to brag about. Since then, from my admittedly limited perspective, we seem to have returned to the rest state of most online writing communities, i.e. writers writing for writers and getting promoted by writers, more of a hobby thing and not circulating that good kind of audience feedback that both improves and markets. I hear that so-and-so, who is a Twitter mutual and a good friend, has released something, which I can read for the low, low price of two days of tuna and lentils, and it's REALLY GOOD, and perhaps has some outré high concept or is the Second Coming of adventure fiction or has some great spiritual content that moderns are too scared to write about, and I go to the Amazon page and read the three reviews by names I also recognize as Twitter mutuals and good friends praising it for the above reasons, with a cover that looks like one of those American-made How To Draw Manga books, and I wonder if I'm getting a better deal than if I just went to archive.org and checked out the Argosy Book of Sports Stories again.*

I mean, listen to this summary I just made up for The Wheel of Time, a series I have never read. "The Wheel of Time is an epic fantasy series with gripping action, realistic portrayals of romance and courtship, and deep and engaging magic - it's a story about coming of age and self-discovery in fourteen gripping volumes." Does that make you want to read it? Maybe it did, I'm so good I can't help myself, but if so you probably had a very generic itch and a massive amount of free time and a billion and a half already-reads.

If I do ever read Wheel of Time it won't be because of that kind of blurb. It will be from people bringing it up in conversation, "yeah, Wheel of Time did something like that but the male half of their magic was corrupted so unless you're the chosen one if you're magic you go insane, so there's this cabal of scoldy witches that our boy has to get help from," "there's this dude in Wheel of Time who was a great general in all his past lives so he keeps winning battles, it's awesome," "yeah the series gets really boring in books four through eleven and you can skip eight and nine completely but I promise it's worth it," that sort of thing. It's part of their lexicon, and not necessarily because it's even that good. Having a lot of things to talk about with your friends is a selling point of this ridiculous doorstop series, it's got me half-convinced, and it is impossible to put that in a blurb, and why would you even want to? Why waste lines of text spouting corporatesque pablum about your stuff? You wrote the thing, aren't you excited about what happens in it?

There's not a lot of that going back and forth in our sphere, at least where I can see it. There are a few heroes who faithfully buy and read novels and anthologies and post brief line- or paragraph-length reviews of their contents, but that's not a culture. When we bring up examples of characters it's Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter and not Tuvor the Bold from Some Indie Novel written by My Good Friend And Twitter Mutual, oh yes his novel is exceptional and you should read it so you can join our conversation, he is an amazing character but I disagree that he spent all night digging that well because he knew the underground river was there I think he was merely despondent from the curt rejection Madame Gothary wrote in Maid Mincie's hand, if you do not buy a copy immediately I will gift one to you. And judging by the output of our more prolific friends there's no reason** we shouldn't be memeing each other into reading them.

I'm not going to say "we should change that" because I am not a scold. I'm going to say "I will change that" because I'm a stud. I will change that. I've got an open offer, made on social media a few days ago, to review shorts people send me and post write-ups of around 500 words here. I picked shorts because they're short and because they give a decent window into an author's prose quality and strength of ideas, and also because I love short fiction, I grew up with big heavy Golden Age anthologies all around me, and I hate that in 2020 their main function is giving authors false hope as a stepping stone into Real Published Authorhood and their main market is aspiring authors hoping that owning a copy of Asimov's will by the Laws of Similarity and Contagion give their piece a better chance.

If you want me to review your piece DM it to me on social media or email me. If you don't know how to find me consider this your first ordeal. I won't set a time schedule for doing this*** but I promise to get around to a lot of short pieces, and judging by the quality of what I've already read there's going to be some good things. No promises that I'll be positive. Better than no publicity, right?

Here's hoping we won't be in this awful state in 2021.

* This is hyperbole. I don't need to check it out because I own a copy.
** Unless your work sucks. Sorry.
***
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