Sunday Links for March 6, 2011

There’s apparently an odd rumor going around the internet this week, one which posits the existence of a Young Adult Fiction Mafia – a group of published authors who conspire together to crush the careers of those aspiring to join their ranks. The idea is certainly a comforting one for those who continue to get rejections by the boatload (which group includes me, though “boatload” might be a bit too harsh a description for “one so far”). But really, it’s complete ludicrous. Holly Black explains why: “But even if there was a YA Mafia, I very much doubt that they'd be able to ruin your career because writers are basically lazy and impractical people. We live in our heads a lot and we can barely get it together to do anything. Seriously, it took me until after 3pm yesterday to get myself a sandwich.” John Scalzi expands on the theme, doing Black one better on the laziness scale: “First, I want to agree with her wholeheartedly on the lazy thing, because for the last week I’ve been subsisting on Nature Valley Fruit and Granola Bars, not because I’m in love with their sticky, graintastic goodness but because at this point, the thought of having to shove something into the microwave to cook it fills me with such a sense of ennui even just typing those words makes me tired.” Beyond laziness, though, there are a lot of good reasons authors just plain don’t have the time to make life difficult for new writers, and both Black and Scalzi explain that very ably. So stop being so paranoid and get back to your computer and write.

The Horror Writers Association has announced the nominees for the 2010 Bram Stoker Awards. You know what this means: my list of books I must read immediately has lengthened yet again. I’ve read only one of the novel nominees, Gemma Files’s A Book of Tongues (reviewed here, but I own a few more, particularly including Joe Hill’s Horns and Peter Straub’s A Dark Matter; I’ve got three of the anthologies, if memory serves; and I loved Laird Barron’s Occultation (reviewed here). Oh, for months on end with nothing to do but read! My soul longs for that, but with retirement still 15-1/2 years away at a minimum (barring my writing a bestseller in the meantime), my soul will have to stay hungry.

Does anyone really believe that literary fiction isn’t it’s own genre? Apparently John Mullan, writing for The Guardian, is still fighting that rearguard battle (“What is literary fiction? It is not genre fiction”). But as M. John Harrison points out, Mullan’s description of how literary fiction works exactly describes literary fiction as a genre. Larry Nolen fundamentally agrees. Why do readers of literary fiction continue to somehow believe that what they read is so very, very special and refined? Is it just that they haven’t read really good SF, or really good mysteries, or really good whatever? As one who reads anything that will hold still long enough, it’s my firm opinion that a good novel is a good novel. Period.

If that controversy doesn’t satisfy your appetite for arguments about books this week, then why not read The World in the Satin Bag on the question whether talking about the “colonization” of space is a bad thing? Blogger Shaun Duke takes the position that “colonize” is “an impossibly negative term” based on its history here on Earth. It’s a provocative argument, but I think there are some big holes in it, most particularly in that colonizing a planet that has no endemic life has none of the negative impacts as did colonizing America, Africa or India, to name just a few places in which native peoples were almost wiped out by the colonizers. Larry Nolen responds on his blog with a good many of the reservations I have. Matthew Cheney’s comments on Nolen’s post are worth the price of admission in and of themselves.

Tor conducted a survey on the best science fiction and fantasy novels of the decade, and the results are in. I’m a bit nonplussed by the results, myself: books I thought were really superior don’t show up at all, while others I thought merely okay are ranked very highly. I haven’t even been able to get through A Storm of Swords, for some odd reason, even though at one point I went so far as to reread the first two books in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series to prepare. I will say, though, that this list inspires me to give Old Man's War a try.

SFSignal’s most recent podcast is about the state of brick and mortar bookstores. Well worth a listen.

You really must look at these beautiful works of art created from books by Brian Dettmer. I like them so much that I hunted around on the web until I could find a price range: they were selling for $2,400 to $4,800 around 2008. That’s almost something I could afford if I saved up for a very, very long time. The fact that I’m even thinking of it, though – investing more money in a work of art than I ever have before – tells you just how lovely these works are.