Archive for July, 2010

Hello. My name is Jennifer, and I’m a sucker for paranormal romance.

My last hit – I mean, novel – was three weeks ago.

Yes, it’s addictive. Romance is the cotton-candy guilty pleasure of the literary world: a big, sugary helping of emotional goodness without the “eat your vegetables” burden of intellectual heft.

The setups range the gamut from international spy games to a high school girl falling for the hot transfer student. The couple meet cute and commence with a rocky (but entertaining) courtship, fraught with insurmountable obstacles. Will love triumph? Will the hero and heroine get together in the end? Of course! It’s a romance! The primary tenants of the genre are to focus on the relationship and deliver a happy ending.

Paranormal romance takes that formula and twists it. One of the lovers (or both) must be something other than (or more than) human: vampire, werewolf, demigod, shape-shifter, witch/warlock, ghost, psychic, genetically enhanced … you get the idea.

Writers also tend to weave their fantastic elements into the real world, which lands most paranormal romance in the category of urban fantasy. But not all such stories are set in modern times. I enjoy the novels of Shana Abe and Gail Carriger, who let loose their shape-shifters and creatures of the night in Victorian England.

Perhaps you turn your nose up at paranormal romance – or any romance novel, for that matter. (I wouldn’t condemn you because I did the same until my conversion a year ago.) But you cannot deny that the subgenre is a hot, hot ticket in publishing. Stephenie Meyer of “Twilight” fame is raking in the big bucks, but she is not the only one. Look at the New York Times best seller list on any given week: Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris and Sherrilyn Kenyon show up on a regular basis, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But, as with all saturations of pop culture, backlash is probable. Maybe it has already begun: Many people say they are sick of vampires (especially the sparkly variety).

Still, if the subgenre falls out of favor, do not fret. It has a long history that temporary fatigue won’t snuff out. Bella and Sookie weren’t the first to fall for a vampire (Buffy Summers did it a decade earlier). Go back farther – much, much farther – and you’ll see that long before Kenyon’s character Grace Alexander bedded a demigod, Paris of Troy did the same thing.

Then again, Buffy didn’t make it with either of her undead paramours (although the story continues), and Agamemnon demonstrated the value of persistence when he finally burned Troy to the ground and took his runaway bride back home.

So, let’s try this one: A prince cursed into the hideous form of a beast takes a virtuous, beautiful girl captive after a dispute with her father over a rose. At first she is frightened of him, but she quickly learns to see his worth (even when he does not). In the end, hearts are healed and the curse broken by her declaration of undying love, and they live – how else? – happily ever after.

Now that’s romance.

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Jennifer Campbell Hicks‘ work has appeared in Every Day Fiction and Science Fiction Trails. She lives in Arvada, Colorado, where she finds time to write between two full-time jobs as a journalist and a mother of three.

Slipstream sounds more like a term one might read in aeronautics, but it’s actually one in contradistinction to mainstream literary fiction. Bruce Sterling1 coined the term in 1989 for a movement arguably motivated by Carter Scholz’s observation that the “brain-dead” science fiction of 60s and 70s had lost the opportunity to become “worthy literature.” Sadly, bankrupt attitudes toward science and technology, which were increasingly divorced from any kind of reality, remained: “I have no hope at all that genre science fiction can ever again have any literary significance.”

Originally, slipstream was a contemporary writing whose very heart is anchored against reality; i.e., fantastic, surreal, illogical and with a “postmodern sensibility.” There is no sense of wonder that is found in classic science fiction. It is very strange and often “sarcastically tears at the structure of everyday life.” Slipstream, like postmodernism, questions identity, meaning, and representation.2 Sterling compares M. C. Escher to be the graphic equivalent of slipstream. Nine Below identifies three key observations to Sterling’s definition: science fiction written by non-genre writers, fiction that straddles work with one foot in science fiction and the other in mainstream, and fiction that has a strong post-modern sensibility.3 It is interesting to note that the latter point might have been softened. For example, Wikipedia simply puts slipstream as a “kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction/fantasy and mainstream literary fiction.” My operating definition is a slightly expanded version of this—cross-genre writing where the genres are speculative fiction and literary fiction, which is consistent with Mary Anne Mohanraj’s interpretation at Strange Horizons.4 Sterling’s column1 contains a list of 114 authors and their works considered to be slipstream.

(Some folks don’t even consider slipstream a true genre, but a style. James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel, editors of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology,5 argue that “cognitive dissonance is at the heart of slipstream, and that it is not so much a genre as a literary effect, like horror or comedy.”6 Kelly argues in Asimov Science, “I know what it feels like when I’m writing science fiction and fantasy; I understand what it takes to build the worlds and complicate the plots. But when I write slipstream, I find myself adopting different strategies, shifting my expectations. I don’t understand everything; the writing feels different. Strange. I suppose that’s not a very useful description, but there it is. So on a personal level, I can say that my slipstream has its own techniques, its own possibilities, and its own rewards.”7)

Maybe the cross-genre or interstitial fiction is a safer association because it doesn’t carry the perceived negative baggage of speculative fiction does to some in the literary arena. Slipstream stories have a feel of magical realism, which makes the familiar strange by taking a familiar context and disturbing it with science fiction and fantasy elements, but it’s far more jarring in slipstream.8 In the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, John Clute refers to slipstream as fabulation, which is magical realism written by non Latino writers (who established that genre firmly in literary circles).7

I bring this up because the newer interpretations of slipstream arguably parallel what has happened with magical realism identified as fabulation. That is, slipstream written by the literary folks is appearing as new wave fabulation,9 a term coined by Conjunctions.10,11

Clearly, slipstream prose may be graceful and eloquent, as noted in a blog12 referring to Reader’s Digest comments. And who can argue with that when prestigious literary publications are recently nominating this type of writing, albeit under the cloak of cross-genre writing, for awards such as 2010 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature by Salt.13

Postscript

In the original context of slipstream, the references in citation 1 have many examples, but I prefer the broader context of what might be considered slipstream today—cross-genre speculative fiction with a literary flair. And yes, my work does have underlying meaning and doesn’t cater to postmodernism views. Below are some examples:

Before the Dawn, the Stars Would Sing. The magic of fairy tales is blended in this fantasy/romance flash fiction rich with poetic swaths (Enchanted Conversation, 2010).

Fervent Heat. This impressionism poetry was stimulated by abstract digital art in a collaborative work with Lisa Marie Peaslee (Silver Blade 2010).

Drenching Rains. This contest-winning surreal fantasy poem features trolls (Liquid Imagination 2009).

Coyote. This poem blends bizarro and fantasy with elements of humor (Silver Blade 2009).

Painting Myself into a Corner. This is a poem of surreal expressionism (Silver Blade 2009).

The Magical Realism of Astrology. This prose poem is bizarre as well as fantastic (Liquid Imagination 2009).

 Raven-Black Dreams, http://www.liquid-imagination.com/JohnCMannoneRaven.html. This is heavily literary. It is a contest winning horror poem with echoes of Poe (Liquid Imagination 2008).

Footnotes
1. http://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/Bruce_Sterling/Catscan_columns/catscan.05 (July 1989)

 2. Ashen Wings, http://www.ashenwings.com/virtues/slipstream.html (2004)

 3. Nine Below live journal, http://ninebelow.livejournal.com/169856.html (May 2010)

4. Strange Horizons, “Avoiding the Potholes: Adventures in Genre-Crossing,” http://www. strangehorizons.com/2001/20010702/editorial.shtml (July 2001)

5. Reviews of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology by James Patrick Kelly, http://www.librarything.com/work/930149

6. Slipstream Quarterly: http://slipstreamquarterly.com/?p=3 (February 2010)

 7. Asimov Science Fiction, http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0312/onthenet.shtml (December 2003)

 8. Ask Metafilter, http://ask.metafilter.com/143822/What-is-Slipstream (January 2010)

 9. The Future of the Fantastic: New Wave Slipstream Fabulism by Eric Rosenfield, http://www.wetasphalt.com/?q=node/134 (March 2007)

 10. The Writer’s Chronicle, http://thewriterschronicle.blogspot.com/2009/06/recently-ive-been-thinking-alot-about.html (June 2009)

 11. Conjunctions http://www.conjunctions.com/archives/c39-ps.htm

 12. Reader’s Digest, http://www.everything.com/WD-Youre-Now-Entering-the-Twilight-Zone/#axzz0rzNuYlf0)

 13. Warwick blog, http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/ttooulig/entry/a_prize_for (February 2010)

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John C. Mannone is a widely published award-winning poet nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize and for the 2010 Rhysling Poetry Award. His poetry and short fiction appear in numerous literary and speculative fiction journals such as Pirene’s Fountain, Aethlon, Skive Magazine, The Linnet’s Wings, Eclectic Flash, Silver Blade, Liquid Imagination, Enchanted Conversation, and Astropoetica. Professor Mannone is a nuclear consultant and teaches college physics in east Tennessee.

The following paragraphs are an essay I have read out for a few years at open mikes. I would love to share it with you, though I talk about poems and stanzas. That is just because I wrote it for open mikes. I don’t write poems, I write pieces. My stuff works as fiction or as poetry, as long as you don’t worry about definitions or labels. I am a firm believer in working out new pieces in public, in letting an audience hear them. I will write at another date about open mikes and flash fiction, but for now, here is my piece.

 It will happen. A bad poem will be read at a poetry open mike. It will happen. It has happened. It’s probably happening right now. Bad poetry happens. It lies in wait and when you go up to read, do it with the full honest belief that this will be the great transcendent poem for our generation, and you are all humble supplicanty to lay it on us cats, as you should for every poem you croak out.

 Adjust the mike, look steely and serious, because you are a poet. And say, this one is brand new, because these things tend to be new, rushed out and infant pink. And then start with the knowledge that the wowing will commence. As you read, pay attention to the audience. Are they laughing at the right spots. Are they laughing at the wrong spots. Are they laughing at the gravy spots on your pink bowling shirt. Now listen to your own voice as you read the first stanza. Pause long enough to say to yourself, “What the hell was I thinking?” Convince yourself that you hit your stride in the second stanza. Read the second stanza. Now think to yourself. “Oh. This is only getting worse, and there five more stanzas to go.”

 They are laughing, but not the good laughing. Realize that as a writer we all shoot for greatness. We try to fashion our poem to live, to give birth to itself. To burst from its eggshell of verbs and grammar as a gorgeous bird. What kind of bird is up to you: a dove, a heron, a phoenix.

 But what you are reading is not a bird. It’s a frog. An abnormal frog. A frog with five legs. 3 eyes, a split tongue and a surly disposition. An ugly mutant frog with a teeny weenie saddle on its back. And it is here by the side of the poem’s third stanza.

 You must decide what to do next. You can do:

A. Say this sucks and walk off the stage.

B. Sigh audibly and mumble through the rest with shame

Or C. Climb on that teeny weenie saddle on the back of the mutant frog poem and ride that sucker for all its worth like a prize bronco buster.

Think carefully before you decide. The future of poetry as we know it might rest on your choice. If you chose A or B, it is self explanatory. If you chose C, then do the following. 

Pause. Smile to the audience as if to say, “Yes. I know its awful, and its not going to get any better, but now we are in this mess together.” Get on that wee saddle and ride as if its a prize bull. Sing out bad lines with gusto. Let your hand out like a seasoned rodeo star, but put a little Fosse into it. Ride that poem down. Come to the realization that poetry is nothing but poise and bullshit. 

That poem will push you around the stage with poor metaphors, cramped meter and god-awful ideas, but they are yours baby, so smile and grip tight and never look down.

 When you are finished, go back to your table and look at the poem you just performed. You may think, “That was horrendous” or, “What a splendid bus wreck that was,” but never say ,“I wish I never wrote that. I wish I never read it out loud.” Do not speak heresy.

 Because don’t you know, the Gods love bad poems? They love them those 5 legged little mutant froggies. They build complex terrariums for them to cavort about and be proudly and defiantly awful. For the Gods know without the bastards of process, the good birds of art will never fly. And if you kiss one of those frog poems, it will not turn into a prince. It will just be a happier frog.

 Remember this as you put do not enter signs and quarantine symbols all around the poem in your notebook as you quickly turn to the next blank page.

 And begin.

 

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Dave Macpherson is a writer of short things. He has been a nationally recognized slam poet. He has also performed at a few storytelling festivals. He has been published in Every Day Fiction, Haggard and Halloo, Mudluscious, November 3rd Club, as well as other on line and print publications. He was a columnist for GotPoetry.Com and is soon to start a new column there. He lives in Central Massachusetts with his wonderful wife Heather and their son George.

For those short story writers who insist they could never write a novel, I say balderdash!

Open your favorite novel and all you’ll find is short stories!  Each chapter has a beginning, middle and end, and most could probably stand on their own. Each subplot is its own story, and since it’s a SUBplot, it’s short!

Take a look at the short stories you’ve written.  Do some of them share a common theme? How many could take place in the life of a single character? Rearrange the order of the stories until you have a cohesive plot:

Everybody Loves a Parade – about patriotism in America

Time with My Father – about reaching out to an immigrant parent

You Can Never Go Home – about losing one’s identity in middle age

These could become a novel about a man who has left behind his past and become someone he doesn’t like, who goes home to reconnect with his father and figure out who he really is, and who winds up recognizing the influence that both his father’s native country and America has had on the man he became. Or something like that.

 Is there a story that matches the theme but screams to be told by someone other than the main character? Don’t panic. Make it a subplot involving a secondary character.

Let’s say you have several short and flash fiction pieces that focus on romantic relationships. The first is about awkward meetings. The second covers the emotional impact of a messy breakup. You have the first and last chapters for your book!  The remaining flash fiction pieces that tie into this theme could build the core of you novel. Just make sure you have plenty of conflict.

I won’t tell you to place them in chronological order. Imagine how differently “The Hours” would have read had the author told the story in a linear fashion!

Are you worried that your chapters will wind up too short? Have you read a Robert B. Parker novel lately? Or Parnell Hall? Short chapters increase the pace of the story, which is perfect if you’re writing a thriller or action novel. If you need to slow down the pacing, take your already written pieces and flesh them out with appropriate action or information. 

What if you still don’t have enough to fill a novel? Don’t despair! Consider a novella. That’s what I did. “The Groom’s Cake” is just under 10,000 words. Any more and I would have been blathering.

If you do decide to try your hand at blending your short fiction into a longer piece, here are a few novella markets to get you started. Good luck!

MuseItUp Publishing at http://museituppublishing.com/musepub

Keith Publications at www.keithpublications.com

Echelon Press Shorts at www.echelonpressshorts.wordpress.com

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Jacqueline Vick (www.jacquelinevick.com) has authored short stories for publications such as Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, Orchard Press Mysteries, Cantaraville II, and the Best of Everyday Fiction Two Anthology. Her mystery “Family Matters” was a semifinalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition. She’s a regular judge in the El Paso Writers League Competition, blogs at A Writer’s Jumble, and is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and Public Safety Writers Association.  

  

 

 Southern is a state of mind.  Southerners are extremely stubborn in their right to be Southern and darn proud of that ancestry.  We dig in deep and refuse to give in to adversity.  This shows in the writing.  So much Southern writing involves dealing with the bad hand that life has given you.  Taking what little you have and if not rising above it, learning to come to terms with what you do have.  Southern writing shows determination, stoicism, darkness, not so much bravery as tackling the problem because there’s no other choice. 

I do feel that the majority of Southern writing is dark. Southerners celebrate the angst and adversity they have to deal with on a daily basis. An unfortunate offshoot to that, while realistic, is that Southern writing has jumped into child abuse.  Many of the newer stories out there involve abused, poor Southern children who’s every day deals with simply surviving.  It seems to be a new modern theme.  Romance has vampires, Southern books have child abuse. 

Of course, race relations will always have its place in Southern literature, as will eccentricity.  We love our Southern eccentrics. 

What I do enjoy these days is the flash fiction and longer stories the Dew receives.  Many of these are lighter in nature than the books on the market – heartwarming memories of “better, younger days”, darkly amusing tales of getting one over on someone else, tales of ancestors.  These stories hold more humor than the books.  There are certainly the dark tales also, murder, death by natural incidents, failing health, but many short story writers seem to have wonderful condensed tales that leaving you with a warm feeling. 

I feel the Dew is very lucky in that it draws from all of these different types of writers and gives us a nice wide range of emotions to experience. 

We’re pretty loose about what our requirements are. But basically, if the story is Southern in nature or written by a Southerner, we consider it.  I have a great story going up in July written by someone in Northern England, but it’s most definitely a Southern story.  I have found there are quite a few sites out there that consider themselves Southern only publications so I think we might count as a genre. 

The Dew is Southern to the core.We don’t publish editorials or anything heavy on vulgarity, violence, religion or politics. We try to maintain a happy, thoughtful place in the webosphere.

The Dew has been up and running since 2005 and I am so pleased with the amount of support it has received from the community, writers, publishers, and visitors.

The Dew publishes stories, poems, flash fiction, memories and even the occasional photograph. If it’s flowing from your mind to your pen, we would like to see it. Anything from 50 words to 4,000 – anything over 1,500 usually has to be broken up into serial stories though.

Take a few minutes and browse through our pages. I think you’ll like what you find.

http://dewonthekudzu.net or http://dewonthekudzu.com

If you would like to submit an article, story, or book review, please contact me at dewonthekudzu @ gmail.com. We don’t pay, but we will certainly make sure all of your information and accomplishments are shared! We also never “own” your submission – you may share it with as many others as you wish.

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“Idgie” is a somewhat sloppy editor and proud parent of Dew on the Kudzu, an Ezine that celebrates the Southern Written Word. Book reviewer, occasional author on her own site, Southern humorist at heart.