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Posts Tagged ‘mysteries’

Now that I’m about to be published by a small press, it’s got me thinking more about the small press world. Specifically, how small presses are perceived in SF as opposed to the other realm about which I know something, mystery writing. I’ve heard from SF writers that small presses do not carry the cachet of major publishers; I’m not talking about money, which is an obvious discrepancy, but the idea that going with a small press in science fiction is seen as less prestigious, whereas in mysteries…not so much. Small press mysteries have much more chance of receiving awards, for example, than have small press SF or fantasy novels.*

Why is this? Why are mystery readers seem more accepting of non-traditionally published novels? I don’t know; I suspect the answer lies far in the past, but not having been part of the mystery scene all that long, I can’t say. (I’ll have to ask; maybe I can give you an answer in a future post.) But that’s not the only discrepancy between the two (publishing-wise), and perhaps the advantages don’t tilt all the way in favor of mysteries. Because you see, where mystery writers may have more opportunities when it comes to novels, SFF writers are far ahead when it comes to short fiction.

I did a little research, and it was surprisingly easy to learn a few facts: There are approximately 192 publishers on the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) site whose novel contracts qualify one for professional membership. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) web site lists about 53.** (Each of these allows more than the markets specifically listed, because of imprints, etc.)

On the other hand, where SFWA has 54 qualifying short story markets, MWA lists only 22. Now, I happen to know that there are dozens more SF short story markets whose acceptances do not count toward qualifying for SFWA, and there are probably equivalent mystery magazines, but I don’t doubt the former easily outnumber the latter.

Again, why is this? Are there more SFF readers than mystery readers? Is it too hard to write short mysteries? Or is it just that there are so many more novel markets out there that fewer bother to write short mystery fiction? Does that make it easier to break into science fiction?

Beats me. It’s a mystery. And maybe trying to raise the reputation of small press books is a fantasy. But I hope in the future it’s possible, because if it’s possible in the future, it becomes science fiction.

And that’s what I write.

 

*Yes, there are and have been exceptions. But they are just that, exceptions.

**I am a member of SFWA. I used to be a (non-professional) member of MWA, but their meetings were too far away.

#SWFApro

 

 

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I have been given my tentative panel assignments for Loscon, at the LAX Marriott November 24-26, and as I know that my appearances have long (well, since last year) been a highlight of the early holiday season, I wanted to list them here. They are, of course, subject to change, but if they do, I’ll let you know. (We don’t want a repeat of last year’s near-riot at the Star Trek panel when I didn’t show up!)*

I self-published my first book, and I didn’t die! (11/24, 5:30pm) I believe this panel was specifically named to exclude posthumous-American indie authors from attending. I will be taking this up with the committee on behalf of all of my writer colleagues who feel like zombies (which is pretty much all of them).

Blending mystery and speculative fiction. (11/25, 5:30pm) As far as I’m concerned, everything was speculative when I was trying to become a published author. It’s how I did that which remains a mystery.

Writing & Intuition: What happens next? (11/26, 2:30pm) As faithful readers of my blog know, it’s really the characters who write the story and the author simply takes the credit. So I’m going to allow one of my characters to sit on this panel for me–as soon as I can find one who lives in this century…

Given my schedule, I should be around for most of the con. Look me up and ask me to autograph your e-book. I’ll sign a piece of paper and you can tape it to your Kindle.

 

*Oh, wait, there was nearly a riot at the panel because I did show up. If I’d realized Star Trek was that popular, I wouldn’t have said those things…

#SFWApro

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Smashwords is sponsoring “Read an Ebook Week” in an attempt to promote ebooks to readers with discount coupons, and my Depression-era pulp thriller The Choking Rain is participating with a 50% coupon.

Los Angeles, 1932. Six months before the Olympic Games are to bring relief to a Depression-battered city, men are falling dead in the rain-swept streets, their necks broken as if by an invisible noose. Pulled into a shadowy, rain-slick storm of murder and kidnapping, an ex-fighter pilot, a cop, a couple of football players-turned scientist, and a Kewpie-doll blonde with a black belt join forces to track down the terror plotters and stop their deadly spree. But when tragedy strikes the group, the survivors must brave one of the last untamed places on Earth to learn the secret of the Invisible Death–a secret designed to destroy America’s greatest cities, one by one…

The promotion ends on March 11.

shelfscreen

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Every once in a while, there’s nothing that will fill the void in your soul besides a good mystery yarn. It doesn’t have to be something they put on Masterpiece Theatre with family secrets going back a generation leading to murder, nor does it have to be a Raymond Chandler triple-cross love triangle. Sometimes, the mystery is real. And the real ones are the best, because you can’t always wrap them up in 80,000 words. Sometimes they go on for years. Some of the best mysteries go on for centuries.

Take my favorite: the Loch Ness Monster. Now I know that the odds of a plesiosaur living in a Scottish lake are minuscule, at best. But that has not kept me from scanning those placid waters like a hawk every time I’ve been there, nor did it make me any less nervous when I took a ride across that dark pond on a foggy day. Scientists and curious amateurs keep bringing more and more sophisticated technology to the problem, but with luck they’ll never prove definitively that the old girl doesn’t exist. And they shouldn’t! (If nothing else, it would hurt the Scottish tourism industry.)

But now it appears that another mystery, of nearly equal vintage, has been solved: the Shakespeare Identity Question. The head archivist at the Folger Library, Dr. Heather Wolfe, claims to have “the smoking gun” that will put the controversy to rest. To this, I have two responses: (1) it won’t, and (2) finally!

Normally, as with Nessie, or Bigfoot, or the Kardashians, we will never be able to get to the truth of the matter, and we’re happier for it. Some things are better left unexplained. But this one, this one I’ve always thought was rather dopey. The best evidence I’ve ever heard for someone else having written Shakespeare was that Shakespeare didn’t write it. Not really a winning argument.* So if this is done at last, so be it. There are many more and better mysteries to be solved.

Like, what is it with those Kar–no, like I said, some things are better left unexplained. And unasked.

*Besides, I explained it right here.

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I’ve been watching some of those Sunday-night British mystery series on PBS for the past few months, and although I am in no way asserting that I have conducted any kind of in-depth survey, I have noticed a difference between British and American mysteries. (Aside from the fact that our cops carry guns.)

In American mysteries, the genesis of the plot, the motive behind the crime, is typically found in the present or the immediate past: someone is having an affair, or a crime has gone wrong, or someone is trying to secure an object that has recently come into his sphere. In British mysteries, the story seems to go back to something that went badly years ago, like an abandoned child, or a schoolyard prank gone horribly awry that haunts the participants in adulthood, or a love affair two generations ago that would rend the families apart even today.

As I say, this is hardly a scientific observation, so please don’t bombard me with examples that I’ve missed. But it has happened enough (at least in the ones I see on TV) that I’ve noticed it. And my wife, who is much more widely-read in the field than I, agrees, so there must be something to it. (Note: Suggest panel idea to next mystery con I attend.)

So why? Are the Brits just that much more in their history? Is it because they have more history? (True story: We were in Wales, hunting down some ruins we’d heard of. A woman comes out of her house and asks: “Are you looking for the castle? It’s around the back.” And sure enough, we rounded her house and there were the ruins. In her backyard. That’s British history.)

Maybe we’re so rushed in this country we can’t be bothered to dig into the past even in our mysteries? Could be, but those “cold case” shows seem pretty popular. I have no idea.

It’s a mystery…

#SFWApro

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