Monday, October 26, 2009

Short Story Poseurs

I've made it a point to read short stories this year and it has been an effort that I have greatly enjoyed. However, one aspect of short story anthologies that I have been running into that really bothers me is novel excerpts posing as short stories.

Sometimes this is unavoidable. A writer writes a piece, finishes it, and it turns out to be of 'short story length' only to expand upon it at a later time and develop the work into a novel. But the blatant inclusion of the these not-short-stories in the hopes of getting readers to purchase a collection on the off chance they only want to read author 'X' is offensive, and will probably turn reader off from reading more short stories in the long run when they see author 'X's' new novel out; now with eighty percent more of the short story you already enjoyed for twice the price sandwiched between chapter nine and eleven.

If you want to publish a collection of related novel excerpts, then do so and market them as such, but don't mislead and imply that an excerpt and a short story are one and the same. Very few of these novel excerpts can stand well on their own, hence the reason they are novels. From the editors stand point it looks good to put "Neil Gaiman's" name or whomever on the cover. As a reader, it pisses me off and I feel it does damage to the collection as a whole. Anyone care to call me out with a contrary argument?

Tangent: the spelling of the word poseur gave--and still gives--me a bit of trouble. It seems 'poser' is totally wrong yet completely acceptable. Which really makes me wonder about 'y'all,' a third person plural contraction that is found in an large number of languages yet is frowned upon in English as improper 'southern grammar.' As a southerner I'm offended and as an American speaking English (armour, honour) I'm confused. Latin retention seems a bit arbitrary, archaic for the hell-of-it, and wholly unneeded.

Semantically confused, and hating all you posers


Fantasy by Another Name

A few things have come to my attention while reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. The most obvious is that he is amazing and pretty much on my 'just buy it' list assuming this book is indicative of the rest of his work. (Sometimes I feel he is trying a bit too hard, especially when it comes to humor, but all-in-all, it's really good stuff.) The second issue that comes to mind is the genre of the book it self. I'll be the first to say, genre doesn't matter to me. I've said many a time before that good writing is good writing is good writing and genre doesn't play into it. But I do find it interesting how marketing departments put their spin on a book that is deemed to have mass market appeal even if the book in question is in an 'unsuitable' genre.

Alternate history, contemporary fantasy, or any other term that will be used in the future is all just a cover. It's misleading to readers. I don't see how it could be an offense to author: call a spade a spade and put the book on the fantasy self.

There is a good deal of modern fiction that contains strong fantasy elements. Sometimes I feel if publishers want the work to be successful or perhaps respectable in the eyes of the literary elite (NYT reviewers, book award committees and such) that there is a need to obscure a books true roots if it comes from a speculative genre. Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Chabon and others are almost never billed as speculative fiction, or derivative, and almost always their books are branded, "A Novel" on the cover. As if such a designation is a cover all gesture that establishes legitimacy by way of disowning ugly origins.

"A Novel, by Author X," read: something greater than mere fantasy...

What I'd really like to consider is whether or not the industry is correct in their efforts with these particular books. Perhaps it does lead to increased sales, wider cross-over appeal, and higher recognition for a writer that is greater than the genre in question. But if all of this is the case, then I wonder why isn't all speculative fiction presented in the same light as the afore mentioned writers.

This is not to say all speculative fiction writers are as good as Chabon, but lesser writers have sold more, and better writers have won awards and respect while gaining virtually no sales. What is good for the goose aught to be good for the gaggle, right?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Institution of Dry Cleaning

Forty-two extra long, athletic cut it isn't a common measurement if you are a male looking to purchase a suit. All things considered, pants are easy, but a coat or even a shirt can present a significant problem. The breadth of my shoulders--more specifically the measurement across my chest--is an anomaly in the fashion world.

So when I finally find something that fits, which is an effort that most people-women in particular--will never fully appreciate, the cleaning of this particular garments present some internal problems.

Who do you trust when it comes to taking care of your can't-just-walk-into-a-store-and-take-another-one-off-the-rack-should-something-go-wrong article of clothing? I spend money on the suit and alterations, and a good deal of time in an effort to find nicer clothing that both fits and is affordable. Then I'm supposed to give some guy I don't know all of ten bucks and trust him not to mess the summation of all my shopping efforts in a weeks time at the cleaners.

I'd like to think I'm doing something wrong. I have to be skipping a step somewhere. Surely there is more to the process, some research I should be doing a on specific cleaner and what qualifies them to handle my clothes, a liability waiver at least.

What of those with their bespoke Savile Row apparel? Do they take there thousand dollar clothing back to the tailor when they need it cleaned?

I'd be grateful to any that can shed some light on this topic for me. What am I missing?