Friday, February 26, 2010

An Ugly Friday

I've barreled into my research project -- American women writers in the tradition of early SF pulp magazines -- and I've discovered that while there were over 300 women writing SF between 1920 and 1960, producing roughly 1000 stories, almost none of them are anthologized. And those that are anthologized have gender ambiguous pen names such as C. L. Moore and Leslie F. Stone. Some of Judith Merril's work from the 50s makes it into anthologies but I'm looking for WWII and earlier and Merril was a Canadian. Bummer.

It's not until Merril starts working as an anthology editor in the 1960s that more women start appearing in anthologies. Because of this I'm going to have to voyage to places with collections of the original magazines. Several sources (rightly) argue that women and other minorities were not banned or blocked from SF before the Women's and Civil Rights Movements ... but my own research shows that they might not have been precluded from the money making side of the industry, but they were precluded from attempts at any sort of lasting recognition.

That's about all I have of what needs to be a 15-20 page essay. But I have a couple months so no worries on that yet.

I meant to spend today reading and researching, but I'm coming down with a cold, and -- since it's the first day of Spring Break here -- it's snowing. Not pretty, fluffy, fun snow, but bitter, nasty, cold, blowing snow. No way am I walking to the library feeling like this in weather like that. It's an ugly Friday.

As it pertains to recent discussions here, I thought I'd make mention of the article "What makes literary fiction 'literary'?" in the April issue of The Writer magazine. The writer's strategy is to ask editors to define the genre for her. She gets around to what about plot? and garners the following quote.

It starts off strong -- If literary fiction doesn't have a plot -- then she hedges -- or narrative movement -- then she really hedges -- (even just in the inner life of the character), it won't hold the attention of the reader, won't be effective.

So ... literary fiction must have a plot ... unless it has narrative movement ... and that movement doesn't have to be physical or known by any characters other than the narrator; it can be completely internal narrative movement.

No wonder people reading literary fiction -- and attempting to write it -- come to the conclusion that it doesn't need a plot. Narrative movement in the inner life of a character. Sheesh.

To it's credit, the article does later hit on the head the truth of the genre: it's more about the character's psychology than the situation.

In my opinion this is far more important than phrases like "character driven." Literary fiction can no longer claim that it is that which is character (not plot) driven, or that it is fiction which is not formulaic. Read what genre editors are looking to publish and you will always see the phrase "character driven stories." There is almost nothing that is getting published today that fits the definition of "formulaic."

Reading the early SF stories has shown me what formulaic is. For the 60s it was (1) introduce world/setting/character (2) introduce SF element that makes this world unique (3) demonstrate flaw of human nature which is exemplified by the SF element. Fin. Compared to reading short SF that's been published in the past couple of years it's easy to tell that there's nothing formulaic about today's SF literature; it is about as character driven as anything else.

Highly Recommended