Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fame, part II

Some years ago, I was the toastmaster at a convention at which the guest of honor was a well-known and prolific science fiction and fantasy writer. Nice, guy, did good clean work, but all if it had been in paperback. Finally, after a couple of decades and four dozen or so novels, he scored a hardback deal. He was so tickled he had his publisher send him ten or twelve unboarded copies of the novel, took them to a custom book guy, and had them bound in snake skin. More, for the first time, he got a featured review in Locus, SF&F's premiere critical magazine. Such that it is.

And the review, the first ever of his work there?

They panned it. Naturally. And as much for the notion that he wasn't one of the "literary" guys -- that what he wrote was pot-boiling junk food.

It was a good book. I enjoyed it. That it was in hardback didn't mean it was any better-written than the ones the writer had done in paperback. But to some degree, the hardback was about acceptance, maybe even vindication.

Everybody who produces work wants it to be recognized as having some value. If you are a cook, you want people to like what you do with the food; if you fix cars, you want them to run when you are done; if you are a writer, you want people to enjoy the tale you tell.

Getting nominated for an award by your peers or the public means that you reached somebody, and as much as artists say such things don't matter, they do. Not the award, but the acknowledgment. Somebody noticed.

In the book biz, hardbacks get more credit than paperbacks, just as mainstream writing gets more critical appreciation than genre. There is mainstream, then down the list are mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, westerns, romances, and so forth, if you believe the east coast literary elite.

For me, the highest praise I've gotten is that I've crafted a page-turner.

I'd be happy to win the Hugo or Nebula, but "Piss on you, you son-of-a-bitch, I couldn't put the fucking book down and was up all night!" is pretty good as accolades go ...


Ed said...

As I have said to you in the past - I have lost much sleep on a lot of your work (mostly Matador stuff Bobbie) and seen a lot of paperbacks not come back to me after lending them out - good ploy to get more money out of me Steve - it works.

Jordan said...

Indeed -- hardbacks or no, I've gone through more duplicates and multiple copies of specifically the matador series. In addition though, I think I've managed to round up pretty much all of your non-series novels as a direct result.

I hope you hear it enough, but if not, consider this another vote that your books most certainly /are/ page turners, I have lost much sleep over them, and I plan on continuing to do so as long you keep writing.