Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true
** probably true

Friday, September 28, 2012

Never famous, redux

I thought I'd better explain the last post a little more fully.

Quick, name three famous fantasy writers.

The three that sprang to my mind were George RR Martin, Tolkien and Terry Goodkind. Of course there are tons of others who might qualify as famous, both living and dead, bother deservedly and otherwise. The point being, for anyone who partakes of fantasy on at least a semi-regular basis, these names are familiar. All of them have had their works translated to the screen, big or small. They have entered the wider sphere, breaking out of the genre 'ghetto'.

I don't expect that will ever happen to me. And I'm fine with that.

Now quick, name three important fantasy writers.

The ones I thought of right off were Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard and Ursula Leguin. Each of them contributed something to the genre (and since Ursula is still kicking, she may well contribute more) that no one else could have. Their voices, their works, are singular, irreproducible (despite many, many attempts in Howard's case). But they aren't especially famous to the wider world in the same sense that the first three are. Sure, if you go to a Sf/F convention, virtually everyone would know who they were. But if you did a survey at your local pub? Not so much.

So what's my point? It's that I'm never going to be famous in the way that Tolkien, or Martin, or even Goodkind is. Would I like to be? Well, sure. But not enough to try and emulate them, writing-wise. I would much rather be Fritz Leiber, nearly broke and typing next to my kitchen sink in my waning years, and having a roaring good time writing what the hell I wanted to, than churning out derivative doorstoppers because that's what the market wants. Never fear. I'll tell you a secret: I've tried to write Generic Fantasy(tm) and failed miserably because I was miserable doing it. Other people can (kofDavidDalglishkof) and good for them. They've got a huge work ethic that I envy. But I come to my writing as an avocation rather than a vocation. And while I've no particular hope of impinging upon the greater cultural gestalt, I would very much like to be remembered, after I am gone, as someone who contributed something unique, or at least worthy, to the genre. it's a lesser fame, certainly, but one that is more durable and, to me at least, more worthwhile.

All this is not to say I long to die in penury. If I could have, say, the success of Glen Cook or even Steven Brust (two writers I admire greatly), I'd be a happy, happy man.

So, why was I complaining? What exactly was I complaining about then? That's not so simple. It has to do with my writing process, which while vastly interesting to me, is about as exciting as holiday photos to others. To try and explain briefly, there's an inherent tension between giving the reader what they want when they go shopping in the Epic Fantasy section, and the way that my stories tend to play out. I do feel a responsibility to deliver a close approximation to what's on the tin. Sadly, there is no "1st Person POV Sword & Sorcery That Toys With Genre Conventions" section in any bookstore I've ever visited, online or otherwise. So yes, as much as I can, as much as I feel comfortable with, I do try and put some of my more rebellious writing tics under a blanket of the familiar. Perhaps as I become a stronger writer, or as readers respond positively to what they find in my writing, I won't feel compelled to do so quite so much- but it is a compulsion, or at least a deeply ingrained worry. It doesn't have to do with wanting to be 'famous' though. It has to do with meeting readers' expectations as much as I can, within the framework of the genre.

To try and give an example: If I'm paying for a cheeseburger, and the cook is a frustrated chef, I might be quite happy if he does some amazing thing with the spices and preparation of the meat, or if he chooses to serve it on a sourdough bun, or if he uses arugula and rocket instead of iceberg lettuce. I would be less pleased if the cheese is Limburger, there are avocado and papaya slices, and the meat is cow tongue.

The point being I know I can make a burger that's properly cooked, with fresh ingredients. Nobody's going to get sick off it. The tension comes in restraining my more creative impulses, because at this point in my writing life, I feel beholden to the reader to give them a product that is within the boundaries of the genre. I simply cannot go and start messing with fundamental underpinnings such as story arc (and yes, I have had such urges). Not for Amra and Holgren's tales, at least.

Speaking of which, The Blade That Whispers Hate isn't gonna write itself.

Peace, y'all.


4 comments:

InjectedMetal said...

I accidentally stumbled upon The Thief That Spat in Lucks Good Eye when I searched "Free" in iBooks, just cause I wanted something quick to read. I downloaded the short version, and couldn't put it down. As soon as I had completed it, I rushed online to buy the full book, only to be pleasantly surprised that it was also free for Kindle. Currently I sit on the first page of chapter 8, dying to find out what happens, and knowing I unfortunately have to get up for work tomorrow. Your an amazing writer, I'm ecstatic that I accidentally found you, and I cannot wait to see how this plays out. Please keep it up.

Michael McClung said...

Wow... Thanks so much for your kind words! It makes me really, really happy that you're enjoying Amra & Holgren's (mis)adventure :)

I promise I'll keep it up, to the best of my ability. Prequel's getting there, I just need a little time. Sequel's in the planning stage, with about 7 thousand words of the first draft done.

And, if the writing gods are kind, at least 6 books for Amra and Holgren after that. But don't tell anybody.

InjectedMetal said...

I'm glad to hear I have more to look forward to when I'm finished with Thief Who Spat for a long time to come. Thank you for writing these, and continuing to even after all the ups an downs you've experienced through the process. Oh, and I swear to Kerf your secret's safe ;) lol

InjectedMetal said...

I finished it! It was amazing. All I can say is Thank You! I cant wait for more. I will be buying the prequel. Don't sell yourself short. Charge for it.