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November 3rd, 2010


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08:19 pm - Moments That Make You Go ...
This is another Scheherazade's Facade related post. For that, I'm sorry. It's just that the durned project is once again at the front of my mind and taking up a fair amount of attention.

I heard back from another of the various publishers I've pitched, and to no one's surprise, they turned me down. In this case, they cited the fact that they already had enough anthologies lined up, and couldn't take on another. Fine, acceptable, everyone has their own projects to worry about. The next sentence, however, floored me and made me stop and blink.

"Although it pains me to say so, I think you'll do better with this one with an lgbt audience than an sf one."

I'm not going to tell you guys what I read from that statement. Let's just say my eyebrow hit the roof, and that I sincerely disagree. My belief is that an anthology of fantasy stories featuring themes of gender, sexuality, transformation, self-discovery, acceptance and exploration is still fantasy.

Thoughts?
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(36 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:dynamicsymmetry
Date:November 4th, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
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...Yeah, I kind of alluded to my sense of this attitude in my post on this subject, and I'll say more after I eat some dinner, but my immediate reaction is surprise at the idea that they're somehow two entirely different audiences.

And "surprise" is putting it rather politely, I have to say.
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From:dynamicsymmetry
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:05 am (UTC)
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Okay. Post-dinner, my thoughts are going thusly: I get why someone would say that. I get that anything in the realm of specific not heteronormative and/or cisgendered seems, to some people, like a tough sell. But a) I think that's much less true than it used to be, and I also think sometimes publishers don't give readers enough credit for being able to connect with something out of the ordinary, and b) it isn't until some people are willing to take some chances, use their clout, and really challenge the commonly constructed/accepted landscape of a field that serious and lasting changes can be made.

So that's a really disappointing thing to read. Because you know, they might be right. And as long as people keep saying that, they're going to continue to be right in a lot of places. And that's not an attractive picture to me at all.
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From:rosefox
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:16 am (UTC)
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I also think sometimes publishers don't give readers enough credit for being able to connect with something out of the ordinary

Especially SF/F readers! We are known for liking books that pull us out of our comfort zones! *sigh*
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From:dynamicsymmetry
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:18 am (UTC)
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Exactly. Which makes reading that even more frustrating.
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From:oneminutemonkey
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:30 am (UTC)
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I daresay my lineup would object at being lumped in as "lgbt" instead of "sf/f". Some have worked in erotica, some in YA, some in small presses, some in major presses, but one and all, they're speculative writers who answered the call for something new and different.

Honestly, this is like saying Tamora Pierce would be better suited to an LGBT audience because of her Alanna books. Or any fairy tale where someone dresses up as the opposite sex. Or Bugs Bunny.
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From:thunderpigeon
Date:November 4th, 2010 04:51 am (UTC)
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Hmm. I think having a story in one LGBT anthology doesn't brand a person as an LGBT author. Although some authors are a lot more concerned about branding than I am. Personally, I'd take it as an honor--the same as if someone tells you you did a good job of portraying a person of their ethnicity, or their gender, etc.

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From:chrysalisspirit
Date:November 4th, 2010 12:56 am (UTC)
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Science fiction is when you introduce a new element and see how it affects things. It is most certainly not limited to battle robots or tentacled aliens.

So if you had a telepathy-themed SF anthology, they'd tell you to pitch it to a New-Age audience?
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From:oneminutemonkey
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:33 am (UTC)
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Oh, no. Telepathy is a long-established trope of the genre. It's perfectly acceptable. What's dubious, apparently, is something exploring gender issues and boundaries. :>
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From:chrysalisspirit
Date:November 4th, 2010 03:01 am (UTC)
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Apparently, to boldly go where no one has gone before is not fantasy/SF! Who would've thought! :D
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From:netdancer
Date:November 4th, 2010 01:18 am (UTC)
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Serious suggestion: Bounce it off QueeredFiction. They showcase some impressive work.

http://www.queeredfiction.com/

I'm actually working on some stuff for submission there. And yes, I agree that the manuscript you have *should* be publishable in the mainstream, but...well, people are people. :p
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From:oneminutemonkey
Date:November 4th, 2010 01:29 am (UTC)
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I'm not sure about them. They don't seem to have updated since July, and pretty sparsely before then. It's enough to make me kind of wary. Thanks for the suggestion, though.
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From:stonetable
Date:November 4th, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
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What about the good folks at Crossed Genres? They've done some remarkable work in the genre and are fully supportive of things with a lgbt tilt.
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From:oneminutemonkey
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
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I'll look into them. Though I'm not sure they have the infrastructure to support a full anthology at this point. Support and goodwill don't always equate to funding and stuff. :(
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From:rosefox
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:17 am (UTC)
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I will add "Although it pains me to say so" to the list that includes "I'm not racist, but" and "With all due respect" and "Don't take this the wrong way, but" and "No offense, but".
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From:dynamicsymmetry
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:19 am (UTC)
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This.
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From:oneminutemonkey
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
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Yeah, it does kind of ring a warning bell, doesn't it?
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From:mroctober
Date:November 4th, 2010 12:53 pm (UTC)
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I think it was more said to indicate that the publisher is concerned over costs and such. Anthologies are tough sells - honestly, most non-erotica queer-themed anthologies do not sell well enough to afford your author payments. Lethe released Time Well Bent and Wilde Stories and Alleys & Doorways and none have sold as many copies as would be needed to afford the author fees you propose. And all should have been embraced by a queer audience and a spec fic one.
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From:thunderpigeon
Date:November 4th, 2010 04:58 am (UTC)
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To me, with no knowledge of the inflection in the person's voice, this could be read in two completely different ways. It could be that the editor felt there was something inherently inferior about GLBT literature (as many editors do about genres that are not their own)--and that would be pretty awful. But it could also mean that the editor felt that fantasy audiences just aren't ready for a book like this--which would also be sad, but not necessarily for the way it reflects on him.
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From:rosefox
Date:November 4th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC)
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There are so many counterexamples to that, though! Are fantasy readers not ready for Amanda Downum's novel starring a prince's transgender mistress? How about Mary Gentle's Ilario series? How about Geoff Ryman's Was...? Were we "ready" for Philip Jose Farmer's crazy alien sex stories from the 1970s, or for Chip Delany's books? How about decades' worth of Lambda Award winners in the SF/F category?

The groundwork for this book has been laid for decades. We're as ready as we're going to be.
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From:thunderpigeon
Date:November 5th, 2010 03:21 am (UTC)
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Well said. And this is part of why I said "not necessarily" rather than "not"--that is, while thinking the market isn't ready doesn't have to make the guy a homophobe, it might suggest that he's needlessly risk-averse, and unwilling to take a stand.

I tend to be a little overenthusiastic about giving people the benefit of a doubt, so I hope you'll forgive me for also saying that the market for anthologies is not as strong as that for novels, and that, unfortunately, fluctuations in public awareness also mean that the market might not be as ready as it was in the past.

Personally, I can't claim to have my finger that soundly on the pulse of the market, but if that was his intent, then I certainly do hope you're right and he's wrong.
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From:thunderpigeon
Date:November 4th, 2010 02:55 am (UTC)
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A market tip is a market tip. Sometimes it's good advice to take something where you wouldn't expect, and sometimes it isn't.

On the one hand, after several people told me Shadow of the Antlered Bird should be marketed as YA, I tried that with a few YA agents. The first one loved the sample chapter but felt it was too sophisticated for the audience. The second I just spoke with and concluded that it just wasn't the right market.

On the other hand, a friend of mine tried selling a paranormal mystery to mystery markets, F/SF markets, GLBT markets (it made sense for this book), and finally sold it as Literary fiction because she's Canadian, and Canadian publishers get grants for publishing literary fiction by Canadian authors.

I've only seen one of the stories in the antho, so I don't know how well it would actually fit the market, but my thought is, if you can pitch a book to a whole new market without changing anything about it, why not give it a try? I've certainly seen books published by GLBT presses put up for sale at conventions (especially, but not exclusively, Arisia and Pi-Con), so selling it to a publisher that specializes in GLBT fiction doesn't prohibit you from selling copies of the book to F/SF audiences. If you give this a try, you may be exposing GLBT readers to writers they might not otherwise have noticed, and your stable of fantasy authors to readers who might not otherwise have noticed them. So the way I see it, it's a win-win.
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From:thunderpigeon
Date:November 4th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC)
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...although if you think this other editor didn't know what he was talking about (as indicated by the "although it pains me" thread), then you may want to run it past a gay or lesbian colleague before pursuing this avenue.
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From:oneminutemonkey
Date:November 4th, 2010 07:14 am (UTC)
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You raise some good points in all of your comments. I suppose I just chafe at the suggestion that this anthology can't find a home among the genre publishers just because the theme isn't quite as easy to pigeonhole or nail down as some. It's weird to think that, because Scheherazade's Facade focuses on gender and identity, it could be considered an GLBT anthology more than a SF/F anthology, as though it's crossed some weird genre line.

Mind you, hardly anyone's been interested enough to ask to see the manuscript in its entirety, and that includes the publisher whose comments sparked the comment above. They see my pitch, they see the guidelines, they see the list of authors, and they make their decision as to whether they want to see more, or dismiss it for one reason or another.

I guess the anthology exists in a weird, murky middle ground, where it can either be considered fantasy-with-GLBT elements, or GLBT-with-fantasy elements. I personally see it as a fantasy anthology that explores and experiments with gender issues, drawing on a long and rich tradition dating back to ... well, the oldest mythologies.

This really is a mixed bag. There's a lesbian love story (of a sort) with a dragon, a boy disguised as a girl, a girl disguised as a boy, a gay retelling of a fairy tale, an humorous urban fantasy, a drag queen in Hell, and so much more. Any one of these would be right at home in any of the finest genre magazines. It's only when collected that they take on the weight of their collective, shared theme and their audience is in question.

Of course, part of why I posted this in the first place was to see what people thought. This whole thing continues to be a learning experience.


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From:elena23
Date:November 4th, 2010 10:53 am (UTC)
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I can't speak toward the idea of marketing preferences. I can say, as a reader of science fiction and fantasy, and based on your previous descriptions of the work (and of course assuming I had no prior knowledge of it) that I would most likely say, "ehhh, pass."

It could be that I'm simply not edgy enough. I'm fairly conservative, straight, and not exactly living with my finger on the pulse of gender and sexuality issues. I'm not, however, oblivious or uneducated, simply not interested. I think you could probably say that as a straight person I have the privilege of being able to be uninterested, where as such themes are pretty much impossible to ignore in the LGBT community.

I think there's also a certain feel, though, that an anthology such as the one you're marketing has an "agenda." While that may or or may not be true, and while that may or may not be good or bad, I think the publisher may simply be saying that it might do better in a crowd that is more receptive to that particular "agenda."

You referenced the Alanna books as an example. But those books weren't put forth (as far as I recall, having read them) as having the specific goal of addressing or experimenting with gender issues. So maybe it has to do with the way that you're formulating the pitch?

I don't know that this contains any helpful information, but I figured I would at least comment with my perspective, and that would be something!
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From:rosefox
Date:November 4th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
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You referenced the Alanna books as an example. But those books weren't put forth (as far as I recall, having read them) as having the specific goal of addressing or experimenting with gender issues.

Uh... how much more explicit do you need than a book with the title The Woman Who Rides Like a Man?
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From:elena23
Date:November 4th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC)
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Which is what, the third book in the series?

While you could argue that a woman who dresses up (or does anything else) like a man certainly addresses gender issues, it's a much more common theme in science fiction/fantasy than some of the others that this anthology is focusing on and I don't think that it's necessarily an apt comparison.
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From:rosefox
Date:November 4th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure how a woman dressing like a man could not address gender issues. If you want to talk about how common an idea is, transformation is a tremendously common theme in fantasy, going back to Leda and the Swan, or the Brothers Grimm story of the prince who was turned into a bear, or the wolf dressed up as Red Riding Hood's grandma. Sexuality is (pardon the term) intimately woven into a great many SF/F stories, especially since the New Wave. Self-discovery, acceptance and exploration have been part of SF since Wells and Verne. Which was the uncommon part?
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From:elena23
Date:November 4th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
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Why are you arguing with me? So you disagree? Fine. It's not getting the anthology sold, nor does it make me any more likely to want to buy the book (in fact your comments are making it increasingly LESS likely).

I don't feel that Alanna addresses "sexuality, transformation, self-discovery, acceptance and exploration" in the same way in which oneminutemonkey is describing this particular anthology. If it does, then it may be that he needs to change his pitch, because it's not coming off that way.

Edited at 2010-11-04 06:06 pm (UTC)
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From:rosefox
Date:November 4th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
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I'm not trying to convince you of anything (though I am amused that you base your book-purchasing decisions on discussions with people who have nothing to do with the books in question). I'm just puzzled as to how you can say these themes are uncommon in SF/F when I have bookcases full of SF/F books that discuss these themes.

What sort of alternative pitch are you suggesting? Something like calling the Alanna books a "rollicking adventure story full of romance, magic, and deadly sibling rivalry" and leaving out the parts about teen sex, polyamory, and cross-dressing?
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From:elena23
Date:November 4th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
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I never used the world uncommon -- you read that in somewhere. I did say that girls dressing up as guys is a more common theme than some of what he was addressing (and since he was talking about a lesbian affair with a dragon and a drag queen in hell, I don't think that I'm way off base).

I haven't seen Alanna pitched as a story about "sex, polyamory, and cross-dressing" on any of the main sites. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and even wikipedia all manage to describe the books in an interesting and straightforward manner without taking that particular angle. I also think that there is a difference between Alanna, who cross-dresses by necessity and the typical association with "cross-dressing" which is done by desire. Girls dreaming of being warriors is a theme that resonates in the mainstream more than ...well, drag queens, cross-dressing, and polyamory.
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From:rosefox
Date:November 4th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
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The main problem I have with this approach is that it's tantamount to closeting. It's like telling someone queer that she'll make more friends she doesn't hold hands with her girlfriend in public. After all, there are lots of things she can be public about, like being a lawyer and being Chinese and being into historical dance! Why does she have to be public about everything? Especially those things that some people might find icky?

And the answer is, because it's important to be seen as a whole person, and to not have to lie in order to be accepted. And because the more people are public about it, the less icky it seems to those "mainstream" types.
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From:elena23
Date:November 4th, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC)
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I don't disagree. But if you can market a book that contains themes that push the envelope in a manner that gets more people to read it, including people who might not otherwise have read it, and subsequently change people's persepctive, wouldn't that be better?

You can be blunt and straightforward and make a point, but not necessarily change people's mind. Or you can be more subtle and reach a wider audience. I think either is a viable option, depending on your intent.

Maybe this is what this particular publisher was trying to say (not very eloquently)? Or maybe he was just being an ass.

Somewhere, there has to be a balance.
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From:touyatouya
Date:November 4th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
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Well, I can only speak for myself of course, but here goes:

(1) re: an SF audience: I'm a lot more adventurous when it comes to anthologies, particularly themed anthologies, than I am with novels. When I describe what kind of an SF reader I am, I'll usually base it on the type of novels I like to read, but that's never stopped me from trying out anthologies outside my usual hunting grounds. I find that I don't need to be a fan of (or even know a lot about) a theme or subgenre before buying an anthology - in fact, sometimes my ignorance about a subject is what compels me to buy one. For example, I like neither zombies nor unicorns but I bought Zombies vs. Unicorns because I wanted to see how great writers could actually make stories featuring creatures which I usually find to be bland.

(2) re: gender specific appeal: On this aspect, I'll leave the realm of prose and venture into another realm dear to my heart: anime/manga. Japanese manga and anime explore issues of transformation and sexuality all the time, in both niche and mainstream works, and many anime/manga have wide international followings where sexual orientation isn't really a factor. I'm sure that there are LGBT who adore Ranma 1/2, or Kashimashi Boy Meets Girl, but I doubt they make up most of its fans.

Given the above, I see the antho as potentially appealing to both SF fans, and to people interested in LGBT issues who aren't generally SF fans. I'm not saying this means the antho will be commercially successful, but I find it hard to see cross-over potential as a bad thing.

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From:bayushi
Date:November 4th, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
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Given that one of the straightest, most conservative men in SF wrote a gender-blurring novel, that was popular enough for him to update it years later and get it published again, I have to wonder what that one publisher is talking about.

(The book in question is Orson Scott Card's A Planet Called Treason, later renamed to just Treason.)

(Edited to correct spelling, I need to clean my keyboard.)

Edited at 2010-11-04 06:38 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:laurenpburka
Date:November 4th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
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That statement is absolutely correct.

I was just thinking about this recently. Science fiction publishing has the same sexual prejudices that the mainstream does. Even though individual writers and editors don't all feel that way, times are tough and everyone in scifi is going to be extremely conservative and only publish what worked last year. Every year or two there is a "break through" sex book in SciFi, and then we have to have a break-through book all over again. The last book wasn't a "break through" if the barrier still needs to be broken.

Cecilia started Circlet because she couldn't find anyone to publish her scifi erotica. Nothing has changed.

This is why I started publishing with romance. It's the only genre publishing sector that is growing. You'll notice that Circlet is growing sideways into romance as well.

While I do honestly hope you knock down your windmill, I wouldn't bet any money on it.
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From:dqg_neal
Date:November 10th, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC)
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I don't get this.. your audience should be whatever you target it at.

You should be able to market a book to BOTH a fantasy audience and an LGBT one. In fact, you'd be more likely to make back your expenses. Why confine it to a single niche?






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