Covers by Beeple, Gary Freeman and Vincent Di Fate
I had an interesting conversation with a newish writer at MileHiCon last weekend. She said that she’d been submitting to small markets until she was “good enough for the biggies.” She meant Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Analog, Tor.com and a couple of others. She said, “I figure you only have two or three chances with those editors before they start tossing your manuscript back because they recognize your name.”
I told her about a panel I attended at WorldCon a while ago where Gardner Dozois and Stanley Schmidt were discussing the same issue. Stanley said he’d been receiving manuscripts from the same author for years without buying one. “But he improved steadily. His last ones were close, and then he quit sending me stuff. I was looking forward to buying one of his pieces.”
Gardner perked up and said, “That sounds familiar. Was it…” and he whispered a name in Stan’s ear. Stan nodded.
“His last story barely missed with me!”
Both editors looked a little sad. “I wonder what happened to him?” Gardner added.
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Here’s a shout-out for one of my favorite books, Robert Holdstock’s amazing, 1985, World Fantasy award winning novel Mythago Wood. Holdstock’s book dovetailed neatly with my other favorite of that time, David Brin’s The Postman.
I really can’t recommend Mythago Wood enough. In a time when everyone else was echoing Tolkien, Holdstock created a completely different take on fantasy (rural fantasy — if that’s a genre). I loved this story of two brothers, their estranged and absent father, and a patch of wood that was only three miles around but infinitely deep.
Of all the books I’ve read, none has impacted me as strongly at the end as this novel. Endings are hard, so when I read a perfect one, I take notice.
Stylistically, Holdstock nailed it too. I didn’t notice the smoothness and rhythm of his work at first, but on subsequent rereads I paid much more attention to his sentence and paragraph building. He has taught me a lot. If you are looking for an outstanding read to start your 2019, give Mythago Wood a try.
I’m always looking for my next, great novel. Do you have a recommendation of a book that exists in your personal canon of classics?
I’m convinced I became a science fiction fan at exactly the right time, the 60s. That was just long enough ago that there was so little science fiction (compared to now), that a young fan had to read the “classics” because there wasn’t the flood of new stuff appearing each month.
I don’t know how, exactly, I started reading E.E. Doc Smith, for example. His books originally appeared in the 30s and 40s. I bought the Skylark and Lensmen books in paperback, though, so they were still being reprinted. I read all of Edgar Rice Burroughs, also a writer who started in the early 1900s. Both the Tarzan and Barsoom stories started in 1912. Yet in the early 60s, the books were still coming out in reprints (with really cool covers).
I read H.G. Wells and Jules Verne because they were among the relatively few science fiction choices in our public library. At this time, I read science fiction exclusively. I read Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle because they scratched the science fiction itch without always exactly being science fiction. I didn’t discover H. Rider Haggard and Robert E. Howard until later. I also joined the Science Fiction Book Club in the 60s. One of my first purchases was the double-volume A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, edited by Anthony Boucher and published in 1959 (I bought it because it counted as a single choice–I think it’s possible that part of my love for short fiction started with that awesome collection).
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