Hey, Why Aren’t More Things Being Written that I Like?

Hey, Why Aren’t More Things Being Written That I Like?
by Alan DeNiro

Hey, why aren’t more things being written that I like? That is to say, I used to read a lot more cool stuff, but now I don’t. What is up with that? The decline of things that I like has its roots in societal changes that include the increase in things that I don’t like. I also think that there used to be a lot more interesting stuff out there, but now there isn’t. In fact a lot of my friends and colleagues have told me this, and I happen to agree. I did happen to read a couple of stories recently that I liked, and they were pretty good. But those were the exceptions. Why is this? Stories used to be adventures but now they’re too adventurous. They are confusing and I don’t like that! Sturgeon’s Law still applies but it also applies to the 10% of stuff that isn’t crap. So needless to say there’s more crap. Look, just start publishing more good stories that I like if you want to save the genre. I just know that there are other people who like what I like. (Young readers in particular like what I like; it was what I liked at that age.) Clearly, something needs to be done about this to protect publishing venues that have remained unchanged since the 1940s. You know, the good old days.

19 thoughts on “Hey, Why Aren’t More Things Being Written that I Like?

  1. Dave Schwartz

    I know! It’s like, there used to be this one standard, and now there’s a new standard, and I kind of liked the old standard, and I don’t really understand the new one. It’s almost as if the world had changed, and literature had tried to change along with it. Whose idea was that?

  2. Justine Larbalestier

    But why did you have to write another thing I don’t like to make the otherwise good point that nothing I like is being published any more? What are you trying to do? Rub the wholly unlikeableness of contemporay writing in my face? You utter, utter, utter bastard!

  3. Nick Mamatas

    Brilliant! The only thing missing is a subtext that acknowledges that the old stuff actually still predominates, and that the New Thing being discussed is limited to a few smaller markets, with occasional icecaps into the larger venues.

  4. Tim Pratt

    You are the king, Alan. I’m going to invent a whole new country of snark for you to be the king of.

  5. Jetse

    “The setting was the Danny Baker show, on Radio One. Every week he used to go on air and read the graffiti that his colleagues had penned across the photographs in the day’s papers, for humourous effect. [...] And the one I recall most is the picture [...] of the actor who played George in _George and Mildred_, a sitcom; and scrawled across his forehead was: WE FEAR CHANGE.”

    from (my colleague) Dave Mathew’s editorial in Interzone #198.

    You wanna have fun? Take a well-established SF mag (that was stuck in the 80s) and try to upgrade it to the 21st Century, and watch your mailbox/forum for long-time reader comments.

    Warning: strong sense of humour (and proportion) and very thick skin required.

    I always thought that SF was the literature of change (actually still do), but a lot of SF readers are about as conservative as your average progrock — where the “progressive” part has completely lost its meaning — fan: don’t deviate too much from the golden standard set sometime in the past (pick your own period).

    It’s cool to write *about* future shock, as long as in a writing style we’re familiar with for over thirty years. Heaven forbid that you should really *do* it…

  6. Ray Davis

    It gives me special pleasure that with just a few plucks (“adventure” & “Sturgeon’s Law”) this cri de coeur could also be sold as a piece on the state of poetry or the high-mundane. Alan, you have a fine career waiting for you on the dark side.

  7. Jed

    Hee! Very nice.

    The really sad thing is that in about twenty years, I expect to be saying all that non-ironically. (Only instead of “the 1940s” I’ll be saying “the 1990s,” of course.)

    So I hope you’ll re-post this in about twenty years, to the VR Web or whatever’s au courant at the time, just to remind us all. Or at least to remind me.

  8. gabe chouinard

    Just brilliant.

    Except, why isn’t there more of what *I* like to read, because everyone knows that *MY* tastes are more important than *YOURS*.

  9. Jonathan Vos Post

    Of course, it could be that EVEN MORE cool stuff is being published, and there is a conspiracy not to tell you WHERE.

    If you could program your search engines to sort with Coolest first, you just might find some…

    The issue is not “why is there less cool stuff?”
    The issue is not “am I paranoid?”
    The issue is “am I paranoid ENOUGH?”

  10. Tom Whitmore

    There is a lot of what you’d like being published. But Gresham’s Law is working — bad (for any one person’s definition of bad) fiction drives out good.

    In terms of amazingly good story values, look in kid’s books (Scott Westerfeld, Garth Nix, Peter Sis, Diana Wynne Jones, for simple examples).

    There is more of what you want to read out there than you are finding. There is more of what I want to read out there than I am finding. The field of SF and fantasy is getting more dilute each year.

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  13. SMD

    You know, if you’re proposing we flirt more with what was the “Golden Age”, then I’m very with you. Yes, I do like reading the stuff that really rocks my brains and deals with complex, hardcore issues, but I also like the good space adventure story, and it seems to me that a lot of people do. I’d even like to write them if there was a market for them, but it seems like the “pulpy” days are mostly dead, which is terrible in my opinion. What’s wrong with high-flying adventure in space? It works for TV, it worked for SF literature for a long while (despite the literary folks saying it wasn’t literature, even though it was), why not now?
    I agree with Whitmore about reading YA stuff. Westerfeld’s Peeps was an amazing read, in my opinion, and altogether fun and enjoyable. It took the vampire mythos and twisted it so there was a science-fictional element to it (i.e. a logical, realistic reason for vampirism, or at least as realistic as you can get). I’m sure there are loads of other great stories. There’s John Scalzi, who has a lot of great adventure in his stories, also dealing with some deep issues, which I find compelling, and Tobias S. Buckell, who writes similar adventure-filled SF with some political/cultural intrigue thrown in to stir the pot up a bit. My problem is with short stories: I love shorts, but I get the impression that a lot of the adventure stuff gets lost. It’s there, but it sort of comes and goes I suppose.

    I’m rambling though. I do wish we’d have an infusion of pulpiness though. I liked the pulps. Nothing wrong with them at all.

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