Becoming a Legend in my Own Mind - and why that might be good enough
Over 50 published short stories and no novel. What’s that about?
I’ve been writing seriously since I was about 15. For a few years, in the late 80s and early 90s, I was fairly prolific, publishing upwards of eight stories in one year. I spent a long time pushing the envelope, trying to be edgy – and I even succeeded on occassion. One in three stories I’ve written over my lifetime was good enough to be selected to appear in my collection, Psychedelia Gothique, which contained 17 stories – several of which had been nominated for Aurora Awards, Pushcart Prizes and the like. A number of my stories appeared in small scale “Best of” anthologies – with pieces in Wild Things Live There (The Best of Northern Frights), The Best of Eotu Magazine, and the Sign of the Times 20 Year Anthology. A couple of my pieces appeared in newsstand magazines and in the same table of contents with some of my favourite authors. Writers I admire reviewed several of my stories very favourably. A magazine I co-published and edited featured work by big name writers, and was nominated for numerous awards. And I currently need just a couple more pieces to round out a second story collection.
But unless your name is Harlan Ellison, short stories alone, even award winning ones, do not make much of a career in genre fiction. And mine are award-nominated at best. Fringy stuff – including some embarrassing work that survives in dark corners of the web, despite my best efforts to expunge it. My comeback (nine new stories in three years) after a twelve year writing hiatus has gone mostly unnoticed. If I wanted excuses, I could fall back on the psychiatrist visits a few years back that revealed that I most likely have undiagnosed ADD. What could I do with a gnat-like attention-span? Unfortunately, excuses aren’t much of a balm. What I need are novels. A whole spate of great, late-career novels! Yay! I’m a closet Tolkien.
I have written some novels. Sure, I’ve never sent them out, and have shown them to hardly anyone. A few people have said some encouraging things about them. A few others conspicuously haven’t. But what do I care? I’m now writing one of the great novels of the 21st century. Or at least, as long as I keep it more or less to myself, I can imagine that it’s one of the great novels of this century. Seriously, I tell myself all the time, that it has the potential to become my breakout work – to fulfill my dream. And who are you to say it isn’t or doesn’t? Have you read it? Of course not. Because I haven’t shown it to you.
Which brings me to another cusp. It’s time to show it to people – to finally reveal my hidden genius or tragic lack thereof. After all, if I follow the same ratio as my short stories, there are two duds for every genuinely good story. And this will be my third finished novel. It’s about time! And, as an added bonus, I now have the maturity to realize that even if the world doesn’t fall on it with the glad cries I feel it deserves, I will have written something I am profoundly proud of.
Avenging Glory is very much a novel of our time. And for somebody who has spent the past 20 years outside of the writing establishment – for someone who fears he couldn’t find the zeitgeist with both hands if it flew up his own ass – for someone who never went to Clarion or got stories in the major publications – I have to say, this is (going to be) a pretty kickass novel.
Publication and wide acclaim are wonderful, desirable things – things that this book might well never achieve (beyond self-publication and self-aggrandizing bluster at any rate). But it’s almost done. And I promise that it will be world-class and groundbreaking and fun! And if I’m the only one in the world who thinks so…at least I really, truly think so. I will have succeeded on my own terms. And who else’s terms really matter? Those folks with the money? That would be nice. But as long as I manage to write the book I have always wanted to read, then the money is honestly just a perk. And the lack of it won’t keep me from embracing my personal success.