31 July, 2009

Whingers and Winners: A short rant about the F&SF workshop

Here you have it, another rant about F&SF running a paid workshop and printing stories of quality from it. The difference is, since I'm not an idiot, I'm going to rant in favour of the workshop.

The complaints are basically as follows:
1) Stories from the workshop will be chosen for publication, should Gardner Dozois deem them excellent.
(Here's the thing. It's Gardner Dozois. He knows a publishable story when he sees one. Publishable stories DESERVE publication. You'd deny them publication in a top market simply because the writer made an effort to learn to write? That's stupid. Yes, they're learning to write through the magazine, but this problem bares the assertion that F&SF workshop stories will have a greater chance of publication than other stories. They will, but only because the F&SF workshop stories will, for statistical reasons, have a higher likelihood of being good.)

2) The workshop costs money, so aren't people effectively paying for publication in F&SF?
(Well, are you paying to have a job as a lawyer by going to law school? No, you moron. You're paying for the knowledge and skills necessary to be a lawyer. To become a lawyer, you apply for jobs. Meanwhile some firms will talent scout at some universities. Is that wrong? No. Firms can seek out lawyers all they want. It's their right, just as it's Gordon's right to publish good fiction he sees when it's submitted to him. I'd bet the authors of this workshop will retain the right to refuse publication, if they are insane.)

I think what people need to realise is that Gordon exclusively purchases GOOD stories, regardless of the author's experience. Ray Bradbury writes a short story every week. He doesn't submit them all, probably because many aren't considered great by his own standards. My guess is he's a very good judge.

Gordon Van Gelder is also a good judge, and if a story is very good, it will rise from the slush pile and probably get published. There's no secret hand shake or special query letter format experienced authors know that newbies don't. Experienced authors just generally write better than your average newbie. Gordon is interested in selling magazines TO READERS. That's it. No secrets there. He's doing it for readers and so he wants stories his readers will like. If he sees one, and he's sure his readers will like it, he buys the story, because otherwise a competing magazine will buy it.

I once went out of my way to help someone who was considering self-publication. I told him that if he really wants to be a writer, he should begin studying the craft. I pointed him in the right direction. I gave him links to University courses, I told him about Clarion and Critters, I named several excellent books on writing and warned him of several terrible ones. He replied with hostility, saying I should "take my student wisdom back to the cafeteria and tell someone who cares."

I did. I had no more time for him. Why? He's hopeless. Let him waste his money on self-publication. Let him waste his life on self-delusion. I'm too busy fighting for my dream. The fact is, if he really had it in him to become a writer, his first thoughts wouldn't go to self-publication. Instead, he'd consider that if he wrote something worth reading, people in the business of selling stories to readers would buy it. He would, therefor, work very hard to discover every opportunity to study the craft. He would have visited all those links I sent him.

If there had been an F&SF workshop at the time, I would have pointed him towards it.

The workshop is a tremendous opportunity for new writers to learn the craft. I submit that ANY new writer who has a problem with the idea of a WORKSHOP WITH GARDNER DOZOIS (for cryin' out loud!) doesn't take the craft anywhere near seriously enough to ever learn it.

When I first heard of the workshop I leapt out of my chair and ran to tell my girlfriend in an excited frenzy. I then returned to the computer to see people complaining. That's insane, but I'm actually glad. The more writers have some kind of weird problem with it, the fewer will sign up.

Imagine a one on one apprenticeship with Gardner Dozois. Now imagine how hard I had to work to get a one on one apprenticeship with Paul McAuley. If you have a dream, fight for it, and ignore the people who whinge and complain. They are not like you. They are weak. To accomplish your dream, you must be strong. Now what are you doing surfing the internet? Get back to work.

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