Tag Archives: nalo hopkinson

Genre needs to stop applauding crap, and respect its best writers

Sarah Crown has started a fascinating discussion on the resurgence of fabulism in literary fiction over on The Guardian book blog, brought on by Tea Obreht’s surprise win in the Orange prize.

I didn’t need to read the comments to know there would be at least half a dozen from irate members of fantasy fandom, complaining that we in the world of genre have been writing such novels for rather a long time. And of course it’s a valid point. There are writers within genre producing amazing examples of fabulism of exactly the kind highlighted as emerging within Lit.Fic by the article. One or two are tremendously famous, like Neil Gaiman. Many more are less known but equally good – John Crowley, Kelly Link, Nalo Hopkinson, Elizabeth Hand – to give just a few examples.

(I’m looking through my copy of Conjunction 39: The New Wave Fabulists as I write. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a starting point to understanding fantasy and fabulism.)

Sturgeons Law predicts that 70% (or 80% or 90%, depending on the version) of everything is crap. It’s a law that stands for all kinds of writing, Lit.Fic, SF or otherwise. And genre produces its measure of crap, no doubt. Some of that crap is just bad writing by bad writers. Some of it is writing that does one thing well – explores a niffty scientific concept or creates a cool new monster – but fails in most other ways as fiction.

And some of that crap is very popular. Some of the crappest books in genre are some of the most popular. They may well be fun crap, or effectively escapist crap, or crap branded with the latest sci-fi franchise, but they are still crap. Crap sells.

But if genre wants to gain the respect it deserves in the world at large, we need to get better at telling the world who our best and brightest are. We need our major awards like the Hugo’s and Nebula’s to really reflect the best writing, not just the most popular writers. We need more reviews and criticism that talk seriously about our best books. And most of all we need to vote with our feet. The next time you’re browsing the Sci-Fi section, skip volume 33 of whatever entertaining saga you happen to be reading and pick up something less crap instead.

Because genre is not a cohesive entity. It’s a few million fans of the weird and speculative and the writers we love. But if we want the best of those writers to get the respect they deserve then we, each of us as individuals, need to make that happen.

The Hundredth Master of Ninja Assassin

I  finished The Hundredth Master of Ninja Assassin tonight! Woo-hoo! This story has been on my desktop (I keep all my work in progress on the desktop of my computer so I can’t escape it) for about a year now. I started it after reading The Cambist and Lord Iron by Daniel Abraham, a story with a very clear philosophical meaning, which is what I wanted to attempt with this story. I also wanted to write a ninja story, because my good friend Emily Jiang has been promising to write one for me and I got tired of waiting! I completed the stories last scene tonight. I think it might require another tinker in a few days, but fundamentally the story is now finished and just needs a polishing draft before I submit it.

I also wrote a chunk of a much newer story, Princess, Eaten by Beetles – Regurgitated earlier today. Progress on this story is painfully slow, partly because I’m writing in a very ornate and dense style. And partly because I’ve now run out of story. The Princes has been eaten, and now regurgitated, and I’m not sure what happens next. I’m sure something will occur to me. I think this story might have been influenced by my research into Bizarro fiction. I’ve certainly strayed well into the weird, and I’m thinking about moving back towards the real with my next story.

And now I have one more piece of writing to do before bed. But first…

The Guardian has information about an attempt to set-up an 826 Valencia style writing centre for children to London. I will follow this with interest, if I’m not too busy trying to make something similar happen in Leicester.

Nalo Hopkinson wants more problems and fewer prophesies in her stories.

Clarion: Graduating Class of 2008

So today I graduated Clarion.


It has been a long, hard six weeks. So long. So hard.

They don’t tell you how much hard work Claron is going to be when they let you in. I heard the words ‘Bootcamp for writers’ and thought..pfaff…all day every day to just read and write stories. Eeezy peezy. OMFG was I wrong. For any prospective Clarionites reading this and thinking about applying, be aware of what you are getting yourself into.

And then get into it.

Clarion has been, without a doubt, among the most intense experiences of my life. It has stretched me on every level – intellectualy, psychologicaly, artisticaly and not least nutritionaly. I’m going to make some detailed posts reflecting on the experience over the next few weeks when I have some distance to view it objectively. Until then then I just want to say a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to the eighteen graduating students and an even BIGGER THANKS to Kelly, Jim, Mary-Anne, Neil, Geoff and Nalo who guided us through.

Racoon Totems

So those of you following the saga of our Clarion instructors totem animals are probably thinking, what about Geoff and Nalo? Kelly left us with Rabbits, Jim is flapping around with the Crows, Mary-Anne gave us hummingbirds and Neil arrived with a pair of hooting Owls (and a cricket match). Well tonight totem animal number six made its appearance for Nalo Hopkinson’s week in the shape of a mother Racoon escorting her two babies across campus. Members of the Clarion group produced an array of utterly out of character cooing noises whilst folling the family around the campus. Geoff Ryman’s totem animal is yet to spotted. Perhaps it is nocturnal, or blends well into the surrounding environment. Look outs have been posted on 24 hour surveilance until it shows itself.