The Guardian and Indie Fantasy

I guess there’s indie fantasy and there’s indie fantasy. But I mostly digress. Damian Walker, a writer himself of speculative fiction, writes for the Guardian in the UK. Recently, he threw out a challenge to the indie fantasy and science fiction community. Come give me your tired and huddled masses of words, he said, and I shall judge them and see if any are fit for consumption. Hundreds of authors, their noses quivering, did so (self included), galloping over to his column on the Guardian website and posting book links and titles and blurbettes. That was about a month ago.

On Wednesday, Walker posted his findings. The results of his taste test were instructive. He remarked:

I set out looking for a great indie-published book to rival the magnitude and sheer storytelling bravado of George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones. The brutal truth is that nothing I saw came close.

However, he did note five titles that were worthy. Curious, in the tradition of George, I sampled the five samples. All five of them were fairly similar in terms of their literary aspirations and scent of graduate writing programs. Heady stuff. Grim, vague, er…educated. Or, edumakated as we say in my uneducated neck of the woods (forests have necks…whoda thunk?). Literate and brimming with angst and full of words like eleuthemeric.

Taste is a subjective thing, mostly. I say subjective because salt is salt, regardless of intensity and regardless of whether you appreciate salt or not. Sometimes, it’s a good thing to not be liked.

By the way, this reminds me of an old story about myself. Once upon a time I spent a great deal of that same time iron sculpting. Fool that I was, I focused my style on a sort of quasi-Giacometti look, an elongated take on quaintly old-fashioned realism. Figures of farmers in overalls carrying their suitcases (Dust Bowl refugees, I suppose), and girls in sundresses wearing big floppy hats (the farmers were not carrying the girls, in case you tripped over my comma). One day, buoyed by youthful optimism and a great deal of ignorance, I entered several pieces in an art show in an edumakated neighborhood near to where I lived at the time (but also rather far). Needless to say, I did not place. The pieces that did place were admirably modern and devoid of suitcases, floppy hats, or any other hint of reality. In fact, I was initially uncertain whether they even contained atoms. I was, being dumb (due to lack of edumakashun), dumbfounded, but not struck dumb. In response to my spluttering, a friend remarked to me, “you know, sometimes, depending on who is doing the liking, you really don’t want to be liked.”

Too true. If you have a glass of something handy, please raise it with me. Here’s to not being liked!

One thought on “The Guardian and Indie Fantasy”

  1. That friend ‘o yourn, he (or she) is a smart guy (or gal). Here’s to not being liked by the people who like things you don’t like!
    Interesting, though, that Walker says the chief problem with most of what he read there was lack of editing. Things that make you go “hmm…”
    There’s taste, and there’s quality. The two can sometimes get mixed up.

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