Friday, September 28, 2007



"A Nettlesome Term That Has Long Outlived Its Welcome".

A genius essay by Michael Swanwick that originally appeared in an issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction, on the subject of fix-ups, cannibalizations, mosaics, and chimeras. As someone who has written several works that could be categorized as one or another of these, I found it of particular interest. Here, There & Everywhere was written as a novel that could be broken up and sold as individual stories, and even though none of the stories actually sold it was referred to in a few reviews as a fix-up. All of the Celestial Empire stories that have appeared to date, conversely, are chapters of Fire Star, a novel which is as yet homeless, but as of last week every chapter of the book has been broken up and sold off as a short story. I'm certain that when the novel is eventually published it will be universally regarded as a "fix-up."

Go read the essay. Some terrifically interesting stuff in there.


Interesting...I read this when it was published in NYRSF. He makes some excellent points that I would not have considered before. I remember when I saw the review of Her, There & Everywhere (in Analog?) and I think it was refered to as a fix up.

Still, though it's not a fixup, works like that does read differently. I enjoyed "Here.." quite a bit, but the reading experience is different. I still enjoy a more complete novel...I think your novels Paragea and Set the Seas... are both better works, and they read more like a novel.

Similarly, I suppose Cybermancy would be the same sort of work? I just finished it the other day, and enjoyed the look at the universe you're working it...but again, it, in a sense, doesn't read this a novel. Still, I had a good time, and look forward to weeing what you do in this playground.
I certainly understand where you're coming from, Howard, and you're not the first reader to have had that reaction. My intention with HT&E was to structure a book like Alan Moore structures a year's worth of an ongoing comic series (my proximate inspiration was his then-ongoing Tom Strong, though any of his long-running stuff follows much the same structure), having individual stand-alone chapters that together add up to one larger narrative. Cybermancy Incorporated was motivated by a similar notion. What I've learned is that a comic isn't a novel, or rather vice versa, and that readers often find the structure of the one applied to the other somewhat off-putting. Or it's simply a matter of my skills not being up to the task of pulling it off at the time I wrote them. Maybe if I tried it again now I'd have better luck? Perhaps, perhaps not. Either way, I'm glad you got some enjoyment out of them!
As to whether it's your skill or the reader finding it off-putting, I'm betting on it's not being a skill issue.

I enjoy comics and episodic television, but those are delivered at specific intervals. Even with those, we're now seeing much more integrated story arcs; this leads to me watching TV series on DVD, so that I can treat it more like a novel with chapters; whereas the more traditinonal series (most sitcoms, for example) the wife and I can watch spread over months, since they are individual stories set in a common framework.

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