Helen (heleninwales) wrote,
Helen
heleninwales

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Edgy? Is edgy good? What's edgy anyway?

matociquala has gone head-to-head with Jeff VanderMeer

I'm wholly with Bear on this. Unfortunately, I can't recall ever reading anything by Jeff VanderMeer, so I can't comment on whether I like/would like his stories or not, but what was the point of his rant? The gist of his post seems to be I don't like the stuff that's being published now! It was all much better in the Olden Days when I was young!. Now that merely says to me that he's rapidly heading into a jaded middle-age. :) If you want to keep any street cred as a young and thrusting writer, moaning that fings aint' what they used to be is not usually the way to go. Also complaining about the "rise of the power of the adolescent" makes little sense. That's been happening for the last 40 years. Boring old farts complained about it in the 1960 and the 70s and the 80s.

And then he says, "I kept coming back to words like rough and wild and pushing and punk and visionary."

Hmmm... There's something about those words. (His emphasis, not mine.) They're all words associated with the masculine. Dare I suggest that he doesn't like all this character-based "feminine" stuff that gets published these days? He does seem very hung up on the things that were fashionable when he was young, the valorising of the dark and the bleak and the edgy. matociquala hits the nail firmly on the head with her quote from John Gardner who calls it "'disPollyanna Syndrome,' the cynical fallacy that the real world is unrelievedly bleak." Writing stories implying that everything is unrelieved angst, doom and gloom is just as much a lie as stories that are all fluffy and lovely and in which nothing bad ever happens to nice people.

Perhaps VanderMeer needs to admit that the times have just moved on? Young people these days no longer think that thrashing guitars and screaming obscenities is cool. The new song writers often tell stories with their lyrics; perceptive stories containing insightful social comment. But that probably wouldn't be of any interest to him. He's also forgotten that everything seems fresh and new when you're young, even the most hackneyed stuff. That's only natural because you're genuinely meeting it for the first time. But tastes normally mature and develop as one grows older and continues to read more widely. I sometimes marvel at the stuff I could plough through -- and even enjoy -- in my teens and early 20s.

And some things he says seem just plain wrong, "...too few stories that come from the margins, the fringes, the places that lie outside of suburban, middle-class America or England or wherever. (Can you imagine the gaping hole, for example, if no one “retold” another fairy tale for the next thirty years?)"

That just isn't true. Firstly, writers like papersky and anghara (just to take a couple of examples off my friends list) are most definitely not writing stories set in comfortable middle-class America or England and, secondly, he has a very odd idea of fairy stories if he thinks they're "suburban".

But the bit that really made me seethe was this remark of VanderMeer's

"fiction that simply drowns in competence. It’s good–it’s just not great."

Well, excuse me, but I resemble that remark! (In fact it's the story of my life.) Sadly not everyone can be "great". And as matociquala says, hard work can't guarantee greatness. But his dismissive attitude got up my nose. We merely "good" writers don't aim to be mediocre, we do try our damnedest. For lots of people that's just not good enough and we end up with good.

However, I think his rant has done one thing. It's made me see that I do want to keep on writing, even if I can only produce stuff that's "good". In fact I will delight in writing "good" stuff about the things I care about and think important -- which VanderMeer would no doubt think of as too soft and fluffy for his taste. But who cares what he thinks? I'm just going to write and have fun. :)
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