Well, I worked really really hard and did absolutely everything I was supposed to do today…

…and now I’m sick.

Where’s the justice in that? Where is the justice?!

Got a good start on a story, though. I don’t know what has happened to me, I keep writing realist stories. It’s almost a waste of time, since I already have so many in the submissions pipeline. I don’t know, maybe I am just disillusioned with science fiction.

I also feel like I am going to write much, much less short fiction once I graduate this program and no longer have workshop, so perhaps now is the time to get it over with.

I am astonished by the direction my writing has taken since coming here. When I came to Hopkins, I had written maybe 160 short stories and three novels in my life, and only four of the short stories were realist (and one of those was a completely cynical sad-immigrant story that I wrote just to turn in w/ my MFA applications). I literally had trouble even imagining how a person would go about writing a realist story. I had read and enjoyed plenty of realist fiction, but I always felt surprised by the boldness of its assertion that the ordinary could be interesting. Like, let’s take one of my favorite novels: Main Street. When Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel about a woman rebelling against small town conformity, what made him think that it’d be worth reading?

When I wrote an SF story, I knew it was worthwhile because the idea was cool. With realist fiction, everything seemed so much murkier. It felt like you couldn’t know anything was worth pursuing until you wrote it. I mean, most of real life seems so banal. What is it that convinces you that this slice of it is worth writing about?

Like I said, I enjoyed the successful fruits of peoples’ efforts (even then, I was mostly reading realist fiction), but I wasn’t sure how they went about it.

And during my first semester at Hopkins, I turned in three speculative stories to our workshop (all of which were received with respect by my classmates and instructors). Then, that winter, I wrote a contemporary YA novel: my first sustained work of realism in…ever. And it turned out to be pretty much exactly like writing an SF novel. You just take a concept and put in a character and a setting that work well with it and then you write it.

During my second semester, I wrote two more SF stories and then turned in a realist novella (again, very high-concept).

And since then my short stories have been about half realist and half SF. I don’t know. My brain learned how to work in the realist mode. And now it does.

Honestly, I think the trigger was going to Sewanee and meeting lots of people who’d placed literary stories. Before, I stuck to SF because I knew how to go about selling it. But once I knew that it was actually possible to sell things to litmags, I felt much more free to start writing things that would never be able to find a place in a science-fiction magazine.

Of course, I’ve yet to actually place something in a lit-mag, so the whole thing is quite a speculative endeavor at the moment. Still, we’ll see. I have hopes. High hopes.

3 thoughts on “Well, I worked really really hard and did absolutely everything I was supposed to do today…

      1. R. H. Kanakia

        Many of the top literary journals pay a lot of money. For instance, The New Haven Review (which is a middle-tier journal) pays $500 per story. However, because they mostly don’t punish their pay-rates, it’s hard to say which do and which don’t. That’s why I sometimes use ‘place.’

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