Friday, April 2, 2010

In Which I Invent a New Holiday

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Writing is a tough dollar.  Tougher than you realize, probably.  Yeah, Stephen King is doing okay.  But most of the writers you like aren't.  A couple of years ago, David Hartwell estimated that in the mingled genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, only a hundred writers are actually making a living at it.  That includes King, Neil Gaiman, me, and that guy who's living in a cardboard box and eating cat food but is somehow staying alive without any other source of income.  The rest are making do with day jobs, working in academia or as editors, or are supported by an understanding spouse.

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Science Fiction, he predicts that, due to changes in publishing, that number will dwindle to twelve in a couple of years.  Twelve!

And yet every year dozens and maybe hundreds of hopeful new writers rush cheerfully into print.  Wouldn't it  be kindness itself to discourage them?

The question answers itself.

So I'm hereby declaring February 14 to be INTERNATIONAL DISCOURAGE NEW WRITERS DAY!

Why, you ask, should I choose Valentine's Day for such a grim task?  Because on February 14, 1969, Barry Malzberg wrote Memoirs of a Parisian Chambermaid, a 60,000-word novel, in only sixteen hours!!! 

Once a year, this astounding feat should be held up to all new and prospective writers as the gold standard of what a real writer ought to be able to do.  "Sound impossible?" you should ask.  "Then find another field."

When I first heard this story from the man himself, incidentally, I was gobsmacked.  "Barry!" I said.  "How could you possibly write a novel in only sixteen hours?"

"I can type two hundred words a minute," he replied.

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4 comments:

David Stone said...

Even if my mind were overflowing with smut, I don't think my fingers would survive such a feat as Malzberg's with an old school mechanical or electric typewriter. The man must have a grip of steel.

Matthew Adams said...

Shit, I can't even think two hundred words a minute (this response took me two hours to come up with)

Matthew Frank said...

Ah, come on, sixteen hours should get us three pornographic novels plus change. Young Malzberg was clearly slacking, or inexpertly catheterized.

Having finished BNM's Screen this afternoon, I'm terrified at the idea that there were punters who got their jollies reading his smut.

Rich Baldwin said...

We need some sort of career counseling too. "Want to be a writer? Here are a number of other things you might be really good at, that you can do without starving to death." And maybe a Brainwash New Writers Day, for those of us who still can't seem to get it through our thick skulls that there might be other vocations to consider. But then, I guess one might choose their career, but not their vocation . . ..