Friday, September 25, 2015

As Unca Mike


Science fiction and fantasy writers are a group are extraordinarily generous with advice to new writers. A moment's thought, however, reveals that this is just encouraging talented young people to occupy the publishing niches and win the awards that would otherwise go to to us Old Hands. Ask Unca Mike is an attempt to rectify this deplorable situation.

There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom 

Dear Unca Mike,

Why are there so many awful stories being published, and how do I get mine to be one of them?

Awfully Ambitious

If editors had their way, they would only publish wonderful stories. But they have schedules to keep and magazines to fill, and so they settle for what they can get. The moral here is obvious: aim low. Awful stories are both easier and faster to write than good ones. If you flood the magazine’s in-box, you have a greater chance of your story being the one grabbed when he editor says, “The heck with it. I’ll print this stinker here.”

Culture, Popular and Not

Old Man,

Why are writers so bad at popular culture?  In every story that includes it, it always feels ham-fisted and forced.  Is there a good way to include movies or music or video games without sounding like a sixty year old white dude?

Too Young and With-It To Read Your Stuff

If you think I’m old, you should see how old the average editor is! John W. Campbell was editing well into his seventeenth decade. Naturally, this makes editors culturally conservative. When I was starting out, it was almost impossible to sell a story about rock and roll – and that was in the 1980s, when people were first beginning to realize that rock was no longer a viable art form. What editors wanted then was stories about jazz. Today, it’s almost impossible to sell a story about rap or hip-hop culture. A newer, younger generation of editors wants stories about rock and roll.

So if you want to include current popular culture in your work, the best thing to do is to write it now and set it aside until you’re sixty years old.

If you have a question for Unca Mike you can post it below. Or write to AskUncaMike ("at" sign) I'll respond to those I have the best answers for.

Ask Unca Mike appears here on Fridays.


1 comment:

Sandy said...

Dear Unca Mike,

A friend of mine who has published books to his credit heard me complaining about not getting my SF stories published. "Why write SF?," he asked. "Crime fiction is easier to write and has a much bigger audience." Well, I tried. No sales yet, but it IS easier. The question is, how many stories can one write about a burned-out detective thrown off the police force who has been asked by an ex-girlfriend to protect her from a killer stalker?
Hopeful Author of DARK DELUSIONS