Friday, June 7, 2013

Telling Tales


When I was an undergrad at the College of William and Mary, roughly a century ago, Dr. Jenkins (who knew how I felt about science fiction) gave me a flyer that had popped up in the English Department and been routed to him because he taught the Creative Writing class.  It was for a relatively six-week course in writing science fiction called Clarion.  I glanced at it and threw it away because not only could I not afford to money for it, I couldn't afford the six weeks either.  Back then, I held down a 48-hour a week summer job at the Johnson-Carper Furniture Factory, and saved almost every penny of it to pay for my schooling.

The exception was books.  I bought lots of SF paperbacks at used book stores, because I rightly considered them to be an important part of my education.

One Saturday -- I remember this vividly -- I found an anthology of stories from Clarion students.  They were, on the whole, pretty crude.  But I could see that these were the products of raw, talented writers who had just been through an experience that had cut years off of their learning time.

You can imagine how jealous I was of people who could afford such an experience.

Nowadays, I suspect that I ducked the bullet.  Because the Clarion experience -- whether it be Clarion West, Clarion South, or the original Clarion Classic -- is not for everybody.  It best rewards those who can write fast and aspire to a conventional prose style, and least serves those who write slowly or have distinct prose styles.  A timely scholarship to one of the workshops quite possibly could have prevented the young Howard Waldrop from ever writing another word.

However, for many writers, the experience is a very positive one indeed, an early booster engine for their literary careers.  So I'm passing along the following info about an upcoming anthology that doesn't contain a single word written by Yours Truly:

The Clarion West Writers Workshop has teamed up with Hydra House to publish Telling Tales, an anthology of short fiction by award-winning and highly acclaimed Clarion West alumni and edited by Ellen Datlow. The first such book produced by Clarion West, Telling Tales will be released on July 1, 2013, to celebrate the workshop’s 30th Anniversary year and help raise funds for the organization.
Telling Tales contains sixteen works of speculative fiction, ranging from near- future science fiction to swashbuckling fantasy — stories by Daniel Abraham, Andy Duncan, Kathleen Goonan, Kij Johnson, Margo Lanagan, David Levine, Louise Marley, David Marusek, Ian McHugh, Susan Palwick, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Mary Rosenblum, Christopher Rowe, Nisi Shawl, Rachel Swirsky, and Ysabeau Wilce.

An afterword accompanies each story, written by an instructor from that graduate’s year: Greg Bear, Terry Bisson, Pat Cadigan, Gardner Dozois, Andy Duncan, Elizabeth Hand, Nancy Kress, Ursula K. Le Guin, Maureen McHugh, Pat Murphy, Samuel R. Delany, Paul Park, Geoff Ryman, Lucy Sussex, Howard Waldrop, and Connie Willis.
The book will be available for pre- orders in April in hardcover, paperback, and eBook formats from Hydra House, the University Book Store in Seattle, and other online retailers.

 You can pre-order from Hydra House here.

Above:  The upcoming book.  The original series was going to be yearly, I believe, but only lasted I think two anthologies.  I have them around here somewhere.



Ken Houghton said...

Pretty sure I have the Clarion and Clarion III paperbacks (Signet, iirc) at home.

So it probably went three.

Michael Swanwick said...

I believe you're right. On Facebook, Greg Feeley observed that the series labored under a disadvantage: They wanted to post the best stories by Clarion students that year, but had to settle for the best stories that Damon Knight and Harlan Ellison hadn't already bought.

Eileen Gunn said...

Michael, I think you're doing the Clarions a disservice by suggesting they are only for fast writers. I weathered Clarion in 1976 with only 1.5 new stories, plus my submission story. It was the best-spent six-weeks of my writing life. I met people who would buoy me up through years when I didn't write anything, because even though they were more productive than me, they knew I could write.

Eileen Gunn said...

Also, at Clarion, I learned to tackle serious material, difficult material. I didn't write any faster, but at least what I wrote was now worth my time.

Eileen Gunn said...

Also, I learned that fast writers were not necessarily better or worse than me.

Frank Böhmert said...

Sigh. TELLING TALES would be a great title for a magazine on writing ...

Datlow said...

Michael, Thank you so much for flogging the book but I too have to disagree with you about the Clarion workshops not being very useful for writers with a distinct prose style, etc.

Andy Duncan's style is very distinct and there are plenty of other former students who maintained or developed their very distinct voices: Nalo Hopkinson, Kelly Link, Ted Chiang, Dale Bailey, Lucius Shepard.

The list goes on and on.

Which is not to say workshopping is for everyone.