Friday, February 19, 2010


Morning. Still winter, it is dark and cold, and I am reluctant to get up, even though I have no reason not to face the day. Some people can't bear the thought of going to work. I have no objections, but I always feel as though half of my body is under water, and is perfectly content to stay there. The cat ensures that I don't indulge in the luxury, though he ends up taking the brunt of my grumbling and complaining. He never minds, as long as he gets fed. His memory is short.

I step outside to feed the cats that live in my root cellar. The walkways are icy, so I throw down some ice melt. I wonder if it's good that I hear a hissing sound as it starts to work. It sounds like pop rocks, and is probably as good for the ground and walkways as actual pop rocks are for your stomach. Not much to be done about it now. I open the iron doors of the cellar, and set the food down in front of the two cats. I can't help but notice that Whiskers has doubled in size since winter started.

Opening my e-mail, I see a Yahoo article--"Tiger Woods--I Was Unfaithful." No shit. I had no idea.

At work, I pop on Pandora Internet Radio for background. I have come to the realization that I hate "ambient" music that has actual words. I also recall that I stopped using Pandora because I spent more time fast-forwarding through their choices than actually listening to music. And the more I mark items as things I don't want to hear, the more of them I end up hearing, somehow. I have to wonder how they develop an alogrithm that chooses what you supposedly will want to hear based on initially searching a particular song or artist. It seems to me that everything they choose sounds nothing like the song or artist I've chosen. Online bookstores and library catalogs have a fair amount of metadata to work with to match you up with logical "if you like this, you may also like this" choices. I don't know what sites like Pandora are using--how do you write metadata for feelings or atmospheres created by music? Maybe that's the next challenge. I don't think it's feasible, though. Such things don't fit into neatly labeled keyword categories.

Categories. I've spent a career putting things into categories, only to find myself betrayed. I have difficulty marketing my stories because they don't fit neatly into any category. Some are "literary", but some are "genre", though I'm hard pressed to tell you exactly what genre they are. I've heard of the term "slipstream", which represents works that cross genres, but when I look at slipstream markets, none of them seem right. I feel like a really tall person with bizarre proportions trying to find a pair of trousers that fit properly. Very little of my writing fits into a mainstream literary category. But then what is it? Science fiction? Not exactly. Erotica? Some of it, though that's not really the focus of the story. Fantasy? Horror? No, not really--merely disturbing and thought provoking isn't really one of those. "Dark", maybe. "Psychological", maybe. But try finding any markets that are really looking for those kinds of stories. And yet I know I'm not the only one who produces this kind of work.

This difficulty has made me contemplate finishing my collection and looking for a press to publish the collection, instead of trying to market individual stories. I might even consider self-publishing and marketing. I haven't decided yet. In an age where individuals have more control over their content, I find that I have to get over the old mentality that there is only one way to do things. I just want to choose the way that's going to expand my options in the long run, not limit them.

Do categories represent limits or boundaries? One has to focus somewhere, but perhaps we can over-focus. In academia, one must start with a focus; research papers and theses need to have a specific thesis statement. But creative work can be starved by focus. Sure, one can do a writing exercise that focuses on a particular topic. And publishers and presses are looking to market to a particular audience. Readers tend to be fans of certain genres. I just have a hard time with the limitations on genre, and the "snobbery" of the literary category. Why does every story have to be laden with the task of carrying the zeitgeist with it? Can't you just tell a good story for its own sake? I've heard various answers to that question, but I still think that if a story is compelling enough to draw you in and elicit an emotion (or several emotions), it's worth telling. I've read a lot that's considered "literary" that leaves me cold. And yet, I'm not particuarly a genre fan, unless you count ghost stories, which is no longer a genre in the 21st century. At least it doesn't appear to be a genre; I'm hard pressed to walk into a bookstore and find a good collection of ghost stories that is not horror or science fiction. That type of writing seems to have died by the middle of the 20th century.

I suppose my complaint comes down to the same complaint I have about scary movies. They're more about blood and gore, not about those unknown anamolies and disturbances that can keep you awake at night wondering. There's nothing left to wonder about--the monsters are all created for you, with no room for interpretation. They play purely on fear and action-movie type suspense.

Home from work, I take a sip from the top of a still-cascading Guinness, and start chopping some red potatoes and herbs in preparation for dinner. A friend is visiting my house tomorrow who has never seen it, so I need to straighten things up. The last burst of orange from the setting sun spreads across the kitchen while my shadowy cat snakes his way around my feet, wanting my attention. I turn on the living room lamps, and their stained glass patterns shoot across the walls. All wood and wine and dusty literature.

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