Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Importance of Light

Having researched short fiction markets extensively over the past couple of weeks, I've been thinking about what my personal standards are going to be. I notice--and the online magazine Andromeda Spaceways comments on this as well--that there are an awful lot of speculative fiction magazines around today that seem to be dedicated to the dark and disturbing. I understand, to a point. I mean, what kid hasn't sat around a campfire and heard or told ghost stories? To an extent, we humans seem to love to be scared. To an extent. But as I contemplated whether to try to write something dark and disturbing just to break into print, I realized something about myself. I don't want to settle. I don't want to write something that doesn't come naturally to me or that I don't care about just to get credentials. If I can't honestly say that I'd be proud to have a particular story or topic appear as my debut story, then I won't even write it, much less submit it.

Today I tried out several ideas for dark, disturbing tales that I could write just for the markets that seem to want that sort of thing, and ended up dissatisfied with all of them. Okay, let's call a spade a spade; I hated them. The problem is, I find I don't prefer to write such dark and twisted things--not without some sort of redemption at the end. I am willing to explore the dark parts of the human psyche in my fiction, and I'm not afraid to write about the things that go bump in the night, but I want some light with my darkness. If a piece I've read disturbs me but leaves me with a map for how to get home, if it leaves me feeling that there's hope, whether bittersweet or not, then I'll probably like the story just fine. But if it takes me into the dark and leaves me there, I probably won't be back for more of that author's fiction. Likewise, I'm starting to realize that no matter how dark a corner I might lead a reader into with my writing, I probably won't rest until I've led the reader out again. If that means I can't get published in any of the magazines that want primarily dark fantasy, then so be it. Walt Disney used the rule, "Always leave 'em laughing." Well, I'm not that much of a comedian, but I at least want to leave them with a hint of a smirk.

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