Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Giving Up LOCUS

Until very recently, I paid 10 dollars each month for my own locker at the local YMCA.  Which I assume isn't very much money for a full-sized locker in a typical downtown health club.  But I also had a second locker that comes free with membership.  It's big enough for shoes and toiletries and the long basket holding my smaller treasures, and because my Y happens to be the oldest, smallest, and least important child in our local family of Ys, there's a considerable shortage of members.  A lot of the old guys are missing.  Which means an abundance of empty lockers labeled "Day Lockers."  Respectable volumes of cheap, lockable metal that can be had for nothing, and why am I paying 10 dollars a month?

Well, I gave up that fat-cat indulgence.  For now, the windfall is being spent giving the family commercial-free Hulu and CBS All Access.  Although once SURVIVOR is done, the CBS service may vanish.  At least for the summer.  At least until Star Trek arrives.  Which is another 10 bucks that has to be added to the family's monthly budget.

My growing need for frugality:  Here is a topic for quite a few blogs.  But I promise that I won't keeping talking about stashing my spare underwear and socks.


LOCUS MAGAZINE is considered a linchpin of SF and Fantasy.  And I've let my subscription lapse twice.  The first time came when I was a frustrated young writer.  I'm sure that I was partly motivated by saving money.  But what I remember best is the monthly frustrations, how this semi-pro journal would come to me, its only purpose to remind me about all the great book deals out there, and the young faces who were doing better at the job than I presently was.

Eventually I returned to the magazine, and I remained loyal for decades.  During that span, one of my stories won a Hugo, others were nominated for the usual major awards, and some little prizes too.  LOCUS reviewed my novels, and my stories were reviewed, and I can't complain about any critical opinions that disappointed me.  This is the game.  The critic reads too much and too quickly, and then he or she is paid for what they think, and I have zero right to take exception to anything.  Or for that matter, claim too much pride in anyone else's praise.

I was interviewed once in LOCUS.  Charlie Brown hit me at the end of a long convention, and I felt like shit and nervous, and I don't think either of us had much fun.  But my main takeaway is what the late Jim Turner told me afterwards.   When my interview was published, my photo was framed and set on the wall of another author, a woman with a reputation.  "The way they treated you on the cover," he said.  Or words to that effect.  "You should yell at them until their ears bleed."  Or something like that.  This was years ago, and Jim wasn't long for the world.

In brief, this is my relationship with the PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY of my small field.

I've let my subscription lapse again.  Money is part of the story.  But this time around, it felt more as if the yearly fee was short of value.  An annuity given to former associates who were never all that involved with me.  The typical issue would mean reading a few of the general news articles.  From those, I gathered that the industry seems unhealthy, and I don't just mean in terms of sales and numbers of readers.  Publishing houses are few, and they act scared.  Booksellers are few, and only one of them is successful.  (I'm looking at you, Seattle.)  I would feel more invested in this magazine if there was an editorial component to the writing.  But I don't recall seeing those articles.  LOCUS has never had the resources for real in-depth reporting.  It is a home for press releases, and for long, long lists of books that I never intend to read, and there's chatty news about editors who I will never meet, and foreign news that might be important to me, but how can I tell what matters?  And since we're living in a science fiction world, the big breaking stories can be found on the LOCUS website and around the Internet.  Why bother with another 20th century magazine?

I gave up LOCUS a little more than two years ago.  They did have one window to win me back.  When the Hugo controversy was at its height, I could have bitten on a source that had a strong-minded, entertainingly offensive editorial tone.  You know, a voice that would say, "This Puppy group is so fucked up that we should burn science fiction and start the fuck over again with a new name and a freshly scrubbed aspect."  I want a controversial voice that would do anything to win a much larger audience.  Because there was a brief moment when the larger world gave a shit about the Hugo.  Suddenly people who didn't care about the best novelette or short-form dramatic work were asking me about the award and the general business of SF writing.  LOCUS could have turned itself into that large smart voice that the New York Times and Huffington would regard as first on the list to call whenever any controversy broke.  If I was in charge, I would have given it a shot.  And when I failed, which is almost certain, I would have retired, handing the keys to whoever was standing closest.

I don't even glance at the LOCUS website daily.  When I do, my first task is to see who has died.  My second job is to look for the next interesting controversy.  I used to read the website's short-fiction reviews, and I'll admit that's because there have been nice things said about my stories.  But they don't have any resident critic anymore, and I certainly wouldn't want the job.  Eating thousands of stories a year, and from every publication and would-be website...that's a tough trail to walk...

When I do glance at the website, I see that science fiction and fantasy and horror are extremely good at the production and polishing of awards.

This is what my old business has come to.  People giving each other trophies.

So yeah, I stopped taking LOCUS.  And I've mostly stopped reading reviews of anyone's work, particularly my own.  Those two actions have freed up time in my day, and maybe that's the central reason behind most of my decisions at this point.

Time is short.

I've got work that needs to be done.

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