Posts tagged with "powell's city of books" - Faerye Net 2010-06-17T15:24:39+00:00 Felicity Shoulders On a bookshelf near you 2010-06-17T15:24:39+00:00 2010-06-17T22:54:11+00:00 <center><a href="" title="Is Anybody Out There? on the shelves at Powell's by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="375" alt="Is Anybody Out There? on the shelves at Powell's" border="0"/></a></center> <p>I took this picture last week &#8212; <a href="" rel="nofollow"><em>Is Anybody Out There?</em></a>, edited by Nick Gevers and Marty Halpern on the shelves at Powell&#8217;s City of Books (Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, Anthology bookshelves). Of course, when I first saw it there the previous week, there were two copies!</p> <p><strong>Updated to add:</strong> I don&#8217;t plan to be this spammy every time I get something in an anthology. This is just the first time there is a <em>book</em> with my name anywhere on it (back cover, <span class="caps">POW</span>!) and I will simmer down shortly. When I get a book of my very entire own published, however, this level of bloggery will seem by contrast quite mild.</p> On Genre, Part II: the future of genre 2010-02-28T17:15:02+00:00 2010-02-28T23:16:15+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve been trying to write adequate responses to the fabulous comments I&#8217;m getting on my first post in this series, <a href="" target="links">a very brief manifesto</a>. And, as I rather feared, my responses are growing into blog posts. So here we go.</p> <p><a href="" target="links">Eric A. Kugler</a> writes in <a href="" target="links">his comment</a>:<br /> <blockquote>I think the problem comes down to the human need to label and package everything and put it into its proper place. Genre is simply a way for people to keep track of stories. The literary is simply another genre to those of us who simply read books, rather than publish them.</blockquote></p> <p>To an extent, I agree. Genre is quite artificial, relatively recent, and obviously confining. I do believe the current &#8220;literary novel&#8221; is a genre in itself. Witness my <a href="">&#8220;literary is a genre&#8221;</a> tag here, and my <a href="">literary-is-a-genre</a> shelf on Goodreads<sup class="footnote"><a href="#fn1">1</a></sup>.</p> <p>I wouldn&#8217;t suppose, however, that literary <em>isn&#8217;t</em> a genre in the mind of those who publish books. I very much believe it is. Because genre is about marketing. Genre is a way of classifying books so that you can sell them more readily. While I haven&#8217;t read a history of genrefication, I&#8217;d imagine it&#8217;s a consequence of the number and diversity of books that existed, say, in the mid-twentieth century, widely distributed. Some system for determining which titles were of interest to which readers was a public good. A system for telling a reader who enjoyed <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9781439132838'><em>The Puppet Masters</em></a> they might like <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780441172719'><em>Dune</em></a> probably seemed logical, even helpful to the consumer (as well as to the publisher.)</p> <p><img src="/media/StarWarsMoviePoster1977.jpg" alt="The 1977 Star Wars movie poster" title="Star Wars poster" align="left" /><br /> Genre, we all know, isn&#8217;t just a category on a library&#8217;s card catalog. It&#8217;s a way of marking things. Covers with rockets or exploding spaceships, in the 1950s and today, mark a book as science fiction. Look at the original poster for <em>Star Wars: A New Hope</em>. If you&#8217;d never seen that movie, you&#8217;d know the genre instantly, from a dozen details (including those that don&#8217;t entirely represent Princess Leia as she appears on film.)</p> <p>So genre allows a product to reach its desired audience, the publishers sell books, what&#8217;s the trouble? Two sources of trouble to start with. In another comment to my first On Genre post, <a href="" target="links">Philip Palmer</a> writes &#8220;there’s a tendency to assume that labelling the genre of the piece is a black &amp; white/either-or process. But most novels belong to <span class="caps">SEVERAL</span> genres.&#8221; The strict genre system serves these novels poorly, as it does books which are hard to place firmly in any genre at all. When you use marketing to shape readers&#8217; expectations, betraying those expectations is a bad idea. So you may end up with frustrated readers who bought the cover and don&#8217;t like the book, or a great book may languish unpublished or poorly marketed because it didn&#8217;t fit neatly.</p> <p><a href='' rel='powells-9780802142108'><img src='' style='border: 0px' title='More info about Broken for You at (new window)' align="right" ></a><a href='' rel='powells-9781565129771'><img src='' style='border: 0px; margin-left:5px' title='More info about A Reliable Wife at (new window)' align="right"></a> The second big problem, I&#8217;d say, is that &#8216;literary&#8217; has become, as we said above, a genre. Maybe it wasn&#8217;t in the mid-20th century, but now it is. While it&#8217;s more subtle than an exploding spaceship, I can tell you without having read the two books at right that they are the same genre. I could have found a much closer match if I&#8217;d looked further. Why is &#8220;literary&#8221; being a genre a problem? Because &#8220;literature&#8221; is also a pursuit and an ideal. &#8220;Literature&#8221; is a laudatory term, and having a genre name that&#8217;s a value judgment is a disaster. Just try discussing whether U2 makes &#8220;rock music&#8221; with someone who hates U2 and thinks &#8220;rock&#8221; is a laudatory term. It also has to do with marked/unmarked status, I think, but that discussion&#8217;s too big to add into this already epic post.</p> <p>&#8220;Literary&#8221; has two meanings: One, high-minded, pursuing the act of writing as an act of art, trying to increase understanding and beauty in the world. Two, realistic or occasionally surreal, written with attention to language, telling a story that could happen, using a minimum of adverbs. The confusion of the two is poisonous, and leads to moments like the one I touched on in my <a href="" target="links">first genre war post</a>, when a young English teacher told me that &#8220;science fiction isn&#8217;t literature.&#8221; He didn&#8217;t think science fiction was high-minded and artistic (except when he did) so we stood there, me listing work after work whose merits he could not deny: <em>Brave New World, 1984, Lord of the Rings</em>; and he insisting these <em>were not science or speculative fiction</em>. This is exactly what another of the commenters, <a href="">Casey Samulski</a>, noted: &#8220;&#8230;a critic will retroactively reclassify something as &#8216;not SF&#8217; when it has reached a certain status, thinking it impossible for the two to inhabit the same space.&#8221; Circular logic, faulty thinking.</p> <p>I said then, as a teenager (even though at the time I believed that by this age I&#8217;d have a doctorate in paleontology and only be writing science fiction on the side) that one of my life goals was to take some bricks out of that wall, the wall between the literary and the science-fictional.</p> <p>There is good news about that wall. While Margaret Atwood did, as Philip Palmer notes in <a href="" target="links">his comment</a>, say some abrasive things about science fiction, she does <a href="" target="links"> admit to writing &#8220;speculative fiction&#8221;</a>, which is a distinction even <span class="caps">SFF</span> grognards might make. Michael Chabon&#8217;s stunning <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780007149827'><em>The Yiddish Policemen&#8217;s Union</em></a>, which I lauded <a href="" target="links">here</a>, joins other works by him in receiving praise and readers from both sides of the wall. He seems to embrace both sides of his literary heritage. More and more, the surreal and the speculative is creeping into the &#8216;literary&#8217; mainstream. While there are aspects of this I find troubling and appropriative (more, perhaps, on that later), it may be, as a very smart friend of mine (an academic and spec fic fan) has predicted, that the Hemingway/Carver era of literature is at an end, and only the speculative can ask the questions literature wants to ask next.</p> <p>I&#8217;d like to tie that possibility back into my discussion of genre as marketing earlier. You&#8217;ll notice that the situation has changed a lot since the days of the simple genre division and the rocket on the cover. We have even more books, even more widely available. In spite of <a href="">tax codes in the U.S.</a>, we have a <a href="" target="links">Long Tail</a> of books still being sold that were published decades ago, as well as new books coming out all the time. The publishing world seems largely to be adjusting to this by continuing to <a href="" target="links">split</a>. We have more subgenres now, like urban fantasy (tattooed woman with weapons on the cover), literary science fiction (trade paper back, abstract cover), et cetera. The mix of small categories and large can be confusing to consumers &#8212; while I won&#8217;t link it, I recently saw a reader complaining that there were &#8220;too many female writers in sci-fi&#8221; because when he clicked on &#8220;sci-fi/fantasy&#8221; he saw mostly urban fantasy covers.</p> <p>I&#8217;d argue that it&#8217;s time to move away from genre and subgenre, even in an economic sense. They may still be useful if we make them less restrictive: as Philip Palmer points out, novels can have many genres. Sure, let&#8217;s label books, but let&#8217;s not put them in exclusive parts of the bookstore, segregated by shelf. I&#8217;ve waxed rhapsodic about <a href="" target="links">folksonomy</a> before, so I&#8217;ll keep it to a minimum here, but tags add information instead of reducing scope. Tags are freeform and encourage creative thinking. Lets use genre and subgenre as tags, not categories.</p> <p>Which brings me to my final point. People are always talking about the effect of the internet on publishing, but often in terms of physical books vs. digital media. I have to care about that because I hope to have my own books published in the future, but I&#8217;m more interested in how the internet will affect how we choose and discuss books (which in turn affects marketing). I am a member of <a href="" target="links">LibraryThing</a> and <a href="" target="links">Goodreads</a>, and I am delighted by the rich social exchange over books that I see on those sites. I can see what my friends are reading, what they think of it, read reviews they&#8217;ve written. I can get a sense of people&#8217;s tastes, how well or poorly it aligns with mine, and let that figure in to <a href="" target="links">how I choose books</a>. It&#8217;s not about genre. It&#8217;s about the individual reader and the individual book. Publishers do use the individual book in marketing &#8212; look at how many books have covers reminiscent of <em>Twilight</em>&#8216;s admittedly beautiful cover design &#8212; but I hope that in the future they&#8217;ll do so even more. The information readers can add to the system &#8211; tags, reviews, personal recommendations to friends &#8211; is precious.</p> <p><a href='' rel='powells-9780765319470'><img src='' style='border: 0px; margin-right:5px' title='More info about this book at (new window)' align="left" ></a>Marketing&#8217;s never going to go away, as long as it works. (And it does work. I wanted to buy <em>Indigo Springs</em> as soon as I saw that cover, though I suppressed the urge until I met and liked the author, too.) But I hope in the future, restrictive definitions of genre &#8212; and especially value judgments based on it &#8212; will take a backseat to a web of preference, similarity and serendipity.</p> <p>Serendipity and possibility have always governed my reading. That&#8217;s the feeling that makes me tingle when I walk into a <a href="" target="links">vast bookstore</a>. The knowledge that half<sup class="footnote"><a href="#fn2">2</a></sup> the books I love are in the Yellow Room and half in the Blue? That makes me feel something too, but it&#8217;s definitely not a tingle.</p> <p class="footnote" id="fn1"><sup>1</sup> I have put books in this category which I feel guilty for shelving so: I can&#8217;t help but feel that Dickens, and even Fitzgerald, shouldn&#8217;t be drawn into a fight that is rather after their time.</p> <p class="footnote" id="fn2"><sup>2</sup> This is figurative. I don&#8217;t know actual percentages, and I love a fair number of nonfiction books too.</p> Technically available at 2010-02-27T23:24:41+00:00 2010-02-27T23:25:52+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m absurdly tickled to discover that you can now pre-order <a href='' title='' rel='powells'><em>Is Anybody Out There?</em></a> from This is the anthology edited by Marty Halpern and Nick Gevers I mentioned <a href="">in November</a>, in which a story I co-wrote with Leslie What shall appear. &#8220;Rare Earth&#8221; is my first story in an anthology, my first work in a permanent book of any sort. Having it available from Powell&#8217;s, even just for pre-order, feels like an arrival.</p> <p>Words I wrote&#8230;in a <em>book</em>! When it comes out in June, you know I&#8217;ll haunt the shelves at Powell&#8217;s downtown and take photos of it. Because that is how ridiculous I can be.</p> Buy Indie Day 2009-05-01T10:20:54+00:00 2009-05-01T10:22:22+00:00 <p>So I <a href="" target="links">hear</a> that today is <a href="" target="links">Buy Indie Day</a>, a day you celebrate by buying a book at your local independent bookstore. You know this is more relevant to my interests than <a href="" target="links">Beltane</a>, so I thought I&#8217;d talk it up here.</p> <p>There are as many reasons to shop at indie bookstores as there are stores. One of the important ones, though, even if you aren&#8217;t kneejerk anti-corporate like the average Portlander (seriously, I once met a raving anti-corporate hipster <em>getting trained to work for Starbucks</em> here), is that books are one of the most crucial forms of &#8216;speech&#8217;. An independent bookstore can provide a more diverse perspective than a big store may be interested in doing; many of them sell used books, making sure ideas are cheap and stay in circulation. Whether they have a specific focus &#8212; mystery books, feminism, local authors, poetry, et c. &#8212; or not, each store provides its own set of books and possibilities, not one mandated from further up or dictated purely by market forces.</p> <p>To be honest, I have a hard time even formulating cogent arguments for why you should go to your local independent bookseller. It feels like arguing that you should try drinking water, or breathing air. I grew up piling in the car every other weekend for a family junket to <a href="" target="links">Powell&#8217;s</a> downtown. We didn&#8217;t usually have a specific book on our minds, or a particular birthday to buy for. We just liked going there, walking our little instinctive circuit &#8212; in my case and my dad&#8217;s, an in-depth look at the Paleontology/Dinosaurs shelves, then a quick search of Photography, followed by a cruise of sci-fi &#8212; seeing what we could see.</p> <p>That&#8217;s one of the beauties of the indie bookstore, I think. You never know what you&#8217;re going to find. You venture into a little storefront in a strange town because that bookstore could hold anything from a treasure trove of old pulp paperbacks to an extensive collection of Civil War history and memoir, from a labyrinth of bursting shelves to a fabulous place to drink coffee and read. You could find bargains or forgotten childhood joys, or just a way to soak away an hour in the shelves and booksmells of a new place. Even a bookstore you know surprises you every time.</p> <p>So hit the <a href="" target="links">IndieBound Store Finder</a> and buy a book near you today. Who knows what you&#8217;ll find?</p> Fame-o-Meter unveiled 2008-09-24T14:48:55+00:00 2008-09-24T14:50:34+00:00 <p>This gadget has existed in my brain for long eons (you might say the Mark 0 lacked substance.) However, I found myself referring to it the other day, as <a href="">someone I met once attained one of the Fame-o-Meter&#8217;s highest tiers</a>. That was the push I needed to make the thing real as part of the Felicity Self-Encouragement Wall (TM, under construction, buy tickets now).</p> <center><a href="" title="Fame-o-Meter Mark 1 by Eilonwy Anne, on Flickr"><img src="" width="375" height="500" border="0" alt="Fame-o-Meter Mark 1" /></a></center> <p>I&#8217;m not entirely satisfied that the rankings reflect the importance of the events, and I&#8217;m sure that in my haste to fill in the pre-existing benchmarks (Powell&#8217;s pillar, &#8220;Fresh Air&#8221;) with others, mistakes have been made. By me. However, calling it &#8220;Mark 1&#8221; wiggles me out of that <em>nicely</em>. As you can see, I aim both high and low. I hope to someday get prizes and such, but I have not put movie deals or TV interviews on the scale. What can I say? I try to be ambitious but reasonable.</p> Elsewhere 2008-09-22T09:45:32+00:00 2008-09-26T22:18:01+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m on the last day of a long weekend in Portland. I had an excuse for coming here, a high school reunion, but the truth is I missed the place. Missed Powell&#8217;s, rain, Schmizza, my friends&#8230;I even missed things I didn&#8217;t realize were different, like there being squirrels everywhere.</p> <p>So that&#8217;s why I&#8217;ve been less communicative than is my wont: I&#8217;ve bought half a dozen books at <a href="" target="links">Powell&#8217;s</a> (and one at Powell&#8217;s Beaverton), eaten lunch at <a href="" target="links">Pizza Schmizza</a>, browsed the stock and watched the letterpress at <a href="" target="links">Oblation Papers</a>, had a pot of tea at <a href="" target="links">the TeaZone</a>, bought necessities at <a href="" target="links">Fred Meyer</a>, had a Porter or two off the nitro at <a href="" target="links">McMenamin&#8217;s</a> and another pint at the <a href="" target="links">Bridgeport Brewpub</a>. I have gone for many walks, listened while a rainstorm built from shower to deluge, sat about reading companionably with my friends, taken the bus and the Portland Streetcar.</p> <p>All this and the promise of a baby oliphaunt&#8230;huzzah for home!</p>