Sunday, October 01, 2006

Back from Turkey City

I haven't had the chance to post much recently, with having to travel out of town for three weekends in a row. First there was the trip to Austin for Howard Waldrop's 60th birthday party. Last weekend it was to Dallas for FenCon. This weekend it was to Austin for a Turkey City workshop.
My time has been limited, not only by being out of town for these weekends, but also because of my having to clear the decks during the week to be able to take off on the weekends.
Hopefully, I will get caught up on some stuff.
Turkey City was pretty much a complete waste of time for me. This was the fourth time I went, and the guest was Jeff Vandermeer - a very nice guy who also happens to be an excellent writer. It was a pleasure to meet him and chat a bit. For that matter, anything worthwhile for me happened during personal conversations.
The workshop chairman let all the story lengths slide, with the result that if everyone read everything, it would have come to 120,000 words. I actually kept my story within the official length of 7,500 words.
I brought a story that I felt needed some polish and a tweak. Unfortunately, the workshop chairman didn't read it all the way to the end - where there was a very obvious signal as to where the story was coming from.
It was probably my fault that I didn't pat a signpost close to the front that the story was meant as a homage to pulp mutant monster stories of the 1950s. The chairman read it straight and delivered such a vicious critique that it poisoned the workshop.
A few people intuited where the story was going, but the chairman's vicious denunciation poisoned the well so badly that the whole critique was blown. Only one person was smart enough to see it was clearly intended as a pulp homage.
The chairman's attack was so vicious and over the board I was literally at a loss for words, and so I didn't explain myself until the end. When I explicated a few simple points, it made perfect sense, and there was a collective "ah-hah!" - but the damage had been done.
Years ago, these kind of workshops were useful because there was no other way to get aggregate critiques. Although I did pick up a few points that will be useful in rewriting the story, I could have surely gotten the same feedback by posting the story on a place like Baen's Bar or maybe Critters.
I spent 13 hours traveling 720 miles and I spent $160 in gas finding out simplistic crap I could have learned on an internet forum. What a spectacular waste of time. Plus I could have avoided getting my ego trammeled. Individually, the folks in the workshop are nice, but collectively they're a lynch mob.
These kind of workshops need to be abolished and replaced by forums. Anyone who enjoys getting abused in person needs to join some kind of bondage club. For my part, it actually was a setback for my professional development because it makes writing s-f feel like some kind of self-abuse. As I told some of the workshop participants who stayed afterwards, it doesn't matter how useful or even well-intentioned the feedback is, when it is couched in such vituperative terms, it loses all its value. It's like saying to your spouse, "here's twenty bucks, you lazy and ignorant moron." Try it sometime - let me know how it turns out.
Apparently the regulars at this workshop have become inured to this kind of abuse. I'm glad I haven't. I'd like to think I can be a sensitive and considerate person and still be a an s-f writer. If I can't, it's a no brainer which I prefer. When I die, I hope there are people who will miss me - rather than celebrate.
The fact that Jeff Vandermeer is such a nice guy is a positive sign; and also that I think a number of people at the workshop were appalled how it spiraled out of control. I probably was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that also applies to an innocent bystander who gets accidentally killed in a drive-by shooting.
Oh, well, you live and learn. If I hadn't gone, I wouldn't have believed it. I have nothing I plan to attend until as least February of next year - maybe by then the nausea will have passed. I know the WorldFantasy Con is in Austin in November, but I am not going to drive 13 hours for 720 miles and spent $160 in gas AND shell out $150 for a registration fee to attend the con. It's simply not a useful investment of time OR money on my part.
The viciousness of the critique at the workshop Saturday was so overblown that I actually thought I was being denounced and exposed as an imposter and was being expelled from the group - like they used to do in China during the Chinese cultural revolution. I was surprised I wasn't escorted to the door and frog-marched into the street. You had to have been there - it was surreal. I was thinking, "Hey, if you don't think I'm friggin' good enough to be a member, just send me an email. No need for this dog and pony show." I was mentally ticking off my sales and honors and thinking "OK, did I miss something? I thought I was considered an author."
Speaking of sales, I need to fill out the contract with Amazon Shorts and get it back to them. I've been too busy to deal with it lately, and it will give me something to do genre related OTHER than writing.

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