Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Oscars Post

For those of you interested in the literary vs. commercial fiction argument, you can look for another example of it in the Academy Awards, which I painfully got through most of on Sunday night. Nobody in Hollywood should really be stumped as to why they have such low ratings. Without the glamor, the celebrities, and the jokes, it would be nothing but an expensive graduation ceremony for the honors students.

I'm going to make a wild guess that most people who tuned in had not seen most of the nominees in most categories (except perhaps the sound and technical categories). I see a lot of movies over the course of the year - I'm going to say 20+ - and I had only seen two of the five nominated for Best Picture, and the second one (Juno) was because I was dragged by my mother and grandmother. Michael Clayton was great, though not Best Picture great. No Country for Old Men I consistently put off in favor of movies that were more fun because everyone I know who saw it said it was long, slow, and had a confusing ending. There Will Be Blood had an extremely limited release and came out at a time when I was especially busy with other things. Atonement I just plain didn't want to see; I can't properly explain it but some movies just put me off.

If not for a lot of publicity and the nominations themselves, the main winners of the evening are easily in reverse proportion to box office proceeds, which means most people didn't see them in favor of "crap." Spider-man 3 was the highest grossing movie of the year. It was followed by other action-adventure movies, only a few of which were nominated for anything other than freebies like costume and sound mixing. I don't even know what sound mixing is, but it gave Bourne Ultimatum the most awards it in a tie with No Country for Old Men.

As we get to know the awards process better, we learn that maybe it's in Hollywood's best interest that we don't. The voters, it seems, are industry insiders and experts (that means retirees with experience and a lot of time on their hands). It also includes actors, who can even vote for themselves and their friends with a clear conscience. In other words, they live in the fantasy world they created and they award accordingly, with little concern to which movies the public seemed to be willing to part with hard-earned money for. Now I'm not saying the tons of bad J-horror remakes I see should win anything, but man do I love them and I'll see them over a long, pretentious movie any day.

The Academy is what it is: a group of expert voters who have the qualifications to discern what is quality and the time to see every movie to make sure that they have what to compare to. In other words, yes, they should be the decision makers, but I increasingly don't like that they ask me to care. I can tell what's a quality movie or not - it's just my choice whether to devote the time to see it. I went out of my way to see Persepolis, which got robbed despite being an uneven movie that was not as good as the two books it was based on.

In short, if you haven't guessed the metaphor, Winners = Mostly Literary Fiction, and Ignored Movies = Commercial Fiction. It would be a better comparison if the Pulitzers had many categories, a flashy show to promote itself, and months and months of hype. Fortunately it remains what it is: a bunch of professionals sitting in a room, discussing it down to the last few books and then a vote. I think that's about all of the process we could stand, though a nominee list would be nice for those of us who do seek out quality literary fiction.

Also, 300 got fucking robbed in every technical category there was.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Comic Book Writers

Hello Rejecter,

Have you ever worked with someone who wrote for comics before turning to novels? Seeing how I write what could be called "fantasy thrillers" I've had little success in getting a short story published; most magazines and journals seem to favor literary fiction.

Not that I think that comics will be any easier to break into, but at least there are plenty of opportunities for writers like me who favor a more commercial kind of story.

I remember a case where we thought about representing someone who was really more of an artist than a writer. His prose was terrible, but the drawings were awesome. We told him to go write a graphic novel instead of trying to write a novel with illustrations.

If you've been published as a comic book writer, that's a legitimate previous publication and you should list it in your query letter in the credentials section. That said, you still have to write a great novel.