I know I’ve mentioned before that idea of Ernest Hemingway’s, that he was “going rounds” with authors with whom he felt in competition. He’d write that he “stayed three rounds with Tolstoy today” for example.
I like the idea, and use it. Never in an aggressive and actually-competing sort of fashion…but there are authors in my head with whom I am in competition, with whom I go as many rounds as I can before they flatten me.
And mostly, they do flatten me. Mostly, after some rounds, I go down to the mat, bloody but laughing; I may have lost, but the fight was worth it.
Some of them are major heavyweights, giant. Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, R.A. Lafferty, Edgar Allen Poe, Gaiman, Straub, and so forth.
Some of them are not…not lesser, because that sounds a bit insulting, but not-quite-giants yet. People like my friend Lucien Spelman, or like the author I admired and talked about here before, Leah Bobet (who did the wonderful “Mister Oak” story in Realms of Fantasy, which I also mentioned here).
There’s a few other authors whose individual stories have so impressed me that I go “arg, that’s brilliant, I can’t beat that!” and then, after a moment of that awe, I get into the ring with them in my brain.
All of this is a long way of saying, I finished a short story the day before yesterday, which I think might be the finest, sharpest thing I’ve written yet. I always tend to say that after I’ve finished something I’m proud of, but this time I quietly suspect it’s true.
(Is it actually, objectively true? Who cares. That’s no concern of mine. Readers can sort that one out.)
So I’m popping in to blog about it and say while maybe I lasted a few more rounds with Leah Bobet, and maybe this time — in my head — this one went to the judges.
Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury are still putting me to the mat, bloody and grinning and concussed.
But by God, I’m gaining on ’em.
(And a minor note to say that I’ve got an article coming via SF Signal sometime in the next day or so, called “Slow Tuesday Night,” about Google and the speed of technology and some fiction I like and stuff. I’ll link to it when it turns up, and assuming I remember.)
Okay. I’ve gotten some water and caught my breath and wiped the blood off my chin. Back into the ring.