Rating: 5 out of 5
It’s not difficult to like this book though you’d have to have considered the subject previously. Without that bit of interest, there won’t be anything to enjoy in this title. The subject is writing, writing and selling, and writing and publishing. These topics are considered in a series of back-and-forth dialogues, written instead of spoken, which have allowed both Mike (Resnick) and Barry (Malzberg) (as they call themselves in the books) to gather their thoughts prior to replying to the other side.
What makes this all the more enjoyable is the glass-is-half-full attitude of Mr Resnick that stands in such marked contrast to the glass-is-half-empty of Mr Malzberg. For nearly every suggestion that comes across the discussions, it’s Mike who thinks the subject can be controlled: that the writer has at least some power to make the right choices; in contrast Barry’s point of view nearly always is to go with the flow, not to struggle, and not to worry overly about sales. Where Mr Resnick describes how he has done what he has thought of to increase his sales, Mr Malzberg’s approach has not. In the book this is described, by Barry himself, as the “authority of success” vs the “authority of failure”, but throughout, it is clear that the success has been at least in part due to the effort Mr Resnick put into it.
Beyond this, the book also considers other literature-related topics such as agents, what writing well really is (and whether it matters), conventions, collections, etc. Some of these I suspect have not aged well: the most recent of the dialogues date to the late 2000’s, while the majority are a decade older. As such, the questions of convention attendants, etc, are not really as relevant because I suspect much has changed in that field. Writing itself, and what to write, are more ephemeral questions that don’t really go out of date. Yet, what becomes all the more clear throughout is that it’s not as much about how well you write, but rather how well that is marketed.
Overall, I enjoyed this throughout!