Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What Local Quality Authors?

It is understandable for the New York Times to look down upon Los Angeles and refer to it as a small city when writing articles about humorous counter-academy film awards. I can understand how Bob Harris, writing for the NYT can say, "And last week, the Golden Raspberry Awards, invented by a small-town California film buff, announced its Razzie nominations for worst movies." Mr. Harris is, after all, writing for the local paper of a city where the only thing bigger than its population is its ego about its importance.

Typical of articles written from a distance by someone looking down one's nose at an inferior Mr. Harris is incorrect in his assertion that the Golden Raspberry's were invented by a small-town California film buff." As Cathy Seipp points out writing about Razzies found John JB Wilson, "while it's true that a short while ago he moved to Cerritos (not a small town, but part of Greater Los Angeles/Orange County's sububran sprawl), he started the Razzies around 30 years ago while living in Hollywood. Then for many years he lived in the Valley, also part of the city of Los Angeles." But one can't expect someone in New York to have any respect for the West Coast and its offerings, it is (you should know) the center of American culture. Or should that be Culture?

Regardless, it is still understandable that a city 3833 miles away might not know the particulars of what that other city might have to offer. What isn't understandable is that the Los Angeles Times suffers from the same anti-Angelino disease. It is a newspaper that has almost without exception, in recent times, failed to understand and appreciate the city around it. To quote Fritz, "The Los Angeles Times is the last place to know what is going on in Los Angeles."

Let me give you an example. When former Runaways drummer Sandy West died last October the Los Angeles Times obituary was a wire-service story. It wasn't until December that the Times did their own in depth article. One might think that timely in depth coverage of the local community might be one way that the Times might increase readership.

In an effort to be more like the New York Times the Los Angeles Times began a Sunday magazine. The magazine is good, but it lacks some quintessential must read component. Essentially, it contains material that ought to be in the regular paper and lacks anything uniquely Angelino. One might think that if one is imitating the New York Times one could take a page from their book and serialize a novel by a local author. The New York Times is currently serializing a novel by Michael Chabon as their newest "Sunday Serial." The "Sunday Serial" features work by popular genre authors, though it is interesting to note the snobbishness of the NYT Chabon press release which claims that, "The selection marks a departure for The Magazine, which previously has featured genre fiction writers." What do you call a writer who has written a Superhero novel and whose most recent writing, the very one being serialized, is reminiscent of Robert Howard and dedicated to Michael Moorcock? Personally, I call him a genre fiction writer. But I guess when he's won the Pulizer (for the aforementioned Superhero book) and is from New York he's called a non-genre writer.

Why doesn't the Los Angeles Times run a serialized novel by one of our own local Southern California genre authors? I am certain that it would draw an audience. Why am I not reading Tim Powers' next book in the LAT? How about Stephen Barnes, Jerry Pournelle, Harry Turtledove, David Brin, Raymond Feist, J.V. Jones, Vernor Vinge, or even Cory Doctorow (I may disagree with him about intellectual property, but I like his writing)? We could even ask Mark Salzman, among many others, for non-genre writing.

I would postulate, I'd have to test it, that the LAT doesn't think of the Los Angeles area (and Southern California generally) as a place where authors of merit are to be found. It is likely that they think of Los Angeles as the place where broad entertainment aimed at the lowest common denominator is created and that Art is the purview of other cities, places like New York, Paris, and London.

Don't take any of the above snarkyness to be actual attacks at New York City, it is a wonderful place. I just don't like how Angelinos undervalue the city, and community, where they live. Since moving to Los Angeles, technically the Crenshaw District, in 2000, I have fallen in love with this crazy town. Though I have to admit, it is a little like a geode. It looks rough and ominous on the outside, but when you crack it open you can see all the glittering quartz. Hidden treasures are what Los Angeles is all about, but if you want to find those treasures you aren't often best served by the Los Angeles Times. You have to dig.
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