I don't mean anything against JV, it's just I find posts like this to be mainly about the author of the post. We're all out here blogging away (wanking, as it were) and it's the nature of the medium to self-promote. What is said online has a different resonance than the same thing said in a smaller venue, in a letter, say, or a bar. It seems more a pontification or a pronouncement, and invites a group of like-minded people who read the blog to join a chorus. That may not have been JV's intent, but that's the usual effect. It also invites disagreement, to be sure, but rarely do you find more than a handful of people offering contrary opinions--that's been the case on this blog, as it is on most blogs. Often contrary opinions ruffle feathers and change the focus from the matter at hand to the character of the dissenter or the quality of his opinion. The author of the post is called upon to defend his position and, because he has a larger audience, he's subtly urged to defend it more forcefully than he otherwise might. One way or another, whether covertly or otherwise, it tends to become personal.
JV and I have had an interesting relationship. Early on, when I expressed disagreement with him over some small matter, his response was to say, "Bite me." I said I'd be glad to do so. On another occasion, when I made a casual comment about the World Fantasy awards, he took exception and offered a harsh challenge, to which responded in kind. I doubt we're friends--the relationship has occurred almost entirely online--yet I don't consider him an enemy. I say this as a preamble to offering my take on his position that short fiction is in a slough, that it's not as good or daring as it was back in the 60s, when New Worlds and Interzone were purportedly at their peak--a golden age, it might be said--and that most fiction is merely competent. I would agree with that last--but then it seems to me that during my lifetime, at any rate, the proportion of good writing to the merely competent has stayed about the same. Likewise, the proportion of daring-ness to non-daring-ness. I don't think that being more daring or experimental leads to any more good fiction than traditional means. I don't think there's ever been a real golden age. Or rather that each generation looks back and sees a golden age, not realizing they may be in the midst of one.
Now if we had this conversation in a coffee shop, the ideas would flow, the exchanges would be quick; in a blog, the conversation tends to get static, bogged down in niceties. At conversation's end in the coffee shop, we'd go our separate ways, and perhaps he'd say to a friend, That Shepard is really an asshole, and perhaps I'd say the same about him; but it would evaporate, become neglible. On a blog it becomes memorialized, written in cyber-stone. Anyway, it's my opinion that fiction's in good hands. There are a ton of good new writers, too many to mention, and a smattering of older ones, as always. Fifty years from now we'll know what settled out and what still shines.
That's a longwinded way of stating my opinion and also the reason why I didn't jump into the flurry on his blog. He might tell me to bite him and I might accept that challenge. It's taken me a long time to figure out this online shit, and I just don't think it's a place for such conversations, for any kind of conversation that hopes to reach a happy or an edifying resolution.