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To clarify my rant somewhat

I've scooped this from the previous thread's comments because I want to clarify my rant's stance for a variety of reasons.

Ran smack into that very attitude you describe here:

http://maisonneuve.org/blog/index.php?itemid=363

(It's not his assessment of PDK that annoys me, but his general attitude towards SF.)



While I can understand why this attitude irritates the person who posted the comment (and I confess that I skimmed the article because nothing is going to make me a big PKD fan); while the article in question is somewhat derogatory of SF in general; and while the author in question is a novelist, these things don't coincide in a way that combine to aggravate me. I may not agree with the text of the essay (although I would probably agree with more of it than I disagreed with), but it wasn't frothing, and it wasn't, imho, rabid. It was derogatory of SF in general, true.

This fails to irritate me, though.

To be a bit clearer:

1. I don't care if readers hate SF. Or Fantasy. Or Romance. Or Luna.

I certainly don't enjoy war novels, and couldn't be forced to read them at gunpoint, because my time is money.

If someone wants to hate Big Fat Fantasy and deride it endlessly, I don't care -- and I write it. Anyone who loudly decries the genre I work in is of no concern to me, because in the strict, mercenary, business sense of the word, they're not paying customers -- or rather, they're not mine; they'll never contribute to my career in any way, and their hatred amounts to indifference because the two have the same net effect in terms of moving my novels off the bookshelves and into reader hands. People who hate BFF (which is sometimes called Extruded Fantasy Product, but I don't think that's what I'm writing, hence the difference in terms) clearly loathe the genre I've put my heart into, but that's not a problem, because they've equally clearly stated that they're not my readers. Why should I waste tears or heart on people for whom I'll never be writing?

2. I don't care if critics don't take SF or Fantasy or Romance or Manga or (insert genre of your choice) seriously.

I truly don't care. Why? Because they're also not my paying customers. And the people who read and snicker with them are, by and large -- surprise! -- not my paying customers. They don't really influence my bottom line. Not with dollars and not with emotional response and these are the two coins that matter to me.

Reviewers & critics in genre already treat the genre with respect, and if they hate my book, that's a slightly different matter, although there aren't many who are both respected intellectually and are willing to say something good about Big Fat Fantasy Series <wry g>.

Greg Gatenby once said that by default he found SF writers to be so touchy about their status it was almost an accusation. (I told him that was a gross generalization as, in fact, I didn't give a "darn" what he thought of my writing as long as I was passionate about it, and he did laugh and acknowledge that it was perhaps a mild generalization).

3. Writers should not have contempt for their reading audience.

The only occasion in which 1. and 2. are not true, and I go slightly crazy (the definition of slightly can be argued by people who know me, but not safely <g>) are when they're attached to someone who then goes on to say they're going to write for the audience they have inadvertently expressed so much contempt for.

If you despise romance and can't read it, what on earth makes you think you'll be able to dash a quickie off and sell it? You don't believe in it. Likely, neither will anyone who reads what you've written.

If you despise "bestseller trash" but need to make a quick million? Win a lottery, because I think the chances are about the same.

There's a grey area in which someone who has literary credit is afraid to squander it openly, but that's an entirely different issue; that's cowardice, caused by economic and other factors. Cowardice is not today's topic <g>.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
next_bold_move
Aug. 18th, 2004 04:02 pm (UTC)
Okay, the link to that website makes me want to grind my teeth into little nubs. My stepdad is the same way about fantasy/science fiction. He doesn't read it, but he holds it in utter contempt. Now I'm spoiling for a fight. Maybe I'll engage the Stepmonster on this subject tonight.
supergee
Aug. 18th, 2004 04:10 pm (UTC)
I will settle for passing along rivka's description of the article writer's problem: genre panic.
chance88088
Aug. 18th, 2004 04:24 pm (UTC)
Lovely rebuttal of the article you mention here
lnhammer
Aug. 18th, 2004 04:38 pm (UTC)
Nah -- BFF (aka FFN=Fat Fantasy Novels) ≠ Extruded Fantasy Product. There's overlap, but there's a fair number of doorstops that are not extruded into the printer's moulds, and some extrudentia don't come in fat form (much of TSR's line, for ex).

Okay, yes, I'm being nitpicky on vocabulary, but I really do hear BFF used strictly as a size qualifier.

---L.
madwriter
Aug. 18th, 2004 04:47 pm (UTC)
>>"The genre is obviously low-grade escapism written for simpleminded adults or, at best, clever kids. Never mind any claims its writers may make for legitimacy, no matter on what grounds or with what evidence. Simply look at the reams of crap flowing through the bookstores like so many Big Macs—Billions Served!—and the truth becomes obvious."<<

Oddly enough, I was thinking the same thing about his blog.

This fellow reminds me of my ex-landlord, who griped that science-fiction was all about "monsters", but of course never read any actual science-fiction.
azureeve
Aug. 18th, 2004 05:06 pm (UTC)
The genre is obviously low-grade escapism written for simpleminded adults or, at best, clever kids.

*whistles*

It's one thing to hate a genre, it's another to make assumptions or implied insults toward the audience. Those words would've touched the nerves of even those who haven't heard of PDK- they need only be fans of SF
zhaneel69
Aug. 18th, 2004 05:20 pm (UTC)
While I agree that a single person being closed minded and mean isn't a big deal, the fact that they can influence people who might otherwise try out the genre is what gets me.

And I agree with azureeve, fine to hate the genre but that was a personally flung insult. 'Cause you know, all romance readers are dumb blonde housewives who hate their husbands.

Wait... no, that's not right.

Zhaneel
celtic4
Aug. 18th, 2004 06:51 pm (UTC)
This is terribly off-topic, and I apologize, but if you are the Michelle Sagara/Michelle West that I think you are, I absolutely adore your books and think you're one of the best writers out there. I hope you don't find it presumptuous, but I friended you. I look forward to reading your entries! ^_^
msagara
Aug. 19th, 2004 05:45 pm (UTC)
As bobafet just said, yes, that's me <g>.

I have an open friends policy, in that I assume that it only means you're interested in reading what I post -- so I in no way mind.

Ummm, I will warn you in advance that I tend not to talk often about the actual novels here (so far), although some of the process comes up continually.
celtic4
Aug. 19th, 2004 08:23 pm (UTC)
That's all right, I love hearing about any aspect of writing. I am one of the many that have tried my hand at writing and got discouraged, but I still love to hear about the craft. It's an honor to meet you! ^_^
phillip2637
Aug. 19th, 2004 01:41 pm (UTC)
I think being irritated by unsupportable, "public" criticism of Fantasy and Science Fiction is a good thing.

The dork in question (DiQ) may not be one of your paying customers, but has claimed a role where he could influence, in some small way, those who might become your paying customers. Seems to me he's trying to poison the stream where you're fishing.

I admit that I'm a PKD fan and have been since reading The Man In The High Castle -- when it was new.
I'm irritated because:
- enough people acting like DiQ could reduce the number of readers for inventive, idea-based SF,
- which could be noticed by publishers/editors,
- who might buy fewer books of that type,
- leaving me with less choice/opportunity to read the kind of things I like.

It's a selfish perspective, but it makes sense...to me. :-)

(I wonder what a response to DiQ by Tim Powers would be like.)
msagara
Aug. 19th, 2004 06:02 pm (UTC)
I think being irritated by unsupportable, "public" criticism of Fantasy and Science Fiction is a good thing.

I can understand why someone would find it irritating; as a writer, I don't. There is so much in genre pissiness (SF writers blame the demise of the genre on Fantasy writers; SF & F writers blame it on media tie-ins, etc., etc) that in order to work in the bookstore at all without going insane and strangling someone (i.e. someone with whom I violently disagreed), I had to let it go. Customers read what they want to read, and as long as they're not recommending Anne McCaffrey as the Most Brilliant Writer ever to someone who has never read SF but is curious about it, and who says the closest he's come is Marquez (he was in the middle of an Ondaatje novel, and there were a number of other literary writers he suggested as authors he liked, and while I have nothing against McCaffrey she is Very Much not the introductory author of genre work for that reader.

Ahem. I have to stop digressing. Really.

The dork in question (DiQ) may not be one of your paying customers, but has claimed a role where he could influence, in some small way, those who might become your paying customers. Seems to me he's trying to poison the stream where you're fishing.

It seems to me that he's doing nothing of the sort; he's annoying PKD readers, but that's about it. Those who find themselves agreeing with his sentiments whole-hog aren't my readers, and those who don't probably aren't his readers.

Or: I'm unclear on which role he's claimed that could cause such damage. I would never have seen the essay had it not been for you, and I certainly wouldn't have gone looking for it; was it published someplace I should know about but don't?

I admit that I'm a PKD fan and have been since reading The Man In The High Castle -- when it was new.

Noted. Disclosure good <g>.

I'm irritated because:
- enough people acting like DiQ could reduce the number of readers for inventive, idea-based SF,


This, if you feel it's true (and I can't see it coming out of this article, fwiw, because the prejudice is so set in stone I really do think it's a preaching to the converted article), might be an argument against him. It's not an argument I have against him, since fantasy is probably not even on his radar; fantasy really isn't taken seriously unless it's written for YAs. So it doesn't get a lot of ink.

- which could be noticed by publishers/editors,

The bottom line is always noticed by publishers/editors. But SF as a genre has never gotten any respect; genre fiction doesn't need it in order to thrive. If you've written a literary novel and you get bad reviews? It'll die. If you've written a romance and you get bad reviews (outside of Romantic Times), it doesn't matter (well, it probably hurts your feelings) to sales.

Respect cannot be equated with sales. And it seems to me that you're trying to argue that respect=sales, or at least the inverse, which would be lack of respect=less sales.

- leaving me with less choice/opportunity to read the kind of things I like.

Which would only fall out if the other points were accurate, and I remain unconvinced that they are. Reviews of a certain type make a difference to sales to Library Markets (PW, for instance), but in those cases, the reviewers can hardly be called critical. They favour hardcovers over massmarket, but they're not known for their highbrow approach to fiction.

It's a selfish perspective, but it makes sense...to me. :-)

As a reader, that's all that matters, so go right ahead. Let me add to my number 1 point above: I don't care if you hate critics <g>. I really don't; in the same way that I'm happy to try to fit a reader to a specific book that I otherwise loathe if I think the reader will like it, I'm happy to have you trash the critic.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 19th, 2004 06:03 pm (UTC)
couple of thoughts....
Merely failing to comprehend something doesn't make it impossible that one is going to write it; the description of the Doorstop as a bodice-ripper isn't -- from the reaction of people I've mentioned 'military bodice-ripper' to -- all that far off, despite my inability to get through Austen never mind something that might be more properly described as a bodice-ripper.

Much less directly connected to writing -- I don't think it makes sense to attach moral weight to how people do insecurity management.

People do what they perceive to be in their best interest, not necessarily consciously; the kind of insecurity management which insists entire swathes of something are bad *is* objectionable (when the swathes of something are people, it's racism or nasty ethno-centrism or who knows what else) but pretty strictly for pragmatic reasons.

*Why* someone who insists that something lots of other people enjoy is categorically bad chooses to make that taxonomy of worth operative in their world -- what social ordering they would prefer to impose on the world of their imagination, what construction of quality they chose to use -- is pretty much secondary.

Primarily, they're making it harder to co-operate in groups (at least groups which include them), and diminishing their own access to choice. Kinda hard to argue for either of those as sensible conduct; all the emphatic whys and wherefores are smoke screen for the essential stupidity of the stance.

(I didn't really have to sign this, did I?)

-- Graydon
msagara
Aug. 19th, 2004 08:04 pm (UTC)
Re: couple of thoughts....
Merely failing to comprehend something doesn't make it impossible that one is going to write it; the description of the Doorstop as a bodice-ripper isn't -- from the reaction of people I've mentioned 'military bodice-ripper' to -- all that far off, despite my inability to get through Austen never mind something that might be more properly described as a bodice-ripper.

Hee. First off, you have just annoyed every Jane Austen afficionado worth their salt <g>.

Second, you failed to comprehend Extruded Fantasy Product, which is, by your own admission, what you initially set out to write. What you wrote was nothing like EFP in any way, shape or form. Well, okay, form in the sense that it was 1300 pages of manuscript, with type. What you ended up with was a novel filtered through the sensibilities of Graydon, in and of itself a curious thing. But that's essentially what, I think, we all achieve in the end -- stories filtered through the medium of accreted experience, conscious and sub.

So I would argue that failing to comprehend something in your case did mean you failed to write it, which sort of renders the point somewhat less useful. Then again, on the wrong day, I'd argue that West is East for specific values of West.

Much less directly connected to writing -- I don't think it makes sense to attach moral weight to how people do insecurity management.

This, however, I will grant with reservations, rather than debate. I did not see the incident, at the time, as unfortunate insecurity management (which, btw, is probably the best example of Graydon viral English that exists in my daily parlance); I saw it at best as unprofessional behaviour. At worst? I'll leave it alone.

I also think that whoever it was who said Luna=romance and romance=crap in the minds of some people are probably dead on, and have been thinking about this for a while now. Perhaps it will spawn <wry g>.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 20th, 2004 04:55 pm (UTC)
Re: couple of thoughts....
It would have helped if I'd understood those conventions better; I might have got something someone would agree was fluff. :)

(Oh, yes, before I forget -- if you're a Broadview, of course someone at Yonge can properly claim that West is east.)

Insecurity management -- I think it's one of those basic concepts for which English doesn't have a word, is all, like 'the felling one gets before an event one dreads' or 'the weariness attending on that which is necessary, but which would not be necessary so often if other people cared about it/conducted themselves responsibly.'
msagara
Aug. 19th, 2004 08:06 pm (UTC)
Re: couple of thoughts....
(I didn't really have to sign this, did I?)

Not for my benefit, no <g>. For the benefit of people who may not have been exposed to you in another forum, it's probably a useful marker -- if nothing else, it's hard to mistake you for anyone else, a fact with which they will become acquainted if you post even infrequently <g>.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )