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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

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.