Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On My Refusal To Mock My Brothers And Sisters


As always, I'm on the road.  You may credit all infelicities of formatting to the limitations of my ipod.

Recently, on Facebook, I grumbled about the limitations of a book I'd quit reading.  Immediately, people wanted to know the name of the author.

But I won't do that.

I understand why people wanted to know. There are many, many bad writers whose works are risibly (this may well be the first time in this century that word has appeared outside of a crossword puzzle) awful.  I read their books and I gnash my teeth.  So why won't I mock them out and publicly humiliate them?

Because they fall into two camps.

The first consists of those who hopefully put their work before the public eye and got no or little response.  If they have done anything wrong (and I am unconvinced they did), they have been punished well beyond their desert.  Some of them deserve far better.

The second consists of those who published and profited richly.  (You know -- or think you do -- who I'm talking about.). But what is their crime?  They wrote novels that tens of thousands of people loved so much that they were willing to spend their hard earned money on them.

There are people within one block of me who have done worse.

Meanwhile, there are many writers whose first allegiance is to the word, who never gave a thought to popularity, and who know their chances of ever earning a decent living wage are small. Should I be outraged on their behalf?


It is a rare privilege to be able to say whatever one wants to say, to be heard, and to earn one's living by doing so.  Outside of the arts, how many people can claim as much?  Poverty is the chance they took and the price they paid.

These people are my kin -- my brothers and sisters.  We understand each other.

So, no, I won't name names.



David Stone said...

Do you think it is acceptable for someone like you to talk about how horrible most SF films
(example:Elysium) are, right?

I mean, the people who made that mess scavenged ideas from your siblings in arms and couldn't even make 1 1/2 hours of passable eye candy out of them.

Jane Yolen said...

I, alas, have no such compunctions. If I think a book is unutterably bad, I utter. If I think it is without redeeming social value, I do not redeem it.

You, it turns out, are not only a better writer than I, but a nicer person.


Unknown said...

You are a better man than Thog (who do I tolerate him? For cheap thrills, alas) and I salute you.

David Langford

Janet C. said...

Also, some people improve. I love it when that happens.

Theophylact said...

But you might be able to spare some poor reader the expense and time wasted on a truly bad book.

Anthony Panegyres said...

Hi Michael, I think that your thoughts would be invaluable for both writers who wish to improve their craft as well as readers who value your opinion. As you write not only in the spec-fic field but also about it too (and do it all extremely well) you shouldn't feel as though you're 'mocking' anybody when giving honest feedback - it's not a personal affront (although I do understand the emotional attachment issues, which you've alluded to). Readers seek educated opinions from writers they admire like yourself. Writers may also be thicker skinned than you think - many may want honest feedback so that they, in turn, can fine tune their work.

Just my thoughts of course.

John Wiswell said...

Michael, I deeply respect your decision. This is something I struggle with regularly, particularly when I feel there must be an appeal to a book that I'm missing and wish to discuss it to learn. I refuse to bash most works that don't click for me or seem wanting for exactly your point-of-empathy on putting their work out there and likely not profiting. It's so hard and participating even a little in the process ought to render us more compassionate.