May 18th, 2005

bear by san

You know where it ends usually depends on where you start.

ellielabelle: A briefer brief history of time (via coalescent)

Locus Awards Finalists

Was gonna collect some links myself, but nihilistic_kid did it for me: "RESPECT MP George Galloway smacking the shit out of the Senate."

st_crispins (a fan writer) with a bit of a rant on writer's accountability to the reader, which I think applies to pros as much as anybody else. Yes, I have an obligation to my readers to tell the best story I can, as competently as I can, and to reward their readership and attention with my finest craft. On the other hand, I hear some of the horror stories about writers who are far more popular than I am being dictated to by the fans as to how their books or characters should develop, and I just laugh.

If I did it the way I did it, I had a reason for how I did it. Dissenters are welcome to email me and bitch about my choices. I'll even respond politely.

But unless they have a pretty well thought out rationale expressing how they think I failed to meet that contract, well, I have to agree with st_crispins. Remember. The reader has to live with that book for three hours, and spends seven bucks on it. I have to live with it for a year or more, and will probably re-read it seven or eight times before it's in print.

Which is not to say that readers aren't entitled to have opinions on what writers write, even violent ones. Of course they are. But dictating to another writer what they should write is right up there with teaching pigs to sing. Criticism is different from direction. Get your butt in the chair for a few hours a day, seven days a week, and write what you want to read. It's what I do when a story aggravates me. (See the post entitled Darth Continent, below, for an example.)

On an extension of the topic of reader response, I was very impressed by John Kessel's essay on Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game ("Creating the Innocent Killer"), links to which are currently flying around the internet like pachinko balls. In the interests of fairness, I will say that I enjoyed Ender's Game when I read it, but there was something about it which nagged at me in an unsettling fashion afterwards, and though I continued reading the series (through to Shadow of the Hegemon, so really, I think I put my time in on this one) I found the moralism behind it increasingly distressing.

John's essay has crystallized that unease I felt into an opinion. To wit, specifically, it struck me when I read these books that they were lacking in irony. I didn't feel that the author understood the irony in the violence the book condoned as opposed to the violence it decried, and that moral absolutism manifested in some interesting doublethink. In particular, the book purports to be about the moral superiority of the weak defending themselves from the strong (Ender against the bullies, the humans against the Buggers) but what it demonstrates is that moral authority flows, as it were, from the barrel of a gun.

Because Ender isn't weak. He's more powerful than any of the bullies who threaten him. He may appear weak, and the narrative may treat him as weak... but the development of the story undermines that. We're told, in other words, something different from what we're shown.

It's a pretty sleight of hand trick. But it troubled me. And John's nailed down why.

In the interests of fair reportage, a link to a Google cache of Mr. Card's response on his site:

Do keep in mind that John Kessel really hates me and my whole career, and that this "article" is an unvarnished attack on Ender's Game as the most evil book published in the history of science fiction.

Progress notes for 18 May 2005:

Whiskey & Water

New Words: 1,556
Total Words: 80,769 / 91,000
Pages: 364

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
91,000 / 160,000
Reason for stopping: quota, end of scene, sleeepy.
Mammalian Assistance: Paladin has been behind the chair all morning
Stimulants: earl grey
Exercise: gothercise, walking
Mail: nomail
Today's words Word don't know: ghosty
Tyop du jour: ...they'd been rubbing their hands over soft, silvery schist and the flames of compressed mica had coated their fingers and palms
Darling du jour: n/a
Books in progress, but not at all quickly: Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver; various things I'm critting in draft.
Interesting research tidbits of the day: n/a
Other writing-related work: got a bunch of ideas for Carnival scribbled down longhand, good evidence that it's still bubbling away back there.
  • Current Music
    The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme) - Williams
bear by san

This is the self-referential entry.

This is the first sentence of the self-referential entry. This is the second sentence of the self-referential entry, wherein I insert a transition. The transition leads to the third sentence of the self-referential entry, which alerts you to the fact that the next sentence will not in fact be a sentence at all, but rather, a sentence fragment. A sentence fragment.

This is the fourth sentence of the self-referential entry, which is also the first sentence of the second paragraph of the self-referential entry, and is also where I pimp truepenny's book. This is the fifth sentence of the self-referential entry, wherein I mention oracne's interesting comments on books, intangible and wondrous. This is the edited-to-add sentence of the self-referential entry, wherein I also pimp rachelmanija's book; it also serves as the last sentence of the second paragraph of the self-referential entry.

This is the first sentence of the third paragraph of the self-referential entry, which is also the final sentence, and in which I let you in on the joke, if you weren't already.
  • Current Music
    Dire Straits - Your Latest Trick