Do bad writers know they're bad?

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Crimso

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Jul 17, 2002, 1:56:27 AM7/17/02
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The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
denigrate them?

--
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

David Kennedy

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Jul 17, 2002, 6:48:50 AM7/17/02
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Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote in message news:<ah30ub$o53$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>...

> The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
> books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
> do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
> denigrate them?

Not sure what you meant to say above.
If you mean, "Do authors of Trek books, and any other books generally
acknowledged to be bad, know that they're awful?" then I'm prepared
to answer. As this is Usenet I'll generalise from a single case; Piers
Anthony thinks he's a great writer, and he's not, so the answer you
seek is, "No". I base this on his weird end-notes. I read a few of them
in my teen days of trying to read everything in the local library.
(I can honestly say the only one I remember with any sort of enjoyment
was "Macroscope".)

In general I suspect that a lot of authors simply don't make it,
and it's unfair to assume that all who don't are bad. The problem
with a successful author with a tin ear, and let's face it, sharecropped
fiction does offer a path to sales for unknown authors, is that
they're successful - once books are selling do you (a) change things? or
(b) do what you're doing? They're buying it so it must be good right?

A few more sales and even decent authors suffer the dreaded curse
of no editing - see the later careers of several authors, even those
who produced some very good earlier work.

--
David Kennedy

Crimso

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Jul 17, 2002, 8:18:45 AM7/17/02
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kenn...@nortelnetworks.com (David Kennedy) wrote on 17 Jul 2002:

>
> Not sure what you meant to say above.
> If you mean, "Do authors of Trek books, and any other books generally
> acknowledged to be bad, know that they're awful?" then I'm prepared
> to answer.

Yes, that's what I meant to write and your example of Piers Anthony is one
sort of person I'm talking about. He thinks he's great even though a
rather large group of critics and readers think he's terrible.

I'm wondering if the sort of person exists who is aware enough to say,
"Yeah, I'm a terrible writer but the stuff sells. Go figure".

Steve Taylor

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Jul 17, 2002, 9:05:02 AM7/17/02
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Crimso wrote:

> I'm wondering if the sort of person exists who is aware enough to say,
> "Yeah, I'm a terrible writer but the stuff sells. Go figure".

Oddly enough, I think Piers Anthony is still an example. I remember an
old interview with him where he effectively said (on the topic of
differences between his earlier and later work) "I know, I know! But
people didn't buy the good ones" - so there is some degree of
consciousness there. Or was.

Steve

Dorothy J Heydt

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Jul 17, 2002, 9:16:38 AM7/17/02
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In article <ah30ub$o53$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>,

Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote:
>The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
>books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
>do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
>denigrate them?

Yes, not infrequently that's what they do. We get
people on r.a.sf.composition from time to time who ask
for 'criticism' but what they really want is praise, and
when they get constructive criticism they burst into
flame. I won't name any names because they tend to
google for their own names.

Dorothy J. Heydt
Albany, California
djh...@kithrup.com
http://www.kithrup.com/~djheydt

Anncrispin

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Jul 17, 2002, 10:22:39 AM7/17/02
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I teach writers workshops fairly regularly, at conventions and also at
colleges. In my experience, the writers who are the most arrogant and think
they're great (and often get furious when critiqued) tend to be the worst
writers in the class.

Go figure.

-Ann C. Crispin

James Nicoll

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Jul 17, 2002, 10:24:48 AM7/17/02
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In article <c7464efe.02071...@posting.google.com>,
David Kennedy <kenn...@nortelnetworks.com> wrote:

snip

>Not sure what you meant to say above.
>If you mean, "Do authors of Trek books, and any other books generally
>acknowledged to be bad, know that they're awful?" then I'm prepared
>to answer. As this is Usenet I'll generalise from a single case; Piers
>Anthony thinks he's a great writer, and he's not, so the answer you
>seek is, "No". I base this on his weird end-notes. I read a few of them
>in my teen days of trying to read everything in the local library.
>(I can honestly say the only one I remember with any sort of enjoyment
>was "Macroscope".)

Which has to my eye the enourmous advantage that it draws from
what is now an obscure source in SF: Stapledon.

Mike Schilling

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Jul 17, 2002, 10:55:51 AM7/17/02
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Probably not, which makes writers like the rest of us.

http://www.apa.org/journals/psp/psp7761121.html


Lois Tilton

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Jul 17, 2002, 10:58:33 AM7/17/02
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Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote:

> I'm wondering if the sort of person exists who is aware enough to say,
> "Yeah, I'm a terrible writer but the stuff sells. Go figure".


I can think of some authors who have said sortof similar things, why,
even around here.

--
LT

Sproles52

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Jul 17, 2002, 10:59:08 AM7/17/02
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>I teach writers workshops fairly regularly, at conventions and also at
>colleges.
Ms. Crispin,

After a college degree in a science field, where would you suggest a beginning
writer start with writing couse work? I spend most of my day looking through a
microscope at cancer and pre-cancerous cells and hardly write except for stream
of consciousness journal entries. Do you have to go back for an English major
or can you build on skills that you may already have? (and if these sentences
are grammatically uncorrect, please correct me).

Thank you for your time,

JudyAnne


To reply by e-mail, take the pipe out.


Andrew Maizels

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Jul 17, 2002, 11:12:40 AM7/17/02
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Anncrispin wrote:

This phenomenon has recently given rise to some fascinating (and very
funny) research papers:

"People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many
social and intellectual domains ... this overestimation occurs, in
part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual
burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make
unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the
metacognitive ability to realize it."

-- "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's
Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments," by Justin Kruger
and David Dunning Department of Psychology Cornell University, Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology December 1999 Vol. 77, No. 6,
1121-1134.

Quoted from http://skepdic.com/selfdeception.html
The full paper is available at
http://www.apa.org/journals/psp/psp7761121.html

Andrew.
--
Google fthagn! Google fthagn! Ia Google! Ia! Ia!

r.r...@thevine.net

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Jul 17, 2002, 10:53:34 AM7/17/02
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On 17 Jul 2002 05:56:27 GMT, Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote:

>The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
>books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
>do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
>denigrate them?

Well, in the defense of "bad" artists of any stripe, many times in
history artists aren't appreciated in their own time. For example,
the entire Impressionist movement was considered trash by the critics
at the time. And there is a difference between "great literature" and
books that are servicable. For example, the Trek novels may not be
Shakespeare, but if they give Trek fans written matter which fulfills
the requirements of the Trek universe, can you actually say that they
are "bad"? They are giving the readers what they want, and not
everything has to be high art.

Rebecca

Dirk van den Boom

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Jul 17, 2002, 11:14:50 AM7/17/02
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Hi,

Crimso schrieb:

> The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
> books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
> do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
> denigrate them?

First of all, from what I've heard about Trek books so far - at least those
published over here in Germany - they are not all in the same league in
regard to quality and style. I think even in a series like this you can have
a good author who makes something out of this stuff and someone who just
writes it down as a working routine.
Second, I'm myself a writer who publishes in small press in Germany from time
to time and I found it very difficult to judge about the quality of my
writings myself. I have met authors who have been very clear about themselves
and their abilities, both on a critical side as well as on a positive note. I
think there is a problem of "objectivity" here: What is for one reader a good
novel, is a bad one for another. The fact that I as a writer like and dislike
things I've written doesn't seem to mean anything.
I guess as long as you are paid for it and the publishers don't summarily
ignore your submissions, the questions do not arise so often. Finally, it is
the market and its needs and deeds that determines in a quite neutral way if
you are "good" or "awful". And, to be honest, even if I dislike writings of
some authors because I think they are rubbish, at no point would I say that
they should stop writing as long as someones likes to buy their stuff.
I don't have to read it, anyway.

Dan Goodman

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Jul 17, 2002, 12:16:55 PM7/17/02
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spro...@aol.compipe (Sproles52) wrote in
news:20020717105908...@mb-mo.aol.com:

>>I teach writers workshops fairly regularly, at conventions and also at
>>colleges.
> Ms. Crispin,
>
> After a college degree in a science field, where would you suggest a
> beginning writer start with writing couse work?

You don't have to take ANY. At all. None. Fred Pohl didn't finish high
school, and has been quite successful as a writer and editor.

I spend most of my day
> looking through a microscope at cancer and pre-cancerous cells and
> hardly write except for stream of consciousness journal entries.

> Do
> you have to go back for an English major

Jack Williamson got his degree in English _after_ he'd been a successful
writer for a few decades.

Pamela Dean's degree in English probably helped her get a job as a legal
secretary. If you want to know whether it helped her as a writer, I suggest
asking on rec.arts.sf.composition.

Newsgroup devoted to writing speculative fiction: rec.arts.sf.composition.
Writing in general: misc.writing.moderated.

Websites with critique groups, and information:

http://www.critters.org
http://hollylisle.com
http://www.hatrack.com

Brenda W. Clough

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Jul 17, 2002, 12:13:48 PM7/17/02
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Sproles52 wrote:

>>I teach writers workshops fairly regularly, at conventions and also at
>>colleges.
>>
>Ms. Crispin,
>
>After a college degree in a science field, where would you suggest a beginning
>writer start with writing couse work? I spend most of my day looking through a
>microscope at cancer and pre-cancerous cells and hardly write except for stream
>of consciousness journal entries. Do you have to go back for an English major
>or can you build on skills that you may already have?
>


It depends on what you want. Do you want to become a professor of
creative writing at a college or university? If so, you have to
accumulate the academic credentials, the Ph.D in Creative Writing and so
forth. Or do you want to write stories and books and have them
commercially published? In that case you need fulfil no prerequisites.
I'd dive right on in and begin writing. Once you've written a bit, you
have enough material to workshop or critique. You could sign on with an
online group like Critters, or you could workshop it in real life at a
number of venues. I work with one, the Writers Center in Bethesda MD,
but you will want one in your area.

Brenda

--
---------
Brenda W. Clough
Read my novella "May Be Some Time"
Complete at http://www.analogsf.com/0202/maybesometime.html

My web page is at http://www.sff.net/people/Brenda/

Elf Sternberg

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Jul 17, 2002, 12:56:18 PM7/17/02
to
In article <c7464efe.02071...@posting.google.com>
kenn...@nortelnetworks.com (David Kennedy) writes:

>Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote in message news:<ah30ub$o53$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>...
>> The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
>> books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
>> do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
>> denigrate them?

>Not sure what you meant to say above. If you mean, "Do authors of Trek
>books, and any other books generally acknowledged to be bad, know that
>they're awful?" then I'm prepared to answer. As this is Usenet I'll
>generalise from a single case; Piers Anthony thinks he's a great
>writer, and he's not, so the answer you seek is, "No".

While I agree with you completely with regard to Anthony, I
think I'll disagree on the universals. I think most authors know where
they reside on the continua of authorial quality. Some, like James
White (a favorite of mine), know that they'll never be Shakespeare or
Phillip Roth, so they don't try to be: instead, they try to give the
reader an interesting story with the best of all formulas: crisis,
rising tension, attempts at resolution that put the protagonist
seemingly further behind, final crisis and resolution. White keeps it
interesting with lots of weird aliens and creative medical mysteries.

It's the authors who want to "leave a voice" that bother me.
Banks and DeLillo, for example. Banks tweaks the authorial formula,
leaving the reader disappointed. I can't be the only one who thought
"Inversions" a complete hack, and the false leads in "Look to Windward"
pointless. I've only read one DeLillo, "Underworld," but after reading
five chapters and finding absolutely no common thread between them, I
gave up wondering if he was actually going to tell a story. Anthony
doesn't seem to have a clue what he's trying to do other thna make
money.

Elf

--
Elf M. Sternberg
Disproportionately Popular Among Homosexuals.
http://www.drizzle.com/~elf/ (under construction)

David Dyer-Bennet

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Jul 17, 2002, 1:41:12 PM7/17/02
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kenn...@nortelnetworks.com (David Kennedy) writes:

> Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote in message news:<ah30ub$o53$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>...
> > The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
> > books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
> > do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
> > denigrate them?
>
> Not sure what you meant to say above.
> If you mean, "Do authors of Trek books, and any other books generally
> acknowledged to be bad, know that they're awful?" then I'm prepared
> to answer. As this is Usenet I'll generalise from a single case; Piers
> Anthony thinks he's a great writer, and he's not, so the answer you
> seek is, "No". I base this on his weird end-notes. I read a few of them
> in my teen days of trying to read everything in the local library.
> (I can honestly say the only one I remember with any sort of enjoyment
> was "Macroscope".)

I'm not so sure he's good evidence for the "no" side. If you read
what he had to say around the time he stopped writing somewhat
interesting SF and started writing endlessly extended fantasy series,
it seems pretty clear that he made a conscious decision to be come a
less good writer, for the purpose of making more money.
--
David Dyer-Bennet, dd...@dd-b.net / New TMDA anti-spam in test
John Dyer-Bennet 1915-2002 Memorial Site http://john.dyer-bennet.net
Book log: http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/Ouroboros/booknotes/
New Dragaera mailing lists, see http://dragaera.info

David Dyer-Bennet

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Jul 17, 2002, 1:43:34 PM7/17/02
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r.r...@thevine.net writes:

I'm not particularly interested in "high art" in general anyway. I'm
interested in stuff with enough levels to maintain interest, though.

Gnimelf Cire

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Jul 17, 2002, 1:43:55 PM7/17/02
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"Elf Sternberg" <e...@drizzle.com> wrote in message
news:1026924977.740912@yasure...

>
> It's the authors who want to "leave a voice" that bother me.
> Banks and DeLillo, for example. Banks tweaks the authorial formula,
> leaving the reader disappointed. I can't be the only one who thought
> "Inversions" a complete hack, and the false leads in "Look to Windward"
> pointless. I've only read one DeLillo, "Underworld," but after reading
> five chapters and finding absolutely no common thread between them, I
> gave up wondering if he was actually going to tell a story. Anthony
> doesn't seem to have a clue what he's trying to do other thna make
> money.
>

By "leave a voice" you mean develop a personal style? Why, specifically,
does this bother you? Is your objection theoretical or do you just not like
the product of such authors?

I haven't read Underworld, but I have read White Noise and Mao II. Mao II
is great, White Noise is incredible. And there is nothing wrong with not
telling a story. Arthur Clarke always seemed to write pretty weak stories,
but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of his work one bit.

--
Eric Fleming

Word of the Week: omphalos

Quote of the Week:
But I am no poet. I am only a very conscientious recorder.
-Vladimir Nabokov


Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Jul 17, 2002, 1:49:21 PM7/17/02
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Elf Sternberg <e...@drizzle.com> wrote:

> It's the authors who want to "leave a voice" that bother me.
> Banks and DeLillo, for example. Banks tweaks the authorial formula,
> leaving the reader disappointed. I can't be the only one who thought
> "Inversions" a complete hack, and the false leads in "Look to Windward"
> pointless.

I have to say that very seldom Banks has disappointed me. And even when
he has, I've never known him to be pointless.
--
Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
homepage: http://www.fantascienza.net/sfpeople/elethiomel
English blog: http://annafdd.blogspot.com/
Blog in italiano: http://fulminiesaette.blogspot.com

Andrew Plotkin

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Jul 17, 2002, 2:37:28 PM7/17/02
to
Here, Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@despammed.com> wrote:
> Elf Sternberg <e...@drizzle.com> wrote:

>> It's the authors who want to "leave a voice" that bother me.
>> Banks and DeLillo, for example. Banks tweaks the authorial formula,
>> leaving the reader disappointed. I can't be the only one who thought
>> "Inversions" a complete hack, and the false leads in "Look to Windward"
>> pointless.

> I have to say that very seldom Banks has disappointed me. And even when
> he has, I've never known him to be pointless.

That daisy-counting short story in the _State of the Art_ collection,
that was both pointless and disappointing.

Of his novels, however, I agree with Anna. (I've read all the with-M
novels, plus _The Bridge_ and _The Wasp Factory_.)

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

David Bilek

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Jul 17, 2002, 3:11:13 PM7/17/02
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David Dyer-Bennet <dd...@dd-b.net> wrote:

>kenn...@nortelnetworks.com (David Kennedy) writes:
>
>> Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote in message news:<ah30ub$o53$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>...
>> > The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
>> > books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
>> > do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
>> > denigrate them?
>>
>> Not sure what you meant to say above.
>> If you mean, "Do authors of Trek books, and any other books generally
>> acknowledged to be bad, know that they're awful?" then I'm prepared
>> to answer. As this is Usenet I'll generalise from a single case; Piers
>> Anthony thinks he's a great writer, and he's not, so the answer you
>> seek is, "No". I base this on his weird end-notes. I read a few of them
>> in my teen days of trying to read everything in the local library.
>> (I can honestly say the only one I remember with any sort of enjoyment
>> was "Macroscope".)
>
>I'm not so sure he's good evidence for the "no" side. If you read
>what he had to say around the time he stopped writing somewhat
>interesting SF and started writing endlessly extended fantasy series,
>it seems pretty clear that he made a conscious decision to be come a
>less good writer, for the purpose of making more money.

But that's a stupid choice. You don't have to write crap to make
something accessible.

I'm sure that $$$ weighed rather heavily in George Martin's decision
to write a big doorstop fantasy epic, but he's at least trying (and I
think succeeding, though others may disagree) to maintain the quality
of his writing while doing so. Anthony could have done the same.

Ok, so Martin writes rings around Anthony even in his _Macroscope_
days, but still.

-David

Dorothy J Heydt

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Jul 17, 2002, 3:20:00 PM7/17/02
to
In article <1cgbjugrk09p3nmms...@4ax.com>,
David Bilek <dbi...@attbi.com> wrote:
>David Dyer-Bennet <dd...@dd-b.net> wrote:
>
[P. Anthony]

>>I'm not so sure he's good evidence for the "no" side. If you read
>>what he had to say around the time he stopped writing somewhat
>>interesting SF and started writing endlessly extended fantasy series,
>>it seems pretty clear that he made a conscious decision to be come a
>>less good writer, for the purpose of making more money.
>
>But that's a stupid choice. You don't have to write crap to make
>something accessible.

No, but sometimes you have to write crap to sell.

I don't remember who it was said, on some group several
years ago, "Stephen King writes for middlebrows, he
*thinks* like a middlebrow, and you can't *fake* that."
Nor do I remember who it was who interviewed Roger
Zelazny once, and up and asked him why he had switched
from his good early work to endless packets of Extruded
Amber Product. In reply, Zelazny pointed out the window
to his children, playing outside.

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Jul 17, 2002, 3:36:32 PM7/17/02
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

> Here, Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@despammed.com> wrote:
> > Elf Sternberg <e...@drizzle.com> wrote:
>
> >> It's the authors who want to "leave a voice" that bother me.
> >> Banks and DeLillo, for example. Banks tweaks the authorial formula,
> >> leaving the reader disappointed. I can't be the only one who thought
> >> "Inversions" a complete hack, and the false leads in "Look to Windward"
> >> pointless.
>
> > I have to say that very seldom Banks has disappointed me. And even when
> > he has, I've never known him to be pointless.
>
> That daisy-counting short story in the _State of the Art_ collection,
> that was both pointless and disappointing.

Well, it was a bad pun, but I thought it quite cute, in its cringing
way. I translated it not once but twice.

> Of his novels, however, I agree with Anna. (I've read all the with-M
> novels, plus _The Bridge_ and _The Wasp Factory_.)

I really didn't care for Song of Stone and Whit. But they weren't

@hotmail.com.invalid Eric D. Berge

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Jul 17, 2002, 2:54:36 PM7/17/02
to
On Wed, 17 Jul 2002 16:56:18 -0000, e...@drizzle.com (Elf Sternberg)
wrote:

> While I agree with you completely with regard to Anthony, I
>think I'll disagree on the universals. I think most authors know where
>they reside on the continua of authorial quality.

*snicker* Read any of Johnny Ringo's "If it sells, it's not crap"
screeds?

Dorothy J Heydt

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Jul 17, 2002, 4:00:04 PM7/17/02
to
In article <eafbju85janjkenr6...@4ax.com>,

Whereas I would almost go to the opposite extreme and
say "If it sells, it's got to be crap," but happily there
are a few exceptions.

Eric San Juan

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Jul 17, 2002, 5:03:38 PM7/17/02
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"Dorothy J Heydt" <djh...@kithrup.com> wrote in message
news:GzEr1...@kithrup.com...

> In article <1cgbjugrk09p3nmms...@4ax.com>,
> David Bilek <dbi...@attbi.com> wrote:
> >David Dyer-Bennet <dd...@dd-b.net> wrote:
> >
> [P. Anthony] If you read

> >>what he had to say around the time he stopped writing somewhat
> >>interesting SF and started writing endlessly extended fantasy
series,
> >>it seems pretty clear that he made a conscious decision to be come a
> >>less good writer, for the purpose of making more money.
> >
> >But that's a stupid choice. You don't have to write crap to make
> >something accessible.
>
> No, but sometimes you have to write crap to sell.
>
<snip>

> Nor do I remember who it was who interviewed Roger
> Zelazny once, and up and asked him why he had switched
> from his good early work to endless packets of Extruded
> Amber Product. In reply, Zelazny pointed out the window
> to his children, playing outside.

And really, there are few better reasons than that.


Eric San Juan

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Jul 17, 2002, 5:06:46 PM7/17/02
to
"Elf Sternberg" <e...@drizzle.com> wrote in message
news:1026924977.740912@yasure...
<snip>

>
> It's the authors who want to "leave a voice" that bother me.
> Banks and DeLillo, for example.
<snip>

> I've only read one DeLillo, "Underworld," but after reading
> five chapters and finding absolutely no common thread between them, I
> gave up wondering if he was actually going to tell a story.

Well, I'm not sure DeLillo is necessarily about telling an A-to-B story.
In fact, I'm sure of it. I don't think that at all takes away from his
skills and his remarkable ability to say quite a lot with very little.

Does writing like DeLillo's bother you because you don't enjoy it, or
does it bother you because other people think it's good? Just curious.

I thought "White Noise," incidentally, was simply fantastic. Not much
story to speak of, either.


Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes

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Jul 17, 2002, 5:33:51 PM7/17/02
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Wed, 17 Jul 2002 14:53:34 GMT, r.r...@thevine.net <r.r...@thevine.net> spake:

> On 17 Jul 2002 05:56:27 GMT, Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote:
>>The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
>>books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
>>do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
>>denigrate them?
> Well, in the defense of "bad" artists of any stripe, many times in
> history artists aren't appreciated in their own time.

Egads. I just had this nightmare vision of a future where Extruded
Star Trek Product is considered the classic literature of the time.
It's probably part of the same future as seen in _Demolition Man_, where
they sing along to "mini-tunes" (aka commercials).

For every misunderstood genius, there are a thousand well-understood
idiots. I know where my money is on the ST novels...

--
<a href="http://kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu/~kamikaze/"> Mark Hughes </a>
"No one is safe. We will print no letters to the editor. We will give no
space to opposing points of view. They are wrong. The Underground Grammarian
is at war and will give the enemy nothing but battle." -TUG, v1n1

Heather Garvey

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 5:45:16 PM7/17/02
to
David Dyer-Bennet <dd...@dd-b.net> wrote:
>
>I'm not so sure he's good evidence for the "no" side. If you read
>what he had to say around the time he stopped writing somewhat
>interesting SF and started writing endlessly extended fantasy series,
>it seems pretty clear that he made a conscious decision to be come a
>less good writer, for the purpose of making more money.

Unless that was before 1974, he still owes me the part of
my soul that was damaged by the crap that is "Rings of Ice". Oh, god,
was that bad. I - I still hurt....

--
Heather Garvey "The school has lost its funding for textbooks, so
ra...@xnet.com you've all been given wildlife survival manuals.
Today you'll be quizzed on how to skin a moose."
-- Miss Bitters, _Invader ZIM_

Elf Sternberg

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Jul 17, 2002, 6:52:31 PM7/17/02
to
In article <G%kZ8.151088$Bt1.8...@bin5.nnrp.aus1.giganews.com>
"Eric San Juan" <shoeg...@hotmail.com> writes:

>Does writing like DeLillo's bother you because you don't enjoy it, or
>does it bother you because other people think it's good? Just curious.

I think it bothers me because it's presented critically as
wonderful or whatever, and while I can see and appreciate the art and
effort that goes into it, I'm simply not impressed with it to any great
degree precisely because it's presented as "great fiction" but it's
terrible storytelling. He has this wonderful talent to wring meaning
out of every last scene, but the overall feel of his work is, to me,
disjointed and in disarray. Maybe in "Underworld" that was what he was
trying to convey about the characters, but I feel that sort of technique
should be left to scriptwriters: it's hard to sustain those kinds of
feelings about literary characters for so long.

Eric Lee Green

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 7:05:10 PM7/17/02
to
In article <ah30ub$o53$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>, Crimso ruminated:

> The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
> books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
> do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
> denigrate them?

Piers Anthony, in particular, has no idea just how bad he really is.
He spent a large portion of his "Bio of an Ogre" ranting about his
treatment by critics and basically ranting "If I'm so bad, how come I'm
selling so much?!".

A very bitter, unhappy man. A perfect proof of the notion, "money does
not buy happiness"... he was unhappy when he was poor, and seems just
as unhappy now that he's rich. (Of course, his "autobiography" was
written over 10 years ago, so he may have learned serenity since then...
somehow, though, I doubt it).

--
Eric Lee Green EMAIL: mailto:er...@badtux.org WEB: http://badtux.org
There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
- Mark Twain

Lee Ann Rucker

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Jul 17, 2002, 6:46:19 PM7/17/02
to
In article <ah3ung$l2b$1...@panix2.panix.com>, James Nicoll
<jdni...@panix.com> wrote:

> >(I can honestly say the only one I remember with any sort of enjoyment
> >was "Macroscope".)
>

> Which has to my eye the enourmous advantage that it draws from
> what is now an obscure source in SF: Stapledon.

Any book in particular?

Eric Lee Green

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 7:14:35 PM7/17/02
to
In article <GzEr1...@kithrup.com>, Dorothy J Heydt ruminated:

> I don't remember who it was said, on some group several
> years ago, "Stephen King writes for middlebrows, he
> *thinks* like a middlebrow, and you can't *fake* that."

I would not say that Steven King is a bad writer though. Certainly he
has had some less successful works, but his best is quite good indeed
at doing what it sets out to do -- plumb the nightmares of the human
soul. He will never be confused with Shakespeare. But that is not what
he set out to do, and he would never say that Shakespeare is what he
set out to do. I suspect he has a firm grasp of the limits of his
abilities, and certainly wouldn't be a good example of a "bad writer who
doesn't know he's bad."

If you want to know about his writing abilities, read his nonfiction
where he talks about the experience of coaching his son's Little League
baseball team. Someone who can make LITTLE LEAGUE exciting is NOT
a "bad" writer.

how...@brazee.net

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Jul 17, 2002, 7:18:33 PM7/17/02
to

On 17-Jul-2002, Steve Taylor <sm...@ozemail.com.au> wrote:

> Oddly enough, I think Piers Anthony is still an example. I remember an
> old interview with him where he effectively said (on the topic of
> differences between his earlier and later work) "I know, I know! But
> people didn't buy the good ones" - so there is some degree of
> consciousness there. Or was.

Except he believes "the good ones" are good. I don't.

There authors who no they aren't very good though.

Dorothy J Heydt

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 7:24:22 PM7/17/02
to
In article <slrnajbug...@badtux.org>,

Eric Lee Green <er...@badtux.org> wrote:
>In article <GzEr1...@kithrup.com>, Dorothy J Heydt ruminated:
>> I don't remember who it was said, on some group several
>> years ago, "Stephen King writes for middlebrows, he
>> *thinks* like a middlebrow, and you can't *fake* that."
>
>I would not say that Steven King is a bad writer though.

No, not bad. But not any definition of "good" (that
amorphous word) that maps to "I could stand to read it."

>If you want to know about his writing abilities, read his nonfiction
>where he talks about the experience of coaching his son's Little League
>baseball team. Someone who can make LITTLE LEAGUE exciting is NOT
>a "bad" writer.

I don't think Shakespeare, C. J. Cherryh, or anyone else
you care to name could make any form of baseball less
than a deadly bore to me.

@hotmail.com.invalid Eric D. Berge

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Jul 17, 2002, 7:10:35 PM7/17/02
to
On 17 Jul 2002 21:33:51 GMT, kami...@kuoi.asui.uidaho.edu (Mark
'Kamikaze' Hughes) wrote:

>Wed, 17 Jul 2002 14:53:34 GMT, r.r...@thevine.net <r.r...@thevine.net> spake:
>> On 17 Jul 2002 05:56:27 GMT, Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote:
>>>The thread about Trek novels got me wondering whether the authors of such
>>>books as well as authors of original fiction know that they're awful. Or
>>>do they think they're good and wonder at the "jealousy" of all those who
>>>denigrate them?
>> Well, in the defense of "bad" artists of any stripe, many times in
>> history artists aren't appreciated in their own time.
>
> Egads. I just had this nightmare vision of a future where Extruded
>Star Trek Product is considered the classic literature of the time.
>It's probably part of the same future as seen in _Demolition Man_, where
>they sing along to "mini-tunes" (aka commercials).

ObStarTrekIV: "Harold Robbins? Ah, the classics!"

Andrea Leistra

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 7:29:53 PM7/17/02
to
In article <ah3nb5$io2$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>,
Crimso <crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote:

>kenn...@nortelnetworks.com (David Kennedy) wrote on 17 Jul 2002:
>
>>
>> Not sure what you meant to say above.
>> If you mean, "Do authors of Trek books, and any other books generally
>> acknowledged to be bad, know that they're awful?" then I'm prepared
>> to answer.
>
>Yes, that's what I meant to write and your example of Piers Anthony is one
>sort of person I'm talking about. He thinks he's great even though a
>rather large group of critics and readers think he's terrible.
>
>I'm wondering if the sort of person exists who is aware enough to say,
>"Yeah, I'm a terrible writer but the stuff sells. Go figure".

There have been people posting to rasfw who have said similar things.
Their take on it, however, has been that sales are a direct indicator
of quality, such that while they may not write well-crafted prose or
rounded characters, the sales of their material indicate that they are
somehow "better" than the poorer-selling authors who include such
elements.

(Oh, and that anyone who values prose and characterization is
obviously a Literary Snob and in a tiny minority, and whose tastes
can therefore be discounted or even mocked.)

--
Andrea Leistra

Ross TenEyck

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Jul 17, 2002, 7:49:39 PM7/17/02
to
Eric Lee Green <er...@badtux.org> writes:

>I would not say that Steven King is a bad writer though. Certainly he
>has had some less successful works, but his best is quite good indeed
>at doing what it sets out to do -- plumb the nightmares of the human
>soul.

King is very good at some things, but I wouldn't say that "plumbing
the nightmares of the human soul" is one of them.

What he really excels at is characterization, and most especially
characterization in small-town American settings. Some of his best
works are essentially character studies -- "The Body," "Rita Hayworth
and the Shawshank Redemptions," and others in that vein.

On the other hand, his horror tends to strike me as... well, bland.
Usually it comes down to "something with nasty sharp pointy teeth"
that kills you in unpleasant ways. While I'm not particularly eager
to be killed by, for instance, a mummy with razor blade teeth, it
doesn't really frighten or horrify me.

The good parts of King books are usually the bits going on around
the horror.

--
================== http://www.alumni.caltech.edu/~teneyck ==================
Ross TenEyck Seattle, WA \ Light, kindled in the furnace of hydrogen;
ten...@alumni.caltech.edu \ like smoke, sunlight carries the hot-metal
Are wa yume? Soretomo maboroshi? \ tang of Creation's forge.

Dorothy J Heydt

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Jul 17, 2002, 7:50:05 PM7/17/02
to
In article <ah4ulh$834$1...@oasis.ccit.arizona.edu>,

Andrea Leistra <alei...@ptah.u.arizona.edu> wrote:
>
>There have been people posting to rasfw who have said similar things.
>Their take on it, however, has been that sales are a direct indicator
>of quality, such that while they may not write well-crafted prose or
>rounded characters, the sales of their material indicate that they are
>somehow "better" than the poorer-selling authors who include such
>elements.
>
>(Oh, and that anyone who values prose and characterization is
>obviously a Literary Snob and in a tiny minority, and whose tastes
>can therefore be discounted or even mocked.)

Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say that. But if
literary quality is unable to put bread on the table,
and the lack of it succeeds in doing so....

Eric San Juan

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Jul 17, 2002, 8:25:53 PM7/17/02
to
"Elf Sternberg" <e...@drizzle.com> wrote in message
news:1026946350.818905@yasure...

> In article <G%kZ8.151088$Bt1.8...@bin5.nnrp.aus1.giganews.com>
> "Eric San Juan" <shoeg...@hotmail.com> writes:
>
> >Does writing like DeLillo's bother you because you don't enjoy it, or
> >does it bother you because other people think it's good? Just
curious.
>
> I think it bothers me because it's presented critically as
> wonderful or whatever, and while I can see and appreciate the art and
> effort that goes into it, I'm simply not impressed with it to any
great
> degree precisely because it's presented as "great fiction" but it's
> terrible storytelling.

That's a pretty fair assessment. The first time I read DeLillo I was
always teetering on the "okay, nice, but where's the story" reaction,
but the little things in the way he puts his words together kept me
going. I quite like his work, but I can fully understand where you are
coming from. A craftsman of stories he is not.

In truth, I feel somewhat the same way about James Joyce. The man has
his moments, but by and large I just Don't Get It. But hey, maybe that's
a literary failing on my part. DeLillo, however, I am impressed with.

> He has this wonderful talent to wring meaning
> out of every last scene, but the overall feel of his work is, to me,
> disjointed and in disarray. Maybe in "Underworld" that was what he
was
> trying to convey about the characters, but I feel that sort of
technique
> should be left to scriptwriters: it's hard to sustain those kinds of
> feelings about literary characters for so long.

That feel is not unique to "Underworld," and in fact is prevalent in
most, if not all, of his work. Some works have more story than others -
say, "Mao II" - while others play briefly with story - the middle and
latter portions of "White Noise" - but by and large his novels are a
collection of interwoven scenes that don't necessarily lead anywhere as
much as toss out a series of cynical, ironic, sarcastic, and any other
"ic" you can think of, observations on human relations and the modern
world.

Certainly one thing is for sure: In most DeLillo books, you're not going
to be introduced to a problem or plot device, see the characters work
against that problem or with that plot device, and see a resolution at
the end. Doesn't happen. And I can see why that would turn some folks
off.


Luke Webber

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Jul 17, 2002, 8:29:51 PM7/17/02
to
"Dorothy J Heydt" <djh...@kithrup.com> wrote in message
news:GzF2C...@kithrup.com...

> I don't think Shakespeare, C. J. Cherryh, or anyone else
> you care to name could make any form of baseball less
> than a deadly bore to me.

An effect which John Irving actually used to his advantage in _A Prayer for
Owen Meany_.

SPOILERS for _A Prayer for Owen Meany_.
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
Even the kids were bored playing Little League when the smallest and weakest
of them hit a foul ball which killed his best friend's mother. A bit of a
waker-upper, that. <g>

Luke


Maureen O'Brien

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Jul 17, 2002, 8:43:40 PM7/17/02
to
Eric San Juan wrote:

>Dorothy J Heydt said:
> > Nor do I remember who it was who interviewed Roger
> > Zelazny once, and up and asked him why he had switched
> > from his good early work to endless packets of Extruded
> > Amber Product. In reply, Zelazny pointed out the window
> > to his children, playing outside.
>
> And really, there are few better reasons than that.

Yes, but. There's a considerable difference between "workmanlike but
not great" and "crap". What about all of us kids who didn't eat lunch
or buy milk so we could buy Extruded Amber Product or Extruded Trek
Product being marketed as The Good Stuff?

Yeah, that's right. I'm still bitter. And when the current Star Trek
editor said that was okay because professional writers have to feed
their kids, I say professional writers shouldn't live by ripping off
kids' lunch money.

Maureen, who ain't ever gettin' those quarters back.

Steve Coltrin

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Jul 17, 2002, 8:54:58 PM7/17/02
to
Eric Lee Green <er...@badtux.org> writes:

[Piers Xanthony]

> A very bitter, unhappy man. A perfect proof of the notion, "money does
> not buy happiness"... he was unhappy when he was poor, and seems just
> as unhappy now that he's rich. (Of course, his "autobiography" was
> written over 10 years ago, so he may have learned serenity since then...
> somehow, though, I doubt it).

He's written a second volume. It may answer that question, but I won't
be finding out soon; reading it is just below shoving a red-hot poker up
my ass on my things-to-do list.

--
Steve Coltrin spco...@omcl.org
When doing business with a religious son of a bitch, GET IT IN WRITING.
His word isn't worth shit, not with the good Lord telling him how to
fuck you on the deal. - William S. Burroughs

Eric San Juan

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Jul 17, 2002, 8:58:17 PM7/17/02
to
"Maureen O'Brien" <mob...@dnaco.net> wrote in message
news:3D360F3C...@dnaco.net...

> Eric San Juan wrote:
> >Dorothy J Heydt said:
> > > Nor do I remember who it was who interviewed Roger
> > > Zelazny once, and up and asked him why he had switched
> > > from his good early work to endless packets of Extruded
> > > Amber Product. In reply, Zelazny pointed out the window
> > > to his children, playing outside.
> >
> > And really, there are few better reasons than that.
>
> Yes, but. There's a considerable difference between "workmanlike but
> not great" and "crap". What about all of us kids who didn't eat lunch
> or buy milk so we could buy Extruded Amber Product or Extruded Trek
> Product being marketed as The Good Stuff?

A lesson all should learn early in life is that marketing is just
another word for lies. *Of course* the publishers are going to claim the
books they sell are good, trying to seel books is what they do. They
should say, "Our books are crap, but they have Spock so please buy
them?" Naturally not.

I'm not really understanding where you are coming from with the whole
"kids who didn't eat lunch" thing. There is no guarantee that you will
enjoy the book you buy. ANY book you buy. Kids, save your lunch and milk
money and use the library if the cost is an issue.

> Yeah, that's right. I'm still bitter. And when the current Star Trek
> editor said that was okay because professional writers have to feed
> their kids, I say professional writers shouldn't live by ripping off
> kids' lunch money.

"Ripping off kids' lunch money?" Please. I sympathize with anybody who
has trudged through a book they hated - I've done it many times, though
thankfully no Trek as I dislike Trek - but discovering a book you
thought you'd like was actually pretty bad is not being ripped off, it's
being disappointed. You know, I have a collection of Xanth books I
bought when I was a young teen. Pretty bad stuff and I cringe thinking
back on it. What I don't do is complain that the author did me wrong by
writing a bad book.

And again, if Roger Zelazny or any other writer can better support their
family by mimicking his own work time and time again, more power to him
and his family. I won't be buying the books, but plenty of people will.
And more power to them and their bad book choice.


Dorothy J Heydt

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 8:57:45 PM7/17/02
to
In article <3D360F3C...@dnaco.net>,

Maureen O'Brien <mob...@dnaco.net> wrote:
>
>Yes, but. There's a considerable difference between "workmanlike but
>not great" and "crap". What about all of us kids who didn't eat lunch
>or buy milk so we could buy Extruded Amber Product or Extruded Trek
>Product being marketed as The Good Stuff?

But surely it was your choice to buy it.

The fact that you have now recognized it as E*P means
your tastes have matured, and now you can buy genuinely
good stuff.

Maureen O'Brien

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 9:04:43 PM7/17/02
to
Dorothy J Heydt wrote:
>Andrea Leistra <alei...@ptah.u.arizona.edu> wrote:
>>There have been people posting to rasfw who have said similar things.
>>Their take on it, however, has been that sales are a direct indicator
>>of quality, such that while they may not write well-crafted prose or
>>rounded characters, the sales of their material indicate that they
>>are somehow "better" than the poorer-selling authors who include such
>>elements.
>>
>>(Oh, and that anyone who values prose and characterization is
>>obviously a Literary Snob and in a tiny minority, and whose tastes
>>can therefore be discounted or even mocked.)
>
>Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say that. But if
>literary quality is unable to put bread on the table,
>and the lack of it succeeds in doing so....

Okay, let's all calm down and consider a different axis from "quality/
non-quality", or even "absorbing/not absorbing". Or "appealing voice/
not appealing voice". I shall call it, for lack of any better term,
"magic/normal".

Some books and stories are, literarily speaking, crap. And yet, they
have a quality which draws you in and keeps you in the universe. You
aren't reading the actual book in front of you; you are dwelling in
its platonic ideal. When you are older and have different psychological
needs, that spell may break. Meanwhile, it will hold you even if you
know that what you're reading is qualitatively crappy.

Bujold, frex, has literary quality, sensawunder, _and_ magic. She
rather humbly realizes that, as good as she is, it's not all her.
David Weber has wargamer cred, technowunder, and storytelling and
literary quality that has recently decreased from 'gamer novel' to
'gamer novel needing editing bad'. But he's tapped into both the
Hornblower bildungsroman magic and the warrior woman with telepathic
pet kind. It's the magic that carries him onward, not the literary
stuff. I'm not sure whether he recognizes this or not.

Ringo has formidable powers of storytelling to sweep you along as
well as combatporn magic. He needs an editor and a proofreader, and I
would say he's trapped by his production contract and his own
prolificness and magic.

Myself, I'd say that the previous two novels written by Dorothy J.
Heydt had quite a decent amount of magic -- but apparently it wasn't
working on the editors or marketing directors in quite the same way as
her happy readers. (Frex, I would have had a cover for one that showed
both the housewife and the princess. And my prose blurb for Honor
would have been _tons_ more quest-oriented. But that's me.)

Magic is both a gift and a problem. Yes, magic sells and sells big, to
those most in need of it. But magic fades unexpectedly, too. There are
an awful lot of authors out there who used to be magic, living off
their fans who keep hoping the magic will come again.

Maureen, who thinks "psychologically appealing or manipulative" is
way too wordy.

Christopher Henrich

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 9:18:28 PM7/17/02
to
In article <ah3nb5$io2$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>, Crimso
<crimsonking*@nycmail.com> wrote:

> kenn...@nortelnetworks.com (David Kennedy) wrote on 17 Jul 2002:
>
> >
> > Not sure what you meant to say above.
> > If you mean, "Do authors of Trek books, and any other books generally
> > acknowledged to be bad, know that they're awful?" then I'm prepared
> > to answer.
>
> Yes, that's what I meant to write and your example of Piers Anthony is one
> sort of person I'm talking about. He thinks he's great even though a
> rather large group of critics and readers think he's terrible.
>
> I'm wondering if the sort of person exists who is aware enough to say,
> "Yeah, I'm a terrible writer but the stuff sells. Go figure".

I think that many a writer would be content to say, "Hey - my name is
Murgatroyd, it isn't Tolstoy... I tried to spin a good yarn, and some
people liked it."

Of course...

Identify the source of this quote: "These stories were written to
please, and sold to buy groceries."

--
Chris Henrich

Lois Tilton

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 9:19:33 PM7/17/02
to
Maureen O'Brien <mob...@dnaco.net> wrote:

> Some books and stories are, literarily speaking, crap. And yet, they
> have a quality which draws you in and keeps you in the universe. You
> aren't reading the actual book in front of you; you are dwelling in
> its platonic ideal. When you are older and have different psychological
> needs, that spell may break. Meanwhile, it will hold you even if you
> know that what you're reading is qualitatively crappy.


I think this description would apply in the case of Salvatore, whose stuff
had a thread here last week.

Salvatore's prose stumbles rather than sings, but his particular flavor of
fantasy product charmed a large set of readers into following him through
his subworld.

Should a writer in this situation try to change the way he's been working,
when in terms of sales and readership, it does work? What if t he change
turns out to break the spell? Is the risk worth it?

--
LT

Dorothy J Heydt

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 9:19:45 PM7/17/02
to
In article <3D36142B...@dnaco.net>,

Maureen O'Brien <mob...@dnaco.net> wrote:

[good stuff, which I have saved to disk]

>Myself, I'd say that the previous two novels written by Dorothy J.

>Heydt had quite a decent amount of magic...

Why, thank you. Now if I could only figure out what the
quality was that makes things sell, and go on a quest to
get some.

(Frex, I would have had a cover for one that showed
>both the housewife and the princess.

The cover I would have liked would have shown on the
front--that is, on the right-hand-side of the
painting--Amalia riding through the Darklands, her dark
hood and cloak silhouetted against the dimly-lit fields,
the soft lights clustering about her. And then on the
back color, the left-hand side of the painting,
completely dark against the fields, Ulf following her.

>Magic is both a gift and a problem. Yes, magic sells and sells big..

sometimes.

Christopher Henrich

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 9:38:30 PM7/17/02
to
In article <GzEsw...@kithrup.com>, Dorothy J Heydt
<djh...@kithrup.com> wrote:

> In article <eafbju85janjkenr6...@4ax.com>,
> Eric D. Berge <eric_berge @ hotmail.com.invalid> wrote:
> >On Wed, 17 Jul 2002 16:56:18 -0000, e...@drizzle.com (Elf Sternberg)
> >wrote:
> >
> >> While I agree with you completely with regard to Anthony, I
> >>think I'll disagree on the universals. I think most authors know where
> >>they reside on the continua of authorial quality.
> >
> >*snicker* Read any of Johnny Ringo's "If it sells, it's not crap"
> >screeds?
>
> Whereas I would almost go to the opposite extreme and
> say "If it sells, it's got to be crap," but happily there
> are a few exceptions.
>

We all know the feeling, but ... Consider Tolkien - a runaway best
seller (to the astonishment of everyone), and among the best authors of
the century.

For that matter, wasn't Shakespare pretty successful in his time?

--
Chris Henrich

Andrew Wheeler

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Jul 17, 2002, 9:55:51 PM7/17/02
to
Elf Sternberg wrote:
>
> In article <G%kZ8.151088$Bt1.8...@bin5.nnrp.aus1.giganews.com>
> "Eric San Juan" <shoeg...@hotmail.com> writes:
>
> >Does writing like DeLillo's bother you because you don't enjoy it,
> >or does it bother you because other people think it's good? Just
> >curious.
>
> I think it bothers me because it's presented critically as
> wonderful or whatever, and while I can see and appreciate the art and
> effort that goes into it, I'm simply not impressed with it to any
> great degree precisely because it's presented as "great fiction" but
> it's terrible storytelling. He has this wonderful talent to wring
> meaning out of every last scene, but the overall feel of his work is,
> to me, disjointed and in disarray. Maybe in "Underworld" that was
> what he was trying to convey about the characters, but I feel that
> sort of technique should be left to scriptwriters: it's hard to
> sustain those kinds of feelings about literary characters for so
> long.

I don't know if this will help any, but I'm a big DeLillo fan and I have
major problems with _Underworld_. (Basically, I think it was structured
in reverse chronological order to hide the fact that there really
wasn't, as you say, any story there.) I enjoyed reading it, because
DeLillo writes masterful prose, and if there's one thing I want after
spending most of my work reading time on plot-oriented writing that
often tends to the clunky, it's good prose. He also writes fantastic
scenes, as you note. I do think _Underworld_ got its kudos primarily
because of its heft and its density -- critics were willing to give it
the benefit of the doubt due to all of the energy and thought that went
into it. (Unkind comments about gullible critics can be inserted here.)

If you liked the prose in _Underworld_, and would like to see that power
put to use in a story, I'd suggest trying _Libra_ (the story of Lee
Harvey Oswald), _White Noise_ (which is some kind of non-genre SF) or
possibly _Ratner's Star (a much earlier novel about science, and
possibly a influence on Stephenson's _Cryptonomicon_).

--
Andrew Wheeler
--
"The world is quiet here."
-V.F.D.

Luke Webber

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 10:18:37 PM7/17/02
to
"Dorothy J Heydt" <djh...@kithrup.com> wrote in message
news:GzF6o...@kithrup.com...

> In article <3D360F3C...@dnaco.net>,
> Maureen O'Brien <mob...@dnaco.net> wrote:
> >
> >Yes, but. There's a considerable difference between "workmanlike but
> >not great" and "crap". What about all of us kids who didn't eat lunch
> >or buy milk so we could buy Extruded Amber Product or Extruded Trek
> >Product being marketed as The Good Stuff?
>
> But surely it was your choice to buy it.
>
> The fact that you have now recognized it as E*P means
> your tastes have matured, and now you can buy genuinely
> good stuff.

All very true. I wonder if Maureen actually believed she was reading the
classics? I never imagined so back when I was reading Norton and Heinlein
juveniles. Not even when I was reading Wyndham, for that matter.

If we all read only what our parents and teachers recommended, it'd be a
pretty boring world, and it's in the nature of the young to read the
current, trendy crud. It's up to us parents to encourage reading of (almost)
any kind in order to entrench the reading habit. We can hope that our kids
learn later in life that there are better things to read, but it's the
reading itself that really counts. I guess my kids are lucky that they
aren't forced to forego lunch in order to get all the books they need.

In short, Maureen's quarters weren't entirely wasted. She got her
entertainment, and she finally figured out what was good. A great result,
IMO.

Now, does anybody want to buy a bunch on Animorphs books, cheap? <g>

Luke


Luke Webber

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Jul 17, 2002, 10:20:09 PM7/17/02
to
"Christopher Henrich" <chen...@monmouth.com> wrote in message
news:170720022138307932%chen...@monmouth.com...

> We all know the feeling, but ... Consider Tolkien - a runaway best
> seller (to the astonishment of everyone), and among the best authors of
> the century.
>
> For that matter, wasn't Shakespare pretty successful in his time?

Well yes, but it's interesting to note that his work was popular with the
common folk. It wasn't considered to be High Art at the time of writing.
Ironic, isn't it?

Luke


David Dyer-Bennet

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Jul 17, 2002, 10:44:15 PM7/17/02
to
ra...@typhoon.xnet.com (Heather Garvey) writes:

> David Dyer-Bennet <dd...@dd-b.net> wrote:
> >
> >I'm not so sure he's good evidence for the "no" side. If you read
> >what he had to say around the time he stopped writing somewhat
> >interesting SF and started writing endlessly extended fantasy series,
> >it seems pretty clear that he made a conscious decision to be come a
> >less good writer, for the purpose of making more money.
>
> Unless that was before 1974, he still owes me the part of
> my soul that was damaged by the crap that is "Rings of Ice". Oh, god,
> was that bad. I - I still hurt....

I'd put it as happening between 1977 (first Xanth book) and when the
last Cluster book came out (around 1983), so I guess he still owes
you. I haven't read that one; I guess I won't go searching for it.
--
David Dyer-Bennet, dd...@dd-b.net / New TMDA anti-spam in test
John Dyer-Bennet 1915-2002 Memorial Site http://john.dyer-bennet.net
Book log: http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/Ouroboros/booknotes/
New Dragaera mailing lists, see http://dragaera.info

Wavemaker

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Jul 17, 2002, 10:46:59 PM7/17/02
to

"Dorothy J Heydt" wrote:
>
> No, but sometimes you have to write crap to sell.

>
> I don't remember who it was said, on some group several
> years ago, "Stephen King writes for middlebrows, he
> *thinks* like a middlebrow, and you can't *fake* that."
> Nor do I remember who it was who interviewed Roger
> Zelazny once, and up and asked him why he had switched
> from his good early work to endless packets of Extruded
> Amber Product. In reply, Zelazny pointed out the window
> to his children, playing outside.

Is it a question of have to write a large quantity of books in order to make
enough money to put food on the table? In other words, all things being
equal, a sci-fi/fantasy author who produces two books a year is going to
make more than one who produces a book every three or so years (not
necessarily true, of course, but stick with me). Therefore, to make more
money, you have to write more. For any artist, there is point of
diminishing returns where their output exceeds the resources of their
imagination. From then on, they are pretty much relying on formula and
clichés. But then the artist may think this is a price worth paying because
they have to pay the bills after all. And somehow the stuff does sell, which
leads me to ask...

Is it also a question of having to write books that have certain elements in
them that are known to sell in order make money? The formulas and clichés we
have seen in sci-fi/fantasy are known to appeal to a large number of
readers, so including them in a book may increase the likelihood that it
will sell.

I'm really just thinking out loud here, not making a case or anything. But
if the answer to both questions are yes, then it seems to me that there is a
vicious circle here. A writer has to write a large quantity in order to
increase the likelihood he or she will make money, which leads them to rely
on formulas and clichés. These formulas and clichés are a safe bet because
they sell books, so the author is encouraged to use them, which leads them
to write more books, which... you get the idea.


David Tate

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 11:01:17 PM7/17/02
to
> r.r...@thevine.net writes:
> > Well, in the defense of "bad" artists of any stripe, many times in
> > history artists aren't appreciated in their own time. For example,
> > the entire Impressionist movement was considered trash by the critics
> > at the time. And there is a difference between "great literature" and
> > books that are servicable. For example, the Trek novels may not be
> > Shakespeare, but if they give Trek fans written matter which fulfills
> > the requirements of the Trek universe, can you actually say that they
> > are "bad"?

Well, yes.

If they can't write grammatical sentences, or plausible dialogue, or
smooth transitions, or cohesive paragraphs -- if they can't give
characters identifiable voices, or believable motivations -- if they
can't avoid repeating certain catch-phrases over and over throughout
the work -- then yes, they are "bad".

And I see all of those failings in many commercially successful works.

> > They are giving the readers what they want, and not
> > everything has to be high art.

But it *does* have to be competent craft, at least for me.

David Dyer-Bennet <dd...@dd-b.net> wrote in message news:<m2fzyiz...@gw.dd-b.net>...
> I'm not particularly interested in "high art" in general anyway. I'm
> interested in stuff with enough levels to maintain interest, though.

Hear, hear. And enough competent wordcraft to avoid distracting the
reader.

Just as a cubist or surrealist really should be able to draw a cow
that looks like a cow, if necessary, so too any writer should be able
to write basic exposition, basic dialogue, and basic grammatical
sentences, before moving on to either 'art' or 'commerce'.

David Tate

Mark Reichert

unread,
Jul 17, 2002, 11:41:06 PM7/17/02
to
djh...@kithrup.com (Dorothy J Heydt) wrote in message news:<GzEsw...@kithrup.com>...

> Whereas I would almost go to the opposite extreme and
> say "If it sells, it's got to be crap," but happily there
> are a few exceptions.

Is there anyway to get a real good handle on what is actually selling best?

Dan Goodman

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Jul 17, 2002, 11:47:03 PM7/17/02
to
Mark_R...@hotmail.com (Mark Reichert) wrote in
news:99e65015.02071...@posting.google.com:

USA Today's bestseller list is _one_ list. Hardcovers, paperbacks; fiction,
nonfiction -- it's all on the same list, all competing against each other.
The top fifty portion of the list is published in the Life section on
Thursdays. The website (http://usatoday.com) has the top three hundred.

Eric Lee Green

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Jul 17, 2002, 11:55:10 PM7/17/02
to
In article <ah4vqj$u...@gap.cco.caltech.edu>, Ross TenEyck ruminated:

> Eric Lee Green <er...@badtux.org> writes:
>>I would not say that Steven King is a bad writer though. Certainly he
>>has had some less successful works, but his best is quite good indeed
>>at doing what it sets out to do -- plumb the nightmares of the human
>>soul.
>
> King is very good at some things, but I wouldn't say that "plumbing
> the nightmares of the human soul" is one of them.
>
> What he really excels at is characterization, and most especially
> characterization in small-town American settings. Some of his best
> works are essentially character studies -- "The Body," "Rita Hayworth
> and the Shawshank Redemptions," and others in that vein.

_Pet Sematary_ to this day stands as the only book that I could not
finish because it was too good at what it was trying to do. I quit
reading at the part where the father starts daydreaming about digging
up his dead child... I knew what was going to happen next, and King
had done such a good job of setting and characterization that I knew
it was going to destroy this man, and I couldn't go on.

If a child dying is not a nightmare that every father has, what is?

Granted, he has written a lot of merely adequate fiction, as well as a
couple of bookstops (the expanded version of _The Stand_ being one
such), but he seems to me to be someone who knows exactly the limits
of his ability, who tries to do the best he can do but is quite aware
he's not writing Shakespeare. His last few books are probably his
strongest for exactly that reason -- he sticks to what he can do, and
does it well.

--
Eric Lee Green EMAIL: mailto:er...@badtux.org WEB: http://badtux.org
There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
- Mark Twain

Eric Lee Green

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Jul 17, 2002, 11:57:22 PM7/17/02
to
In article <170720022118285808%chen...@monmouth.com>, Christopher Henrich ruminated:

> Of course...
>
> Identify the source of this quote: "These stories were written to
> please, and sold to buy groceries."

It was not the same person who said "I write for Joe's beer money, and
Joe likes his beer", I take it.

James Nicoll

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Jul 17, 2002, 11:57:29 PM7/17/02
to
In article <170720021546191493%lru...@mac.com>,
Lee Ann Rucker <lru...@mac.com> wrote:
>In article <ah3ung$l2b$1...@panix2.panix.com>, James Nicoll
><jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>
>> >(I can honestly say the only one I remember with any sort of enjoyment
>> >was "Macroscope".)
>>
>> Which has to my eye the enourmous advantage that it draws from
>> what is now an obscure source in SF: Stapledon.
>
>Any book in particular?

_Star Maker_.

Dorothy J Heydt

unread,
Jul 18, 2002, 12:07:38 AM7/18/02