Charlie's Diary

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Tue, 23 Mar 2004

Wow, it's a live one

Yesterday I wrote a review of Bruce Sterling's forthcoming novel The Zenith Angle in Slashdot.

Slashdot discussions are frequently banal flamefests, but this comment takes the biscuit. (Kudos to Feòrag for drawing it to my attention.) It's surprisingly grammatical for a slashdot flame, which on its own is enough to make me smell a rat -- but the way it rapidly accelerates in an outward-bound direction from terra firma, before losing contact with reality as it goes ballistic, makes me suspect that this is not your usual slashdot-reading troll but something far rarer and more interesting:

Perhaps the single worst symptom of the general level of incompetence throughout the publishing industry remains the odious Teresa Nielsen Hayden. An editor who dotes on calling writers "twerps" and "idiots," she adores infantile name-calling like "auctorial insanity." Meanwhile, Hayden's own spavined prose sticks to the ear like congealed bacon fat, riddled with "to be" constructions of the kind that would embarrass a high school essayist.

Don't get me wrong. Excellent writers abound in science fiction - they just can't get published. Kathe Koje and Carter Scholz some to mind -- but, guessed it. These superb writers barely squeeze into print once per leap year, while third-rate wannabes like Bruce Sterling and burn-outs who've made a career of rehashing their one good novel like William Gibson , and inept thugs like Teresa Nielsen Hayden rise to the top of the heap.

Whimper. Where to begin ...?

This has got to be a troll. Megatrope isn't so much wrong-headed as travelling at high subsonic speed down an alien reality tunnel: the thumbnail description of Gibson's recent novels doesn't bear any resemblance to the books I read -- is Megatrope somehow confusing Gibson with Samuel Delaney? Moreover Megatrope registered their slashdot ID very recently and has never posted another comment or, indeed, anything. But there's more: Megatrope is simply too damned literate to be your normal slashdot reading gruntmonkey. There's an axe-grinding agenda at work here, and it smells highly fishy.

The authors Megatrope likes are indeed good at their trade, but blaming TNH for their absence from print implies that publishing is some kind of zero-sum game, and one editor could somehow swing the entire publishing industry around and force everyone to ditch the odious grandfathers of cyberpunk, in order to replace them with Megatrope's idea of something good, thus reforming the genre. It's ridiculous, on the face of it -- and indeed, Megatrope's real plaint is that Teresa Neisen Hayden is responsible for the state of SF publishing as we know it. Smell the heady aroma of crank-case lube emanating from the slashdot flame! For see, Megatrope's real complaint isn't that they doesn't like Bruce Sterling's novels, it's that evil New York editors are keeping the Good Stuff out of print.

I suppose I should close by saying that the weirdest aspect of the whole business is that Megatrope is actually quite good at the ragged-assed polemic (even if their opinion of various recent novels are about 80% divorced from consensus reality.) Indeed, as Megatrope writes:

Bruce Sterling excels, all right...but not as a novelist.

His speciality? The chautauqua. A hallelujah-I-done-found-Jesus William Jennings Bryan old-fashioned rabble-rousing speech. Sterling does great chautauqua. His rip-roaring rodomontade "A Contrarian View Of Open Source" remains by orders of magnitude the best piece of persiflage Sterling ever wrote.

This is halfway true, but as a paragraph it works equally well if you file off the serial numbers and drop Megatrope's own name in. It's easier to write a short, tight, controlled rant than a novel; after all, in a novel you've got room for the discursive structure to go all over the place and wander in and out of its own intestines before tying itself in a knot and dying of the literary equivalent of toxic megacolon. Right?

Which leads me to ask, is Megatrope by any chance an embittered refugee from the Tor slushpile? And does their arrival on a slashdot thread I started mean that I'm about to pick up my very own critical stalker?

[Link (caution, flammable)] [Link(review][Discuss writing]

posted at: 17:31 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

How Not To Do It (Links)

Wow. That Salon magazine piece on the midlist writer's quandry has really triggered some foaming and pontificating by real midlist writers. Here's a sample of Nick Mamatas venting:

The following do not necessarily make you wise: getting cancer, growing up po', growing up wealthy but in a former imperial holding, having a miscarriage, marrying well, paying $275 per square foot for an apartment, extramarital affairs, being very well-read, having a blog with lots of readers, living out in the woods and peeing in a creek, worrying aloud about how authentic you are, declaring that you'll leave the country if a Republican is elected, and giving birth to an autist.

(Go read the rest; you know you want to.)

Over in the blue corner, John Scalzi is also getting irritable:

Articles like this just enrage the hell out of me and make me think that my tribe is populated by jerks with a sense of entitlement the size of a hot air balloon (and as subject to the random winds). Are authors as a class this disconnected to the real world? My personal experience tells me no, but then again most of the writers I know are genre writers, who despite their fanciful subject matter seem to be grounded in the realities of the economics of writing books. I doubt this woman writes science fiction or romance.

And he also has some kick-ass general advice for authors.

Finally, Teresa weighs in in Making Light, which means the rest of us puny mortals can relax because The Authority Has Spoken. Or something like that. The comments, in particular, are worth reading because Teresa has probably got more jobbing midlist authors in her regular correspondents than Jane Austen Doe has met in her whole damn career. And, funnily enough, most of them are being rude about Doe's apparent sense of entitlement.

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 11:30 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

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Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

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