I get email.
Normally I don't publish private correspondence, but sometimes — rarely — I feel like hanging someone out to dry ...
Hello, I'm citing your work for a debate article I'm using about space colonization and how it is improbable. I do need credentials however, and I've yet to find them online. If you could reply with your credentials that'd be great.From: me
(I assume he's talking about this; it's all over the internet, triggered a firestorm, and I keep getting gimme emails from content farms asking to reprint it.)
I'm a novelist, not an academic. If you want credentials, go look me up in wikipedia.From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Your time is clearly very valuable, as you would rather argue with me over this than simply take a minute or two to state your credentials. Furthermore, I have no need to know the extent of your writings, I simply need to know if you are indeed certified to be considered a credible source on the topic. For instance, if your credible knowledge is on the topic of slaads and borrowing from George R. R. Martin, you are not considered a credible source on space colonization. So let me just ask you this, why should I believe your article has any rational basis, when for all I know now is your true expertise lies in the githyanki.From: me
Define "credible source".From: email@example.com
Someone who has received some sort of higher level education on the topic they are claiming to state facts about. Someone whose words can be considered factual and veritable. Do you believe you fit this definition?From: me
Don't be silly; I'm just a multiple Hugo-award winning best-selling science fiction author. What do you think?From: firstname.lastname@example.org
I tell lies for money. Now fuck off, little student, and leave me alone.
I think that you shouldn't write articles under the mindset that you know what you're talking about, and not talking out of your ass. I'm not planning on writing any articles on the Fiend Folio monster compendium and Illithids (mostly because I'm not a socially awkward five year old), because about the subject. I suggest you do the same with your respective topics. My main point is that you as an author shouldn't write non-fiction topics on what you truly do not know about. Unless the mind controlling Illithids forced you to do so, in which case it's completely understandable (I hear they really fucked over the Githyanki race, what a tragedy).From: me
Listen, I'm a professional SF author. It's my job to study this stuff and write about it. Credentialism — expecting me to have a degree-level academic qualification — is pointless; I'm not looking for a job with a space sciences department at a university, or working for Bigelow Aerospace.From: email@example.com
You, I infer, are a student who's been asked to write an essay and cite your sources. You did a google search, ran across my essay, and you've got cold feet about citing it because I don't work for NASA. If you want to cite me, do so as "Charles Stross, SF author". That's all you need to do. That you don't do so, or actually had to go look me up in wikipedia, suggests to me that you've got quite a lot to learn about evaluating sources.
...Moral of story:
"My main point is that you as an author shouldn't write non-fiction topics on what you truly do not know about." That probably sounds like a great way of evaluating sources, if you work in an HR department. However, nobody actually knows a hell of a lot about the practicalities of space colonization because nobody's actually done that. If we were to take Mr Numpty's advice, nobody would write about space colonization. Ever. And we'd be the poorer for not having the debate.
(Incidentally, my last talk on the subject of the difficulty of space colonization went down okay in front of a postgrad seminar audience arranged by Strathclyde University's Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory. Will that do?)
Final thought: is the culture of spurious credentialism is toxic to intellectual exploration? Discuss.
(Addendum: In case it isn't obvious, please be aware that firstname.lastname@example.org isn't my anonymous correspondent's real email address. Please don't send email to that address. Update: #-symbol included to confuse the MTAs of anyone who doesn't read this far before exploding in front of the keyboard.)