The Secret Language and Signs of Insecure Fandom.
|Slight rant - old news - but this is what these are for - |
I think when you get to a point where you interact with the genre/literature community, and particularly portions of the fan base via message boards for a long time and actively, you eventually will have disagreements regarding various work, which causes normal people to often start with wonderful, and often insightful discussions about a book or a range of books by an author, or the industry itself. One may learn nothing or learn a lot; but this is what communities are about (at least it would seem the most obvious function) - and for this they are invaluable resources both for information and simply talking about a subject two people, or more often a group of people both have a passion about. Unfortunately, not all people are normal; they bring their insecurities, their self-imposed inadequacies with them on the net, which seems counter-productive in regards to the anonymity the net is supposed to offer. Certainly, everyone is insecure about something, perhaps many things - it however is mind boggling that one is insecure about what books they enjoy and feel the necessity to lash out as if personally assaulted if somebody makes remarks regarding books they enjoy. I meet people I disagree with everyday. Rob Bedford didn't enjoy Moorcock's 'Cornelius Quartet', I don't hound him all across the net about it; JP doesn't enjoy Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' - I don't visit his blog or forum he inhabits and troll him about the matter; I certainly don't begrudge them any, and I can enter discussion with either of them, whether regarding those subjects or otherwise without hostility; veiled or otherwise. I would say all 3 of us are certainly opinionated and are able to get our point across (and quite overbearingly if need be). Why is this? Because normal people differentiate critique of inanimate objects from critiquing a reader. Don't get me wrong; I may think someone is a dumbass - but it isn't because you read Terry Goodkind. You were probably a dumbass long before that - the fact that your read Goodkind only adds to your title of a dumbass with bad taste in reading selection. I recently reviewed Sean Wright's 'Twisted Root of Jaarfindor', which had elements I enjoyed and some I didn't (as reflected in my review) and a Mr. Self obviously thought less of it than I did and decided to come to Fantasybookspot.com and interject. Disaster right? Flame war right? No. Normal people are able to disagree and still find discussions worthwhile, and more importantly with no loss of face. Now to those that don't qualify as 'normal' -- I will call them idiots for purposes of apt categorization -- and their secret language. The numbers of such people remind me of a Japanese saying "Chiesha hitori baka mannin" which translates to something close to 1 Wiseman among 10,000 idiots. Now that's probably too extreme, it does, however, reflect the feeling one or a few 'idiots' can make a community that is otherwise enjoyable and populated with sensible people. Now mind you, again my opinion has nothing to do with anyone's preferences in reading - merely how one reacts to critique of their preferred reading. I am writing this because in the last couple of days I have witnessed and been the subject of some interesting points - and I decided to define them, as I am unable to do properly due to moderation, which I can admittedly deem appropriate. I'm not mentioning names, for the fact most that will read this would have no clue who these people are anyway, and I'm not attempting personal rebuttal as much as discussing the subject:
"I'm also a descent enough human being to not go to another authors website and say things like "he's ok, but his writing is subpar compared to a, b, c, d, etc. etc. etc"
Although I'm not sure what a 'decent human being' is, I'm more baffled as how do these two issues correlate. Besides from many numerous Blog/Journals I frequent, I am a member of numerous Message boards, some author related, some general genre or literature boards. The author related boards I frequent include, but are not limited to boards dedicated to George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, RA Salvatore, Stephen Donaldson, Tolkien, and Steven Erikson. I enjoy all those authors in varying degrees, however, I could name many authors I prefer or admire more than each and every one of them (not to mention authors whose work I think less off). I don't bullshit - at the Martin forum a discussion arose regarding Martin/Mieville/Moorcock several weeks ago, I love George R.R. Martin's work but one is not going to see me state he has more of an impact than Moorcock or that I prefer his work over Mieville. If somebody asks me about a work and compare it to RA Salvatore (whom I have tremendous respect for) or Tolkien, or VanderMeer etc - I give them the truth as I subjectively see it. I don't change my favorite authors, to correlate with the community I'm posting in at the moment. I do not see how that is either distasteful or reason to take offense - much less a reflection of one's humanity. I just don't see the leap of faith involved in saying that Gene Wolfe is more of a talented author than -- I don't know -- Margaret Weiss. Does anyone else? If so, and although this seems to be rather politically incorrect (regarding genre) does their opinion really matter? Being a sub-par writer compared to Gene Wolfe is no insult. There are very few writers who that doesn't properly describe! I just don't like the implied message that one cannot go to an author-based forum without the inclination to think of that author as the pinnacle to literature. That's the ultimate sign of insecurity. I want to illustrate another example, this is what somebody posted at a forum:
"Some of the new titles from the Dabel Brothers will include:
My response to this post was this:
"Thanks for the news TK:)
Simple right? No problem right? Perfectly innocent reply, thanking the poster for the info right? No - here is a reaction I got a couple hours later from that very post, describing what he just knew "I really meant":
"Translation: Who cares if there going to be a R.A. Salvatore's The Highwayman comic adaptation".
If such people were a fraction as insightful as they thought (or perhaps dreamed) they were, they may actually have something to offer in discussions regarding books/literature. Most of the times these babies are not to be seen in any such discussion that’s subject matter is more relevant than a simpleton versus thread
Same topic, the person makes up more information trying to illustrate my "reputation", quoting a post I made at a totally different site (a live journal) and bringing it over to the forum. My comment was made when an author announced his book was being released early and this is what I stated (directed to the author) at his live journal that I frequent quite a bit:
"Talk about terrible timing! Have a lot on my must-read pile at the moment; perhaps will get to it at a later date - but thanks for the heads up."
The person (the idiot) interpreted that comment as me saying:
"Translation: You are not a good enough writer for me to give any priority to your book."
What the fuck, right? Note, this author I am accused of slamming is somebody whom although I didn't interview personally I sought to get interviewed at Fantasybookspot.com (which he was), and somebody I have actively supported not only here - but everywhere. Word to the wise - If your going to attack somebody regarding there reading biases, it helps if that person you are attacking doesn't have a history of supporting every example you name, and that they don't have a bigger platform in responding to you after you make an ass out of yourself. Of course I received the message from moderation - as you can see I started the issue.
Another common defense (spurred by insecurity) - the cry of literary elitism:
"Just because and many of us here, happen to thoroughly enjoy RAS and Ed and Thomas, you look down your nose at us, and treat us as if we are all so very far beneath your intellect and knowledge"
No, the fact that these types of people may or may not be beneath me in any way has nothing to do with their reading preferences. These are the same people who never enter any applicable discussion about books in question. They don't have the time to offer their opinion and discuss books (again the point of these message boards), but apparently have only the time to scream "quit making fun of me" to somebody (me) who didn't know they even existed before the whining began. I already remarked on my thoughts of the term "literary elitism" on this blog when I said the response of 'elitism' is a personal attack - often a last resort in argument that has nothing else to use as a platform. If somebody can't tell me the merits of their book in a discussion (at a genre message board) than please give others who offer an opinion the respect deserved from those who never have one until they start whining If someone doesn't agree with an opinion about an author or particular work, post something, offer your perspective; such interaction is most welcome; if not - don't place a value on someone else's opinion without offering one of your own. How do people call anyone out on their subjective opinion, when they have none of their own?
Now, one aspect about message boards that I think adds to a certain sense of perceived aloofness is that although there are certainly some members whose posts I enjoy reading more than others I don't "like" or "dislike" individual posters. I rarely post in non-genre related portions of boards simply because to be blunt, and not in any way condemning the practice or others who do, I don't look for any level of friendship on boards. I don't care what goes on in their lives, I don't' care about their children, I don't care what happened to them that day, I don't care about what you do for a living, and I certainly don't care if it's your birthday. This of course doesn't include personal journals/blogs whom if I visit obviously I have some interest in, but generally at message boards, it's not a matter of disliking, it's a matter of simple disattachement from anything except genre topics (although I'm a sucker for Football threads). I visit genre boards to talk about the genre - not to get to know people, which is not a statement saying they aren't worth it - just that my goal doesn't include finding out either way. I can talk about non-genre subjects and "hang out" with my friends - not the computer. I think this personal disattachement is why when I see personal attacks thrown at people (or myself) I am surprised people can possibly care about how somebody presents their opinions on books - and if they do why are they never involved in any discussions?
Another aspect about message boarding that I thought was absurd until earlier this year, but was taught differently while visiting the Frame Shift forums, is the practice of not being ambiguous. If your opinion is important enough to post - claim it. When someone emails me or calls me Jay - that's my name. I thought if I was going to critique work or even debate other fans, one might as well be stand-up enough to attach their name to it. Certainly in some instances I understand for professional reasons people do not - but I think such instances are limited. There are certain places I haven't changed my screen name over (sheer laziness) - but most people are familiar with who I am (as most of us all visit the same boards/communities), and can attach applicable opinions to me. Kudos to the Frame Shift folks for bringing to my attention the merits of not hiding behind screen names - it really makes a lot of sense. I just feel strange arguing with SuperSaiyanDrizzt, and it's hard to take anyone seriously that uses that as a screen name. In my past of course I used a screen name, and I can see the reasoning for the practice among children - but if you want to be taken seriously it makes sense. Certainly their are a few online personalities that are above this due to content but I think most would agree 95% of the content on message boards is highly irrelevant.
Some key definitions:
-"your arrogant" - this means that at one time or another you commented on a book they enjoyed with an opinion that doesn't match their own - and most likely in a manner that supercedes what they are capable of replying to.
-"Literary Elitism" - As said above, is a personal attack - often a last resort in argument that has nothing else to use as a platform.
-"I avoid threads you participate in" - this means they disagree with you on many issues, perhaps even fundamentally (which is no fault at all - as I said discussion is always welcome) but they don't have the prowess to articulate themselves in a manner beyond saying I avoid threads you participate in.
-"Well I like the moral value the book portrays" - this means the person has attached their faith with a book and is going to ignore elements like prose, characterization, plot, and relevance. This comment cannot be defeated without being tried for heresy online and risking excommunication. These are the same people who find Jesus in Gandalf, yet for some reason don't see any religious overtones in C.S. Lewis's work.
-"I only read for entertainment (or fun)" - I honestly don't know what this means - doesn't everyone? For myself, I'm not reading Dhalgren because I'm punishing myself - I'm reading for enjoyment. Some minds can appreciate lesser work - the motivation behind reading does not change however.
"What Fantasy book are you going to find originality in anyway?" - Honestly, it very hard to say, and it's a cop out question. When most people state they are looking for original work, or call another work unoriginal, what they mean is "individual". Example: Terry Brooks is neither remotely original nor can you find anything remotely individual about his books (also see Paolini). Gene Wolfe's wonderful Wizard/Knight duology is not really original at all - it is an individual work however (not to mention damn good). Another author who spins a traditonal tale but soaked in individual vision, and the talent, with both a undeniable emotional ingredient and draw is Gary Wassner. Wanting originality is not seeking an author without influence - such is impossible.
Why Message boards are still worth it:
I think it's safe to say most of us don't hang out with a group of Science Fiction and Fantasy fans on a daily basis. There is also author participation that is often the source of invaluable and insightful information on many boards - and yes some cats you meet online are just cool people (transcending the disattachement). I do see a shift of most of such people evolving from message boarding to blogs and journals however, which is an interesting occurrence I think.
Information is great on many boards. You want to talk about A Song of Ice and Fire theories? The Martin board has it on lock. Great ideas/theories over there. The Donaldson and Erikson forums also provide a wealth of information as well as various Tolkien communities, among several others. There are also a handful of boards that offer wonderful discussion, but unfortunately to keep it that way and police them - one has to accept the roll of a snob.
"You wouldn't say that to an authors face" - I have had the pleasure to communicate with dozens of authors, and especially lately regularly practice at emailing notices that I just reviewed their books. One will also find authors (particularly new ones) actively search for existing online reviews of their work. I dare say authors often practice at searching the name of their latest book on Google. I think one will find FBS's reputation among authors they have interviewed is exceptional. Most authors (reputable ones) respect candid opinions. Upon being contacted by, Scott Lynch, an author who has a book debuting next year that I was lucky enough to procure a early manuscript of, he earns instant credibility by saying to me "if you don't like it - trash it". Quality authors are not babies - this is what they do. They don't need self-important fandom to defend book related critique of their work with personal retorts at reviewers or community members. You do the author an injustice by attaching the stigma of having dumbass fans to him or her. For those (idiots) that may not know this: Most reviewers get their books from authors or their publisher. That author you are defending against negative comments? He sent me the book to slam.
Finding Personal Fault:
Definitely. Make no mistake, I have no problem telling somebody how stupid I think they are if provoked, especially when their points are asinine and proven wrong (see above). I am not a "turn the other cheek person" - but it's never out of any anger or something due to deeply vested emotional personal dislike or hate - while others I think respond in seriousness - I'm generally finding the humor in how easy it is to get people stirred up simply by saying your favorite work is recycled trash, or how people react to different posting styles. It's really incredible - roll a joint, count to ten, (whatever it is you do) chill out and have fun - nothing you do at an online community is worth taking that seriously. Some people act as if it's their real life. I don't, nor can I fathom the idea of anyone logging on to a forum with a feeling of superiority. I have communicated with too many people possessing greater knowledge and perspective than myself to do so. There is also an unfair expectation I guess. Do you ever go to a movie with someone - and they just miss the whole point? Well 75% of people who frequent some boards are those people. They are/were 18 year olds who thought Moby Dick was just a fishing story. Picaresque? Do you mean Picard-like? While online communities -- without doubt -- offer some tremendously knowledgeable people, it is unlike reality in that everyone is invited. You know how you can just choose not to hang out with that idiot in your class? You can't do that online. In reality at least most of them have the dignity to shut-up - which is probably why they go online, to pretend they have something to say, among the masses who don't have the luxury of knowing him/her to avoid.
What does all this mean?
I no longer post at SFFworld (a fine genre forum overall I suppose) but a recent thread there reminds us of a genre schism among the fan base, that creates many polarized communities. I think R. Scott Bakker in a past interview best described the two factions:
"For simplicity's sake, lets say this debate is between two well-defined groups (which it isn't), the 'literati' and the 'laymen,' with the former impugning epic fantasy, and the latter defending it.
It's a very even evaluation but I like this specifically: "Likewise, laymen should acknowledge the limitations of their appreciation, the fact that there's always more than what meets the eye. The problem here, however, is that this is humbling, and we tend to be conceited. It's far easier to call people pompous.". They key factor is I don't think anyone thinks somebody is incompetent for what books they read. I will bring back Gene Wolfe for an example. If I say I like author 'A' but I think Wolfe spins a similar tale better due to narrative use etc, etc, why would someone who has never read Wolfe feel threatened, much less try to argue the point? Why not go read Wolfe and find out for yourself, or if not - say nothing. There is no fault in simply not knowing - the fault is not recognizing you don't know and then lashing out because you don't.
This schism is unfortunate because frankly I admire (and with that despise) works in all branches of the Speculative Fiction, but honestly it has become a hassle to be such a fan online. What's killing the online fandom experience is not authors or publishers, what's killing the genre are the very same people who Gabe Chouinard said was killing literary SF a couple of years ago - the damn fans. Take a step back and look at some forum threads - seriously (and I include ones I have participated in) - can you believe you wasted time out of your life in some of these discussions? True story: at the beginning stages of Fantasybookspot.com I joined a number of boards (what you call spam I call advertising that paid off) - one of my stops was a Eragon (yes I realize it's one of the dumbest books in the last decade) board. I found one interesting thread inquiring about Luo Guanzhong's Romance of the Three Kingdoms (I know, shocker, but after all there is a video game inspired by it) and posted some info on it - later I received a PM from administration to not type long "to complex" posts as people there "don't read long-involved posts". My post may have been a paragraph long - and my four year old could understand the gist of it. Why maintain such a board? So 50,000 dumbasses can visit everyday and validate themselves due to the appearances of the other 49,999 dumbasses with 4 word posts?
I guess all I'm saying is that Sturgeon's Revelation hold true again in this regard, 90% of them are just shit and I'm gong to stop treating them as if they aren't - I tried to become politically correct due to FBS's growing exposure, and my affiliation with it It's too much on an inconvenience to comfort other people's shortcomings; get that from the books you read. Damn it, I'm just going to keep it real, while thinking what I think crosses every generation's mind once they reach a certain age - people didn't use to be this stupid. Of course, it is their life they can choose to be that way, but I found myself slipping into it myself, being drawn into it, and its become unacceptable. Siddhartha would wash his hands of this shit.
To the 10% of messageboard populations that make them truly worthwhile (and you know who you are - simply because you to recognize the other 90%) - you deserve extreme admiration - but you will never receive it from anyone but the other 10% who recognize the shit around them.
Some points of book interest:
-Kelly Shaw has her review up of China Mieville's Looking for Jake at Strange Horizons
-Looks like Alienonline is looking for suggestions about a remodel.
-Rob has Bakker's Thousandfold Thought! *writes nasty email*
-MSN named TV's Top 10 Scariest Characters . Pointer from Dark, But Shining.
-Joe Gordon tells us about a Graphic novel set in Silverberg's Majipoor Universe. Silverberg is a great author, especially of SF that readers need to take a look at. Check out the nice preview art.
-The Guardian with an article about judging people by book covers.
-Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos tells us how rich we made him at The Guardian.
-Umberto Eco interview in India Newspaper.
-Interesting numbers on sale boost that goes along with Booker Award winners reported by The Literary Saloon
-Chris Barzak tells us that his Language of Moths will be reprinted in 'The Best Fantasy of 2005'. Great short story, and the one short story I recommended for Cheryl's unofficial Hugo recommendations.
Paul S. Kemp starts his new book.
-Gary dropped me a line and told me Gabe apparently is back to blogging.
-I was reading Nick Mamatas' Live Journal, and it reminded me to order the new Ligotti!
-Matt Stover tells us why we can't wait for the new Caine novel!
Quote of the day:
My quote of the day is actually a journal entry I was directed to from Matthew Cheney's Mumpsimus, and the responses it received as well. Very honest entry by writer Olen Steinhaurer, about writing, the differences of the Big 'L', and Little 'L', writing as art, and accessibility. Excellent Stuff.
These People Exist:
I chose 2 that a forum member at Fantasybookspot.com directed me to that we can blame for happening on Rob's watch:):
"That Moorcock article is rubbish. He apparently writes non-fiction as badly as he writes fiction.
"The genre was started by Terry Brooks. I don't think anyone has damaged its reputation"
Regarding the first statement; let me just say this - read Mother London, and then ask yourself if your favorite genre author can write anything approaching its brilliance. In FBS's infancy we were visited by a fantastic new author K.J. Bishop, and at the time I made a comment to her "I never thought fantasy would become a place where I could actually have to say Moorcock is now underrated". What are we just losing our minds? That quote above is proof of the rank madness occurring at boards. If you forget Moorcock - you turn your back on relevant, progressive Fantasy and SF. Remember when Chris Rock asked, "Whatever happened to Crazzzy?". Seems like it's alive and well.
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