Cussedness Corner

"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane

My Biggest Gripe


I am sitting here staring again at the accumulation of evidence that there is some kind of conspiracy of ignorance in the ranks of the speculative fiction genre. At one time, I thought it was just horror that had this problem. I have come to realize that fantasy and science fiction also have it.

A couple of years ago, when I had my first Whispering in the Darkzone messageboard, we had a policy of no shameless promotion by self-published authors. Then lo and behold, a self-published author did it right and landed on the USAToday best-seller list. His chances of even breaking out to the slightest degree, according to Publisher’s Weekly, were roughly 1 in 300,000. To make it to that best-seller list, the odds were probably closer to 1 in 1 million.

Bad odds.  Yet, he beat them.

The book is The Shack.

It was accomplished by word of mouth and a $300.  advertising budget.

The difference between that book and all the other self-published wannabes was quality.

It’s a very well written novel.

Ghettos are not judged by the exceptions. They are judged by the rank and file who exist within it.

The rank and file are poorly written, largely un-proofed, with little or no editing.

However, it is not just the self-published who suffer from that. There are dozens and dozens of ezines out there that have the same low quality. The ‘editors’ don’t know how to edit. The fiction that appears on their pages is frequently poorly written, poorly characterized, and poorly thought out.

Take the writing of Mike Philbin, for instance.   His work is thinly disguised pornography.

I have edited porn. It does not pay well, but it puts groceries on the table. I used to laugh at the sentences and word choices — once I stopped wincing.

I have edited erotica. Some of it is very well written and it always has more plot than straight porn.

There is a level of language choice that separates one from the other. I remember a phrase from a porn novel that will always be with me, because it made me wince at the utter dreadfulness of the writing and language choice. “He penetrated my virgin poop-chute.”

It happened to be a male author writing under a female pseudonym and the book was written in first person.

The cringe factor just went up a level there.

I don’t think I need to explain why that sentence was so stupid.

Mike Philbin writes fiction that is very close in language choice and structure to that momumental piece of stupidity I got stuck editing because I needed grocery money.

Remember the old saying, “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’?

Mike Philbin, and the other members of the Legion of Nitwits think that you can force that horse’s head into the water and hold him there until he drinks.

That’s just plain stupid. The horse, or in this case the reader, will just haul off and kick you in the nards.

If readers wants to read porn, then they will buy porn.

If  readers wants to read speculative fiction in all of its various permutations, then the readers will buy it.

However, the reader who is looking for porn has no interest in reading spec fic. The reader looking for spec fic has no interest in reading about underage girls surrounded by cocks or a man awakened by a fornicating clock.

Insulting the reader is not the way to get readers.

Poor language choice, poor or non-existent research, flat one -dimensional characterization, and bad grammar will not win the majority or even a substantial minority of the readers out there.

Deep in the hearts of the nitwits, they crave that readership. But they want to force their poor work down the reader’s throat with a glass tube. “Come on, horsie drink.”

But it will never happen.

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2 comments on “My Biggest Gripe

  1. Mike Brendan
    May 14, 2008

    When you have a story people want to read, they’ll descend on it. That’s why I think “The Da Vinci Code” did so well, given the mood towards the Church among other things.

  2. cussedness
    May 14, 2008

    i remember reading about how some concepts are just waiting to happen and when they do, success follows. I think that holds true for books like “The Da Vinci Code” and the “Handmaiden’s Tale.” Another novel that I think was just waiting to happen is “Benighted.”

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Janrae Frank

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