Saturday, May 10, 2008

State of Hypocrisy

I have long condemned Crichton's novel State of Fear as a long, drawn out anti-environmentalist rant poorly disguised as a novel. "Paugh!" I said, (that's to be pronounced phonetically, with the 'augh' involving a stereotypically German level of phlegm.) "Doesn't he have the creativity to write a real work of fiction, instead of a redundant neocon editorial disguised as a thriller?"

Recently, a friend of mine has been actively pursuing my recommendations on novels, particularly the serious reading, as opposed to the fluff. For this reason, I've been confronted with my taste for Dystopian novels, cautionary tales, and social commentary. (Feed, The Handmaid's Tale, and, of course, Fahrenheit 451 number amongst my favorites, in case you were interested).


Yes. While more sophisticated than Crichton's lambast of the environmental movement, each of these novels is, essentially, a rant (or social commentary, if you prefer) delivered via fiction. That is, the novel is a platform for these authors to express their political views. Now, this is somewhat less obvious in my favorite novels, since the politics espoused tend to be somewhat more transcendent than Crichton's 600 page jab. However, literary merit and staying power aside, Crichton and Bradbury appear to be utilizing their fiction in a similar manner - as a platform for their soapbox preachings about social ills.

Can then, the difference between my feelings toward Atwood and Crichton be reduced to mere political differences? My goodness, that makes my earlier criticisms somewhat hypocritical, does it not?

Well, yes and no.

My earlier criticisms are certainly less valid in light of my own literary preferences, but, the more I consider it, the less I think that hypocrisy was my problem (sheesh, rationalize much?). Instead, I appear to have misunderstood exactly what it was about the novel that raised my ire. Obviously it wasn't the politicization of fiction, since that's exactly what some of my favorite novels do. Instead, I'm becoming more convinced that I'm offended by the co-opting of science.

Part of why State of Fear is such a long novel is Crichton's extensive use of footnotes, charts, graphs, etc. They make the novel feel less like a novel, and more like a patronizing speech - thus my original complaint. However, I think my real problem is Crichton's pretension of scientific expertise. I don't think I need to really delve into why such a delusion is foolish as well as pretentious, but there's one part of his novel that really sums it up.

He finishes State of Fear with an afterward. In the afterward Crichton explains to us why the book's heavy-handed message is, in fact, true. So here Crichton is frankly and openly admitting that he believes the thematic basis of his book, a theme that he supports with what is essentially fake evidence.

In fact, Scientist Peter Doran wrote "... our results have been misused as “evidence” against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel “State of Fear."

Hopefully this prolonged rationalization session has been successful. Perhaps I've convinced you, along with myself, that not only am I not hypocritical, but I'm also justified in my righteous indignation.

Take that, Crichton!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Collective Editing?

Some good conversation going on here.

Basically, my take is that the "collective filter" idea as proposed by Lexy is spot on. However, it could be of great benefit to many individual writers (and therefore the web fiction community as a whole) for an editing process to be developed for writers of web fiction.

Yes, there is a certain level of community editing that occurs in the comments of the more successful serials, but small time authors never see it. And, anyway, those comments basically amount to copy editing, and what I'm suggesting is something different.

A good editor helps to fine tune and shape up writing in a multitude of non-grammatical ways. Editing can help an author recognize the relative strengths of his or her work, and how to push those, while minimizing the weaker parts of the manuscript.

Certainly, there are some examples of web fiction readership aiding an author in this way, but in my experience, this isn't the norm. Generally, the author gets some good copy editing alongside some crummy copy editing, and has to sort out the conflicting advice for themselves.

So, what am I suggesting?

I think an editorship collective could be an invaluable tool for web fiction authors. Perhaps the participants could be restricted to authors, or to writers, or other folks who put their words on the web, or perhaps anyone could participate. I certainly have neither the time nor expertise to coordinate something like this, but I would happily support any of you who chose to do so.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

CatchMe Drafts

Somebody shot this link my way. The author only has one story up so far, called "Off Guard," but it's a fairly intriguing entry. It's awfully short for a short story, but a bit long for microfiction (about 600 words). Regardless, it's an odd little tale, and I can't quite remember what it reminds me of.

I'm really not certain I agree with the point it makes about love and relationships, but, then again, I'm not certain the author does either, just the protagonist (antagonist? Like I said, it's a confusing little story).

Off Guard

Friday, May 2, 2008

Winnie and Walter

Warily we wondered what worth was wrapped within "Winnie and Walter."

The entire story is like that. It doesn't seem very impressive until you read all 450 words of it. It's wearying.

Much credit to the unknown 19th century author who generated this gimmicky gem.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

PU update

Lexy now has a Forum up at Pages unbound. I haven't spent too much time there (I've been a leetle bit busy lately), but there do seem to be some good discussions happening already.