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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Discussing Published Hooks & Books » WHO FEARS DEATH - continued

   
Author Topic: WHO FEARS DEATH - continued
Denevius
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Kathleen, feel free to delete this post or lock it, but I think this is an important point. Sorry. However, I'll only try posting it once if you're insistent that this is breaking Hatrack decorum.

***
quote:
P: White authors are run down an devalued by literary elite.
Really?

In 2014, five books were nominated for a Hugo, and one won. The authors' names are:

1) Ann Leckie
2) Charles Stross
3) Mira Grant
4) Robert Jordan
5) Larry Correia

Do you know what these people have in common? They're all white.

In 2014, five novellas were nominated for a Hugo, and one won. The authors' names are:

1) Catherynne M. Valente
2) Andy Duncan
3) Brad Torgersen
4) Dan Wells
5) Charles Stross

Do you know what these people have in common? They're all white.

In 2014, six novels were nominated for the Nebula Awards, and one won. The authors' names are:

1) Katherine Addison
2) Charles E. Gannon
3) Ann Leckie
4) Jack McDevitt
5) Jeff VanderMeer
6) Ken Liu

Do you know what five out of six of those people have in common? Five out of six of those people are white.

In 2014, six novellas were nominated for a Nebula. The authors' names are:

1) Daryl Gregory
2) Nancy Kress
3) Ken Liu
4) Mary Rickert
5) Lawrence M. Schoen
6) Rachel Swirsky

Do you know what five out of six of those people have in common? They're all white.

Also, the two non-white authors are Asian, probably Chinese. No blacks, Indians, Mexicans, Native Americans. Two major science fiction and fantasy awards which, combined, nominated 20 white people and 2 non-white people.

So if there is a "literary elite" devaluing white authors, they're doing an awful bad job of it as of last year.

quote:
Mediocre book by non-white author has won a half-dozen prestigious awards.

Prove they're mediocre. Sure, you have an opinion, and I have an opinion. Neither of our opinions trump the other, so we're left to seeing what the novels have sold and what they've achieved.

WHO FERAS DEATH currently has a 110 ratings on Amazon.com. Of those ratings, 63% are five stars, 23% are four stars, 9% are three stars, and 5% are two stars. There are no one star reviews on Amazon for WHO FEARS DEATH.

WHO FEARS DEATH currently has 3342 reviews on Goodreads. 31%, or 1053 ratings are five stars. 37%, or 1263 ratings are four stars. 22%, or 740 ratings are three stars. 6%, or 222 ratings are two stars. And 1%, or 64 ratings are one star.

JSchuler, your opinion of a book you admit to not having read, and probably never having heard of until I posted this, is that it's mediocre. My opinion is that it's a great book. My opinion is not only backed by the majority of readers, but also major publications.

Or are you talking about other mediocre books by non-white authors that are best sellers and have won major awards undeservingly? What title are you talking about? What's makes them mediocre, besides your opinion? Do their sales, awards, and customer reviews prove your point?

I highly doubt it.

quote:
C: Awards were given because author is non-white.

If it makes you feel better to believe that non-whites are underserving of the very, very few major literary awards they win, so be it. But none of your claims are based on reality.

quote:
P: Mediocre book by non-white author has won a half-dozen prestigious awards.
What awards and in what abundance? I gave you my list. What's yours? Reveal all of these inferior non-white authors who have won the "half dozen" major literary awards.

quote:
P: Mediocre book by white author has won a half-dozen prestigious awards.

More like almost all. Go through the list of major literary awards, as to make a statement like this I'm confident you have very little idea who has been nominated for said awards.

quote:
C: Awards were given because author is white.

Enough mediocre fiction like REDSHIRTS by white authors have won major awards that this seems the more *logical* conclusion to draw.

quote:
Scalzi has made an argument that he is one such author, but to do so he relies on a completely different set of premises, and it would be ridiculous to argue that there must be a mediocre black author who has won undeserved awards in order for Scalzi's argument to be true.

I have no idea what this means.
***

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JSchuler
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
Kathleen, feel free to delete this post or lock it, but I think this is an important point.

In order to have an important point, you must be responsive to what has been posted on the topic already. You are not. Instead, as demonstrated repeatedly, you are responding to a feverish delusion of your own making. You are not interested in understanding any point of view other than your own, and insist upon making a fun-house mirror version of other's words. The screed you posted above further demonstrates that, although the most vile exhibit is on display near the end of the previous thread.
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Denevius
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So I take it this means the mediocre non-white writers who've won "half a dozen" major literary awards won't be listed.

Generally speaking, it's probably not the best idea to be quite so critical of a book you haven't read.

Anyway, I can sense Kathleen is itching to lock this thread as well, and I appreciate the favor of letting me respond to the last comment of the previous thread.

JSchuler, you so kindly offered me the last word quite some time ago:

quote:
Anyway, we are far afield. I respectfully give you the last word on this subject if you wish it.

Even though now as I re-read it, I think I would have had to have asked your permission or something since it would have been my 'wish'. I don't ask for the last word, but if the thread's going to be locked anyway, I suppose no one else has to answer, if that's *their* wish.

EDITED TO ADD: though I would have *loved* to have read Phil's narrative take of a preteen girl going through female circumcision, and the emotional, physical, and metal aftermath of the procedure. That would have been interesting to read I'm sure.

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JSchuler
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quote:
Generally speaking, it's probably not the best idea to be quite so critical of a book you haven't read.
I haven't criticized the book at all. You would have had to actually read my posts in order to get that, though. And that's not as fun as frothing at the mouth, is it?
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Grumpy old guy
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Let's make certain you know what I'm talking about.

Read THIS!

However, after a little research there is little point,your revered author is probably a supporter of this type of propaganda.

OMG, You're kidding

Phil.

[ June 25, 2015, 04:17 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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Denevius
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I can post a couple of links to Astrophysics. That doesn't mean I know anything about it, it just means I have full access to the internet and knowledge of how to cut & paste.

I'm attempting to give you the benefit of the doubt, and since as of yet, Kathleen has been kind enough not to lock this thread, you still have the opportunity to show, in your own words, what female circumcision is like to a preteen girl.

This is a writing website, after all, and you currently have a captured audience.

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Grumpy old guy
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The benefit of what doubt? The fact that you can't tell the difference between the words, "I may . . ." and, "I do . . ."

This is, after all, a writing website but simple comprehension seems beyond your ken. Not once in this entire thread, apart from within the confines of your delusions, have I ever asserted that I know more about what it is to be a woman than a woman. That is simply a product of your own irrational need to validate your opinion when challenged.

I need do nothing more; you have revealed yourself to the world for what you are and are condemned by your own words. My task is done.

Phil. [Smile]

[ June 25, 2015, 08:48 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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Robert Nowall
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I was hoping this was still up.

I *have* seen some pretty bad work (in my opinion) that's been published. Now it's possible others might disagree with me, but in some of the cases I took another look back at it, and didn't see any reason to revise my opinion.

I think some writers who published classics also, later on, published some sub-standard work. Sub-standard at least by their earlier standards. For example, I think the late lamented "Big Three" of science fiction (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein) all published things late in life that didn't measure up to their earlier work---often of some interest, but just not as good as what they've done before.

I also think a certain amount of cronyism comes up in publishing---if a writer has an "in" with the publisher or editor, maybe they can palm off sub-standard work on them for a while.

Also, I know of at least one writer, whose works were successful in that they sold well, whose publisher was politically pressured to drop him and his work---the writer who went by "John Norman," who wrote the "Gor" series. (Now, I wasn't impressed by the one book in the series I read---in fact, it was one of those cases of "pretty bad work that was published"---but I know the series was successful, in that it sold well, right up until the publisher dropped it.)

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Grumpy old guy
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I enjoyed reading John Norman's Gor series, although I would categorise most of it as soft porn.

Most were enjoyable reads for all that.

Phil.

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Scot
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What gets published is basically an economic decision, answering the question, "What do we think will sell and make money." What gets awards (including positive Amazon reviews) is a decision based on the award-givers' personal preferences and evaluations.

None of those decisions gives a Final Judgment of Quality. And none of those decisions constrain my decision (a la Harold Bloom vs 35 millions). Contrariwise, the ongoing attention to Shakespeare is due partly to the efforts of certain award-givers to promote what they feel is high quality.

Personally I think that Occam's Razor makes this explanation more plausible than most conspiracy theories.

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extrinsic
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For a side-by-side, as near apples-to-apples comparison as possible, below, the opening paragraphs of writings by two award-winning, black, female, U.S. fantastical fiction writers. Though one is a novelette and one is a novel.

Of note and a standout signal of lazy writing for both is uses of "it" for sentence expletives and otherwise vague subject antecedents. Butler, once; Okorafor, four. None are warranted, unless the claim they write in their audiences' conversational "voices," which appeals, holds water. Doesn't hold water; one, because a stronger, less cloudy, less blandly repetitive, less lazy, more appealing, even for the audiences, diction substitutes emotive and evocative subjects with emotionally amplified terms and stronger and clearer details, not less strong and altogether empty pronouns and inconsequential details.

The first, "It didn't matter." for example. By proximity default, the antecedent subject is "eat the other one alone." The sentence expletive's sentence is as empty of meaning as its expletive, though an idiom of dubious value.

However, Butler only uses one pronoun expletive in the same real estate to Okorafor's four expletive pronouns. Expletive to mean empty of meaning.

Two, lazy writing teaches that lazy writing is okay. Okay? No. Lazy grammar signals lazy craft, lazy expression, lazy appeal appreciation. More anon.

Both narratives are first person. Both establish a relative time setting in their first sentences. Both narratives entail ethnic what-it-means to be human concepts, though Butler's decidedly discovers a moral truth. Okorafor's asserts a moral law from begging the question; that is, assumes the conclusion of the moral argument: ethnic bias is morally unethical. That is evidenced by no set up of the argument's claim to begin with in either the blurb or the opening sample. Note that the first sentences of both establish the theme of the whole: coming of age maturation and then go on to kinship influences. However, Okorafor's soon strays into more setup without refinement of the maturation theme, for focus on the moral claim asserted. Butler's gets to maturation and kinship influence refinements of the ethnicity thesis timely soon.

Bloodchild
Octavia Butler
My last night of childhood began with a visit home. TíGatoiís sister had given us two sterile eggs. TíGatoi gave one to my mother, brother, and sisters. She insisted that I eat the other one alone. It didnít matter. There was still enough to leave everyone feeling good. Almost everyone. My mother wouldnít take any. She sat, watching everyone drifting and dreaming without her. Most of the time she watched me.

Who Fears Death
Nnedi Okorafor
My life fell apart when I was sixteen. Papa died. He had such a strong heart, yet he died. Was it the heat and smoke from his blacksmithing shop? It's true that nothing could take him from his work, his art. He loved to make the metal bend, to obey him. But his work only seemed to strengthen him; he was so happy in his shop. So what was it that killed him? To this day I can't be sure. I hope it had nothing to do with me or what I did back then.

Please define "serious literary awards," "Serious" particularly.

For example, Octavia Butler received the much coveted MacArthur Fellowship Award, first science fiction writer to win the prize. By my sense of the term "serious," that is a serious literary award. Butler also won the Hugo and Nebula awards for her novelette Bloodchild, and she won several other serious as well as less "serious" popularity awards.

Butler's writing compared and contrasted side by side to Okorafor's doesn't wring any loud bells tangibly, though. Intangibly, subtle cues at least that Butler recognized the customs of her chosen genre and applied them, as well as her unique slants that distinguished her from other writers, and full and fresh realization of the moral condition themes her narratives discover, not assert moral laws through a beg-the-question assumption of an argumentation's conclusion.

Anon now. Butler wrote no "Abbess Phone Home" narratives, a cheap and lazy device where a fantastical motif is tacked onto an otherwise contemporary milieu, that is beyond extrinsic to a plot and neither sets nor keeps a plot in motion (MacGuffins at least serve those functions), in anticipation fantastical fiction publishers are less discerning screeners than others. The Abbess phenomena takes its name from an apocryphal narrative in which a long-suffering abbess medicine healer serves her abbey faithfully though lovelorn and to whom much strife is done. The abbess signals her home world that she's done paying penance for some never-disclosed offense. The end. A woe-is-me victimism narrative. Paraphrased from the Turkey City Lexicon.

The term "speculative" fiction was picked up from literary culture by fan fiction writers and transmitted across recent fantastical fiction culture by them. The term is meant to encompass all prose that contains any fantastical motif: science, technology, magical-mythical, spiritual-paranormal horror, etc. The term speculative fiction originated to distinguish narratives which incorporate one or more fantastical motifs though those motifs have little or no bearing on a plot's action; in other words, little or no influence on or agency for the central action, plus little if any emblematic or symbolic representation. They are static motifs, like world-building overburden, perhaps used for cultural versimilitude -- milieu development. Abbess Phone Home narratives fit that definition of speculative fiction, artlessly too.

Who Fears Death is a speculative fiction in the above regards and an Abbess Phone Home novel. How can I possibly draw those conclusions if I haven't closely read the entire novel? Because if the novel was deftly composed, the clues of its fantastical and moral motifs and their connections, what the novel is earnestly and really about would be in the opening sample and at least cued up in the blurb. There are none.

[ June 25, 2015, 02:21 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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This topic would be interesting if people would stick to the writing aspects instead of focusing on the politics.

We're not here for polemics, people.

Denevius, you have posted your point well more than once. I even allowed you the last word in the other topic. Please leave it at that.

I am very tired of looking at the mess of pulped tissue that was a dead horse days ago and now just stinks and oozes.

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Denevius
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Extrinsic, you have a gold standard, and that's fine. Everyone deserves their personal aesthetic. But it's just that, as you admit: your opinion.

quote:
Of note and a standout signal of lazy writing for both is uses of "it" for sentence expletives and otherwise vague subject antecedents.
So for you, if this is a sign of lazy writing, groovy. You kind of beat the same drum for most prose you analyze, to a point that it's become easier to dismiss it all as 'Extrinsic's golden standard for writing'. Fiction not meeting this standard doesn't mean that it's not good prose, great prose, gifted prose. It just means that if you were the CEO of the publishing world, you'd shape all fiction to read and write in a very, very particular style.

I actually think it's good for you to hear someone say bluntly, "You're wrong." Kathleen thinks it's crass, but you're so steadfast and unwavering in your convictions of what makes good prose good, and sometimes when people are fanatical about a theme, they need to simply hear others say, "You know what, man, right now you're wrong. Sometimes you're right, but sometimes you're wildly off in your estimations."

So okay, you've written another long, dense post extremely similar to many, many other long, dense posts justifying why Extrinsic is right and the rest of the publishing world and a slew of readers are wrong. Great, congratulations. The bottom line is that Nnedi Okorafor has proven her writing in not only the public sphere but also the literary award sphere. And part of achieving this is that sometimes she'll get people who appreciate her high writing talents, such as me, and those who think her writing is lazy, such as you.

Art is subjective. One person's mess of colors on the wall is another person's Jackson Pollock.

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Denevius
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quote:
Denevius, you have posted your point well more than once. I even allowed you the last word in the other topic. Please leave it at that.

So I'm the one who's wrong here?

Either way. Say the word, and I'll drop out of the thread.

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extrinsic
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An undiscovered moral truth about opinions, literary or otherwise, is they are an individual's socially conscious and responsible contributions to and participations in the conversation that is the meaning of life.

A grammar is a living implicit social contract, for example, of how individuals are best advised to cooperatively, persuasively, socially, responsibly participate in a situationally (rhetorical situation, method, subject matter, occasion, and audience) appropriate conversation, like prose.

[ June 25, 2015, 05:54 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Who Fears Death is a speculative fiction in the above regards and an Abbess Phone Home novel.

Well, given that the protagonist displays magical powers right in the first chapter, and that these and "destiny" are apparently key elements of the story's plot, I don't see how the Abbess Phone Home label applies here. Which is not to say the story might not have the particular things you look for in a fantasy novel; but perhaps it does for other readers.

As to whether the Octavia Butler sample is better than the Nnedi Okorafor sample, well I agree with you on that one. But to be fair the Butler opening is probably superior to most fantasy story openings; and in fact Bloodchild won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novelette in its year.

In any event the "abbess phone home" notion does raise an interesting point about the blurb. Why is it necessary to locate this story in a post-apocalyptic future? It's seldom necessary to locate a fantasy story in any more specific timeframe than "once upon a time", and indeed most epic fantasy takes place in what can best be thought of as parallel universes whose cultures have coincidental parallels to our own history. This gives the author the full run of whatever he wants to take from the dress-up chest, with no inconvenient arguments over whether medieval Europeans had chimneys, tobacco, or furnaces that could melt cast iron.

So I wonder if the blurb puts the reader in the wrong frame of mind to approach this story (i.e., extrapolating forward from the specifics of whatever our model of Africa "as it really is now" may be).

Frequently I see both blurbs and story openings founder by rushing to orient the reader on matters that don't mean anything yet. The best part of Planet of the Apes is the big reveal at the end, but it's only good because it comes at the end. If it were a novel most writers would have shoehorned that into the first chapter, and a few impatient souls would put it on the blurb so there would never be a moment's doubt.

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Denevius
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quote:
A grammar is a living implicit social contract, for example, of how individuals are best advised to cooperatively,
Gotta love these absolutes. "Best advised to cooperatively..." Best advised by who? I've never heard this before, nor do I find it necessary to
quote:
persuasively, socially, responsibly participate in a situationally (rhetorical situation, method, subject matter, occasion, and audience) appropriate conversation
.

I disagree with you. Conversations, as well as prose, are about connecting with your reader. A certain proficiency with grammar and sentence construction is probably needed, that's true. But that proficiency isn't decided by Extrinsic.

I do agree with one thing JSchuler said. We *are* far apart in our perspectives here. I actually felt that Extrinsic's suggestion that Nnedi Okorafor is a lazy writer who achieved what she did because she wrote black characters in a black setting warranted a warning from the moderator, Kathleen. In my opinion, that poisoned the conversation, and then to have JSchulder double down on it by saying that that's a "logical" conclusion because of the publishing industry further polluted the dialog.

Both of these comments should have been giving warnings about injecting politics in a thread that's supposed to be about the writing. No warnings were forthcoming. My point for starting the thread was to talk about writing, specifically the blurb. Extrinsic went political on that, and seems truly mystified why that got a reaction.

But we all come from different backgrounds, and what's toxic to one person is medicine to another. Groovy, I'm a big boy, I don't mind pointing out the absurdity in this line of thinking. And since we come from different perspectives, I'm not surprised that somehow my pointing out the absurdity of Extrinsic's initial comments is what got red flagged by the moderator.

Extrinsic can have his beliefs of why Nnedi Okorafor won the 2011 Fantasy awards for best novel, why she's published 8 books, why she's a bestseller, and why she was nominated for a Nebula. But he should have only stuck A) to the blurb, and B) not to detailed criticisms of a book he admits to not having read.

quote:
Why is it necessary to locate this story in a post-apocalyptic future? It's seldom necessary to locate a fantasy story in any more specific timeframe than "once upon a time"...
This is not common for other post-apocalyptic blurbs? The first line of the blurb for THE HUNGER GAMES.

quote:
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts.
A place "once known as North America" means a far future, right? Notice they just don't say, "Once upon a time." Ruins implies post-apocalyptic, doesn't it?
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