Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On J.K. Rowling and Books

by Stephanie Osborn

By now many of you may be aware of a certain article on the Huffington Post which calls down J.K. Rowling and berates her for her work, and for not stepping aside to allow others to move up. I'm not linking to it because I don't want to give that kind of tripe the time of day, let alone the hits. I must admit it's caused a bit of a stir in writing circles.

But I am giving it some time of day now, because such thought is double-plus ungood. In fact, it's just plain stupid.

Larry Correia and me, waiting for a panel to start.

It came to my attention on Facebook the day it was published, and again the next day when a friend/fan tagged me with it. I'll paste my comment in below:
"I read the article last night. I was, frankly, shocked. Summmarized, the message was, 'You've made enough money now. Go away and let the rest of us have it instead.' 
"While I might debate the worthiness of a popular offering (ONLY if it is particularly bad), I would never EVER go so far as to say that ANY writer should ever stop writing. (Quite aside from the fact that it is, for any true writer, impossible to do.) 
"It's very much an entitlement viewpoint. I have no interest in it, or her.  
"And as many have already said, she caused me to lose all interest in reading anything she has ever written. If her logic is this faulty, I'm pretty sure I'd throw it through the window well before finishing it. And before someone tosses out the argument that I'm doing what she's been accused of doing (condemning without reading), I HAVE read something she wrote: I read this article. In detail. It's very much akin to my refusing to go see [the movie] Armageddon after having seen the trailer: there were so many factual errors just in the trailer, I knew I'd walk out before the film hit the halfway mark.  
"Much thanks to Fritz for the compliment to my writing. I'm not sure scifi/mystery crossovers can truly be termed "literary," though many (including my publisher) have done so. I shall, I think, simply accept the accolade and move on from here. *bows*"

I would like to add that said debate of an offering's worthiness would be in private, with only a couple of other people, and certainly not trumpeted from the rooftops of social media.
Me at the release party of my Displaced Detective book 3

There is also this bit of disingenousness that I caught and tagged. The below is a compendium of my posted comments on Larry Correia's blog on the subject:
"I think I’mma call bullshit on her whole claim of, 'I’ve never read a word (or seen a minute)' of the stories. 
"Why? She refers to Rowling’s body of work as a 'Golgomath.' 
"Now, I’ve read all the HP books and seen all the HP movies, and I still had to Google the word to discover that it’s the name of the “new” leader (the old leader having been assassinated by same) of the tribe of Giants in Russia, from one of the later HP books (Order of the Phoenix), and he’s on Voldemort’s side. Probably the most obscure and least-referenced of all the Giants mentioned in all of the HP books…yet she manages to zero in on it and use it. 
"I’m an HP fan too, though maybe not as fierce as some, and I didn’t catch it. 
"And if you wanted to use a simile riffing on giants, why use one that nobody, not even HP fans, would instantly recognize, and that requires hunting to find, when you could just refer to Rowling’s body of work as a 'Goliath' which is a metaphor that most everybody is likely to at least recognize? 
"And if you’ve never read any HP, how do you even know there are any giants IN it? 
"What’s wrong with that picture…?"
The notion that one author has to step aside so others can move up is utter claptrap ridonkulous. Now, if one is at a convention, where the attendees have only the funds available on their persons, there's something that approximates a zero-sum model. Note I said APPROXIMATES. These days we have credit cards and Squares and electronic swipes and ATMs to get around that problem, and while I'm not Larry or J.K. I still do pretty well at a con. Outside, in the world at large, there isn't a zero-sum game -- nowhere close. 
In the company of Les Johnson and Chris Berman.

More, and frankly, telling Rowling to knock it off is telling a grand master of the game to take her chess pieces and go home. Note I didn't use a simile there; I didn't say it was LIKE telling a grand master to go home. I said it IS TELLING a grand master to go home. In the end, it's no different from someone having told J.R.R. Tolkien, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or even Shakespeare, the same thing. They also wrote for love of writing and for the paycheck. Doyle even revived a character that he hated -- Sherlock Holmes -- for the sake of the paycheck, and because he got so many fan letters wanting more...much the way Rowling is getting fan letters wanting more Harry Potter books. Last I heard, she was considering (depending on who you talked to) either an adult series about the aurors they became, or a series involving some of the other children at Hogwarts. Whichever, I'll be getting them. If she writes them, we will buy.
And that is good, because the kids will also buy, and they will become avid readers. And they will grow up to be avid readers, and they will buy our books too.
But tell me this: how can you criticize and put down another author's work as childish (which the writer of this article did, because she said it was a shame that adults ever read the books), when you claim never to have read the material? How can you know it really is the way you think it is, without seeing for yourself?
The first book co-authored with Travis S. Taylor.

Yes, I freely admit it. I am a Harry Potter fan. I am not a particularly rabid one, but I did enjoy the films, which in turn introduced me to the books, and I ended up reading every one, and waiting for the latter books to come out -- though not with bated breath. It was more a case of having piqued my curiosity to see how it would all work out in the end. (This is, by the way, the sign of good writing -- she made me care about the characters. If there are other problems -- punctuation, grammar, awkward wording and structure, too much description, all these accusations have been leveled at Rowling -- look to the editors; it is their job to see that those things are corrected by the writer.) More importantly, I am a writer myself. I know how the business works, on many levels. I know what constitutes good writing, and I know that success in this industry is to some extent dependent on whatever the Next Big Thing is, and whether or not you manage to catch that metaphorical wave with the surfboard of your writing. Okay, crazy sounding analogy, but still, it fits. 
The second book co-authored with Travis S. Taylor.

You know what I tell interviewers -- and students -- when I'm asked how to become a writer? I tell them to READ. Then read, and read, and read some more, and read the GOOD STUFF. The stuff that becomes, or already is, classic literature. Because in the end, they all started out the same way we do: potential writers sitting down with a blank piece of paper and an idea, having never written a story before. But they do it in such a way that it speaks to the human condition, to the human heart, and that's how and why they become classics. In reading classics, modern and historic, the conscious and subconscious mind picks up on how and why these stories "work" for us, and then when you sit down to write your own stories, your brain 

distills out what it learned from reading the classics, and your own writing becomes better for it. If you're lucky, like I have been, you have friends among those upper levels willing to take you under their wings and mentor you, teaching you to make your writing better and better. If not, why not? I've found that the majority of authors are more than willing to sit down and talk to a newbie writer, or to a writer who hasn't had the same level of success, and offer suggestions and advice. How do I know? Hey, look at some of the pictures in this particular blog article -- I took my own advice and ASKED 'em!
What you DON'T do is tell the writers of those classics, those best-sellers, to take a hike.
The HuffPo writer started off by saying her friend told her people would think it was just sour grapes.

Hey, Ms. Shepherd? She told you so.

--Stephanie Osborn

P.S. There are some other really good commentaries over on Sarah Hoyt's blog and the Mad Genius Club blog.