Very important rule on writing

From xkcd today:

This is SO true. :smiley:

But, I like Gene Wolfe!

Yeah but!! You`re …you! :open_mouth:

Umm… you’ll have to excuse me – I’ve some revising to do… :mrgreen:

…anyway, making up names is only another form of procrastination! Serves you right :open_mouth:

I am cromulent with that style of writing.

In fact I find it embiggens me.


No, no. I am!

– K. B. Nicto

Well! So wots new? Youre not grounded in reality, like wot I am!

Of course you are!! How silly of me!! tch! tch! :blush: :open_mouth:

Add me to your ‘YOU’ list! I like Gene Wolfe too.

I have one of Wolfe’s essays lying around wherein he provides the origins for some of the more obscure words from his New Sun series. From what I remember of it, he advised he didn’t invent any of the words featured. It’s a few years old, so he may have changed policy, but he has a clear talent for it - why change now?

(Senility, disillusionment, rage at the world, maybe he just can’t be bothered any more… :stuck_out_tongue: )

I think you were on his “YOU” list for other reasons entirely.

:smiling_imp: Le D

Hey, I’m not trying to start a flame war, but just what is it about sci-fi and fantasy that appeals so much to you Gene Wolfe buffs? I literally had never heard of him, and his titles are to me repellent. The Fifth Head of Cerberus, The Sword of the Lictor; yetch. Give me something that is or once was real, and then dazzle me with amazing incidents and complex characters.

Ellison, The Invisible Man; that’s my kind of novel. Or Waugh, Brideshead Revisited; Joyce, Ulysses: Eliot, Middlemarch; Dickens, Bleak House, Flaubert, Emma Bovary. Yes, I admire historical realism but also like psychological and moral density, of the sort in William Faulkner, Henry James, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf or Annie Dillard.

I know, it’s all a matter of taste, but I really would like to understand your passion for writers whom I just don’t get. (I don’t play computer games, either, nor read graphic novels–peace, Antony) It’s not just realism that I crave, but artful style. Even Tolkien, master of fantasy myth, was often a clumsy and prolix writer. And I was a kid who loved sci-fi long ago, from the likes of Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke, and LeGuin.

I’m not trying to insult others’ tastes; maybe you could give me a reading list of the current masters and explain what makes them great. Please don’t dump on my favorites as snores/bores. That will re-ignite our Vonnegut discussion of yore.

To avoid thread drift…


I had a similar question, and got a pretty diverse reading list.


Yeah, but I like all of that, a lot! We agree on the notion of admiring things that are artfully done, this is clear. I don’t think that there is any automatic quality drops between the major genre walls, however. In general, they all have their great masses of crap with a few crowning achievements and then those rare spikes of true greatness. Perhaps the only thing that could be fairly said about genre lacking—especially some of the “newer” ones, is that they haven’t been around long enough for true greatness to happen (or if it has, they are few). The conventional tale has had centuries, and the poetic tale has had millennia. In contrast to that, it is understandable why something like cyberpunk which is only a few decades old now, has yet to produce something along the likes of Ulysses, Waves, or Hamlet. I would say that science fiction, as an umbrella genre, has produced a few truly great novels and many very good ones, but to expect it to stack up against all of history is a bit premature.

The argument that it will never happen because of reader expectation is sound, to some degree. For example, I doubt that erotica will ever produce anything as introspective and epic as Dostoevsky (though some might argue that is precisely what happened in Dhalgren, ha). So is there anything about science fiction that limits its potential? I think fifty years ago that would have been a hesitant yes (though clearly, some “good-stuff” was already emerging), but given that the genre has largely moved away from the phallic love of machinery and rockets and into far more literary areas, it has a profound degree of space in which to grow. Even so-called hard science fiction authors can tackle sociological questions such as radical libertarianism and intricate notions of self-identity, such as in Golden Age.

The first real novel that I read, as a child, was Dune. So I think I never had to face the “leap” that some must take to pick up a genre book. I do know what that leap feels like, though, when I started picking up graphic novels with more than a giggle. Now I have a number of books amongst that category that I regard quite highly (I have V for Vendetta to thank for that), and am no longer automatically dismissive of that form of writing based on the stereotypes. Gene Wolfe, to get specific, writes beautiful prose. Not only that, he writes for a greater purpose, which I think is right up there with “artfully done”. A book without a purpose, even if well written, is largely a waste of time. And incidentally, the rebuttal to my irresponsible joke is accurate. Wolfe primarily used Latin and Greek to account for proper nouns and so forth, and was very careful to keep away from gratuitous word invention for the sake of making things appear “neat-o”. He doesn’t really belong in a discussion on making up words to fancy up a story. With that notion, I heartily agree with the original post with only a few rare exceptions (Clockwork Orange comes to mind, and while I think the comic posted above is meant to poke fun at Anathem, I would say that book fits more in with Gene Wolfe in that its coinage is meant to be etymologically derived for the purpose of portraying extrapolation from present tense).

To answer your first question more precisely, for me at any rate: There are many beautiful things to paint in this world as truthfully as possible. You could ask the same question of an artist: Why distort the reality of vision with exaggerated colours and impossible forms when we already such immense beauty to account for? Why cover a canvas in something that is clearly nothing, such as a spray of dots or thick smears of random colour? Likewise, there is a lot of crap in realism and a lot of crap in abstract. Neither is inherently “better” than the other, and have their own scales of greatness within them. Likewise, it is often difficult for followers of one style to “get” what the followers of another style are seeing in their respective forms.

P.S. I do agree with you on Tolkien.

  1. Mmmmm, should I be worried??

Loved Heinlein, Bradbury and LeGuin. Still reading the latter. Love Tolkien, despite the prolix writing. I don’t agree he was that “often,” but sure, with a story as long and involved as his, you could go there. Despite that, I hung on every word and was incredibly sad when it was over, and I have read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings all the way through five times since I was young.

My mother is a highly literary writer and was pretty intolerant of those who were less so. Same with movies (she’s also an actress and screenwriter). But I have a much broader appreciation for such things. If I love the characters and love the story and the heart behind the story, then I’m quite forgiving when the writer gets a bit carried away or isn’t totally excellent when he or she tries to express something. And I would hope that readers, especially those who happen also to be writers, will have the same generosity of heart when reading my own work!

I enjoyed Gene Wolfe for the time I was into reading his work because I enjoyed the characters and environments he created. It was fun, for a time, to try to wrap my mind around the world he created for his readers, namely me at the time!

Btw, I can’t remember the first novel I read as a child, since my mother taught me to read before I was four and I was reading novels by the time I was five! At that age and up till around 8 or 9 it was mostly short novels and stories about animals. Vixen the fox, Smokey the horse, I remember a little book I loved about a family of squirrels. More than children’s books, but not a full-blown adult novel, of course. I read East of Eden when I was twelve and then the rest of Steinbeck. Dickens around the same time period. I’ve read all of the following and more (except Willa Cather):

“Ellison, The Invisible Man; that’s my kind of novel. Or Waugh, Brideshead Revisited; Joyce, Ulysses: Eliot, Middlemarch; Dickens, Bleak House, Flaubert, Emma Bovary. Yes, I admire historical realism but also like psychological and moral density, of the sort in William Faulkner, Henry James, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf or Annie Dillard.”

HG Wells was an early favorite. Mixed in were the folks already mentioned. I changed genres with different ages and moods. I’ve read and memorized a good deal of Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Yeats, the “I will not fear” mantra from Dune (another beloved favorite). I count books by Peter Straub and Barbara Kingsolver and Walter Farley among my favorites!

Bottom line, I like what I like. I read what resonates with me at the time. Not for intellectual or literary reasons, but because I am caught by a character or a story or even a technique for a time. I definitely understand that there are those, like my mother, who can’t enjoy something unless it lives up to certain standards (her own, of course). And that’s fine too.

That all said, I love science fiction perhaps more than any other genre. I’ve had a long love affair with everything science fiction since I first read Star Rider and then Jules Verne at a very young age. I consumed Jules Verne, I should say. I remember like it was yesterday reading Journey to the Center of the Earth under my blanket with a flashlight until the wee hours of the morning. I must have been around 9 or 10? Can’t remember the age. Why do I love science fiction? Why do any of us love what we love? It suits my personality and itches an itch that can’t be satisfied in any other way. I would kill to have Daniel Jackson’s job on Stargate SG-1. But I don’t know of any stargates handy for traveling to other worlds, so I have to be satisfied with what the imaginations of some gifted, or even some not-so-gifted, writers can offer.


Ummm… it is vic-k. Don’t you think you should be worried?

Not having read all the posts by other, much more eloquent individuals then me, I will say it like this

[size=125]REALITY SUCKS![/size]

In sci-fi/fantasy i get to live so far out of reality that I am not dropped into a near suicidal [size=75](exaggeration to make a point)[/size] depression by the contrast between the reality I live in and the fiction of the story. With fantasy the ideals remain ideals, not missed opportunities or “inevitable outcomes” that we are doomed to face.

I know. I am weak. No excuses on my part.

I’m with Amber! I’m just as likely to enjoy Asimov or Bradbury as I am Austen, Conrad, Gaskell, or Dickens. So long as the writer tells a good story well, it doesn’t matter whether the story takes place in the past, in the future, here on Earth or “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” :wink: After all, doesn’t a good story (with well-developed characters) that’s written well always carry us out of ourselves? Well-executed sci-fi and fantasy just carry us a little farther – and for a lot of us, that’s fun! :smiley:

If the story’s hokey or it’s badly written, however, it doesn’t matter what genre it might be; it’s still crap.