Archive for September, 2008

I Can Stop at Any Time
23 September, 2008

I avoided reading Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series because those I knew that had read even a little bit became irrevocably addicted.

Apparently we all have our Achilles’ heel and mine is Steven Erikson‘s Malazan Book of the Fallen: two nights ago I spent most of my dreamtime worrying that Quick Ben, Kalam, and Fiddler would be okay.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Politics
15 September, 2008

I read Alex Epstein‘s blog for months because it was about screenwriting, specifically screenwriting as a profession. Lately there had been more entries about politics than screenwriting. As politeness is part of professionalism, the blog experienced a noticeable decrease in value for me.

My mother taught me that three things ought not be brought up in polite company: religion, finances, and politics. The reason is because all three are personal, inflammatory, and essentially unalterable. Most people consider their beliefs and actions on those topics to reflect on who they are. Most people also believe strongly that their views are the (only) correct ones and defend them vociferously. Most importantly, though, almost no one can be argued into changing their views on any of those three topics.

Epstein defends the recent shift to discussing politics by saying, “The ancient Greeks, who invented democracy, would have been appalled if someone had said he ‘wasn’t interested in politics.'” The ancient Greeks also espoused the inappropriate touching of young boys. So perhaps imitation of the ancient Greeks is not the universal answer. Since Grecian democracy differed from American democracy, I doubt that their views can be accurately projected onto the modern landscape.

Epstein goes on to say, “Only an excruciatingly selfish man would separate himself from politics.” I counter that only an excruciatingly selfish person would insist on discussing their politics in an inappropriate forum. In my experience the zealots (from both the left and the right) so strongly believe in their rightness that they fail to see their self-righteousness. Giving the impression that one deigns to instruct one’s lessers in the errors of their ways is an ineffective method of persuasion. Since the soapbox orators are unwilling to change their opinions, why do they think anyone else would be any more willing?

Like many, Epstein discusses his politics in public. I, however, do not and no longer read his blog. I prefer polite company.

Ditch the Satanists
11 September, 2008

Rachel Manija Brown says, “no book containing Satanists has ever been good”. I certainly have not done an exhaustive catalog of all Satanist-featuring fiction, but my instinct is that her observation is accurate.

But why?

Perhaps it is because Satanists are a cop-out. Rather than showing the baddies to be evil, the author asserts their evilness via their Satanism and relies on the reader to stipulate it. In that regard it could be a failure of the show-don’t-tell mantra.

But Nazis work just fine as baddies, at least for certain generations. The first Indiana Jones film had Nazis; the second had Thuggees. Maybe the Nazis make better villains because their litany of crimes is well-known. (Again, at least for certain generations.)

Storytellers, ditch the Satanists.