The Poetics of Aggravated SF Assaults

So in the interests of being less vitriolic and not just hurling insults, I thought I'd approach some of the more irritating aesthetic (as opposed to political, ethical, or social) problems with the SF Ghetto and Con Culture in particular. Some of this stuff is just dumb, and it's probably not worth pointing out why. But I think it needs saying in order to point out the differences between what I think about this stuff, and the things I'm more vocally critical of.

1. Filk

Filk makes no sense to me. My enduring image of filk is that guy from Trekkies who was really bad at being in drag, singing a klingon hymn of some sort. It made me cringe. I still cringe when I think about it. It was that bad. Supposedly the idea behind filk is a group of people getting together and singing songs. That, on its own, is a good thing. Music is wonderful and we all need more of it in our lives, even people like me who have a lot of it. What doesn't make sense to me is the form that Filk takes, which, to an outsider, appears to be something like a cross between Weird Al Yankovic and Mark Russell, only with none of the musicianship or genius to be found in those musical satirists. The point here is not that the idea of filk is a bad one, it's that it seems to be executed in an internally contradictory way. What I mean by that is that on the one hand it's pushing this "everyone can sing" idea which is laudable. But at the same time, the actual activity itself is rife with in jokes and jargon that are only really accessible to a very small group of people. It's this internal irony, that seems to be completely missed by the participants, that I find displeasing about filk.

2. Costuming

Ok, I get it. Playing dress up is fun. And some of the folks who are into fantasy costuming really go all out and produce some amazing stuff. At the same time, it's clear that there are other folks who just spend a lot of money on costumes. And, steam punk aside, which I actually think is kind of interesting as a fashion movement, the other thing I don't like about costuming is that there is so much of it that gets invested in either generic F/SF culled from an unanalyzed background of known signifiers, or worse in looking like commercial properties owned by large corporations. But really, what it ultimately comes down to is that I think fashion shows are boring. They're boring in fashion Mecca's like New York and Paris when the models are some of the most beautiful people on earth and the designers are among the most talented people working in clothing alive. They're even more boring when its a DIY affair where beauty and talent are not guaranteed. And at the cons I've been to they've always gone on for hours and hours. Dull.

3. WaLS: F/SF edition

Eric's latest post talks about a con called Boskone that is more to his taste than Arisia. Looking over the agenda, I can see why he would say that. However, there is a dangerous tilt toward WaLS that appears to be emerging in the agenda. See for example the following events:
Foreshadowing and How to Do It
The Business of Writing (a Conversation)
What do you read for Pleasure? (asks what your guilty pleasures are and if what they are affect your writing)
Keeping Your Series Fresh
Why I Write Horror
Workshopping Dos and Don't
Move Your Butt (exercise for writers)
The Fragmented Genre (asks "will the fragmentation of genre offer new markets [blech] for writers?"]
The Inclue and Other Smart Writing Tricks
How Not to Edit Yourself
Writing the First-Person Point of View
Breaking Out of Stereotype
Marketing Your Book
When Editors Vent
Write a Story Now
Stealing Folklore

Now granted, not all of this smells like symptoms of WaLS but taken together there is that distinctive odor. Note the use of the words "markets" and a bunch of people sharing advice whose qualifications seem pretty dubious at best. What really clinches this "how to write" stuff more than the abysmal adoption of the hated workshop as a means of supposedly improving, is that a lot of these topics don't seem that well thought out. Which is to say, most of these questions are things that are probably better answered by established authorities that are widely known. Want to know how to edit? Read Strunk and White, Garner, Fowler, McKee or any of another dozens of real authorities. The older I get, the more convinced I become that the only way to learn how to write well is to read a lot of conflicting authorities and then think about the conflicts. Then write a bunch of stuff of your own. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. However, I have come to the further conclusion that informal discussion among inexpert amateurs is only ever detrimental. The result is the ever expanding dross of "how to write" product feeding the legions of WaLS sufferers. And WaLS is tacky even if only because it degrades literature and puts the focus where it squarely doesn't belong. The Author may not be dead, but the best authors fade into obscurity and unimportance behind the monument of The Work. WaLS is the antithesis of that and should be opposed from all quarters.

4. Quasi-Historical Reenactment

Now don't get me wrong, I think the SCA is an interesting idea. I'm a fan of history and I like the idea of full immersion in it. But there's a problem with the way it seems to get done in fandom that I see and I don't like. Mostly because there is a gross over emphasis on the military components of what goes on. Secondarily, there's very little that's admirable about the structure of the feudal societies in Europe and Asia that fandom is fascinated with. Knights in Europe and Samurai and Ninja in Japan, for all their vaunted codes of honor, were a collection of thugs and warlords who kept the peasantry in poverty, living a menial and undignified life through shows of force. Put succinctly, a few exceptional folk heroes aside, glorifying feudal society is both short-sighted and politically dubious. I find the escape to a romanticized version of this ugly past highly questionable.

So those are the four things in broad overview that make me cringe when I look into the SF Ghetto. To be clear about this, I have to do this pretty regularly because I like SF. At its best it's one of the greatest creative modes to have come out of American letters. But at its worst it just seems to be so much worse than the bad in other areas that for me it's worthy of comment. I wish this stuff would just stop because its an aesthetic effort that fails, and in an artistic field that ought to be a death sentence. For some reason, though, the SF Ghetto keeps it alive. And that is the Ghetto's failure of poetics.

Comments have questioned my dismissal of the panelists as "inexpert amateurs" which is really just a nicer way of saying "hacks." In particular the "Inclue" panel was pointed out. I'd like to note that it's possible to research this stuff and I have. Here are some fan notes I found for that exact panel:

To which I say "meh." Here's some of the advice given in that panel:

1. That which is conventionally known as "establishing setting" should really be called "incluing" which Teresa Nielson Hayden thinks is great and I think is dumb. I think it's dumb because setting has to work in service of the story, not the other way around, which is the position that the panelists seem to be taking. The basic lesson? You're writing fiction, not a technical manual. Ho hum.

2. You shouldn't need footnotes. Tell it to David Foster Wallace, Ms. Walton.

3. When dealing with an unfamiliar language, you should build it up once word at a time. One strangeness at a time. Tell it to Anthony Burgess, Ms. Neilson Hayden

4. Apparently Dr. Seuss never used made up words for rhymes. Tell it to the the Sneetches.

All told, bad advice given, bad advice received. I stand by the assertion that careful study of Garner's Usage, McKee's Story, and similar books by respected authorities, combined with careful study of greats like those listed will serve the aspiring writer far better than any of this kind of stuff ever will.


The trouble with the SCA not enough peasants and skilled crafts people of the sort that kept society going.

One of the problems I have with anything done as a lifestyle is that it tends to sentimentalize just doing something and doesn't reward doing something really well, can even be hostile to people who do things really well (because that makes people who don't do things really well look bad). Thus we have statements like "pros are more like mundanes than they are like fans."

I know of communities where large numbers of people play music, but the focus is on doing that really well, not on just doing it. People who genuinely care about what they're listening to want it done as good as can be.

Yeah, the SCA people are

Yeah, the SCA people are pretty straight up about this. It's not about how the past was, but how it "should have been". Which is why I find SCA uninteresting.


The two problems with all 4 of these main points is that when it comes down to it, they're (1) poorly executed and/or (2) nothing more than an elaborate form of fan fiction.

You really should link WaLS here to your writing as lifestyle article. Also I think WaLS is a bigger hipster problem than fandom problem, but that's neither here nor there.

more or less. fan fiction, i

more or less.

fan fiction, i should have hit that too.

and done. I was hoping E would do it for me.

Dude, I couldn't even

Dude, I couldn't even remember what WaLS stood for.

It doesn't matter so much.

It doesn't matter so much. Clearly Bukowski was right.

I get your point about WaLS.

I get your point about WaLS. Ultimately, people need to write, not talk about writing. However, do you really mean to imply that Greer Gilman, James D. Macdonald, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Mary A. Turzillo, and Jo Walton (the panelists for "The Inclue and Other Smart Writing Tricks") are "inexpert amateurs"?

That particular panel, at least, was an opportunity to hear lots of conflicting authorities. Then I could go home and think about the conflicts. (I can't say anything about any of the other panels, because I don't remember attending those.)

well, yes

i was curious so I read through some of the excerpts available online for those folks because I'd never heard of them. With the exception of Mary Turzillo, I found their writing pretty lackluster. Certainly not good enough to establish authority on its own. Turziillo is an interesting case, because while she clearly has some chops as a prose writer, I still found her somewhat lacking stylistically, particularly in her poetry, to the point that I'd be hard pressed to take her advice on writing seriously.

I can tell you though that

I can tell you though that pretty much all those names are people I recognize as well-established writers. (Greer Gilman was even co-guest of honor at last year's ReaderCon.) Obviously you can argue about the quality of their work, but at least no one can accuse them of putting fans and not professionals behind the table.

my central point is that if

my central point is that if you agree with me that workshopping is stupid, and you do, how can such workshop lite panels stuffed with SF Ghetto luminaries possibly contribute to improving the quality of attendees writing? the answer, of course, is that it can't and the folsk interested in such panels would be better off reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again as a source to improve their writing. Which is to say, better to read a master and meditate on it than take advice from third tier hacks.

I'm not sure where you found

I'm not sure where you found Teresa Nielsen Hayden's fiction because she's an editor. Anyways, it's good to clarify that you implied people were "inexpert amateurs" without knowing who they are or getting any familiarity with their work beforehand.

to clarify, i stand by the

to clarify, i stand by the description. I went looking for them before I posted the article and was unimpressed. And no, I couldn't find anything of Hayden's other than blog posts, which aren't great source material. Conversely, she was the one person whose name i recognized (and therefore dismissed outright as someone I'd want to listen to) because of her central involvement in the RaceFail circus.

Cool. You read through the

Cool. You read through the fiction of everyone involved in all of those panels before implying they were "inexpert amateurs. " I admire your dedication and sheer amount of free time. Also, "[you'd] never heard of them." I assume this means you were utterly unfamiliar with anyone on any of those panels, well, except for Teresa Nielsen Hayden whom, after I pointed out she was an editor, you realized you had heard of in a context where, as far as I'm concerned, everyone looked bad. However, you'd only read that unrepresentative sample of her non-fiction. Just want to make sure all of this is clear and on the record.

One thing I don't understand: If the mere act of workshopping is a waste of time regardless of the participants, why bother implying aspersions on anyone? Or to put it another way, you posit an interesting dichotomy. To you, it's either "read a master and meditate on it" or "take advice from third tier hacks." Is there something about being a "real master" that renders him or her incapable of giving advice in oral rather than written form? (Also, you make a weird conflation of workshopping and panel discussion. I view them as two different things. You, obviously, do not.)

believe what you want. I

believe what you want. I stand by what I said. If you want to just be a jackoff and make wild assumptions in order to cast aspersions, I can go there. You're clearly a fucking moron and it won't be hard.

As for the difference between panels and workshops, you're right, they are different. Panels are probably less useful. Whatever limited ability even a talented teacher of writing has for imparting information orally is even further dampened by the format and the idiotic questions from the people like you that show up to those things.

But the core idea behind them is the same, that someone sitting around talking about writing choices in specific cases is useful to people who want to improve their writing. The core nature of the activity is the same and if you deny that I question whether you've ever been in a real writing workshop or a real panel.

I don't think people should get involved in workshops no matter who is teaching it if their goal is to improve. Workshops are huge wastes of time that do very little other than to homogenize participants into least common denominator nonoffensive crap. You become a better writer by thoughtfully reading and writing, not by talking about reading and writing. There are occasional glimpses of insight that might be gleaned from a conversation about writing, but generally those are more forthcoming when you're talking about great writing. And to that extent, a one on one conversation with a great writer about a specific work of theirs that you've read in detail, you might get something out of that. But I bet you'd be better off talking to a critic about the work. And even better reading excellent, well written criticism of the work. And the reason for this is that writing is an applied art. You can only improve by sharpening your understanding of the tools (written words) and aesthetic effects of their use. And that only happens by using them. Listening to someone talk in an oblique way about how they use them is not going to help you write well anymore than listening to a mechanical engineer talk about theoretical physics is going to make you able to build a really great car.

Now, I'll qualify that and say that insights can potentially come from anywhere. But I'm of the opinion that insights are something you do for yourself by thinking about what you've read and what you've written and what other people have written. They don't come from hearing or reading an aphorism from somebody else unless you've already done the work.

More to the point, given that the people on that particular panel are actually bad writers, as are most of the people in the country who teach writing workshops professionally, l'd argue that far from being valuable or even just harmless fun, such things are actually bad for a developing writer. People pick up all sorts of obnoxious rules of thumb and dumb ideas about what makes for good writing taking people like Jo Walton seriously when she holds forth as an expert, when the evidence is that she can't write her way out of a paper bag.

I'm confused by your use of

I'm confused by your use of insight here. I agree about it being important, but I don't see how one can come by it through a class or a lecture. Such might form the framework of an insight, but I don't think it can ever be gleaned from another person. By definition an insight comes from analysis and ones own reflection on a topic. It might certainly be the same as some heuristic learned by rote from a panelist or workshop instructor, but there's an epistemological and practical distinction between such a rule and a genuine insight into craft which is much more flexible and exists natural as a rhibozome in a writers thinking. I don't know how such a class or panel can do anything other than teach good work habits and provide moral support for those struggling with a very lonely and unsatisfying activity.

well sure

The thing is that additional information that's on point can always be used as a jumping off point for further reflection. Insights can be gained by taking a look at a heuristic and trying to pull it apart. I would hope that the better panelists would do something similar to Garner's "levels of acceptability" on these points and point out countervailing opinions. Of course, when you're looking at someone as inexpert as the folks on these panels plainly are, it doesn't strike me as likely that they would even be aware of the standard opinion, let alone minority views. Hence, useless but not entirely so.

As I said, I absolutely agree

As I said, I absolutely agree with you that the way to become a better writer is by reading and writing mindfully. I just don't see how casting aspersions on people you barely know, if at all, advances your point. Remember, you're the one that has called people "third rate hacks" and "inexpert amateurs." I'm merely taking your word on how you have come to those conclusions.

BTW, if you had been at the Boskone panel, you would have heard Jo Walton defend the use of footnotes where they are appropriate. She was talking about the use of footnotes as a cop out. Also, to the best of my recollection, no one on that panel claimed that the story works in the service of the setting. Finally, I think you're taking what a 2nd hand account of they'd proffered as general rules of thumb as if they were unalterable laws of physics.

What you are apparently

What you are apparently claiming is that one must be fully versed in an author's work in order to assess their skill with language. I reject your hypothesis. I probably have less of a clue who any of these people are than Quackenbush does, and yet I was able within about ten minutes with the Google machine to read enough of their writing and opinions to know that as exponents of the art, they aren't to be taken seriously. To be true, the description of them as amateurs is not apt, as they have apparently "paid their dues" and "gotten lucky" enough to have won the publication lottery. But their characterization as "inexpert" is certainly fair. I would go farther and describe the scribblings I found as beneath even the workmanlike and uninspired prose of mundane writers such as Stephen King or John Grisham and call it what it is, plainly inept. It doesn't take long to spot the hallmarks of such "hacks" with a sufficiently refined palate. A level of refinement that I'd impute to anyone who bothered to take freshman writing or a 100 level English literature course in work published since the 19th century. That you fail to appreciate this says more about you and the weight of your opinion than your palseyed efforts to appear haughty through the injudicious use of sarcastic scare quotes.

Put simply, as someone who has both taken and taught writing workshops, while I believe they may have slightly more value than Quackenbush rates, that difference is only slight. Great writing requires talent, insight, and graft. You need all three. Writing workshops, and I imagine panels such as the one described above (I've never been to one and doubt I ever will), can only ever impart a work ethic. Insight comes from reading and talent is spooky and sinister and god knows where it comes from. It's certainly nothing to do with intelligence or creativity. It's merely raw ability, and yet at times it strikes me as being all important. Without it, one should probably give up. But it is often difficult to tell a talented slacker from a hardworking false light, so I'd never tell any specific writer that. No the point is that of the three, graft is the easiest to acquire, and can be got by more efficient means than through workshops and panels. Most notably through means advocated by Nike. Which, I suppose, makes them pretty worthless.

I'd thank you for not putting

I'd thank you for not putting words into my mouth. The hypothesis you're rejection isn't one I made. He claimed to read fiction that didn't exist. I pointed that out to him. He said that despite being unfamiliar with everyone on any of those panels, he'd studied all of their work before making his post. Now, you can exaggerate for rhetorical effect by making the "fully versed in an author's work" strawman. I can fight back by saying, "Well, surely any arbitrary sentence isn't enough to make any sort of judgement." All of that is kind of a waste of time though.

The central point is that we all agree that the best way to improve as a writer is to continue to read and write mindfully. (I'd add that reading actual works of fiction is much more valuable than reading about writing. If listening to panels about writing is bad, I fail to see how reading about writing is any better.) The point I'm trying to make is that casting aspersions on people by calling them "inexpert amateurs" or "third rate hacks" doesn't actually encourage anyone to read and write mindfully.

who is the ventriloquist for whom?

He said he went looking for their "writing" online out of curiosity. That to me suggests the quick sample I took. You are the one who claims that Quackenbush can't be taken seriously because he claims to read fiction that doesn't exist and says he studied all of their work and clearly didn't. I see no such claim being made. I don't think it's a waste of time to point this out, however, as it's a clear hypocrisy and bears strongly on your credibility. Quackenbush I know and even were he being rhetorically grandiose, which it doesn't appear to me that he is, I'd take that as read for him. He can be hyperbolic. You, on the other hand, I do not know. I have, however, read excerpts of Jo Walton's work and the fact that you take her seriously as an authority and object to her being characterized as a "third rate hack" (which characterization jibes with my reading) in combination with this hypocrisy, makes me question how seriously I should take you.

I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, though, and chalk all this up to fairs fair. I have to go now, but I will respond to your second point later (about reading works on writing).

I didn't say he can't be

I didn't say he can't be taken seriously. As I have said over and over, I agree with him that the best way to write better is to read and write mindfully, not engage in writing related activities. Also, I don't understand how "You read through the fiction of everyone involved in all of those panels" can be construed as "studied all of their work." Having read a representative short story from each panel participant before he made his blog post would seem to satisfy my statement quite nicely, for example. More importantly, I made my statement as a confirmation of what he'd done. Excepting that I pointed out Teresa Nielsen Hayden is an editor, I have not contradicted a single claim he's made. He could have simply agreed with me that he had, in fact, sought and read a representative work from the participants of all those panels before posting. It seems to me that you're continuing to engage in rhetorical overreaches. (If I'm trying to establish anything it's that he has gained familiarity with all of their works before implying they are "inexpert amateurs" or "third-rate hacks." Opinions are opinions. I'm merely trying to ascertain that he's reached them from a position of knowledge.)

My main point is that he can make his point about workshop and panels just as well, if not better, without implying they are"inexpert amateurs" or "third-rate hacks." If he truly believes that "workshopping is stupid" why is the composition of the workshop even relevant? (Of course, we're talking about con panels here, but since he doesn't appear to think much of those either, the same argument applies.) In that case, it doesn't matter whether he has read any of anyone's work.

As for reading works about writing, the question becomes why is reading works about writing ok, when hearing those same people talk about writing is apparently a waste of time? If "workshopping is stupid" then the logical consequence is that the valuable insights written down and bound into a book become valueless when spoken aloud in a workshop context. It's much more consistent to say that reading books about writing is a writing related activity and one is better off reading great works of literature and writing fiction mindfully instead. Whether reading books about writing is useful or not, I think mindful reading and writing is even more useful. (Certainly, I've learned more reading good writing than reading about good writing.)

that he shouldn't be taken

that he shouldn't be taken seriously is the only reason i can think of that you would even bring that up. As for having "studied all their work" if you re-read your previous comment, you'll see that I was quoting you. Further, it is not necessary to read an entire short story to take the temperature of a given writer's ability. One or two paragraphs is probably sufficient. It was for me.

Without attempting to read his mind--God knows that's one person's skull I don't want to get inside--I would speculate thought that he didn't really want to make that point about the quality of the workshop, but rather was pointing out in this case that the panels don't even appear to be offering the dubious value of expertise. The thrust of his point, to me, appeared more directed at the attendees willingness to take advice from such people rather than the fact that such people exist and give advice is worthy of criticism. It's a fine point, and you may be right, but that's how I took that particular phrase.

Works about writing: Note that the works listed are not actually books about writing. They are style manuals. As such they are more like reference works on the mechanics of Standard English than the "how-to" guides he simultaneously derides. Garner, Fowler, Strunk & White, along with I would venture Korn, Ladefoged, Swan, Bernstein are all linguists and dictionary documentarians. They aren't writing fluffy nonsense about propbing your soul. Robert McKee is an interesting exception. He's only written one book, and it's about screenwriting. It is, however, very good on the mechanics of plot. Albeit it's a bit non-technical and informal for my tastes. That having been said, there are a few more good books on written language that I think Quackenbush would disclaim that I think are excellent. They are mostly written by poets, unsurprisingly. Of note would be Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town, Ezra Pound's ABC's of reading, Ron Silliman's The New Sentence, Lyn Hejinian's Language of Inquiry, and Lee Gurga's work on Haiku.

The value of these works, from my point of view, is that they deal with mechanics in detail. They present arguments about stylistic choices at the level of prosody and word choice, which I think is extremely valuable and can be hard to glean from fiction. Also, it's good to be able to know what a standard choice would be to decide whether or not it serves the work to depart from it. Granted, much of style guides these days boil down to a admonitions against cliché and cantankerous assaults on scientific linguistics, but a flexible writer needs to be able to code-switch effectively, and to keep those careful readers who demand careful prose in order to take a writer seriously. And much of what such anal retentive types care about is niggling and bothersome and requires study no matter who you are.

Yes, I recognized that they

Yes, I recognized that they are style manuals. I had to study Strunk and White in high school, for example. Why is a style manual not a book about writing? When Strunk and White say to "omit needless words," aren't they tell you how to write? Or are you making a distinction simply because they're dealing with the mechanics?

In any case, I apologize for my use of hyperbole. It was unintentional. I hadn't realized I'd done it. Thank you for pointing that out.

I agree that a representative paragraph or two many be enough to disqualify someone from being an expert. I note that he didn't say he did even that little. What he did say the hazy "I went looking for them before I posted the article and was unimpressed."

Just because you can only think of one reason doesn't mean there is only one reason. I'm not going tell anyone they can't hold whatever opinion they want. Asking how they arrived at their opinion, however, is not unreasonable. In this case, I want to know so that I can gauge how I will take future blog posts. I don't care if he agrees with me or not, just whether or not he has built his arguments on sand.

They are telling you how to

They are telling you how to write in a very specific register. Their value is partially that they wear their biases on their sleeves. I know from past conversation with Q that we share an appreciation of Garner for that reason in particular. The advantage of that, over the typical how to write book which is focused on as much as anything how to attract an agent, how to get published, how to fashion your work according to market trends, how to build a resume etc spend almost no time at all on mechanics and detail. And in writing as with any craft, if you take care of the details you've done 90% of the work. Which is to say that the sorts of advice one gets in writing workshops about the vagaries of voice and the bugaboos of believability and all that jazz, they miss the boat almost completely. Because there's really no reasoning behind what goes on. People shoot from the hip and there's no objectivity. Standard English usage, however, is about as objective as you can get in learning how to use language effectively. So even if ultimately it's too conservative for real artistry, and it is, it's in understanding that conservatism and seeing where it falls short and where it is correct (and these are personal decisions that every writer must make for herself) that a person gains a taste for actual informed choice. I'm not speaking for Quackenbush here, I know he disagrees with me on this point, but there is also a value in using Standard English as accurately as possible in that it provides the least amount of distraction. Departing from it when you do will always call attention to itself, and so any would be mandarin must do so intelligently. Quackenbush is more of a radical and would say the opposite that what matters is consistency in tone, and that once one has internalized the rules one may ignore them completely in the manner of a taoist or sumi-e painter. That's where his open sentences and such come from. And he's good on those points, so I wouldn't challenge him on it in his own work, but I highly doubt he's right that his approach is appropriate for everyone. We agree about workshops tho, for the most part.

Also, just to vouch for him, because I do know him pretty well, my guess is that he googled the names of everybody he could find on those panels and read the first paragraph or two he found for all of them. That's what I understood him to mean. He can be woefully pigheaded and hyperbolic and incendiary, but he's also a very smart guy who generally does his homework. Sometimes I think the whole act is a front to lure people into a discussion they can't win because they think he's far less prepared than he actually is. But now i"m starting to sound paranoid.

I don't actually disagree

I don't actually disagree with any of this. The irony of this conversation is that I agree with him about Writing as a Lifestyle. Like I said, my question, at first, was whether he intended to imply the people who manned those panels at Boskone were "inexpert amateurs." (The implied slur struck me as unnecessary.) Once he confirmed that he did, I wanted to know how he came to that conclusion.

It's interesting that to restate what he has told me is to "be a jackoff and make wild assumptions in order to cast aspersions." All I've done is make logical inferences assuming the truth of his assertions, then attempt to verify those inferences. It wouldn't have been hard for him to respond "I googled the names of everybody I could find on those panels and read the first paragraph or two I found for all of them" as you have kindly assumed for him. Instead, he chose to respond with "You're clearly a fucking moron." Like I said, interesting. Still, he does know when to stop responding. That's a good thing.

Thank you for the pleasant conversation. And again, I apologize for the hyperbole. Obviously, I don't think anyone needs to read all of someone's work to render an opinion on his or her skill.

Ernie is more or less right.

Ernie is more or less right. I googled people. I read a bit of what I found. i was unimpressed. But I haven't stopped responding. Just busy.

And yet you stand by the

And yet you stand by the characterization of "inexpert amateur" and "third-rate hack" of those whose work you haven't read even a paragraph of. Good to know. Thank you.

are you being intentionally

are you being intentionally dense? I just said I read some of all of them.

Actually, you said, "I

Actually, you said, "I googled people. I read a bit of what I found." What ELBorgnine assumed was "he googled the names of everybody he could find on those panels and read the first paragraph or two he found for all of them." You don't need to have read representative work for everyone of those panelists before you made your initial blog post in order to make either statement truthfully. (In the second sentence, the most reasonable interpretation of "all" is "everybody he could find." That's not the same as "everyone of those panelists.")

Anyways, I'm glad to know that you found representative work for everyone of those Boskone panelists and gave that work honest and fair consideration before implying they were "inexpert amateurs." Given your fuzzy language, it was really hard to tell. Then when it read as if you'd claimed to read Teresa Nielsen Hayden's fiction and failed to mention a few pertinent things about those authors that would have been obvious from even the laziest web search, I got suspicious. But, never mind. I have absolutely no doubts now about your diligence.

now that you've made such a

now that you've made such a ridiculously big deal out of a fucking non-issue, please re-read the original paragraph that you drew this from.

1.) It should be clear from context that I was talking not just about the panelists but the audience members

2.) the taste of anyone familiar with those authors who would object to their characterizations as hacks or even inexpert amateurs is suspect

finally, I'm truly thrilled you have no doubts about my diligence. Please diligently fuck off.

Hugo et. al

You know I think every poet ought to read "the triggering town." But I don't think it will make people better writers all on its own, and I think its value is probably limited for non-poets. Same with all of that stuff. And I'm not even sure that Gurga is worthwhile for Haiku writers. These American Haiku guys are far too conservative and have very strange ideas about things. See, for example, my exchange with Welch and Nemet-Nejat on Buffalo Poetics here:

Of course Murat and I are generally on the same page about things, and it's hard to challenge someone of Michael Dylan Welch's expertise on the subject of Haiku, I do think he's overly restrictive. And clearly the usage manuals can go the same way, but at least they're up front about it. And of course the usage stuff is less useful in creative writing, particularly for the mandarin stylists who are any good. Nobody would seriously challenge that non-standard usage in The Sound and The Fury, Cane, or Moby Dick as "wrong." But it is different from standard english and consciously so. And you need to understand what you're departing from in order to be able to intelligently depart from it. Which is the problem with descriptivism in creative writing, although I think they have a point in smacking down the prescriptivists from time to time.

And of course you know I don't agree with Corn on prosody, good starting points, but one ought not to stop there and go on to reading at least Attridge on rhythm, although he's a bit of an unwieldy bore on the topic, and someone in linguistics who's more standardized than Ladefoged.

But in essence you read me right, and I do see these things as sort of isomorphic exercise machines to push against in ones development. As to how to do that, well, I think a talented person will figure that out for him or herself. Those without talent are probably doomed anyway.