The Dog’s Breakfast

Look, something a certain author needs to grasp is that although you may like your writing style, and the book is (traditionally, indies don’t have this limitation) published so you can’t change it, that doesn’t mean that readers have to buy it or like it. Pretty much the only time you can force anyone to read anything is if it’s required for a class, and even then they will creatively dodge the reading assignment in any way they can think of. I’ve seen that with college textbooks, forget fiction. So why on earth would you boast about your poor writing and gloat over the readers not having a choice? Like it or lump it? Mister, they may set your book on fire just to watch the world burn. People don’t like the idea of being forced into anything, and pleasure reading is always optional.

mislectorism

When you confront your reader with, in the first paragraphs, sentences that don’t make sense, you are doing the worst thing to readers an author can do. Mislectorism. Betrayal. You’re showing your readers you hate them, and they will respond to it. “This particular ship has seen action: plasma scarring across the wings and tail fins; a crumpled dent in the front end as if it was kicked by an Imperial walker.” Look at that sentence. Consider that it is not alone. I don’t think I have ever seen as many colons in one passage in all the thirty-some years I have been reading. Nor have I seen this many sentence fragments in once place. I shudder to think of how many dashes and hyphens met their ends here. If I had to name this style I’d call it post-Modern chop suey, because everything is minced and mixed together until it resembles a dog’s breakfast.

This isn’t the first time I have encountered an all but unreadable book. I recently read for review the rough draft that had been published in ‘sample’ form of a book which I now discover to be more readable than the sample that has been draining my brain cells tonight. Stilted, sure, but at least it had sentences and dialogue.

dialogue exemplar

Dialogue from Solutrean Atlantis

I have to wonder, looking at the sample below, if it was meant to be read aloud. Perhaps the author was aiming more for screenplay, in a movie tie-in book? but for reading with the eyes, it is painfully disjointed, as the style persists beyond the spoken word into the structural elements of the work. With the ‘herky-jerky’ qualities, the book is left structurally unsound, tenses waver in and out of present like quantum universes, and the result is… unreadable.

SW aftermath dialogue

Dialogue from SW: The Aftermath

However, this is not the worst dialogue you will find in a published work. That distinction probably belongs to another book I shall-not-name although I will link to it. And then I will link to a review of it.

horrible writing

Dialogue exemplar from the book-that-shall-not-be-named.

So what is my point, with all these examples of bad, worse, and absolutely deplorable writing? I’m not trying to beat up on authors, here. Everyone makes mistakes. We all have bad days. But as an author, we cannot expect our readers to put up with the egregious errors we perpetrate when we are told repeatedly of those errors. If the reader’s don’t like how your story is written, don’t double down and say that the readers are wrong. Don’t try to blame the readers for your failings by telling them that they aren’t smart enough, hip enough, or… something… to understand and appreciate your work. That isn’t how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

Writing is, in essence, a seduction of the reader. You want to keep them reading, to intrigue them with the possibilities. Ideally, your prose should become invisible to them, a mere glass-clear pane they gaze through as they discover the world you have created in the story. By using stylistic writing, you cloud that pane and jar the reader out of the world. They are unlikely to make a second attempt once they have your measure. With the Star Wars books, this is particularly mystifying – the author had to have known the enormous fan base (and a rabid one) would not appreciate the ‘literary’ pretensions he adopted for his work.

The fans have already spoken, and the Aftermath is telling.

Aftermath reviews

Aftermath Review

aftermath review 2

But wait, there’s more…

Writing style

Snipped from a very long review, click to read all.

The moral of my story? Suck it up, buttercup. If you don’t, and keep spitting on your fans, you won’t have any fans.

158 Comments

Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON

158 responses to “The Dog’s Breakfast

  1. Heaven forbid a Star Wars author write dialogue that sounds like something people actually say. I love Zahn, but virtually all EU dialogue is either stilted and formal or massaged into pure middle-class American vanilla. That’s the familiar SW novel experience. Any time an author deviates from that to take a risk, some people clutch their pearls and others enjoy the breath of fresh air. ‘Your mileage may vary’ is probably closer to the truth than ‘this is objectively bad writing.’

    • I suggest you take a look at the sample, this is not just the dialogue I’m talking about here. And more: look at the ratio of fan reviews, good and bad. The fan base isn’t happy. He didn’t write this book to make himself happy, he was hired to make the fans happy.

    • snowcrash

      I think the issue may be somewhat overstated – the Amazon reviews broadly break down into 4 areas – people unhappy that an ebook is priced at so high (USD 17?); people sad to have lost the Expanded Universe; people taking umbrage at the existence of a gay protagonist; and people who take issue with the writing. Down-rating the book for the first 3 seems a bit immature to me, but hey, whatever they want in the cut-throat world of Amazon…

      Personally, given it’s sales figures, it seems to be doing fine so far. Let’s see if it has legs though.

      • Very broadly break down into that. I’ve taken the time to read the reviews not only on Amazon but on B&N as well. Let’s look at the B&N reviews to start. There are 17 reviews there for a 3.5 star cumulative review. 6 of those 17 reviews are 5 stars. However, and this is a big however, of those 6 reviews 4 are one line back and forth comments between reviewers that have nothing to do with the book. Another has no comment at all. So let’s toss them out. The final five star review is a true review by someone who liked the book. The rest of the reviews deal with the plot or writing style. One review, one of the more supportive ones, does say that the inclusion of a gay character felt forced. Over all, the complaint, even among those giving good reviews, was that the writing was not at the level it should be and that Wendig did not appear to love the universe he was writing in.

        If you look closely at the Amazon reviews, you see much the same thing. Yes, there are those upset with the fact the EU was tossed out. But most of the reviews concern the writing style or the story structure. Sure, there are a few who object to having a gay lead character, there always will be someone who doesn’t approve of something. But the overall message is that the book is poorly written.

        The key thing here is to look at the author’s behavior and how he is alienating a fan base. He has basically called all those who don’t like his work homophobes simply because they don’t like his work. That is not a way to win friends or influence people, at least not in a good way.

        As for the sales figures, eh. We haven’t seen the returns yet and we probably never will. As for his Amazon rankings, those don’t always equate into huge sales. The best sellers lists such as the NYT one are based on pre-orders and then continued orders. As you said, we will have to see if it has legs and, judging from the reviews, I’m not sure it will.

      • Fans will like or dislike a book for any number of reasons. That’s no excuse for an author to go to social media or a blog and mock the fans. That’s the paying audience. Those are the customers. Mocking them a) further alienates those who didn’t like this but might give something else you’ve written a shot and b) raises the eyebrows of those who haven’t read this book and are just seeing the social media exchange.
        There’s a reason advice is pretty consistent that you don’t respond to customer reviews.

        Anyway while the reviews may break down in those four categories most of the ones I’ve seen took issue with the writing style, along the lines of “I liked the story, but I really didn’t like the writing style that was telling that story.”

        • snowcrash

          That’s no excuse for an author to go to social media or a blog and mock the fans.

          I would disagree. I’m not a fan of Authors Behaving Badly – there are some authors who I am incredibly unlikely to read because of their sheer silliness in how they respond to a piece of criticism.

          But. I would distinguish between valid and invalid criticisms. You hate the narrative voice? Go for it. You think that a TIE should “screech and swoop” instead of “wibble/ wobble”? More power to you.

          You’re pissed off that the protagonist is gay, because $REASONS? You’re unhappy that the EU has been declared non-canon? You decide to twitter-bomb the author for this? Dude. Just don’t. As my old college master would say, show some f*cking decorum.

          Obvs, YMMV on everything.

          • If you look at the links I provided, I’m focusing on quality of writing. We can see that you like it – good – but this is not about the other factors. This is about the fans who are unhappy with the writing.

            • snowcrash

              @Cedar, of course. I guess what I was aiming for, insofar as I can, was that there were other things happening that allowed some context for both the negative reviews as well as Wendig’s statements. I’m not big on Twitter – to me it’s where nuance goes to die – but I do see that @Robin has provided a link (at September 12, 2015 at 12:37 pm) to the authors page where he addresses criticisms on his narrative voice

              As for my voice: I can’t do much about that. I’m me. My writing is my writing. I took a long time to find my voice and if it’s not your thing, I respect that.

              The EU thing

              …if the only reason you didn’t like the book or left a review like that is because of some kind of campaign against it based on the EU/Legends canon, I am sorry. Honestly. I get that it sucks that some of the stories you love will remain unconsidered and unfinished.

              and the LGBT thing

              And if you’re upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you. Sorry, you squawking saurian — meteor’s coming. And it’s a fabulously gay Nyan Cat meteor with a rainbow trailing behind it and your mode of thought will be extinct. You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the fucking Empire, man.

              These are just excerpts of course, and the whole thing probably gives better than my poor attempts do. As I understand it from people who seem to know Wendig professionally/ personally, he’s a fairly straight up guy who, while he respects informed criticisms, will kick back if someone tries to lay into him, so I would postulate that’s why he’s come out both barrels blazing against (what is to me) some of the sillier things that other seem to be saying (ie, EU non-canon, the LGBT thing, even the pricing thing).

              In all honesty, I wish that Amazon had a way that you could rejigger the stats breakdown by ignoring everything that came out in the first 24-48 hours – my perception would be that at that point it’s almost entirely the fanboys gushing or the haters hating. But then again, I figure Amazon looks at stuff like this as “Oooh, free publicity” anyway.

              • All of which, in the dialog of Joel Chandler, “Is neither here nor there.” The issues addressed in the post are quality of writing and an author’s reaction to criticism. Gay characters or not, it doesn’t change that, in the opinion of most who’ve tried the book, the writing stinks, nor does it change the author’s attitude toward his readers, which stinks as well.

                From the excepts, the book stinks. From this, along with the attitude of the author, I will never buy one of his books again. Yes, again. I once bought one of his books on writing, which is how I knew his name. This is an example of how a writer drives away readers. Since readers buy the books that drives the sales that pays the advance and makes the royalties payments, treating your readers like trash is stupid.

                Now, if a gay Star Wars character is so important to you that you can put up with poor writing and arrogant authors, buy the book. End of problem. For the rest of us, who look for a good read and couldn’t care less about character orientation, this doesn’t look like it’s worth spending money on.

                About the only value I see in this sad saga is that it serves as an a “Writers, don’t let this happen to you,” example. Your readers are your customers. Treat them as such.

                • snowcrash

                  The issues addressed in the post are quality of writing and an author’s reaction to criticism.

                  I’ve agreed with the former, and noted that the author appears to be reacting to more than just criticisms based on his writing. That would seem somewhat relevant to me.

                  “…in the opinion of most who’ve tried the book, the writing stinks,…”

                  This strikes me as an unwarranted assumption, unless you believe that the ~600 pax who have written Amazon reviews constitute “most who’ve tried the book”. Note that it’s been in the top 100 of books, and in the top 5 of it’s categories since it’s release.

                  ….treating your readers like trash is stupid.

                  Being a reader is not a license to insist that an author be answerable to things beyond their control. But I agree in general with your sentiment above.

                  Now, if a gay Star Wars character is so important to you that you can put up with poor writing and arrogant authors, buy the book.

                  Huh? Who exactly is making that argument? Please take it up with them.

              • Hmmm… another disinfornation campaign. Selective quoting, selective blindness and play-pretend reasonsbleness. She’s here to waste your time and derail.

          • I’ll agree with you on everything you said. I will note, however, that Cedar was focusing on the writing. However, if you are going to tell the reader to have some “f*cking decorum”, you should demand even more from the author. Of course, YMMV.

          • Ravenshrike

            Looking solely at the 1 star reviews on amazon maybe 20% touch on the fact of gay characters at all. Less than half of those use it as a reason for the 1 star review. Instead they point out how the book sucks, and then sarcastically point out that the gay characters make up for its failings.

          • Nathan

            Considering that Paul Kemp wrote gay characters in Lords of the Sith and it was greeted only by sophomoric jokes as criticism and the book has 4 stars with only 4% negative reviews, perhaps the outcry over Aftermath is because the writing sucks.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        The overwhelming majority of negative reviews are focusing on his writing style, with an almost equal number complaining about his plotting and characters. Very few mention the gay characters. Also, most of the negatives are verified purchases, so if this is an organized one-star campaign, as some have suggested, they’ve got money to burn for buying books they intend to hate.

      • Robin Munn

        … people taking umbrage at the existence of a gay protagonist …

        If so many people were taking umbrage, why don’t you point me to a few of them? Because I’ve been reading the 1-star reviews, and nobody is mentioning that as a reason they disliked the book. The only people to even mention the gay character(s) do so either positively, or neutrally (for example, “I don’t care if he is into guys, girls, aliens, or droids.”)

        Now, I’ve only gotten through the first three pages (sorted by helpfulness rating) of 1-star reviews so far. Maybe there are some people down on pages 4 and later who are complaining about the gay characters, so if you can point me to a few of them, I’d appreciate it. But you know what? The only people who’ve been saying “Oh, the one-star reviews are full of homophobes” have been… the author (on Twitter), and a TON of five-star reviewers who do NOT have “Verified Purchase” after their name (and who posted their reviews shortly after the author publicly requested 5-star reviews on Twitter). Gee, I wonder whether they’re telling the truth, or whether I should believe my lying eyes?

        So, as I said — if you have evidence of people taking umbrage at the existence of a gay protagonist, please let me know. Hint: if you can’t find it in the 1-star reviews of Star Wars: Aftermath, maybe you could try all the negative reviews of A Few Good Men that pan it for having a gay protagonist. I’m sure you could find evidence for your thesis there, right?

        • snowcrash

          Jim Hines blogged it a few days back, noting those like:

          “This book includes 3 gay characters that feel so forced into the story. Disney is stuffing diversity down our throats and it’s taking me out of my suspension of believe because it feels forced. I myself am a minority but when I read star Wars I don’t want to be thinking about racial consciousness or sexual idenitity. I also don’t like the inclusion of so many gay charcters becuase my personal opinion is that homosexuality is not normal; sodomy is not normal and I am tired of the liberal media trying to make me accept this lifestyle.”

          “And you want to put in alternative life styles? Fine. But it doesn’t have to be spelled out every time.“

          “No really, I’m not being hateful or bigoted, Chuck and Disney decided at some point to make half of Star Wars gay.“

          Hines’ post (google “hines One-Star Wars”) has the links, though the last one seems to have been removed from Amazon – it’s still there in the Google Cache though, just search for the text.

          Now, I’m not sure what this is supposed to show. Like I said, people appear to have been criticizing Wendig’s book for various reasons. This is just one of them. Is it the most common reason? I don’t know. Is it the dumbest reason to be hostile to a book? I don’t know either. But hey, they are there, and I cut the author some slack (not a lot, but some) if people have been dumping that onto his work.

          • Uncle Lar

            I don’t read those as anti gay so much as a critique of the ham handed way the author forces the issue. I’m a few chapters into the latest Stirling “Dies the Fire” book and there are some obvious gay and lesbian leaning characters in it, but it’s just one more aspect of giving the reader a character they can relate to instead of a cardboard cutout.

          • Robin Munn

            So, one reviewer who was explicitly negative about homosexuality, one who was objecting to it feeling forced, and one whose context I can’t verify because it’s been removed. The other two reviews, though, were well down in the “not found helpful” zone, where most readers would never see them because Amazon’s default review sort is by helpfulness. And when I went actively looking for more reviews like that, I found very few, and none in the first three pages of reviews sorted by helpfulness. (After which I stopped looking because I was losing interest in reading review after review saying the same thing — “This book’s writing style is awful/atrocious/horrible/the worst thing ever/take your pick.)

            Meanwhile, the author launched a Twitter campaign insinuating that there was a massive 1-star campaign against his books based on the gay characters:

            (His very next tweet was a beg for positive reviews to “counterbalance the, uhh, carnival of delight going on at Amazon.)

            Yet for all the one-star reviews that had already appeared, Hines could only find TWO to cite that were in any way negative about homosexual characters, and another one that was “Look, I’m getting tired of having this shoved in my face all the time.” Yep, that sure is a lot of homophobia there, Mr. Hines. Two WHOLE examples!!!!!

          • Robin Munn

            Oh wow, it only takes a single Twitter link to fall into moderation. Well, while my post awaits release from the spam-trap, I’ll just summarize it: of the three examples that Hines cites, one is specifically anti-homosexuality, one says “I’m tired of having characters’ sexuality shoved in my face when I don’t care about it” (my paraphrase, not a direct quote), and one seems to be negative about homosexuality but I can’t verify its context (because that’s the one that was removed from Amazon). Granting Mr. Hines that one for the sake of argument, that’s a whole TWO reviews that he could find that were negative about homosexuality. Wow, lock the doors, two reviews out of … however many there were at the time Hines wrote that post, let’s guess “half as many as there are now”. Two reviews out of 250 that dislike the book because of the homosexual character. Yep, that’s a witch hunt, all right.

            • snowcrash

              I’ve no idea if they were the only ones. Also, there’s a witch hunt now?

              Regardless, you asked for examples, and there they are. HTH. HAND.

              • Robin Munn

                Many of the 5-star reviews that lacked the “Verified Purchase” badge used the term “witch hunt” about the alleged 1-star “campaign” they were trying to counter.

              • Robin Munn

                Yes, it does help. It helps to show that your original thesis, that “people taking umbrage at the existence of a gay protagonist” were one of four broad categories of bad reviews, is completely undermined by the evidence. A miniscule fraction of bad reviews ≠ a broad category.

          • Feather Blade

            Sounds like they’re complaining that Wendig’s portrayal of homosexual characters is minstrel-show level.

            • Wendig’s portrayal of homosexual characters is minstrel-show level.

              So, gayface then?

              • This made me laugh so hard… and it’s a perfect metaphor for how I feel about the insertion of one-note, stereotypical ‘agenda’ characters. It’s insulting. I want real people, complex and highly developed. Not some diversity-aware writer’s idea of what’s fabulous.

                • Joe in PNG

                  What’s the LGBT equivalent of the “Magical Negro” trope?

                • Sara the Red

                  This, so much. I hate it when a character is made ‘diverse’ only for the sake of being diverse. Now, if they’re interesting, entertaining, well-rounded, and well written? I don’t give a damn what color/shape/preferred sex partner (with the exception of, say, pedophiles) the character is.

                  Which is why I love Dorian from Dragon Age Inquisition–the fact that he’s gay is only one small part of his character. Did they do it to check the diversity box? Maybe, but it didn’t matter. He’s hilarious, snarky, and a character passionately devoted to doing the right thing and higher ideals, and in trying to save his decaying homeland from itself. Those all matter a helluva lot more than his sexuality.

                  (I expect, when I finally get my hands on Sarah’s AFGM, to fully love her protag there, too, and for similar reasons as the above.)

          • julieapascal

            Snowcrash, I don’t know how it’s possible to write a critique of how gay characters and issues are handled in a book in a way that anyone would ever believe you. Logically it’s very possible for an author to screw it up. How does one explain that they screwed it up? You just can’t.

            A “big” romance/thriller author went off the deep end a few years ago… she always had very popular gay characters. She even wrote a book that featured a gay romance, including the sex, which while the sex scenes weren’t as fun to read as the ones with sex I *like*, it was all still good. And then she… had a mental break. Who the heck knows? She started sticking agendas in that really detracted from the stories, some of those were heterosexual, I mean, you’re reading a romance and the author suddenly lectures you on how there’s no wrong way to have sex and it’s okay the the guy can only get excited if he’s pretending it’s violent? But a whole lot of it was all about gays this and gays that and hatey-mchaters… etc.,

            Now I could say… look, here are my biases, I’m aware of them… they are *not* what is off about this story. I’m a writer. There are structural issues. There are timing and flow issues. The mistakes are *focused* on the inclusion of the gay issues. They seem wedged in. They cause “bumps”. The fun of this author’s previous books are gone. They’ve now become infected with political hobby horses. The writing has suffered.

            And what is the response but “you’re just homophobic, stop reading my books and stop being a fan you bigot.”

            So it’s like… well, okay then.

    • Stilted dialog is one thing, writing things like “The TIE fighter weebled and wobbled” is something totally different. Worse, however, is the behavior of the author in his reaction to the reviews. But you are right, “your mileage may vary”. However, in my opinion, it is bad writing that threw me out of the sample and that prevents me from buying a book I normally would have.

      • Nathan

        What lost me on the book was the opening scene. The chains around *Emperor Palpatine* in *Coruscant*, only later to be revealed to be the statue toppled in the iconic last scenes of RotJ. Since Palpatine died on the Death Star, the omission threw me out of the book immediately. An additional word in the first mention of Palpatine would have more accurately described the scene.

        So, yes, writing failure on Wendig’s part. I just hope his bad behavior on Twitter costs him the rest of his trilogy.

        • scottsaxbury

          When I read the first few chapters in the store I got the feeling he might have been writing from a script he was given. And trying to make things ‘relevant’ to the readers by having the Battle of Endor be as widely covered (on Coruscant, for some reason, where they’d have had every reason to suppress even the EXISTENCE of Endor and what was in that system) as the Fall of Baghdad. As far as his writing style is concerned, it reminded me of the worst of the old EU, dark nest or further on, or some of those Alice Sheldon short stories where the language and action are so bland it’s criminal. Don’t remember him even mentioning any characters sleeping habits in that section, but I only got five chapters through before I gave up. Extremely short chapters, or it wouldn’t have been that far.

    • Max

      No, this is just objectively bad writing. You don’t even need to read the reviews. Just try the sample. I’m not exaggerating when I say it sinks below the level of grammar and readability set by about 50% of fan fiction.

      It’s really, really bad.

    • The dialog is one of the least objectionable parts for me.

      It’s every other word that isn’t dialog that presented a problem.

  2. TRX

    Well, that’s just bad writing. I suffered through “New Wave”, with its “nonlinear plot lines” and “stream of consciousness” narrative. Writers who surely knew better rode that bandwagon for a while.

  3. Can’t say I’m surprised. I thought his whole schtick was spitting on fans. I followed his blog for a while, but it wasn’t long before I stopped trying to wade through his game of ‘how offensive can I make this’ to find a crumb of what might turn out to be actual information.

    • I’ve never followed him and was vaguely aware that he was a bit of a shock-jock, but the deflection surrounding this book is astounding. If your fans don’t like it, don’t attack the fans.

      • Sara the Red

        I followed him for a while, and it was entertaining. I found his creative use of profanity unexpectedly funny–considering that my usual feelings on the subject are that ‘profanity is the sign of a lack of imagination’–so there was that. And then he just started getting downright vicious to people who disagreed with his worldview, and I stopped reading. This also prevented me from buying any of his books, even though I’d enjoyed several of his books on writing, and his novel Blackbirds.

  4. Peter O

    From that last review: “it reminds me of the Phantom Menace.”

    Now there is the kiss of death for starwars fans.

    • I can’t evaluate it based on the Star Wars universe except in broad terms – I’m not a film geek and never did see one of the more recent flicks (prequels?).

      • Gah! You’ve never seen them? You haven’t suffered through… Huh. Well, no, I can’t recommend them, not really… So, I guess that’s okay… Yeah.

        Huh. That feels weird, not recommending a Star Wars movie.

      • Ravenshrike

        If you take all three of the prequels and cut it down to one 2 and 1/2 hour movie it becomes tolerable.

        • This is what I’ve gathered from people I trust… so I haven’t bothered! 🙂

          • If you want to watch the prequels, do it out of order – 4, 5, 2, 3, and then 6. Watch 1 afterward for a little backstory. Doing it that way ties the Luke/Anakin narratives together better than watching them 1-6.

            • Luke

              Or just watch red letter media’s review. The Phantom Menace is right down there with Mandos, Hand of Fate.

            • Nathan

              Machete order. I want to try that, but I can’t bring myself to buy or borrow the prequels.

              • I watched them for the fight scenes and special effects when Ye University Movie Hut had a two-fer special. But I was rolling on the floor and laughing when Padme Whasshername showed up in Col. Wilma Deering’s uniform in #2 prequel. And even the fight scene with special effects couldn’t hold me through the so-called climax in #3. Something about growling “just push him into the lava already.”

                • The Other Sean

                  I thought #3 was great right up until the buzz droids show up. After that it went downhill.

                  • scottsaxbury

                    I thought ep3 was great up till when the two kids doing the light saber battle in the front aisle brake their nice, expensive glass sabers. Then the movie started.

          • Uncle Lar

            Modest suggestion, if you need a break from homework and aren’t in the mood to write, blow off the whole Star Wars schtick and get a copy of Predestination, an Australian film based on Heinlein’s “All You Zombies!” It’s actually fairly faithful to that quite disturbing short story.

          • If you can get a copy of The Phantom Edit it’ s good value.

        • jaed

          Is there, perhaps, a pirate version available that completely eliminates the Character Who Shall Not Be Named? Because I could go for that.

          • julieapascal

            Oh bah humbug.

            “I loved Star Wars! It was the best movie EVAH when I was 12! OMG, now I’m 40 and Lucas made a film for 12 year olds! Oh, the humanity!”

            😛

            There was nothing all that bad about Jar Jar Binks.

            • jaed

              I beg to differ. I would have thrown things at the screen had I been watching Jar Jar Binks at fifteen.

              By now I’ve learned a little self-control, so after seeing Episode 2 (which I thought wasn’t bad, except for you-know-who), and hearing that Jar Jar played an even larger role in Episode 1, I had… no desire at all to see it. Thus, no throwing things. Maturity’s a wonder. 😉

          • B. Durbin

            The Phantom Edit. He doesn’t eliminate that character entirely, but he does mention on his commentary track that the sound people for the official movie mixed that character’s voice *50% higher* than everybody else’s voice, so in the scene he kept, he modulated the voice down so as to make it less annoying. He also recuts a lot of the scenes to remove the stupid comedy relief schtick, especially where it undercuts something dramatic.

            • Robin Munn

              I need clarification (if you see this comment): “50% higher” in the sense of 50% louder than everyone else, or 50% higher pitched?

        • Sara the Red

          If you haven’t seen the YouTube series on “How to make these movies not suck”…wow. I really wish they’d gone with THAT person’s story ideas.

          (Sadly, they’ve only done the first two.)

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Remember Kirk? He had a long piece on ATH about how he really liked Star Wars IV as a kid, but when he was older he saw the better films it was derived from. (The Dambusters, and one I forget.) Lucas didn’t use those for Episodes I and II, and it shows.

        Let’s just say that the Darths and Droids webcomic makes more coherent use of the characters and scenery.

        http://darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0001.html

    • I like Jar-Jar Binks. Jar-Jar made my (then) 7 year old son Mickey a Star Wars fan, and that was something we could share.
      And for the record, I saw the first Star Wars when it came out in 1977; I was dating for the first time since my divorce, and my then-girl friend had a horse named Charlie. She was a fox, too. I wonder what ever became of her?

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  6. Christopher M. Chupik

    From a two-star review:

    “By@Gazi2aon September 11, 2015
    Format: Hardcover
    I couldn’t get into this.

    I’m so disappointed becuae I was so excited for this.

    I do salute Wendig for bringing some diversity to the universe”

    Man, that one’s a real narrative breaker, isn’t it! 😀

  7. Write for Hire in a specific, well known, and popular universe seems to call for a writing style that fits in, that does not call attention to “Hey this is ME writing this story.”

    And the Disney people must be fuming at the reviews, and checking the contract in hopes that Wendig was only signed for a single book.

    This may be “Art” but it sure wasn’t good *business* for Chuck.

    • That’s what gets me. OK, so he wrote a book and apparently didn’t love the universe, or it got edited into chop suey. Dogs happen, problems happen, and a less-than-well-written book gets released. But reacting in a way that’s going to hurt your customer base now AND in the future, when you release a great, captivating book . . . Maybe its just because I’ve had a trying week, but that seems like it should go into the Writers Don’t Do This handbook.

      • Agreed — do not kick readers and potential readers in the teeth by insulting and belittling them on social media…

      • Birthday Girl

        As strictly a reader, I’m shocked by this boy-man’s behavior. Trashing the customers, really? We see the same kind of thing from the Haydens et al, now from a lucky lucky lucky guy handed a golden goose … is this the new normal? Are the business people who run these companies utterly clueless or don’t care? I know that anywhere I have ever worked (none of it in publishing!), behavior like unto that would be stopped tout suite, possibly even with firing. Why do certain people in this very competitive industry get away with being such horrible people toward the customers?

        • Luke

          Because the customers are not the people they’re trying to curry favor with.

          • Joe in PNG

            Well, “You philistines just don’t have the brains to understand my art” has been the cry of the terrible artist since forever.

        • Uncle Lar

          Unfounded arrogance in their own opinions and a disturbing contempt for their customers the average reading public. I can almost understand their frustration. Not so long ago they had the power to make sure the readers only had access to those works the “important’ people decided they should read. Baen was a fly in the ointment, but their entire output is on the order of 60 or so books a year, so best to either mock or simply ignore them and their discouragingly robust sales numbers. Now with indie through primarily Amazon there is both access and the ability to compare apples to apples. And guess what, their apples are being found mealy, spotted, and much less desirable than other choices in this brave new farmer’s market.

      • Nathan

        Paul Kemp handled the criticisms of his book better. When people were cracking sophomoric lesbian jokes on the name of a character, his response was to ask that they at least make the jokes somewhat amusing.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      My understanding is that he was lined up for a trilogy.

      I would’ve said ‘maybe Disney does not know enough about books to care?’ However, the new Rick Riordan seems to be associated with Disney somehow, so that is my error.

      Homophobia would be the excuse most likely to be bought by Disney.

  8. Christopher M. Chupik

    I may add that John Jackson Miller had to contend with fans unhappy about the EU reboot a few months back. And he was able to do so without resorting to snide remarks and profanity.

  9. Reality Observer

    OK, I am not a Star Wars fan (mildly interesting movies, great special effects in the context of their time). I vaguely remember seeing a “Chuck Wendig” wandering around various blogs – but I have enough trouble connecting names to people that I interact with every day; I had no idea that he is one of the “diverse artists” of the field.

    I took one look at the snippet that headed this post, and thought “illiterate.” This is the kind of writing that I am (slowly) getting pounded out of my daughter. The daughter that actually graduated from a high school for the gifted.

    This does illustrate perfectly one of the worst things about the traditional publishing author. Their customer is not the person ringing up their book at the B & N register, nor is it the one hitting “one-click” on the Amazon website. It is the New York publisher that is signing the advance check.

  10. youretheworst

    I’m not a fan of the author in question, but I’m glad that he received the opportunity to write a huge media tie-in novel like this. Maybe now, after the dreadful reactions to the book; and his own “head in the sand” dreadful reactions to poor reviews; the people who continue to recommend his works to me will be able to step back and consider whether they buy his works because they actually enjoy them, or because they feel like they should support him due to identity politics bullshit…

    Just my .02 🙂

  11. amiegibbons15

    Now what I don’t get is why everyone is bashing this book for bad writing but clamoured for 50 shades of grey, which started out as fan fic online, so loud the writer got a publishing deal and millions.

    • Robin Munn

      I think you’ll find that the sets of “people bashing this book for bad writing” and “people clamoring for 50 Shades of Grey” have almost NO overlap.

    • Well, I’m not one of those who clamored for 50 Shades. Until recently, it had been at the top of my “worst books ever” list. 😉

      • amiegibbons15

        I was kind of lumping them into the general public. It was supposed to be a joke.

        • I know. My humor meter is off-kilter today. And you are right. I’m sure there are some of those dissing this book who actually liked, or thought they would, 50 Shades of Dreck.

    • Um. You will not find any kind of clamour, or clam, even, from me for 50 shades.

    • Ravenshrike

      50 shades of Meh is written significantly better than Aftermath. Well, using significantly in the scientific sense at least. While not quite at the level of horror that is the book that shall not be named or the fanfic My Immortal, it is still very very bad.

    • I read the thread and know this is a joke, but because I’m humorless, I’ll point out that FSOG was aimed at a particular audience, and delivered on that promise. Unlike Aftermath.

      • freddie_mac

        True. As a reader, I’d say that it’s vitally important for a writer to know the audience. Case in point: LK Hamilton’s Anita Blake series (ABVH). Those of us who began reading the series with the early books got a preternatural investigator who was leery of creatures. Fast-forward to Narcissus in Chains, and ABVH has become focused on sex almost to the exclusion of anything else. The early readers tended to feel betrayed — this was’t the character they’d come to enjoy and respect. But again, reader disappointment about how the characters had been mangled was treated as personal attacks by the author and surrogates, which meant that many people (myself included) simply left. Not sure how well the ABVH books are selling, but I have no interest in them.

    • Now, if you want something that gets into 50SOG territory that is actually really good, and don’t mind Graphic Novels, there’s a thing out there called Sunstone that has some fantastic characters, and avoids all the BDSM fic cliches, plus it is beautifully illustrated.

  12. I won’t criticize dialog, for I have the fear I do not do all that much better. I will criticize the attitude of a writer to his customers. As you point out, an author does not have a captive audience. No one is required to read an author’s books. Even if a writer happens to be so clueless as to think “they don’t know what’s good,” that should not be voiced. Ever.

    This behavior, frankly, is bizarre. Those who read books are the author’s ultimate boss. They should be treated as such.

  13. I don’t think I have ever seen as many colons in one passage

    When you consider what the colon is filled with, all should be clear. It takes a lot of colons to contain that much…. 😉

  14. Luke

    Well, I’ll bite the bullet and address the homosexuality thing.
    It’s not appropriate for Star Wars. The series is traditionally juvenile, where romance and the creation of children is portrayed from the viewpoint of a kid between 8-10. Boy characters and girl characters sometimes like each other in a special way, and children come into the setting, but it’s all mysterious.
    For the canonical example, imagine how deeply creepy the Luke-Leia-Han life triangle would have turned when it was revealed that two of them were siblings if this weren’t the case.

    • Lucas said flat out “There is no sex in the Star Wars universe.” In the early days Lucasarts vigorously discouraged slash, to the point that for a while it was all underground. So yeah, it’s not that I care if there’s a gay character; it’s that it doesn’t fit with the established universe. So I shake my head and think, “What have they done to SW now?”

      Well, what they managed with the prequels was to turn a rabid fulltime fan into a bored gafiator, and now they’re trying their best to get off my radar entirely.

    • Uncle Lar

      Ah, but you see, there is a militant gay faction who see their main goal the mainstreaming of their gay lifestyle agenda. Got no problem with equal rights, same sex marriage, polygamy for that matter, long as it’s all between consenting adults. But that militant faction seems to think that the only way to react to any sort of resistance is with blunt force trauma. A business doesn’t actively support the gay lifestyle? Destroy them, take their means to earn a living away.
      In this instance they are trying to make it all about gay bashing rather than an issue of the author’s ability as a writer. If the book had presented Vader as gay I’m sure they would be the ones flooding Amazon with one star reviews.

      • Luke

        The whole totalitarian tendency towards “everything not forbidden is compulsory” gives me a really bad feeling about this.

        • Feather Blade

          Was it Bob Hope who joked that “They’ve just made homosexuality legal in California. I thought I’d get out before they made it mandatory?”

          • Uncle Lar

            Years ago I recall a cartoon, Playboy I think, where two flamboyantly gay friends were chatting. Set in England I suspect. The caption read:

            It once was a felony,
            then a misdemeanor,
            then it was frowned upon,
            now it’s socially acceptable.
            I’m not stopping until it’s compulsory!

            Seems to me like with so many other things any abused minority campaigns for equality, but what they secretly wish for is to turn the tables and seize the power to punish those who once dominated them.

            • Yep. I can’t find it again online offhand, but the founder of NOW has been cited (by someone who interviewed her) as saying: “It was never about equality. It was always about power.”

  15. Draven

    I think Wending is about to find out how seriously Disney takes customer relations when handling their properties.

    • Alex Jeffries

      Given how Iger’s Disney has bungled the theme parks in recent years, I’m not so certain they do. Unless Aftermath doesn’t make their projected sales numbers, they aren’t likely to care.

    • I’m reminded of the story of Harlan Ellison’s half day tenure at Disney.

  16. Okay, I am sufficiently motivated to check Chuck out. I’m not going to read ‘Aftermath’ though. Instead, I’m going to read “The Kick Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience.” I’m also going to read one of his fiction pieces. I’ll blog about it afterwards. See y’all later.

  17. Dav

    Part of me really wants to push this for a Best Related Work Hugo…just to see the other sides contortions as they try to simultaneously attack and defend it.

  18. Bob

    Forget the new Star Wars, movie and all the rest. The Italians have already produced an amazing continuation, and it’s a fan film! There’s a prequel too, and I recommend both. It benefits from multiple viewings to appreciate the acting and to pick up all the little hints about what’s going on. Can hardly wait for the concluding film!

  19. Angus Trim

    I was kinda curious about what all the fuss was about, so I decided to read a few review. Read quite a few really, but what was most entertaining were the comments.

    I don’t think I’ll be buying this one.

  20. rat

    I read parts of Aftermath at B&N before I read this thread. I checked out Wendig’s twitter too.

    Then I left my Amazon review and happened by here.

    Yep. Uggg. Aftermath. DO. NOT. WANT.

    And I have the Stackpoles and Zahns on my shelf. For an OCD completionist like me to pass on the new SW novel is … unexpected.

  21. ThomasW

    Mr. Wendig appears to write all of his novels in the present tense based on the few I checked on Amazon. However, I think I’ve read at least one present tense novel in the past and the issue here seems to be writing style / ability, not present tense.

    It’s a shame if LGBT, diversity, etc. is being forced on us in Star Wars. Star Wars is not about sex or romance, the romance in Star Wars is not really central to the plot. It should be possible to include a gay character without shoving it down our throats, but the comments here imply it’s the usual gay character who is constantly thinking about sex or the attractiveness of every man he meets, often at the expense of a plot, something which generally causes me to stop reading a book.

    Of course, movie novelizations (or tie in books) often go to middling authors, why should Star Wars be different (this is not a comment one way or another on the large number of Star Wars tie in books already out there, I haven’t read any of them).

    • julieapascal

      Present tense shouldn’t be a problem. A good 80% of readers won’t even notice the tense anyhow. Most readers couldn’t even tell you if a book was 1st person or 3rd once they close it and aren’t looking at it.

    • Holly

      I find present tense in a novel mildly annoying. I’m used to past, so when it’s present I see the tense. Anything that I see is annoying. I should just be able to gulp the pages down.
      But if we want to mention pet peeves, have you all read Skin Game by Jim Butcher? Okay, stop reading here if you haven’t and you care about spoilers.

      Okay, so you’ve read Skin Game. You know the chapter where he goes “Gotcha, Goodman was really on my side.” I HATE that. To the point that I reread the book (because otherwise it was a good book) putting that chapter in the proper chronological order.
      Yeah, I know it’s Dresden’s case files and it’s supposed to be him writing up the case. I don’t care. Give me the knowledge the narrator has, or at least make it crystal clear that he’s hiding something.

    • Present tense, like first person, tends to highlight everything that’s wrong with the writing. Once long before I ever wrote any fiction, I read a trilogy in present tense (I forget if it was by Jo Clayton or ??, we’re talkin’ 30+ years ago, but someone well-known) and it never did stop feeling like sand in my brain.

      I’ve run across a couple writers whose natural voice is present tense, and there it works, but it’s still not something I’ll read outside of a beta situation. 99% of the time, to my ear it comes off as contrived and stiff and just plain irritating. So at the bookstore, it’s an automatic back-on-the-shelf.

  22. You made me go look; but it didn’t take much of the sample to know that, as a lover of the original movies (I was in the right age cohort – halfway through grad school), I will not be reading this book. Just a few sample pages, and I felt my head was going to fall off from having the writer point it in so many directions.

    I agree: not good writing. Or at least, not in MY opinion – and I would have thought I was in the target demographic.

  23. rat

    It is a Star Wars book, It is part of the canonical franchise and it tied (presumably) to the new non Expanded Universe ‘verse that movies 7-9 will inhabit.

    It is going to sell, and sell at least moderately well. There is no way for it not to benefit from the tie in’s, incessant movie promotion, Kmart and Walmart toys (Xmas season…), Lego sets etc.

    The real question becomes whether or not it is embraced by the stalwart SW crowd. Does it become the beloved new canon, or the begrudged punch line a la’ Jar Jar? In terms of gross sales, Disney is unlikely to care too much if it is flat to above average – the real money is in box office and merch. Disney would only care if there is a (criminal or persona) scandal like the ones that have tripped up previously beloved, successful and ultimately disowned authors. As much as I was not impressed by this book, I don’t wish for that sort of ending for anyone, even for an author that mocks the franchise fans.

  24. Pat Patterson

    I submitted a request to get a review copy. Haven’t gotten a reply back yet (only asked two hours ago). I’m gonna review two of his books and comment on the flap. I hope to have access to the book for a review . If I can’t get a kindle loam from the author, I:ll be asking around.
    I’m the interim, I read the preview sample and found nothing objectionable.
    Also, I’m mostly finished with Kick Ass Writers, and it’s a great book. It’s the sort of thing that any of us might write, IF we developed a fondness for somewhat amusing examples of vulgar speech.

    And according to the 2nd trailer, Harrison Ford and Chewey are in the film! Woot!

  25. julieapascal

    I think it’s really hard to judge small portions of prose and hard to judge small portions of dialog. I hesitate to mock even the novel that shall not be named. Just about any bit pulled out of a book will seem clunky. Mostly, if you get hooked by the beginning… get into it… then the story pulls you along and it doesn’t matter really if any particular part is great craft or not. Presumably by a few pages in you’ve got some notion of the characters and the dialog has a context.

    The more I consider the tense issue though… we generally use present tense for memories and flash-backs, dream sequences… it might seem logical that present tense would bring a person into the moment, but the effect is actually distancing. I will maintain that the average reader has not a clue what tense or even POV something is, even if they are well able to tell you if you ask and they check. That doesn’t mean that they won’t react to the tense choice as distancing rather than as increased immediacy.

    And of course, publicly complaining about your audience/fans is just bad form.

  26. What’s sad is his crappy book has hundreds of reviews, and my crappy little book only has 7. 🙂

    And it’s probably better written (Just not as well read.).

  27. LochLomondFarms

    I am 130+ comments in (and have read them all), so I don’t know if this will even be read. However, given what we have seen in the culture lately, both the SF sub-culture and the larger one, I expect Mr. Wendig looks at all of the “lousy writing” critiques and sees, “I hate homosexuals.” A “dog whistle” in the current usage.

    • LochLomondFarms

      On the other hand, he is positioning himself nicely to be on the SJW slate for next year’s Hugo Award nominations: An SJW himself, persecution over gay characters, and an SW universe book. For the latter, if I remember from all the kerfuffle, the Hugo Awards have never gone to a novel related to a movie. His book could then be a first.

      Additionally, if he is himself a homosexual, then he can claim victimhood, multiplying his chances of at least being nominated.

    • This certainly seems to be the direction he’s going in, with the Guardian article and twitterstorm he frothed up. Whether he cannot see the reality because it would bruise his ego, or he is deliberately donning blinders in order to use a generated controversy for his own ends, it’s a shame to see this behavior of attacking readers encouraged.

    • Nathan

      If that becomes the case, the argument for saving the Hugo will have been lost. It will be time to build under, as Sarah has said about other things in her blog.

  28. Do you ever get the sense sometimes that these people are using what they imaine to be trendy marginalized populations as human shields? Gays his week, muslims last month, blacks last year–?

    Because they figure its a get-out-of-jail-free card is there story turns out to suck ?

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