Where is the future of the Wally?

Here am I, in the esteemed company of such luminaries in my field as Larry Correia and John C Wright, as winners of the Wally Award, an honor I will treasure – because it isn’t every day I find myself lumped with authors that I try to learn from and imitate, and I hear some terribly tragic news.

There’s no doubt that being singled out by none other than Damien Walter of ‘The Grauniad’, a newspaper whose reputation for unbiased journalism is only rivaled by Pravda, legendary for its typos and grammos (hence Grauniad, rather than The Guardian), and with research and factual quality which is mentioned in the same breath as News of the World and Beano (although they cannot seriously compete with Beano in the opinion of most people of an IQ above ‘sheep, dim (Merino)’) and whose sf/fantasy correspondent’s effect on the sales and livelihoods of sf and fantasy authors has been equated with file 770. The last comparison I feel unfair, because despite Damien’s tiny readership, his attempts to harm my career and ability to make a living, he actually had some effect on my sales, with his hatred of my unread work improving sales for me. It is for this reason I find the news that the floundering ‘Grauniad’ (the Venezuela of mainstream print media, which is running out of other people’s money) seems to have dispensed with his services, so sad.

I mean, without Damien condemning our books – plainly unread, because he simply had no idea what they were about – how are people supposed to find and try the next ‘Wally’ winners? A surprising number of readers contacted me to say they had tried and enjoyed my book as a result, and that anyone condemned by Damien in the same article as Correia or Wright had to be worth trying.

Let’s not make this the last ever Wallys! I think we ought to get a Sad Puppy program together to petition The Guardian to beg him to come back. For the sake of the next generation, for other struggling writers. For the children! (Okay, not the children. The Guardian probably won’t be there. Most mainstream mass media are so distrusted (About 1/3 of people believe what they read there, and that only gets that high because about half of their political fellow-travellers do) and are thus losing so much advertising revenue they’re all exsanguinating.) Never has there been a reporter who better captured the ethos and quality and integrity of his mass media outlet. And without him there, there will be no more Wally awards.

To end this sarcasm with a serious note. Damian attempts to teach writing, and like a stopped clock… or possibly a day-by-day calendar stuck on Feburary 29… Someone pointed out that he actually said something semi-sensible for once.

Reading helps. If Margaret Atwood had read more sf (or any) she would not have made her eternally mocked ‘Squids in Space’ stupid statement. But aside from that, by reading with a learning eye, you as an author can work out how – or how not to do things. Even reading thing you DON’T enjoy can help you to understand their audiences and learn their techniques and skills. If you can’t divorce your emotions and personal prejudices enough to get their heads – how can you do it effectively for characters (unless they end up as endless echoes of you)? It might have helped Damien – who is not what anyone could call a successful widely-read fiction author – if he’d actually read those books, even mine.

I’ve learned a great deal from books I did not enjoy as a whole (or even in part.) I read catholically (And not just A Pius Man) but literally anything and everything. I’ve sat with Barbara Cartland, and Ann Leckie (I found more pleasure in the former, and not much in either) and tried to reverse engineer the process and methods of the writer. It’s actually easier in books you don’t enjoy, and get carried along with than the ones you do. The latter, the commercial successes – especially those that had nothing in the way of push (they are genuine ‘people’s taste) are vital.

But you can learn from anything.

Read more.

So: what have you read that you didn’t like – but did give you something of value as a writer?

76 Comments

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76 responses to “Where is the future of the Wally?

  1. The only novel that comes to mind that I read specifically because someone told me it was horrible was Philip Jose Farmer’s “A Feast Unknown”. For the record, it wasn’t that impressive as a novel.

    • Randy Wilde

      The most recent one that comes to mind for me was Ctrl Alt Revolt, and that was mixed recommendations. All the wrong people were against it, though, so I’m counting it.

    • Anachronda

      My buddy Chu3k (the 3 is silent) the logic professor poked and prodded and eventually convinced me to read The Magus by John Fowles. So I read it while I was on a road trip, but I didn’t enjoy it. Horrible book. But I stuck with it because my buddy Chu3k wanted to talk about it.

      So I get back and tell him I read it. He says “Great! Now explain it to me; I couldn’t make head nor tail of the thing!” Grrrrrr….

    • The one time someone recommended a book to me on the strength of “It’s really, really horrible writing, you should read it and be encouraged at the thought you can be published someday, also it’s hillariously bad you may just laugh yourself silly” was Twilight.

      I still haven’t picked up the book itself.

  2. There were anthologies of short stories I read in my teens called Sword and Sorceress. Each book had a couple of good stories. The other stories weren’t so good. What I finally figured out from reading them and puzzling away with furrowed brow was that the try-fail sequence was missing most of the time in the less-good ones. I was watching a lot of Star Trek at the time, and had a handy point of comparison.
    The S&S stories had a problem, an attempted solution, and it worked! This failed to make the problem seem hard, and wasn’t exciting.

  3. Christopher M. Chupik

    Gotta admit, if someone were to condemn a novel as being “Puppy poop”, I’d probably give it a look.

  4. About five or six years ago, Night Shade Books had a deal with Barnes and Noble where some of their titles would be the free ebook that was offered on Friday through the Nook.

    This was something of a mixed bag. I discovered Bradley P. Beaulieu through The Winds of Khalakova, which is an amazing start to an amazing trilogy. He is now one of my favorites and on my must read list.

    On the flip side, I read Wil McCarthy’s Slow Apocalypse, which I absolutely hated. The protagonist was the weakest, most passive character since I’ve encountered since Catcher in the Rye and the collectivist ending left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I also downloaded and read Kameron Hurlely’s first novel, which I think was entitled God’s War. I found it more unpleasant than Slow Apocalypse. I hated all the characters and thought they should all be in therapy. Both McCarthy and Hurley are now on my do not bother with list, although I’ve read a few of Hurley’s short stories in anthologies I’ve read for review. The short stories didn’t change my mind.

    I think there was a fourth Night Shade title I picked up this way that I liked but didn’t stand out. I haven’t had enough coffee yet to think of the title. I’ve enjoyed a number of Night Shade titles over the years that I paid for or later got as review copies, so I hope I’m not ragging on Night Shade too much. Finding Beaulieu was worth wading through the McCarthy and Hurlely books. He had compelling characters, lots of intrigue, and some pretty original world building.

  5. I used to be in the habit of always reading any book I started all the way to the end, with no regard to its merits or entertainment value. That practice did me few favors when, in my early teens, I found myself taking on a thick paperback entitled Battlefield Earth by one L. Ron Hubbard. I must admit I don’t remember much about the book (although I remembered enough to avoid the move like a Biblical plague) but I believe it involved an enslaved post-apoc caveman eventually beating off alien invaders courtesy of some crates of Thompson SMGs, which even at my tender age I found shockingly absurd. I did get to the end of that ponderous tome, which taught me a great deal of what not to do when trying my hand at writing. I also learned that an entertaining storytelling style can keep one reading even in the face of Yellowstone Caldera-sized plot holes, but that an entertaining style minus said plot holes may lead to multiple readings and fondly remembering the author (neither of those was the case when it came to L.Ron’s oeuvre, unfortunately).

    Later on, I discovered enough about Mr. Hubbard’s legacy to understand that, if you develop a large and devoted following, you too can have a NYT Bestseller even with a book that makes little sense. And that, unless one controls a powerful organization that can sue entire countries to a standstill, writing something that makes a modicum of sense is probably a necessary if not sufficient step towards becoming a successful author.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      That reminds me of when the Usual Suspects tried to tie Sad Puppies to Scientology, on the strength of Brad winning the Writers of the Future contest.

      Yes. Seriously.

    • Ben Yalow

      I’d very much recommend ignoring Battlefield Earth (and the 10 volume stuff that came later). But, during his pulp writer period in the 40s and early 50s, Hubbard generally produced comfort food reading material at a rapid rate, and, at times, produced excellent works. I’ll still recommend “Fear” as a brilliant horror story, “Typewriter In the Sky” as a really good funny fantasy, and _Final Blackout_ as a major novel of the period (it’s a post-World War novel written in 1940, so dated in terms of contemporary events — but the characters are quite solid).

      And his Old Doc Methuselah stories (collected by DAW Books) are pretty similar to Leinster’s Med Ship stories. Absolutely not major works — but fun.

      • The old pulpsters couldn’t afford to do deep. There was little market for your backlist; so, you had to keep writing to maintain a steady income. The Ol’ Doc Methuselah stories were some of my favorites when I was collecting back issues of Astounding. This means (a) that I did not read them all at once and (b) that they came with cool illustrations by Edd Cartier, If any of the book collections had reprinted those illos, I would have nought it in a flash. To my knowledge, none ever did

    • For a real learning experience, you must read the Mission Earth decalogy! (Okay, I only got through the four that were on the remainders table. OTOH, they were far better than what was being produced almost anywhere else at the time – when you’re in a desert, it’s amazing what kind of water you’ll drink…)

  6. Comments From readers of my current novels, as posted on Amazon. A useful one was the regret that Mistress of the Waves stays almost entirely from the point of view of the heroine — and I debated taking out the couple of scenes from another PoV that showed what was going on, at which point you only saw her PoV — so I did not develop any of the other characters in the same depth. I am in the current novel doing a major rewrite to avoid this issue.

  7. I can’t remember the title, or the author, but it was the middle of a series about four people with magical powers who decide that they don’t want to worship some gods, and the gods end up chasing them through time and various incarnations. This one ended with the four getting caught in the Great Fire of London, and I closed the book thinking “so what?” Maybe if I had read the entire series, I’d see the point (#1 – communicate to readers WHY something is important), but why were the gods bothering? Why not let the magic users do their thing (#2 – remind readers coming into series of the point, drive point forward in each book). And the characters didn’t really make me want to cheer for them (#3 – give reader a reason to cheer the hero or throw popcorn at the bad guy). And the writing got meh in the middle (#4 you must connect the ends of the book). This author seemed to do better with single-volume stories, although there was one of those that I walled the book because she got Christianity and paganism so wrong, in the same paragraph, that I bailed.

  8. Bob

    Gene Wolfe’s Book of the Long Sun.

    It pains me to say it, because I love Wolfe and I love the preceding New Sun and the succeeding Short Sun, but with Long Sun I’ve never read a better story told more poorly. It took reading several critiques about what Wolfe was getting at, and me forcing myself to re-read the thing a couple of times before I finally grasped it, but it was like Wolfe was deliberately trying to turn off people who read for entertainment with that one.

    I learned two important lessons:

    One: It’s fine to try and experiment, but don’t be absurdly obtuse and think it will work unless you’re Gene Wolfe.

    Two: I’m not Gene Wolfe.

    • Sam L.

      I forget exactly how quickly I gave up on that book; I’m guessing it was the first chapter. And there was the Berserker novel, too.

    • Care to nutshell what he was going for, for those of us who lack your patience and persistence?

      I gave up on him somewhere in mid-series-of-series, because it wasn’t worth slogging through to find the next gem. It felt like work.

      So it was with some trepidation that I picked up Pirate Freedom, and found it both deep and entertaining. — And I just now realised that an excellent short film I tripped over on Youtube is more or less the same story.

      • Bob

        Marc Aramini breaks down some of it in his vid. I think he starts talking about Long Sun at around the eight minute mark. After watching that, I had to go back and struggle through another re-reading with this in mind.

        You’ve gut a malfunctioning generation ship ruled by AI personalities that have set themselves up as gods, war, rebellion, sentient robots, mutants with psionic powers and the ability to possess people, an invading society of Amazons that come off like a female Taliban, and vampiric shapeshifters who want the humans in the ship to escape to their planet rather than a safe planet so that the humans can be preyed upon. How can all that possibly be boring???

        But it is.

      • Bob

        And while we’re on the subject, check out his analysis of Short Sun and prepare to have your mind blown. Then check out his book, Between Light and Shadow.

      • Bob

        The film looks interesting. I’ll view it when I have the chance.

      • Bob

        You might also try giving the Wizard Knight duology a shot. I’ve been meaning to read Pirate Freedom.

  9. Bob

    Also, I hope Damien continues his critiques on some platform or another. I would dearly love it if he could turn his wit on something I’ve written.

  10. sabrinachase

    Reading a new writer gave me an epiphany about why headhopping/POV changes in the same scene is considered “bad” even though there are famous authors who can do it and nobody yells about them. It isn’t the headhopping per se that is the problem, it is using headhopping to get around the inability to convey what a person is thinking or feeling without actually being in their skull hearing their thoughts. It is a sign of inexperienced writing.

    And that focused me on how I can tell in real life what someone else is thinking or feeling–the way their face changes, their voice, word choice…all sorts of things. It makes me really concentrate on observing.

    • “It isn’t the headhopping per se that is the problem, it is using headhopping to get around the inability to convey what a person is thinking or feeling without actually being in their skull hearing their thoughts. It is a sign of inexperienced writing.”

      Bingo!

      Also, sometimes a lack of awareness by the author that they’re doing it, tho I’d also peg that as a problem of inexperience.

      You can just about peg that by how often they feel compelled to remind you of whose POV it is by needlessly using the POV character’s name, thus observing from outside the skull of the supposed POV… and from there it’s easy to slop into another head. (Directly associated with lots of needless filtering.)

    • Also, people like Georgette Heyer are just better at it. Or they’re omniscient.

      • The big problem with head-hopping isn’t some English-lit-convention that shall not be infringed. Who cares? It’s just that, done badly, it is confusing to the reader (the _writer_ is usually confused by it and carries this over to reader in a poorly executed book, as the perceptions, thoughts, behavior patterns of each character SHOULD differ substantially. That, if you’re hopping heads is a huge ask. from one POV at a time, it is manageable).

      • Georgette Heyer just has story telling ability most of us don’t rise to :-). In her case it’s almost ALL in the dialogue – which she varies subtly with even similar characters in the same book. That retains that individuality.

  11. BobtheRegisterredFool

    My reading range has been off, in that I’m mostly not excited enough about old favorites to reread them.

    I read a fair amount of fanfic. I have bounced off the starts of many stories from no hook, dull pacing, excessive cleverness, unnecessary things and so forth.

    • Bob, I am reminded of a volume that did not work for me the first time, enough to finish, because I had not yet read Jayne’s book on the evolution of consciousness,. Read it later, and it was very clever. I am blanking on the tile and author; the cover was a young lady hovering in midair above the grand canyon without visible means of support. Its problem was that it assumed particular background knowledge.

  12. As noted elsewhere, perhaps Damien will finish his taxpayer-funded novel, and we will all have a chance to see how this science fiction thing is supposed to be done.

    As to 770 et al, Larry Correia noted on Facebook that the SJW Brigades and Big G have found -another- witch to burn, this time an SFF author named Sunil Patel. They’re getting quite desperate for witches apparently. This one is having his career ruined and being dumped by publishers, but he doesn’t appear to have actually -done- anything. He’s not even accused of doing anything, just being unpleasant. That’s enough to get him burned as a witch now, despite being anti-Gamergate and a Puppy Kicker.

    Makes you wonder what will happen if some SJW decides Briana Wu is a dude in a dress and feels all threatened and stuff. That’d be an epic friendly-fire witch burning.

    This type of swarming is getting rather dangerous. I posted today about a man who’s entire crime was writing an amusing letter to the editor about yoga pants, he got his own personal hate-march and death threats.

    http://phantomsoapbox.blogspot.ca/2016/10/the-new-bullies-women.html

    To his credit, he posted a “Free Speech” sign on his house and didn’t back down, despite needing armed police standing on his lawn.

    That’s what the SJWs have planned. You know how sometimes you read in the news about some family in Pakistan that got dragged out in the street and killed for being not-Muslim-enough? SJWs want to do that too. No wonder they are all anti-gun.

    What does this mean for me as a prospective author? It means a nom de plume, for starters. Let the sons of b1tches march in front of Noah Ward’s house.

    • “Makes you wonder what will happen if some SJW decides Briana Wu is a dude in a dress and feels all threatened and stuff. That’d be an epic friendly-fire witch burning.”

      Oooh. This I want to see. Especially since it’d probably achieve a reverse meltdown too (as John Flynt, Wu was the subject of a restraining order by a former place of work, and getting a restraining order in CA is not easy).

    • Funny thing about tumbrels. They aren’t care who they carry, and keeping them well fed makes them hungry.

    • They turned on Wu briefly some time ago, because he talked to someone ‘on the wrong side of the fence’ – until I reckon Wu appeased the hordes with a suitable display of appeasement with the appropriate sacrifices.

  13. The Company of Women, Mary Gordon, years ago. I learned that novels need to have a readily identifiable beginning, middle and end.

    Also, the I Love Lucy approach, where the viewer/reader sees that the obvious course of action is for the protagonist to simply do or not do the Thing that will save them/get them into loads of hurt, and then the protagonist does the opposite, doesn’t work for novels. So, while we might laugh when Lucy does something idiotic (I don’t – it doesn’t for me, but seems to for millions of people) that results in endlessly embarrassing slapstick, when the protagonist of a serious novel could chose reasonable course A but instead chooses stupid course B – over and over – and thus lives a life of misery, that just makes the reader throw the book at the wall.

    YMMV.

    • Joe in PNG

      Ah, yes, the classic “Idiot Ball”, the device so beloved by bad writers to move the plot along.
      This is especially irritating if a character is set up as smart or competent, then grabs the ball and runs with it.

    • Terry Sanders

      To do her/them justice, the Idiot Ball is there mostly as an excuse. Lucy was a master of skit comedy, and the audience wasn’t there to see *how* she got herself into the mess.

      That said, even at three years old I couldn’t make sense of the Idiot Ball aspect; and the subsequent humiliation would drive me completely out of the room (trying not to start crying with her). But the skits themselves were hilarious.

  14. As an admitted Halo fan, I had read all the Bungie-era novels and enjoyed them, but hadn’t ‘progressed’ onto the newer post 2010 stuff (when a different team took over the direction of the universe) until last year, when I decided to try the Kilo-Five trilogy.

    A mistake on my part; the first book, Glasslands, was intended as the sequel/continuation of the rather good Ghosts of Onyx, but by a different author. In theory it should have worked, only I found that all the characters had experienced massive personality changes (personalities that had been set up over the course of multiple games/books), the plot was dull and drifted aimlessly, and I found myself looking for someone I could actually root for. I ended up not reading the other two books and gave the set away.

    Really, that’s been my problem with the books *and* games post-Reach: they’ve made a universe filled almost entirely with unlikable characters, to the point that the only ‘apology’ I would accept would be to have an opening chapter where said characters get sent out the airlock.

    • Heh, forgot the conclusion. Anyway, I’d rather have someone say my books are possibly too humor tinged, with characters who may be a bit too easy to like, than produce something that results in the above.

  15. mrsizer

    I read Thomas Covenant when I was in my “read to the end, no matter what” phase. I’d never finish it now. Cowboy up, Tommy.

    The space guild (whatever they are called) in Star Dogs is so dreadful that it took me months to finally finish it; I had to take breaks to shower. If you don’t write a sequel, can you have everyone die in the desert? Or maybe that can be the sequel. Please. (The star dogs are the best characters – and they’re alien spaceships.) I like sympathetic characters.

    I liked the Jane Auel novels, but I skipped the pages of plant porn. Not exactly an “info dump”, but darn close.

    Some Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King) thing written in the first person. It was boring and had more “I”s than an Obama speech.

    In general, literary fiction. It’s just a day in the life of someone not-interesting. If I want stories like that, I’ll talk with people on the street. I don’t need to pay money to read about them.

    • Anachronda

      I read Thomas Covenant when I was in my “read to the end, no matter what” phase. I’d never finish it now. Cowboy up, Tommy.

      I started Thomas Covenant at The Wounded Land and read both ways in the series (because that’s the sort of person I am; if a book from the middle of a series can grab me, I’ll start working my way towards the beginning).

      Had to wait a year for the final book, White Gold Wielder, to come out. I even bought it in hardcover. All that work and, in the end, the hero wins by surrendering. Pissed me off. To this day, my friends can get a rise out of me by mentioning it.

      And you see the same thing everywhere; I’m guessing it’s supposed to be some sort of messianic metaphor. It always annoys me.

      • I read all six over the course of two family summer camping trips because they were virtually the only things left to read.

        We would traditionally go camping, and pack our books too. I finished mine and had to start those. (I also ended up reading Vonnegut’s “Slapstick” which has scarred my mind with a few mental images I’d rather not have.)

      • All that work and, in the end, the hero wins by surrendering. Pissed me off. To this day, my friends can get a rise out of me by mentioning it.

        And you see the same thing everywhere; I’m guessing it’s supposed to be some sort of messianic metaphor. It always annoys me.

        Kind of highlights and emphasizes that modern folks don’t know the meaning of sacrifice.

      • Bob

        -wins by surrendering-

        No. He wins by SACRIFICING himself (sorry for the all-caps, but I can’t find a way to use italics on this computer).

        And only after struggling and fighting to create a situation where sacrificing himself would bring victory.

        To break it down, walking off the edge of Kevin’s Watch at the very beginning out of despair would have been surrender.

        Going on the Quest for the One Tree, gaining the materials needed for a new Staff of Law, destroying the tyrannous Clave and exstinguishing the Banefire after turning himself into a White Gold alloy, gaining valuable information from the Dead in Andelain, helping freedom fighters who would be able to reestablish civilization afterward, and THEN confronting the Despiser, knowing that the hero’s death would create the possibility for a better and free world, is sacrifice.

        A lot of writers get it wrong, but Donaldson got it right.

        • John R. Ellis

          Major spoiler territory here, but it’s for a multi-decades old novel: He didn’t “surrender” so much as he puled off a Br’er Rabbit style trick on Foul. 🙂

    • If my slow brain is interpreting “plant porn” correctly – that just shows different tastes. Those “infodumps” were the most fascinating parts of the Auel books to me. (I’ll be rereading them sometime along here, and catching up – until the daughter told me, I didn’t even know she had gotten beyond book four.) Now, the “porn porn” parts, I’ll probably skip on the rereading.

    • Heh. They were meant to be utterly vile – and a realistic continuation of the 1% control over earth’s politics (cough. See who is getting ALL the support from the billionaires and large corporates. Anyone getting their support is unfit to rule. Their job is counterbalancing these, not abetting them) – but not so vile as to put readers off the book. I am sorry. They’re intended to die in the fire as a group in fullness of the story arc.

      • Was that a response to below? Like I said, matters of taste – I just couldn’t get into them at all. I could appreciate the writing, which makes it a study piece, just not an entertainment piece. (For me. Doesn’t matter anyway, “Freer” was, is, and probably ever shall be a “buy anything” author. Even those that are “greats” in my opinion have some books that never seem to come back off the shelf after they’ve been read once.)

  16. Holly

    That one-you know it, it’s one of the ‘great’ shorts-where the rocket pilot has to kick the girl out of the rocket ship. I don’t even retain the name I dislike it so strongly.
    The error is kill the wrong person for stupid reasons. Because we didn’t learn anything from Apollo 13 is a stupid reason. A girl who wants to see a beloved brother is the wrong person.

    • Don’t hate me, but the story you’re thinking about is “The Cold Equations”. The reasons weren’t stupid, but simple math and physics. But the setup is somewhat improbable these days (perhaps, in part, because of that story.)

      • ravenshrike

        No, the reasons were pretty silly even then. Running a ship or a lander without significant fudge factor concerning fuel in space would, statistically, be a larger killer and net drain on resources than not having that fudge factor in the first place for the large corporations. Now, wildcatters would be a different matter entirely but the ship cast off from in question was a large starliner which should have had plenty of fuel reserves, especially since the thing never should have seen the bottom of a gravity well. Fuel is orders of magnitude cheaper than replacing equipment, especially since you could make the shit in space relatively easily with access to certain asteroids/comets/gas giants.

        • Yep. Emotional impact is a good thing to achieve – but not at the expense of believability. (For the same reason, I cannot stand “A Boy and His Dog” – I read that one first when I was close enough to that age. The choice, for a male of that age, is just completely not believable.)

        • adventuresfantastic

          If my memory isn’t playing tricks on me, I seem to recall a mention early in the story that the ship in question was a fast courier designed for emergencies, not a typical ship. For that reason it only had enough fuel to get the medicine to the planet that needed it. Any extra weight, such as extra fuel, would slow it down. Hence the problem with the stowaway. I don’t have a problem with the scenario given that constraint. Although I can certainly understand why some people don’t like the story.

          • ravenshrike

            The courier ship in question cast off from the large starliner. As for extra fuel ‘slowing it down’ if the weight of the girl didn’t change the vector of the ship enough to cause noticeable problems during initial separation, fudge factor fuel wouldn’t have done so either.

        • Nathan

          I remember the writer saying in notes to his editor that it was too easy to save the girl. A lot of contrivance was made to get the desired result.

        • Holly

          Yes, The Cold Equations. I would’ve been fourteen or fifteen, mid 1990’s, when I devoured Dad’s old pulp magazines and first read it. So taking astrophysics at the local university, reading all the real things about the space programs, ours and the Soviets, I could get my hands on . . .

      • Now, what was the story where the pilot amputated her legs to save the kid? If I remember correctly, it was written in response to the cold equations.

  17. Did Damien finally condemn your books, Dave? Congratulations! Indeed, such lofty company you keep! May we someday reach such heights of achievement. *standing applause!*

  18. Catastrophe! Many of us will undoubtedly lose the will to write without The Great One to tell us when we have achieved the pinnacle! Ah, well…

    In any case, my short list.

    Anything by Ayn Rand – good ideas are not enough, they must be tethered to writing that is rather lighter than lead if they are to float. (Yes, yes, I have only managed to get up to iron weight myself as of yet…)

    The Silmarillion. Used to read parts of that as a sleeping aid. Lesson is, don’t publish all of that grand and lovingly detailed world-building, even though it is fantastic and took years of work.

    Erm. Hesitating… Oh, might as well. Rats, Bats, and Vats. The humor is there, the satire is there – but not a single character I could identify with at any point of contact. SORRY!!! (Almost certainly my bigotry about little bitey flea and disease carriers, though. So again a matter of taste. BTW, where is the next Pyramid novel???)

    Cities in Flight. Grand scale, exciting action, lots of sciency stuff (most of it completely wrong, then and now, of course). Again, though, the characters – the one or two that I actually had a slight liking for either became very unlikable as it progressed, or were thrown away mid-book. When the total destruction of the universe is a good thing to end up with, there is a problem! (And I am still hoping that their plan to create new universes to their liking was an abysmal failure…)

    • heh. no worries. Books don’t appeal to everyone, and that’s still one of my best-selling ones. Pyramid’s next book got ‘swapped’ by Baen for another Heirs book. I’ll write it anyway, WHEN I get the rights back, not before.

      And yes… the Silmarillion. I learned a lot of craft from Tolkein’s ‘On Fairy Stories’ but I don’t think the Silmarillion was ever intended as anything but a personal reference.

  19. Worst book where I’ve made it to the end has to be God-Awful of Dune. I can see why many people gave up on the Dune series after that one, which is a shame, because Heretics and Chapter House are far better.

  20. Christopher M. Chupik

    Over at the Blog of Eternal Stench, your post was linked to with this heading:

    “(6) FREER’S SCAPEGOAT OF THE WEEK. Remember when Dave Freer used to teach about writing in his column at Mad Genius Club? Me neither.”

    Keep it classy, Vile.

    • Ah Christopher. I do hope you disinfected well after your swim there?

      “Remember when Dave Freer used to teach about writing in his column at Mad Genius Club? Me neither.” Alas, Mike Glyer. Short-term memory is always the first thing to go, but when you can’t even remember last week, well, it is time to clock into permanent care. Dementia is a dreadful thing, especially for friends of those who just can’t remember any more.

      I do feel vaguely sorry for him and his fellow travelers though.Yes, I know, they asked for it, deserve it – but, well, part of being a worthwhile writer is being able to put yourself temporarily in the mind of others, even assholes. And this must be harsh from their point of view. Not only can they not remember last week — but all they have worked for (for certain values of work) lied for, slandered for, all their little in-clique scheming and kissing up… and it is all coming to nothing. Well, maybe better for them that they remember their long ago glory days, when they could destroy careers and demand obedience, than to remember their decline and fall into increasing irrelevance of recent times.

      I was going to suggest someone explaining to Glyer what a scapegoat is – but, as by his own admission he won’t remember by next week, there’s no point in wasting time.

  21. TRX

    Some village needed an idiot more than the Guardian…

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