Low, Low, Low

I’m always amused when someone refers to me as an intellectual. I mean, I suppose it is true, in a way, for a definition of “makes her living with her mind” and “sometimes the stuff she says actually has an influence on people who have more influence than she does.”

But growing up, intellectuals were people who …. The men smoked pipes, the women smoked little cigarettes, they were invariably communists and passionate — passionate — I tell you about robbing from everyone to enrich the state inequality, and sexual freedom, and other things they imagined would epater les bourgeois. (Judging by my parents which might not be a good metric but isn’t that far off, instead of finding their behavior epatant, the bourgeois mostly rolled their eyes so hard that there should have been full time, paid eye-finders to catch the ones that rolled under furniture.)

The point is, intellectuals read deep books. Mostly non fic. Okay, I do read a lot of those, but usually as a guilty pleasure, and mostly because something in the title or description caught my eye. So I will read books about oh… grain production in the middle ages, or oh, yeah, that’s a good one, “how to train a dog.” I haven’t had a dog in going on thirty years, and there are no plans of having one for at least four or five. But I bought like five books on training them because it was interesting. But intellectuals read non-fic books on…. oh, The Epistemology of Bees. Or Critical Race Theory in Underwater Diving.

And if they read fiction at all, the fiction they read is “acclaimed” and “important” and “the essential book of the year.” It usually has a rate of 5000 words per nugget of information (that could be conveyed in three) and sex apropos nothing. (But not like in erotica. Sex has to be written in a way that’s not sexy at all. Long descriptions of goose flesh, a pimple on someone’s butt, and — oh, yeah — no one enjoying it.)

Much to the despair of everyone who tried to make an intellectual out of me, it didn’t take.

I mean my degree is known to be a hang out of intellectuals, but mostly the books I was assigned bored me to tears. They were also, behind all their high fallutin’ nonsense super-boring and repetitive. I developed a method of skimming, which allowed me to sound like I’d read it for exams.

The stuff I actually did read were Shakespeare and Austen (which I liked long before college) and I actually sort of liked Effie Briest, just because German Romantics were such a hot mess. And I kind of liked Tess D’Ubervilles because it reminded me of the radio soap operas I’d listened to as a child. (You couldn’t avoid listening to them. Every woman in the village was blasting them full volume.)

Which brings me to my low tastes.

Did I enjoy those radio soap operas? Well, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to listen to them. They are not my preferred mode of word-drug. But there were parts of them I enjoyed, and parts my young brain analyzed, like the puzzling fact even people at my parents economic level had servants in the soaps.

And let’s face it, as stupid as most of the plotting was (lots of crying, screaming and carrying the idiot ball) they were interesting, and things happened. Which was better than the crazy-*ss stuff intellectuals read. It didn’t put me to sleep.

For years I thought my ability to enjoy new science fiction and fantasy had dulled, and I no longer had the “sparkle fun” reaction to books, except for a few like Pratchett, or F. Paul Wilson, or Dave Freer, or Larry Correia, John Ringo, Dave Weber. But those I could count between two hands, and most of the new stuff I read left me quite cold.

Then some years ago, I started what was supposed to be a trip through memory lane. You see when I was growing up there was only one book publisher in Portugal that did SF — the infamous Argonauta collection — and over time I must have read most of their issues, usually out of order, since they were short printed and always insufficient for demand. (Though I found them unsold, in beach side stands, decades later, and would buy them with sunbleached cover and all. Or I found them in a friend’s father’s closet, when I was helping the family moved, and got a box of fifty with the casual “Oh, yeah, those were my dad’s. Do you want them?”)

Anyway, because I was trying to read them I started at the beginning. These books (when I could find them) were often from the 20s and 30s. Their science is outdated. They subscribe to the “heroic pencil-neck” school of writing. The aliens are contrived or giggle-worthy. The politics, when they’re there, manage to be stupider than on recent books. (And equally leftist.)

But they grab. The techniques pulp authors used were next level. They told the story not to impress or baffle, but to grab the reader and get money.

And I found I was still grabbed and kept reading to the end.

Now, you have to understand, I have low tastes. I was talking to a friend yesterday, and realized almost all of my fun read series are pulp, whether they mean to be or not.

I remember the joy of falling into a book or series, and realizing this was going to be a fun ride. Even when the opinions not so subtly peddled were offensive to me, if the story was fun enough. (And some of them are not offensive at all.)

Things like The Still Small Voice of Trumpets, or The World of Tiers, or Simon Hawke’s Time Wars, or Nine Princes in Amber (towards the end it goes all Freudian, but the beginning is pure pulp.)

(Note this is a small list. There are people writing and publishing today who are pure pulp. I’ll do a list next week, if you want me to. Some of it might be considered self dealing, as some work for this blog.)

I’ve found with indie and people publishing themselves that the ones who do well still have that same exact “pulp” feel. Now there are even books teaching you to write the pulp way.

Okay, so if you are a real intellectual, you probably shouldn’t. Me? I’m not. I just like to have fun. And I have low tastes. I like things that are fun.

The rest can go take a long hike off a short pier. Frankly, I don’t care enough about the bourgeois, or the normies, or whatever the bad word is this day, to want to shock them.

I read because it is my drug of choice. And I want to enjoy it.

Life is too short to read boring books.

94 comments

  1. Any book recc’s on which “how to write pulp” actually are that way? Been having a hard time sorting wheat from chaff….

    And as someone who attributes much of retained sanity to Robert E. Howard stories and Sherlock Holmes, I say, the more pulp the better!

      1. How about advice on writing pulp stories that are interconnected with an overarching plot?

        Over the past years I’ve lost patience with doorstopper books and vast word counts that appear to exist just to waste my time, but while I like the pace of the pulps, I still love the feel of epics. My favorites tend to be episodic, with shorter novels or stories where the heroes deal with an immediate problem, but there’s still an overarching conflict or issue they’re building toward, and elements introduced in earlier stories carrying over into later ones.

        Some of the Shadow pulps I’ve been reading had that, with the ‘seeds’ future conflicts planted in earlier ones.

        The climactic conclusion is usually a two-parter of smaller novels or two-or-three-part short story, with the first parts ending on a cliffhanger to be resolved in the final entry.

  2. When I’m fighting a down mood, the so-called silly stuff does a good job of improving my mood.

    The so-called Correct Reading Material (as our “Betters” see it) are more likely to make me feel worse (assuming I could finish them).

  3. Back in grad school, one professor announced, “And next week’s book won [huge history book award]!” We all groaned. He blinked and in honest puzzlement asked, “What’s wrong?” Some brave soul (not me) said, “Dr. Professor, all the [HHBA] books have been deadly boring.” As it turned out, this one wasn’t deadly dull, for a change, but we were academic-historied-out. And people wonder why David McCullough and Shelby Foote and others sold and sell so well. Ditto Barbara Tuchmann. They tell stories. Exciting stories, or at least make the reader want to know how the story ends. I’ll plow through an 800 page history tome if it is fun.

    You know, like good fiction, pulp or otherwise.

    1. We have several of Ron Chernow’s tomes. What’s hilarious is when you notice that he’s very invested in describing historical figures’ hair color, and that he has a preference for red tones in them.

      I wonder if he’s noticed that he does that.

      1. It’s probably because the older illustrations of historical figures, and portraits not cleaned for long periods, gave people the impression that redheads were scarce in US history. Thomas Jefferson used to be the only one.

        1. Wasn’t the ornery one also a red-head? The guy who was supposedly restrained by onlookers when he was going to beat the guy who tried to assassinate him to death with his walking stick, I think he was Scottish but it may have just been reading about how very CRANKY he was and comparing it to grandma’s family….

          Andrew Jackson!
          Which just supports your argument about the illustrations, because he’s usually shown with white hair.

          The way that some folks only want to call the see-through-skin, absolute carrot haired folks “redheads” (and others consider the faintest tint of auburn to be red headed) plus the way that there’s some cultural baggage probably doesn’t help.

    2. My son was telling me he found history in school boring. I replied that was because they were teaching it wrong – history is fascinating.

      1. I grew up devouring American Heritage magazine – the earlier iteration, the hard-bound with no adverts, when Bruce Catton was the editor. My mother had a lifetime subscription, and I am trying to purchase as many of the older issues as they appear at book sales.

      2. I absolutely hated English classes in high school (Shakespeare? Byron? Blech!), and I say this as someone who eventually got an advanced degree in English lit and has worked as a professional writer in marketing departments for nearly 20 years. The American school system (maybe it’s just schools in general) can turn literally ANYTHING into a boring, repellent slog.

        1. There were books I enjoyed BEFORE I read them in English class and AFTER. But not DURING.

          1. There are… probably some I enjoyed after, but most of them I didn’t touch again afterward for years.

          2. This wasn’t just me then?

            I had to read and ‘interpret’ both TREASURE ISLAND and TOM SAWYER in my English class, and I hated them for being so blasted boring. Then a few years later I read them on a long trip because I had nothing else, and it was like I was reading two different books. I enjoyed them so much!

            1. The tactic of “listen to them being read aloud by your classmates, one paragraph at a time” doesn’t do any book favors, but ones that are well written and enjoyable with decent emotional impact are hardest hit.

  4. But I bought like five books on training them because it was interesting. But intellectuals read non-fic books on…. oh, The Epistemology of Bees. Or Critical Race Theory in Underwater Diving.

    You know, that sounds kind of like some of the religious reading I do.

    I don’t mean in the “wow, that sucks” manner, I mean in the “managing to find connections to some aspect of theology in dang near anything, up to and including dirty diapers.” (OK, usually the religious thoughts I have related to diapers are either “oh Lord, what is that?” or “gee, I feel like I’m reading entrails…”)

    Which, if the “intellectuals” were basically copying the Learned Men (inclusive) from earlier times, but without religion, makes sense.

    The difference is, Catholic theology (since this is Europe) is designed to go up and down the scale– it’s like a master pattern. By finding God in a mustard seed, if you actually find something that works, you can learn how to find Him in other places.

    Critical Race Theory just doesn’t *function* that way…

    1. A lot of academia looks like copies of copies. Especially when it’s following a winning formula when they don’t know *why* it worked the first time.

      1. Heck, that’s most of the movies, too!

        It’s known to break tropes– exactly because they don’t know WHY it worked, and then you have folks subverting the Miss Marple trope by… having their knock-off do something that was the primary trick in a Miss Marple book. Because they’re going off of pop-culture knowledge of “Murder, She Wrote,” and haven’t read Christie.
        /sigh

          1. Very true, but proving that something is “stupid” by pointing out what the original literally did, when there weren’t that many stories, is a bit much!

            SPOILER

            SPOILER

            SPOILER

            They had the little old lady detective make it clear she knew who the killer was, set up to meet him alone, and in the parody the killer then (duh) killed her.
            In the original, the little old lady made it clear she knew who the killer was, so she was bait, because of course the killer is going to try to kill the person who knew The Truth.

            1. Wait…so in the new one the killer kills the detective?

              What was the author trying to prove?

                1. Admittedly, playing detective can be a dangerous pastime if you don’t take precautions.

                  There’s a difference between a little old lady who’s seen it all and done it all, and an out-of-touch Karen who doesn’t realize she could find herself in the killer’s sights.

                2. To quote a certain elderly lady detective: “The young people think the old people are fools–but the old people know the young people are fools.”

            2. That reminds me, wasn’t there a story where the detective locks himself in a room with all the suspects, unravels the mystery and it turns out they all did it, so they all kill the detective?

              Not that Christie one: this one ends with the suspects killing the detective and getting away with it.

            3. Chuckle Chuckle

              Recently read a Regency novel where the Bad Guy (a noble, but not a “gentleman”) has kidnapped a woman planning to force a marriage with her.

              The Bad Guy fully expects the Hero to rush to her rescue and he imagines that the Hero will “act like a gentleman” (ie fighting a duel) thus leading to the Hero’s death.

              The “problem” is that the Hero isn’t a gentleman. He’s an actor who has been fooling Society into thinking that he’s a gentleman.

              So the Bad Guy is boasting about his plans to the Hero not knowing that the Hero has brought witnesses to the confrontation (including the Bad Guy’s heir).

              The Bad Guy is stopped and the Bad Guy’s future involves the insane asylum. [Very Big Grin]

              1. Do you remember the title? In recent years, I can’t handle Regency novels newer than M. C. Beeton, and can only take her in small doses, but this sounds fun.

                1. Joyce Harmon’s The World’s a Stage (Regency Charades Book 5)

            4. Sorry, that’s not clever, just lazy and spiteful. Maybe worth writing as catharsis after dealing with some really evil old lady, or being forced to sit through a Murder She Wrote marathon for a family member’s sake, but not something you’d expect other people to pay actual money to read.

              1. I like the ones, when someone feels the need to vent about stupid characters, that create a Keeper character– so you have the star running around after having read/watched too much of [BARELY VEILED RENAMING OF WHAT IS ANNOYING YOU] and getting into trouble, and never noticing how frantically their Keeper is working to keep them alive and whole.

                That way folks who love whatever you’re annoyed about aren’t feeling attacked, because every show has at least one silly fan, and it’s FUN to see how a problem will be fixed this time.

                  1. Haven’t watched it, I was picturing Mindy and Buttons from Animaniacs, and honestly some folks that I know; it’s an old trope, the “only kept alive because their assistant is competent” trope was enough of A Thing that some of the old Batman stuff had Bruce Wayne using it as part of his cover– I seem to remember Zorro on the radio doing it, too.

            1. Which one? Ending A is pretty generic and she probably did write something like that somewhere. (The Dirty Harry parody, with the debate about how many bullets have been fired, not really her speed.) The espionage motivation for the killer in Ending B sounds kind of like something she might have done. The supporting player who might be a suspect and turns out to be a government agent instead (from endings B and C) she did with a minor character in one of the Poirot mysteries. (Also done in the Golden Age by Sayers in Murder Must Advertise, and Allingham in Crime at Black Dudley, which I just read). Multiple crimes committed by different people with one mastermind keeping tabs on them for his own purposes (key plot element in Ending C) is used in And Then There Were None with a different endgame for the mastermind.

              1. I meant she didn’t write multiple endings to one murder mystery. Of course, Clue only gets away with that because it’s a farce based on a board game.

          2. Oy.
            I introduced my wife to Father Brown.
            Her response: “it’s just so derivative”.

            I don’t recall my reaction, but I remember that it got me in trouble.

              1. Believe it or not, but I’ve heard precisely those arguments about LoTR. And they were meant seriously.

  5. Gatekeeper alert. The “intellectuals” you speak of have defined that term in a way to exclude a crapton of extremely learned people across a multitude of disciplines (including the author above) who happen to share the “weakness” of not fitting their bed of Procrustese. If I have spelled his name correctly. I do not care for their judgements or their label. Nor should you, Ma’am.

  6. My favorite pulp writing rule, as per Raymond Chandler: “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” This works for just about everything, metaphorically. You could substitute “I just got fired!” “Mom, Bobby got sent to the principal’s office!” “Marge, I want a divorce.” Etc. Then react to the bomb that just got dropped into the conversation.

    1. Actually, he said it in derision. Always remember that you have to put in any necessary setup so it makes sense.

  7. I’m reminded of ,”The Screwtape Letters,” when Screwtape is explaining how Wormwood allowed his “patient,” to b reclaimed by God: “First, you let him read a book he genuinely Iiked, because he liked it, and not so he could make clever remarks about it to his friends.”

  8. Yes, list of modern pulps, please.

    I grew up on Sci Fi but by 2000 had lost interest because the award winning works became tedious. I spent decades thinking it was just me, that SF was still great stuff, until Larry Corriea wrote his explanation of puppy sadness. It wasn’t me: it was Hugo and Nebula that changed. You know it, you fought for it. I want what you fought for.

    If the great stuff was pulp, then I want pulp. I want John “Bigman” Jones. I want a spacesuit so I can travel. I want to see Fist of God Mountain, ride a spider up Kalidasa’s Tower, make giant leaps across the red plains of Barsoom and listen to a voice on the radio, speaking for Boskone. I want it all.

    Please.

    1. Well, it isn’t all from the HFY reddit, but Agro Squerril’s podcast and Youtube channels are pretty much all original modern SF pulp.

      Royal Road is all about webnovel pulp, too.

  9. Ah, spinach books. Morally uplifting, socially relevant, spiritually enlightening, beloved by English teachers and librarians everywhere, and good for you.

    Can’t stand them. Give me story.

    1. Most of them aren’t even spinach books. Spinach books would have actual nutritional value. Most of them are Cafeteria spinach. You know the stuff. The dark green mass of wet stuff that looks like it came out of a horror movie, but came out of a can then was boiled again just to be sure it was REALLY dead. No nutritional value left and tastes about as bad as it looks. Though some of the Cafeteria Spinach Books wind up with 5 star plating… which doesn’t save them.

    2. I wish I could say librarians weren’t as bad as teachers for recommending crap but, uh… ALA just elected an avowed commie president, and our award books are no better than the others.

      We just finished the award stuff for the state, and I know for a fact two of the branches in my system (mine and my wife’s) had zero votes on any of the teen books.

      Heck, most of the copies didn’t budge all school year, especially the heavy-handed graphic novels about wwii and the kkk.

      The only ones that did go out was on by OSC and one I still haven’t seen any of our copies if because they are constantly requested. (Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.)

      My only consolation is that most of the just so stories about the brave heroic lgbt+ people in just so circumstances and with less characterization than the kids in Barney got *don’t check out*. They sit there two years and then I get rid of them.

      Meanwhile fun stuff like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, various Japanese book series (and manga) fly off the shelves.

      1. (Nods) And the thing is, Rick Riordan is as woke as anyone else in the YA author community, but the guy still manages to write engaging stories that people actually want to read rather than the equivalent of Victorian-era children’s literature.

  10. Shakespeare was writing to fill the cheap seats. Chaucer had to put the Priest’s Nun in there to appease the Church, but both the Miller and the Reeve were in there to sneak the funny, dirty, HUMAN stuff into the mix.

    The greatest literature that has come down to us through the ages has managed to leaven its Requisite Morally Acceptable content with the reality that people are pretty weird, and pretty funny — and if you read ALL of Chaucer as I did (and not just the stories assigned by the teacher who knew he’d be hung out to dry by parents for requiring us to read the whole thing) you discovered (as I did) that people have always been people — and that the ones worth knowing and hanging out with and remembering are the guys who occasionally fart in the face of the would-be cuckold sneaking up the ladder to seduce their women.

    The best writing isn’t the required stuff. In fact, if it has to be assigned to get people to read it, that is PROOF that it isn’t very good.

    The good stuff is what people seek out on their own, and read for joy, and excitement, and fear, and adventure, and love — not because someone told them is was good for them, but because their GUT told them it was good for them.

  11. All the self proclaimed intellectuals I’ve met were too young to be anything else but communist, that seems to be the only thing they were exposed to by the previous generation of self proclaimed intellectuals, turned title seeking PHD’s.

  12. For some fun intellectual non-fiction, there’s always Intellectuals by Paul Johnson.

  13. I would be interested in hooky books and what makes them hook so well.

    I’ve been reading the Wheel of Time books, and they’re very hooky once they get going. New Spring, the prequel that I should have read after the main books, once you get past the first couple of chapters hooked me hard.

    It has all the high fantasy stuff, but looking back, I actually think it was all the all-girls boarding school BS was going on that made it so much fun. You’ve got wars and prophecies of the end of days and the main characters are looking for mice to stick in someone’s bed because the sister in question has thoroughly pissed them off.

    Then author doesn’t even tell you what happened with that particular wild hair, just that something did, and that in retrospect, it wasn’t a good idea. Yes I know the fate of the world hangs in the balance, but I kind of what to know what happened with the mice…

  14. The Count of Monte Cristo was a pulp serial. Change my mind.

    And Shakespeare was beloved by common folk.

    The freaking GODFATHER was a pulp novel!

    Ironic how most of the classic ‘literature’ that’s survived today was the pulp of it’s time. The literature of today – that many of the elite are pushing to replace the classics – somehow I don’t think it’ll last.

    Yeah, and I’ve been reading old Shadow pulps and other offering of the time: the vocabulary, use of historical and literary allusions, and insights into human nature that puts modern highbrow stuff to shame.

    1. Agree.

      Most of the “older” Great Literature were Enjoyable Stories that met the test of time.

      IE People still purchased them for enjoyable reads long after their authors have died.

      Plenty of “Best Sellers” of the past didn’t survive after five-to-ten years after they were published.

    2. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in another century in order to hear how J.K. Rowling was “really” a Scottish intellectual who was writing allegorical novels about the movement for Scottish independence, using “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” as a metaphor for the UK, while using the character of Hermione as an obvious stand-in for Nicola Sturgeon…

  15. I always liked Doc Savage. The side characters were the main attraction as I recall, men of action who would follow the plan flawlessly to take down the bad guy. And they always had the exact doodad they needed to win the day against great adversity. The machineguns that fired sleepy darts so fast it sounded like a “bull-fiddle thrum”, what’s not to like?

    Compare and contrast with any award nominee this year. Doc Savage, fun read. Award nominee, a slog through the grey goo.

    As to intellectuals, I remember the first time I went through the stacks when I was at the university library. Man, so MUCH amazing scholarship. Holy crap. It was thrilling.

    It was the 1970s, and the rot hadn’t turned the Ivory Tower black with mold yet. I was a kid and easily impressed. But still, at the time an intellectual was a person who used their INTELLECT to solve problems and discover The Truth, capital T. Scholarship was a respectable endeavor. You were supposed to support your hypothesis with observable and repeatable events.

    Fast forward 45 years, an “intellectual” is one who mouths whatever the fashionable phrase is this week. Sometimes that fashionable phrase is something that is completely wrong and physically impossible, but they comply all the same. Now, in this brave new world, to seek the Truth is deplorable. People using their intellects to discern Truth from lies are horrible creatures who must be silenced.

    You will LIKE the award nominees, and you will applaud them loudly, or you will be declared a deplorable.

    No problem. Declare away.

    1. My rule of thumb was to nibble on the introduction: if it read well, and made sense, it might be good. Then flipped to the bibliography and see if it had any of the really big books in the field? Yes? OK, might be worth it. Or I hunted in the back stacks (you know, the ones where even $DEITY$ fears to tread without a backup flashlight) and looked for the ones tucked into odd corners or hiding in among the flashy, fancy I’m New And Trendy! books. The QE, QH, and QL shelves could be very rewarding, laden with fascinating, quirky volumes.

  16. I don’t believe I’ve ever met a real intellectual. Not someone like Richard Feynman, for example. It is true that the species is quite rare in the wilds of the heartland of Miss’ssippi* though we did have Faulkner nearby for a while. For the rest, I believe it’s just a pose. Not born rich? Don’t have the drive or the chops to become so? Get a nice tenure at Uni. Pretend to be oh-so smart that you bully your way through life with bafflegab. Join the club of the like-minded. What stunted, shriveled creatures they are! Souls that wouldn’t fill a tea cup.
    * This is the correct spelling. All others were done by Yankees.

  17. I pick up a lot of old fiction from Project Gutenberg or Librivox.org, and the stuff by, e.g., H. Rider Haggard or Edgar Rice Burroughs is still just as much fun to read as it ever was. And they aren’t the only century-old authors worth reading – I look for books on those sites that seem worth a try, and every now and then I’ll get a real jewel. One that leaves me thinking, “That was a *lot* better book that I thought it was going to be” after I finish it.

    Any “intellectuals” who claim such books are trash are loudly proclaiming their ignorance and loathing for humanity.

  18. I think I discovered that “bad” writing by most people’s standards was “good” because it was entertaining and fun and exciting. Which, for some reason, people hate to have around.

  19. Sex has to be written in a way that’s not sexy at all. Long descriptions of goose flesh, a pimple on someone’s butt, and — oh, yeah — no one enjoying it.

    Since upthread we were talking about Miss Marple, her comment seems most apropos here: “Unpleasant people doing unpleasant things and not even seeming to enjoy them very much. Sex, in Miss Marple’s day…had usually been labeled Sin, but that seemed preferable to the way it was now, a kind of Duty.”

    Really, Raymond West and his ilk are just about the perfect portrayals of the “intellectuals” you’re talking about here. (And quite frustrated by the fact that dear Aunt Jane is simply impossible to shock).

    Did I enjoy those radio soap operas? Well, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to listen to them. They are not my preferred mode of word-drug. But there were parts of them I enjoyed,

    I’ll confess to having a weakness for the soaps. I watched a lot during the summer before junior year in high school when I was laid up with a broken leg, and again in grad school when I found myself at home alone around midday and just looking for things to put in front of my eyeballs while I ate lunch. The main problem I noticed was that, despite the fact that there were almost 10 years between those two periods, I was able to pick up right where I left off, with the exact same characters breaking up and getting back together with the same other characters.

    I really think the US would be better off adopting the telenovela limited-run format. By all means, make things as melodramatic as possible, but wrap it up at the end and just leave it alone.

    1. “A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles.”
      ― Aristotle, Poetics

      1. This – my daughter and I just bailed on the next to last (or maybe the next to the next to the last) series of Red Dwarf, because it just got …stale, and not terribly amusing or subversive any more. The actors looked old and tired, as if they were just going through the motions because the fans bugged them.

  20. Test of a good book: read the first line and the last line. Is it interesting?

    “Marley was dead, to begin with. God bless us, everyone.”

    “You see, I had this spacesuit. I threw it in his face.”

    Try it.

    1. When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton. “Well, I’m back.”

      Err, not really.

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