Wednesday, February 2

So this guy writes in to my forum over at SFFWorld. (This is not, by the way, the set-up to a joke.) He's been hearing about me, but he's never read me. He's been through the current crop of Quality Shit: Tolkien, Martin, Hobb, and he confesses to having read Eddings and Feist in his misspent youth. And he wants me to tell him why he should read my work.

After a moment's thought, this strikes me as an entirely legitimate question.

What makes me think I'm so special, anyway?

Well, I started to compose my standard lecture on the Consolatory vs. the Subversive in art. Those of you who've been around here for any length of time know that it's an article of faith with me that all honest art is inherently subversive; to paraphrase Tan'elKoth, "It is a truism that to a hammer, the world looks like a nail; the glory of art is that it can show this hammer how the world looks to a screwdriver. And to a sculptor's chisel. And vice versa."

Consolatory fiction (I can't bear to refer to it as art) is in the business of telling all the hammers out there that everything really IS a nail -- to suggest otherwise runs the risk of softening their solid steel heads . . .

[Which, of course, is exactly what got me into trouble with so many Star Wars fans -- and why so many of them hate the NJO in general. Star Wars was, for them, the ultimate in Consolatory Fiction. Opening a Star Wars novel was like sitting down to a Hollywood version of Thanksgiving dinner: no surprises, no danger, just a tasty feast that'd leave you sleepy and content. Nothing upsetting. Nothing to think about.

Which is why the climax of VECTOR PRIME resulted in Bob Salvatore getting death threats.

Which is why -- may the gods have mercy on their poor pathetic souls -- some few fanfreaks have gone so far as to claim that George fucking LUCAS is ruining Star Wars with the Prequels . . . because it's not spotless Dudley Do-Rights inevitably triumphing over irreedeemable Snidely Whiplashes . . .

Shit, some kid got so freaked out by TRAITOR that he wrote into The Force.Net BEGGING me not to ruin Star Wars with relativist heresy (not that anything in TRAITOR advocates relativism -- just the opposite, but plenty of people just aren't bright enough to figure that out) . . . and even the possiblity that there might be anything resembling moral ambiguity in the Galaxy Far Far Away was so upsetting that it completely blew this guy's mind. Poor bastard. They all want Player's Handbook Universe -- y'know, as long as you never actually throw Force Lightning, you haven't fallen yet . . .

What none of these guys realize is that Star Wars was never as black/white as they pretended it was -- it's not about the triumph of the Rebellion, it's about Luke's triumph over himself. " . . .remember your failure at the cave . . ." But that's a subject for another post -- probably to wait for the REVENGE OF THE SITH release.]

Anyway, here I was ramping up to unleash the long version of this lecture upon the unsuspecting head of this poor bastard, when I realized that I'd better shut the fuck up about it.

Here's the thing: I realized that at this point in my career, people who've read me faithfully -- especially the Caine books and the SW books -- can now, at least in theory, find my own fiction just as consolatory as any installment of the Young Jedi Knights.

You all have a pretty good idea how I see the world. Opening one of my books brings you into a reality where you -- through prior experience of my writing -- have a pretty good idea of what the rules are [i.e. victory is expensive, pure intentions count for fuck all, it's good to be skilled but it's better to be lucky -- y'know, the usual crap.).

Since most of you know this shit already, before you ever crack the cover -- since most of you crack that cover at least in part BECAUSE YOU WANT TO READ A STORY WHERE SHIT WORKS THAT WAY . . . my work isn't actually subversive anymore. Not for you.

Which is giving me kind of a pain in the crack.

Because I like to shake people up a little. Make you question your assumptions.

But on the other hand, what the hell can I do about it?

Write a fucking Quest Against the Dark Lord?

I don't think I can lie in a novel. Not well, anyway.

So what the hell do I do to shake up the people who already agree with me? What do I show people who've already seen what I've got?

I am not asking for answers, here. Nor am I fishing for "Buck up, big guy," comments.

I am merely relating the story of an uncomfortable revelation, which leads me to the reply I gave the guy over as SFFWorld. I told him --

I don't think you "should" read me. I think you should read what you like.

And I don't have a better answer than that.


Mastadge said...

"some few fanfreaks have gone so far as to claim that George fucking LUCAS is ruining Star Wars with the Prequels . . . because it's not spotless Dudley Do-Rights inevitably triumphing over irreedeemable Snidely Whiplashes"

I don't think he's ruining Star Wars. I do think he did a pretty good job ruining Attack of the Clones.

As to reading what I like . . . have I mentioned that upon finishing THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, I jumped into an Aaron Allston novel?

Oh, and seeing as I missed the Holy Shit You Got Your Blog Back post a week or two ago, allow me to say: Holy Shit! You got your blog back!

Anonymous said...

"So what the hell do I do to shake up the people who already agree with me? What do I show people who've already seen what I've got?"

Have Caine die from a bad cold or something, then let Orbek be the focus of the rest of the book. He can get it on with a reincarnated Tup. And to really freak out your fans you should have it all take place within the second chapter... of ROTS.

On a more serious note, i love your Caine and Star Wars works. Caine, Orbeck Nick Rostu and Jacen all kick ass. Well, the Jacen as portayed in Traitor, all the other versions of him seem a bit wimpy in comparison.

Anonymous said...

I know you're not fishing for "Buck up, Big Guy" comments, and this isn't intended as one. It's only my own little story.

Until about three years ago, I was absolutely, completely, and thoroughly convinced that good and evil existed, without a hint of a doubt. Not only did I know that it existed, but I knew exactly what it was (and it was a lot of things).

But then something odd started happening. I discovered that people I liked and cared about had done things I thought were evil. I was disturbed and entirely miserable. They were GOOD people, so how could they have done something EVIL? And at the same time, very little on my reading list of Good vs. Evil fiction seemed to mean very much anymore.

Meanwhile, I had started reading the New Jedi Order series and was enjoying it very much. Through the internet I heard that you were writing an upcoming book in the series, and out of curiosity, I went out to a nearby bookstore and found Heroes Die. I've got to admit that when I read the first few pages, I was a little put off by the swearing and violence, but there was something about it that wouldn't leave me alone. I bought the book and read it.

Did it shake me up? Yes. Did it make me rethink my assumptions? Completely. The funny thing, though, was that for the first time in months, I didn't feel quite so miserable. Here was a book about characters who by my standards should have been terribly evil, and yet ... they were heroes. And it all made sense.

For the first time in months, I had found something that felt entirely TRUE.

And that brings me to the moral of this story. Heroes Die shook me up because, to me, it's true, and it was a truth I'd never found before. You could write something that could challenge the revelation that book gave me, but it wouldn't shake me up because, to me, it wouldn't be true. It wouldn't mean anything.

And so: whether by definition consolatory or subversive, art doesn't mean anything unless it's honest. It won't shake anyone up. It won't even make anyone feel better unless they're more skilled than I am at deluding themselves.

So, to me, you're fiction is only consolatory because all of your books have felt honest, and all of your books have made me think about things in a slightly different light.

That doesn't seem too bad to me.

So buck up, big guy!

Dim Halo

PS. Anyone who finishes reading this massively long comment deserves a prize.

Chris said...

Solutions to your problem/notrealyaproblem:
a. Write a Caine as a Jedi in love with Jaina slash fic.
b. Drink
c. Drink

Ben said...

Have you heard about this: Science Fiction Authors Hoax Vanity PublisherWhile I accept the reality that sci-fi/fantasy will never be accepted in the mainstream, which is not necessarily a bad thing, people who think like this still manage to piss me off:

PublishAmerica claimed "As a rule of thumb, the quality bar for sci-fi and fantasy is a lot lower than for all other fiction.... [Science fiction authors] have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories, and how to find them a home." It described them as "writers who erroneously believe that SciFi, because it is set in a distant future, does not require believable storylines, or that Fantasy, because it is set in conditions that have never existed, does not need believable every-day characters."Screw them. I'm going to read Nine Princes in Amber, which is better than most mainstream fiction out there today.

Anonymous said...

Guess that reader got you all shook up :P

That being said, there are thousands upon thousands of various little ways to shake up the people who read you faithfully. Thousands of little things, new things that are pulled out with each and every reading that twists and some how makes you review yourself a little differently.

Matt, your fiction, isn't just good because it makes you think. It's good because it makes you think a multitude of levels. Your fiction works and has become a "must grab" and an "I'm-going-to-make-you-read-this-even-if-I-have-to-open-your-skull-with-an-axe-and-dump-it-in" kinda thing because your fiction has an edge to it that you don't find many other places.

It's not that it's gritty (even though it is, in some places) and it's not that you know what you speak of when you quote violent scenes and the actions that cause them (even though you do). And it's not even really that you insert thoughts and ideas that make a person really think (which you do, and which you appear to think is the most important part of why you write... which is good, and bad.).

But it's that you don't treat your audience, in the books themselves or in the world outside as anything less than an adult with whimsies, desires, consequences, fears, and weaknesses like any other human. You happen to reveal in your characters all sides of the equation. You reveal people. They may be people who go above and beyond and cause heroic acts, but you show the inside that leaves other people cringing and closing their eyes.

You don't refuse to show them the darker side of life, and what can come of it. Or the lighter side and how wrong it can be. You show what happens when you get your every wish, and when you don't.

Most of all, even when your books become a comfort for me to pull out and fall asleep on my bed clutching becasue I was too tired to finish reading and didn't want to put it down, your books still make people think.

They evoke emotions of every stripe. They send messages on all different kinds of levels.

So why should someone read your books? There are many reasons:

They're entertaining.
They're thought provoking.
And they'll become your best friend. :)

And, I guess what I'm trying to say is that what people expect to come out of your books is that brutal honesty (as was mentioned), and responsibility that comes with realizing that the world isn't black and white and it never has been. That's what your books becoming "consolotory" is all about.

That and the fact that they're never the same rehashed story over and over with only different character names.

-a die hard fan named Jenn who enjoys every page of your books and has shoved them upon people repeatedly...

MWS said...

Jenn . . .

I love you. With extra kisses.

And kiss your boyo for me, too. In a manly way.

MWS said...

Though -- upon further review -- comments like that make we want to wander back over to the [dead cites] thread on "The Tyranny of Praise."

Jeez, you give me a LOT to live up to . . .

But like Robyn says: "If it were easy, everybody'd do it."

Ah, I'm in a mood today.

Anonymous said...

*blushes bright red*

I wuv you too. :) Obviously :P

And I'll let Scott know you like him, with manly kisses, if he hasn't read this already.

And no... well yes, I suppose the above comment could go into the tyranny of praise thread if you really wanted to. But that wasn't the point of it. It wasn't meant to be praise, but my honest appraisal of your work and why (since I was introduced to it) that I've shoved it on every single person I can. Sometimes with the axe comment sometimes not.

As for making you live up to something... sure, it makes you work harder and I get another book that I stay up all night reading instead of getting sleep. :P

And Robyn is very right.


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Anonymous said...

Значит так проблема вот какого рода. С некоторых мой горячо любимый комп стал перезагружаться при следующих действиях:

1. попытка запуска любых игр.

2. попытка перехода в ждущий или спящий режимы

3. при запуске некоторых программ, где имеются элементы графики. К примеру простейшая программа на Basic по построению окружности так же приводит к перезагрузке.

Помимо этого невероятно неественно виснут программы типа Photoshop и Corel.

После перезагрузки система выдает ошибки, которые прописываются в журнале таким вот образом:

Код ошибки 1000008e, параметр1 c0000005, параметр2 bfa87b0c, параметр3 f8754f64, параметр4 00000000.

Код ошибки 1000008e, параметр1 c0000005, параметр2 bfa89789, параметр3 ed90372c, параметр4 00000000.

Зависшее приложение OverClk.exe, версия, зависший модуль hungapp, версия, адрес 0x00000000.

Зависшее приложение HelpCtr.exe, версия 5.1.2600.2180, зависший модуль hungapp, версия, адрес 0x00000000.

Зависшее приложение IEXPLORE.EXE, версия 6.0.2900.2180, зависший модуль hungapp, версия, адрес 0x00000000.

В общем каждый раз прописываются разные ошибки, иногда они повторяются….

Можно было предположить, что имеются проблемы с ОС, но ее переустановка проблему не решила. Под новой ОС все тоже самое.

Отдельные личности пытались доказать мне что проблемы имеются с блоком питания. Но в случае подключения другого винчестера, компьютер работает нормально, т.е. идут все игры и работает спящий режим. Следовательно блок питания с порядке и проблема в системе. Но какого рода? Переустановливать еще раз смысла не имеет.

Плюс ко всем не отпадает версия наличия некого вируса, но ни Касперский ни Nod32 ничего не находят.

Кто может что посоветовать?
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