Friday, July 17

[On the comments regarding my previous post -- this is, I think, of sufficient general interest to warrant its own Front Page Treatment]

It's worth remembering my favorite paraphrase of Nietzsche: When you judge a work of art, the art also judges you.

That is to say: what you get out of a book depends more on what you bring to it than on any skill of its author (though I well understand that this is heresy to most of the LitCrit crowd, whose entire worldview -- not to mention income and careers -- is based on the indefensible contention that not only do objective signifiers of literary quality exist, but that these supposed signifiers can be reliably identified by critics. And that identifying and sharing these signifiers in various rhetorical arguments about various works' inherent quality is not only a worthwhile occupation, but one for which they should be paid).

What Really Good Critics do is create and deliver an entertaining and persuasive narrative of their own experience; they understand that the only defensible form of criticism is a report of how the work in question affected (or failed to affect) them. What Really Stupid Critics do is smugly repeat shit like "Show, Don't Tell" and, oh, I don't know, maybe "This is how it feels to read crap," in order to pretend they're smart.

Look: there are some people who are open to the idea that a book like Revenge of the Sith might actually be a Good Novel -- even people who generally despise Star Wars, like (for example) my wife, the Fabulous Robyn. In fact, she still hasn't forgiven me for seducing her into actually giving a damn about Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi (she listened to the Unabridged Version read by the estimable Jonathan Davis, and it made her cry. More than once). But these are people who are already susceptible to the heroic epic; a Henry James fan who considers the mark of Great Literatue to be the delicately filigreed tale of how the Cruel World ultimately Destroys the Beauty of the Sensitive Soul, is just never gonna get it, no matter how hard you push it. There are plenty of James fans who will insist that The Iliad is Real Literature, as is Hamlet or many other narratives based on outside sources -- and in the same breath say that RotS can't be Real Literature because it's based on Star Wars. I could be the Second Coming of Leo Fucking Tolstoy, and still none of these people would be persuaded that a Star Wars book can be anything other than (at best) an entertaining diversion.

Not that I'm claiming to be in the same league as Homer, Shakespeare and Tolstoy, you understand. I'm far from convinced that my SW books will still be read ten years from now, let alone 400. Or 2500. I would, however, just once like to copy out Homer's capsule bios of each of the slain heroes at Troy, then pants one of these Show Don't Tell fucktards and shove that copy up his ass.

KF1138:

Thanks for the great review. Sorry about the gender misapplication -- the -trix suffix is usually applied to female examples of persons engaged in occupations that end in -tor. Hence the mix-up. Sorry.

32 comments:

Scott said...

This reminds me of arguments that I had with my father when he decried all SF/Fantasy as garbage. I pointed out that technically, Animal Farm and 1984 fir in that category only to be told "They're good, they can't be SF." *sigh*

And I made the same mistake when I saw the -trix ending. It's softened since Roman times to -tress. And no "usually" about it, it *always* designates a female. It's the female equivalent of -tor.

Joe said...

I dunno. It seemed to me like most of my professors (except for some older ones) weren't actually too keen on objective signifiers and were wise to the rules of the critical game. But I had some pretty baller professors.

Grey Starr said...

Naturally I am Biased towards Star Wars anything, and tend to be a little more defensive of it. But I do not force my opinions onto others of what I do and do not like, but if asked I will supply it.

In debates as to whether a book is good or not, I do not go into it expecting to change their mind. After all, it is just my opinion vs theirs. There are times though through these debates that one side or the other is enlightened by a point made or interpretation that they had not thought of or recognized, and their opinions (myself included) are totally changed!

I myself enjoyed the Novel of Revenge of the Sith FAR more then movie (sorry George Lucas). In comparison The Phantom Menace was better as a movie and I had a hard time getting through the Novel (sorry Terry Brooks).

(Personal request here)

Mr Stover, could you please contact me about maybe attending Ad-Astra (a Literary Convention) in Toronto April 9-11 2010?

Knightfall1138 said...

Yeah, I apologize for the screenname. It was one of those "I wasn't expecting guests" moments; picked something from a show I liked and ran with it.

That's the real problem with the sci-fi and fantasy genre these days, in terms of reviews. If you don't write like: Card, Jordan, Tolkien, or Martin, then people start throwing up red flags. They commit the sin of thinking good fantasy has to be in the same ballpark as these guys in terms of style or word count.

I think I mentioned in one of my other Star Wars reviews that I really had this preconception that the EU novels were really just elaborate/published fanfiction. All the books I tried out before hand just tried too damn hard to appease the canon, so their stories had as much scope as a garbage smasher on the detention level.

So, for the longest time, I was someone who just stuck to the movies and Knights of the Old Republic. Someone who really just didn't think the SW universe had anything left to offer. But a friend of mine recommended Shatterpoint, and it kinda turned that around for me.

I saw it as emerging evidence that the Jedi were getting a little too fat on the throne; that the light can overcome, but its the perspective that has to change. And I was fascinated that the real conflict wasn't Mace vs. Jungle Creatures, it was Light vs. Overwhelming Darkness. A battle that went beyond mere good and evil, bad guy vs. good guy. It really showed a conflict of the Force itself.

And deeming something Literature doesn't mean much to me anymore. The aforementioned light/dark conflict was the most powerful stuff I've read in a while. I'd most certainly watch Apocalypse Now and read Shatterpoint over Marlow's cannibal adventures. It's in the way those themes are delivered.

Knightfall1138 said...

Also this: http://kotaku.com/5313916/god-of-war-novel-is-283-pages-of-gggggrrrrr

I demand to know if I should play God of War before my PS2 withers to dust. I shant be left in the dark when I read this. xD

MWS said...

KF1138:

No comment.

Grey Starr --

You neglected to provide contact information. The best way to reach me without posting your email out here in the Spam-filled Intertubes, is to register at either SFFWorld.com or TheForce.Net, and send me a private message.

Thanks.

Joseph Mallozzi said...

Hi Matthew,

Joseph Mallozzi here - full-time producer on the Stargate franchise and part-time blogger over at -

www.josephmallozzi.wordpress.com

- where, in addition various bloggy matters, I also host a Book of the Month Club discussion. Past guests have included Michael Moorcock, David Weber, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jeffrey Ford, Joe Abercrombie, Kage Baker (and many more). In a recent conversation I had with author John Scalzi, he suggested Heroes Die as a possible candidate.

All that would be required of you is to answer a few fan/reader questions (at your convenience) I'll email your way sometime in late September.

If you're interested, you can drop me an email at: moorsyum@yahoo.com

Thanks,

Joe

Rob Locke said...

I had to rub my eyes to make sure that really was Matt's name on the god of war book cover.

Are original IPs too hard to sell these days? Weren't you going to write under a psuedonym to protect your rep?

I suppose if Star Wars novels are paying the bills, then videogame novelizations might put food on the table.

I'll be over there, waiting for His Father's Fist.

A different Scott said...

The character of Kratos seems to be right up Mr. Stover's alley and really seems like they'd play to one anothers strengths quite well. Kratos is a tortured soul haunted by his past actions, capable of a tremendous amount of brutality and driven to destroy the very gods he once served. At the risk of over-generalizing, this already reads like a one line summary of a Stover novel. If this was any other author, then I wouldn't be expecting anything beyond your standard pulp fiction featuring a protaganist only slightly less annoying then any number of faceless fantasy pud-tuggers. Since it's Stover though, I'm allowing myself to get my hopes up.

As for writing under a pseudonym, I was under the impression that was intended to slip a quicky by the bean-counters that run bookstores. As an existing author they know roughly how many units a Matt Stover novel sells so they'll order slightly less then that number (as they can always order more should it take off) to prevent a massive overstock. As an unknown author though, he can get a clean slate with the book counters. At least, that's how I understood it.

I'm also waiting for the next in the Caine series, but I'm not going to deny myself a potentially enjoyable experience just because it's not the one I expected.

~A different Scott altogether.

Joe said...

So, after they order his first book under the pseudonym, that's the new figure they look at for future sales, right? Is there any reason he can't tell us the pseud at that point?

Knightfall1138 said...

I hear there's also a God of War movie in the works, so this novel will be a good companion for it when that particular release date comes.

And yeah, I must agree, from what I know of the video game series, this will be a perfect fit for Mister Stover here. Myth/Violence/Moral Conflicts = I have to go play that fraking game before the book comes out.

Also, I was about to pick up Traitor the other day, but I heard that I'll be completely lost if I don't read the previous books in the SW: NJO series. Can anyone attest to this?

Sat Inder Singh said...

Your Star Wars books, especially Revenge of the Sith and Traitor are the best Star Wars novels ever written, and I read them all being a complete Star Wars dork. So, they will be read if only by me!

Salt-Man Z said...

Also, I was about to pick up Traitor the other day, but I heard that I'll be completely lost if I don't read the previous books in the SW: NJO series. Can anyone attest to this?

Well, it's book #13 in a 19-book arc. So yeah, there's a good chance. However, you could maybe read the summaries at Wookieepedia (starting with Vector Prime) and fill in the backstory enough to where you can understand what's going on in Traitor. Otherwise, if you only feel like reading one other book to get up to speed, the most important one would be Troy Denning's Star By Star.

Pizzope said...

A Different Scott hit the nail on the head in regards to the God of War novel.

I also find it interesting that it's exactly the type of thing that doesn't stand a chance in the eyes of the Stupid Critics.

Ryan said...

There's no issue with not reading the other books in the NJO. Traitor is pretty standalone, with the main character separated from the rest.

Knightfall1138 said...

Yeah, Vector Prime lost my interest pretty quick back in the day, that's why I was concerned with reading all of the books in the series to get up to Traitor.

I'll check it out. Maybe I'll do a little research over at the ol' Wookieepedia before I buy it. xD

Danny said...

Traitor was the first Stover book to ever touch my bookshelf, if only briefly due to it being a loaner, but I later went out and bought a copy for myself because I enjoyed it so thoroughly.

I had no idea who any of these characters were, but I felt that the story didn't require it of me. So definitely don't let the burden of reading twelve books get in your way and prevent you from reading one of the greatest books in the entire EU.

Publius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andres said...

First of, i must note that Im from Argentina (some lost spanish speaking country in the wolrd's ass), still, I managed to read your Books Mr. Stover, with some dificulties getting them, but read them still.

I'm a usual Star Wars reader (well, or was until some of the atrocities i Read in the "Legacy of the Force" saga), but i must say that your books in the franchise are, without doubt, the best. I loved Shadows of Mindor and RotS!!!

And I already adquired Caine Black Knife (Couldnt get Heroes die, and Blade when i was in the states =/ ) so, I'll read it, and surely it will be great!

Dont loose hope, Mr Stover. I know some people say scifi's shit and the likes, but can they write something that's worth a damn? 'Course they cant, but, for some reason they can criticize others magnificent work.

What im trying to say here is that you're a great author, and you shouldnt loose hope.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Stover,
"Revenge of the Sith" is a good novel. Period. I loved it. My fans loved it. It made me cry. It is beautiful and touching and powerful. Literati be damned - they are one of the reasons people read less and less today, methinks.
BTW, I had interviewed you several years ago via ssfworld and was stunned to learn that you hated poor old Dooku - yet you wrote about him in a terrific way. I am a Dark Side fanboy and loved how you described Vader, Palpatine, the Count...
I loved the way you described Lord Cronal as well, in the "Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor". I loved the story and I loved the idea of the Rhandites. I was thrilled to read about the terrifying journeys of Cronal.
And you wrote Luke to be great. Even I, who am a die-hard Sith /now and Rhandite/ fanboy, was more than impressed.
So best luck with your writing and I hope for more about Cronal and his order!
May the Force be with you:
Alexander Draganov

Mithrand said...

Hi, Mr. Stover...

I'm Alejandro Serrano, from Fantasymundo. I wonder if we could interview you for Fantasymundo. We love your novels, and if not are not very busy we'd like you to answer some questions by email, if you please...

www.fantasymundo.com
alejandro@fantasymundo.com

I am Dr. Krog said...

Probably late on the draw here on Traitor..I picked it up after Heroes Die. I had put down Star Wars years earlier, and it got me back in. Traitor was awesome and the emotional depth was a heck of a lot more important than needing to know who blew up which ship 5 books earlier. Seems like a lot of Star Wars books are plug and play, with interchangeable authors just following a formula (I guess they have to cause it sort of works), but ROTS and the others really elevate the series. Judging a book by the freight of its genre or brand really bites it. We probably all agree literary snobs suck, but it would be nice if they didn't impact the funds of our favorite authors.

Knightfall1138 said...

Good to hear about Traitor. I took another look at the first book in the NJO series and I remembered why I put it down. I love Salvatore's Icewind Dale trilogy, but his SW books...not so much! But I'll probably pick up Traitor on my next bookstore outing.

I'm about 100 pages into Heroes Die now. What sucks royal is that I'm liking it, and the sequel is $30 no matter where I look. I'll probably have to bite the bullet and read Caine Black Knife next, although I hate skipping around, even if they're standalone stories. xD

A Different Scott said...

KF1138,
Do yourself a huge favor, bite a different bullet and drop the $30 on Blade. Trust me on this, there are some huge changes to the setting that occur in BoT that alter pretty much everything you learn in Heroes Die. I can't imagine that reading Heroes Die then skipping to C:BK I'd be able to make any sense of what was going on.
I know that BoT was readable without having read Heroes Die. I read it before I knew that Heroes Die existed (luckiest random pickup in a library ever) and it did enough to establish the setting to serve as an independent novel. C:BK does too if read alone, but it's such a different setting from what Heroes Die established that it would be really confusing.
I'd offer to sell you my copy, but I value it far higher then 30 bucks.

~The same different Scott from earlier, but still not the original Scott.

Knightfall1138 said...

@ That One Scott

You make a damn good case.

I'll try harder to find myself a copy of BoT. Maybe I'll check the give the library a look and see if I have the same luck as you.

Fingers crossed on that one. Maybe I'll read Traitor while I quest around for a copy. xD

Also, reading Heroes Die just gives more credence to the thought that the God of War novel is gonna rock face.

Mithrand said...

Hi, Mr. Stover:

Sorry to bother, Mr. Stover... there is a problem with your mail, it returns all that I send to you with a SMTP error.

Is there any other way to talk to you?

www.fantasymundo.com
alejandro@fantasymundo.com

Guy said...

I remember buying Revenge of the Sith. I had picked it up at an electronics store instead of a bookstore. Had no idea you'd written the novelization, so imagine my joy.

I laughed throughout the whole book. I was happy, you see. Tears of joy, without the tears. I've read a few novelizations of movies before and always felt they were poor merchandising, like every movie needs a crappy game to go with it now. Revenge of the Sith changed my opinion of...well, absolutely nothing. I knew you could write a damned good book, so no surprise at it being a damned good book. Your damned good book didn't make all the shitty books other people wrote more enjoyable.

I believe that the new Star Wars trilogy is the most insulting thing I've ever seen on film. The RotS novel proves that George Lucas should have pitched the whole idea over to you and let you create something epic with it.

Rob Locke said...

I feel as if I need to redeem my last comment... I agree with the Guy about the new star wars trilogy... And I'd like to say that God of War is designed as a nice, fun, beautiful button mashing gorefest.

That said, anything Matt touches turns to gold. I'll have to trust his judgement and hope he doesn't write a novel based on Halo, even though Peter Jackson hopes to turn that game into a movie.

I simply need to trust. Being a skeptic is difficult.

fooburger said...

I'd like to second the comment saying that BoT is required reading prior to black knife.
I was in a similar situation to a previous poster, lucky gamble on buying blade sitting on a bookshelf looking for some indiscernible reason out of place among all the rest of scifi.

And thanks for this thread.. I'm now off to get a copy of RoTS.... which I never would have considered before.

A long time ago I read the Zahn SW novels.. which were entertaining, but couldn't really keep me interested in the author or genre.

Something in heroes die and blade made me keep glancing at amazon... for what... *7* years??? looking occasionally for what ended up as black knife.

Best of luck to MWS...

D. Boots said...

Any chance we could get an update on your latest work(s). I would also like to know how the next caine book is coming along if at all. Thanks, and cant wait for your next book.

Grey Starr said...

Sorry for not following up sooner... if you might still be interested in attending Ad-Astra (the Literary Convention) in Toronto April 9-11 2010, please contact me at grey_starr at yahoo dot com .

Aaron Allston will be attending :D

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