Echoing Teapots

Jul 21, 22:59 by John Frost
Comments on the broo-ha-ha...
Jul 22, 00:01 by Mike Brotherton
Had my own run in with a literary type on a blog a couple of months ago. She was immediately condescending, then threw a fit when I called her on it, and suddenly I was the bad guy. WTF? She wasn't even so generous as to extend the discussion to media tie-ins -- she drew the line at quality writing where every page was worth an hour or more, and heaped scorn on those bad, bad books that forced you to turn the pages so fast, because of a good story, that you couldn't appreciate the verbiage. Again, WTF?

People read for all sorts of reasons. I don't like political correctness or snobbery, but I certainly like some work better than other. There has been fantastic work with commerial properties (some work in graphic novels comes most easily to mind), and some awful work with original characters and worlds.

I remember being advised that you shouldn't write anything you're not into. That is, that a fantasy series you thought was derivative, maybe it is, but you can't copy it for its big sales if you don't feel its allure.

Complex issues. I think the elitism does boil down to snobbery usually. If you think a work is great, but the sales aren't there, aren't every going to be there, hey, most other readers must be stupid, right? And the battle line is then drawn in a really ridiculous place: among readers. The snobs would be less controversial and more on target to draw the line between readers and TV watchers, or video game players.

Enough rambling. Happy to see the new issue and a new Jay Lake article.

Jul 22, 04:50 by Terry Hickman
Great thoughts, understandably written (unlike so much criticism/analysis of *any* lit field), Jay! Kudos.

But what the hell is a "bemboist"???
Jul 22, 06:10 by Jay Lake

Bemboism is a literary form employing complex stylistic architectures, roughly the equivalent of roccoco or baroque art.
Jul 22, 07:10 by Janine Stinson
Fine article, and thanks for the explanation of bemboism. It reaffirms my current belief that there's a little old lady in Akron, Ohio who invents the terms used in literary criticism and sends them via telepathic interface to those who need a new term with which to make their reps in "litcrit" circles.

I wonder, does anyone ever ask a "literary" critic where she or he gets ideas? <g>
Jul 22, 07:21 by Jay Lake
Actually, I copped it from an art history text while reading up on roccoco and baroque one time. Even us Style Monkeys do research.
Jul 22, 09:00 by David Bratman
Another reason for scorning media tie-ins and fantasy as crap is, most of it is. I prefer fantasy to sf when it's good, but bad fantasy is much more of a drag on the f&sf field these days than bad sf is. This is above and beyond the sense in which "90% of everything is crap."

People are willing to make exceptions when the work is actually good. I know a lot of high-lit sf types, including myself, who have one Star Trek novel on their shelves: How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford. That's the good one.

There's also another distinction to be made, which is only alluded to in the article: one between elitism, which says "this stuff is bad," and purism, which says "this stuff may be good, but it doesn't belong in this box." Boundary lines are inevitably fuzzy, but if the border becomes too diffuse, you dilute too far whatever it was that brought you there in the first place.

The author who mocked other authors who say "I can't play by someone else's rules" has utterly missed the point. There's a huge difference between writing something set in the real world, or working with real human limitations which you've known all your life, and working in someone else's imaginary created universe. Probably the authors who are best at writing Trek novels are the ones who've been watching the show since they were spuds: it has, to borrow a phrase, lodged in their hindbrains.

As for the scientific limitations imposed in SF, authors pick and choose which ones they want to follow all the time.

Can good authors write good tie-ins? Some can. These are mostly the authors whose native styles involve absorbing a lot of pop culture and such anyway. The ones who are more self-contained and write of whole universes inside their heads are not going to be good at tie-ins, and probably have the sense not to try.
Jul 22, 09:35 by Stephen Stanley
Pietro Bembo

In 1929, Stanley Morrison designed a typeface he named "Bembo" -- based on the type used in an old Aldus Manutius book. Most likely one by Pietro Bembo...

I was stopped by "Bemboism" also -- but more because of my familiarity with the typeface. A quick google brought up the site above.

Great essay, Jay. In my opinion, much of the tempest might be sour grapes/jealousy, a "I can write a better tie-in than that, why don't they accept my proposals?" issue. Such a thing would never be spoken aloud, however. Literary Snobbery comes in more flavors than Baskin Robbins, which is an interesting analogy when one considers it admits both diversity and choice. There are people who feel personally inadequate if their opinions/tastes are not considered the penultimate standard. Poor things.

enuff from me
Jul 22, 17:26 by glenda larke
Just as an item of interest: the 2003 Aurealis Award in the SF category (these are national annual awards for the best of Australian SF, Fantasy and Horror, made by a panel of judges, looking - one assumes - for some literary excellence and originality) went to a Dr Who tie-in: Fallen Gods, by Jon Blum and Kate Orman (Telos Publishing).

Enjoyed your article Jay. Nice to see some good sense in a touchy topic.

Jul 23, 04:25 by Lon Prater
Mainstream sneers at genre, litfic genre sneers at media tie-in fiction. (Perhaps Star Wars writers sneer at Sweet Valley High.)

Hey Jay,

You missed the bottom step on the 'tude chain... media tie-in fans sneer at RPG and trading card game related books. :)

Thanks for an even handed and thoughtful take on the subject.

Jul 23, 05:43 by Jay Lake
Heh. Thanks, Lon. That is a good one. There's always another monkey, as my anthropology prof used to say.

And thanks the rest of you for the kind words.

Jul 23, 13:55 by Bluejack
I assume you guys are all familiar with the geek hierarchy?
Jul 26, 14:31 by Ted Chiang
Just a couple comments on media tie-ins:

Clarke's _2001: A Space Odyssey_ is not exactly a representative example of a media tie-in. Clarke and Kubrick collaborated on the story for both the movie and the novel. Few, if any, other authors who write tie-ins have been in a similar position.

Also, citing various award-winning authors who have written novels set in other people's universes does not, by itself, constitute a defense of tie-in fiction, any more than citing authors who don't write such novels constitutes a criticism.
Jul 27, 07:52 by Nicholas Liu
I'll hold up my Jedi Academy books or the Dune prequels against any of my original novels.

Sadly, so would I.
Jul 28, 18:42 by Mike Bailey

Thanks for the thoughtful article.

Sounds like Nick Mamatas' momma didn't teach him any manners. However smart he may be, rudeness like "that implies that the article was designed, rather than just shat out in one burst of retarded fury" isn't likely to change minds or make friends. Eliciting some cheap chuckles may bring a smile to some, but it seems a bit small-minded to me.

Thanks for a balanced view.
Jul 29, 13:01 by W. Ben Rhodes
THis entire debate reminds me of an argument I had oh-so-long-ago with a friend concerning poetry. He - a high school English teacher and aspiring Author - was constantly heaping scorn on his students because they felt that Jewel's song lyrics were poetry. "It's crap!" he fumed. To his mind, his young students should have been reading nothing but Blake, Byron and Emerson. I countered then - and still feel the same - that at least they were reading, which is more than could be said for a lot of Americans today. Get them used to poetic forms reading Jewel (or any other pop lyricist), then you can start "enlightening" them with DWMs.

TO say that anyone should read a specific type of novel or short story - and coincidentally that anyone should only write a specific type of novel - is not only elitism, it's patently absurd. It denies the simple fact that all readers read at different levels and for different reasons at different times in their lives, and that writers write the same way. I came to sf early in life through comic books - Magnus, Robot Fighter, to be specific - then worked my way up through "juvenile" sf novels until I was ready for the likes of P.K. Dick, Crowley and Stephenson. But even though I read "heavy, deep" stuff today, I still regard the "lighter" stuff with fond memories and even revisit it at times.

Comics, tie-ins, original novels, sequels, prequels, movies, video games - they're all a part of the genre we love.
Aug 2, 17:07 by Bluejack
TO say that anyone should read a specific type of novel or short story - and coincidentally that anyone should only write a specific type of novel - is not only elitism, it's patently absurd.

I agree. When I was a D&D-playing teenager I had generally abysmal taste. I was a fan of Piers Anthony's Xanth novels for far too long, for example. But the bad eventually led to the good. Even then, I don't think I was under any pretence that the stuff was high literature, but I did think it was fun. (On the other hand, I did think that some of Heinlein's later novels were high literature.)

In any case, my tastes have certainly changed over time. What hasn't changed is the belief that fun can be just as important as importance is.

Aug 5, 16:20 by Michael Fay
I am often considered an elitist. Yet, I'm not really. I'm picky. I know what I like. And I have rarely liked the media tie-in novelizations. That, however, doesn't mean that I dislike science fiction/fantasy movies or television. It's just that what works for movies and television doesn't necessarily translate well to the page and vise versa. I have liked some novels set in movie worlds (though I have to find a novelization of a movie worth my time).
I usually don't like it when writers write books set in another writer's universe; the proper "voice" winds up lacking for me and I inevitably compare this new writer to the writer who came before. Of course, some universes only merited one book in the first place. The trend that says otherwise is probably L. Ron Hubbard's fault.
The exception to the other writer's universe rule is certain shared world anthologies (I have only liked Liavek and Bordertown), and even then, when writers go to make novels in these worlds, they generally fail (Will Shetterly needs to step up and admit this now).
In any event, not all elitism is snobbery. Some of it is taste.

I was a fan of Piers Anthony's Xanth novels for far too long, for example.

The first 3 Xanth novels were clever and fairly good.


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