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Bad Speculative Fiction

March 12, 2009

You know you’ve read some.  It may have been a big shot who sells millions or some guy that got into a magazine because the editor was experimenting with herbology, but bad sf/f/h is out there making big bucks.  I haven’t decided what I think about that.

On the one hand, I am very unhappy that some jerk out there cashed a check with mutiple zeros when I know I have stories — novels even — that are much better.  Why him (or her or it) and not me?  The reasons are there: 1) luck, 2) perseverence, 3) previous success, 4) connections, 5) maybe I just don’t get it.

Then there’s the flip side.  If this putz can gsell, I can, too.  It’s a reminder that success is 98% perspiration (and that stinks).  So reading some schlock can give me a boost of hope even as it knocks down my self esteem.

What made me think of this?  Christopher Paolini.  Nice enough guy as far as I can tell, one of my students is obsessed with him, but he needs a good editor with sharp scissors.  At least he needed it in Eldest, his second novel.  I enjoyed Eragon enough to buy Eldest.  I even enjoyed the story enough to buy Brisingr (gesundheit).  I did not enjoy it enough to get past page 2 of…that third book I can’t pronounce.

I think Paolini summarized my concern himself in Eldest when — on about page 300 — a character observes how lucky they are to have traveled from wherever to wherever and nothing happened.

reddragon3head**By the way, [SPOILER ALERT!!!]**

I further had issues with the protagonist’s efforts to become a worthy dragon rider by learning combat from an elf despite a serious injury that limits him physically and causes constant pain.  This training occurs intermittently while subtle relationships in the story are hinted at but never truly developed.  Of course the training helps him to improve, but he can just barely go through the motions.

Then it happens, some fancy dragon festival where ghostly dragons emanate and heal the protagonist of his wounds.  Yes, all of them.  Because he struggled so hard?  No.  Because he was innately worthy.  Wasn’t he innately worthy before a bunch of pages and my personal hours were wasted on combat training?  I suspect he was.  The character succeeds through the entire book despite never having any breakthroughs of his own.

Not what I want in a story.  I’ve been rejected for less.  But I didn’t self-publish a book that was successful enough to be picked up by a major publisher.  Will I one day?  Maybe.  Then some other wannabe can complain about my schlock on his blog.

-Oso

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 12, 2009 7:26 pm

    Here’s something that encouraged me a lot: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/10/20/081020fa_fact_gladwell

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