Thursday, August 12, 2010

Barfing On My Keyboard

I've written before about the tendency of authors to always "play nice" and never say anything negative about another author. Not one who is more famous than you, because you could hurt your career. Not one who is less famous than you, because you'll look threatened, and god knows no one wants to look threatened. And no one can say anything about someone who is just as well known as they are, because writers tend to be a self-conscious bunch and we always think everyone is doing ten times better than we are (although, in my case, that's pretty much true right now).

However, I think those rules are bullshit. If I didn't name names, what would be the point of calling another out on their jackassery?

So, once again, I'm calling out Laurell K. Hamilton.

You may be saying to yourself, "Jen, what are you doing? Why do you bother reading about her if she drives you so incredibly insane?" Well, I'll tell you: I don't know. Maybe it's masochism. Maybe it's schadenfreude. Maybe I'm just mean and bored. Actually, it's probably that last one. But when I see shit like her recent blogpost, "Bleeding On My Keyboard", which openly insults other writers in the genre, I can't be quiet. And I shouldn't be. If the person who considers herself the creator of the vampire novel can't say anything nice, well, neither can I, and I'm comfortable with that.

"Bleeding On My Keyboard" begins innocently enough with Laurell lamenting how difficult it's been for her to work on her latest manuscript. Fair enough, I've been there. I can get on board with feeling like your own writing is trying to straight up murder you. In fact, I would wager that pretty much every writer has felt that way now and again.

Laurell disagrees with me:
Some very successful writers don’t seem to feel that emotional connection to their work, or at least not to the degree I do. I used to envy them until I realized the price of that cool distance. They write like they feel with less depth, less of themselves on the page. It is a safer way to write, less frightening, less hurtful, less pain for the writer, but the writing shows that.

This is where it all starts to go a little wrong. As a writer, I resent the implication that unless "I’ve screamed at my computer, cursed other characters, fought and lost to them," I haven't managed to make a connection to my work. I love my job. I wouldn't love it if it constantly frightened and hurt me, and I don't think it needs to.

Laurell continues:
I can read most other writers and tell you within a few pages which of them “feels” strongly when they write and which do not. Now, some can fake it better than others, but in the end it is a fake. They don’t believe in their own work, their own world, their own characters. They know that the skin of let’s pretend is there, always, they never let themselves sink past a certain point, or perhaps their world, their muse, their imagination is more shallow than mine. Maybe there are no painful depths to explore and they just spend their careers wading through the shallows because no matter how wide the water looks, it’s just a wading pool with no unexpected holes to swallow the writer up, and drown them in the dark water of their own minds.

Now, wait just a fucking minute. First of all, "the skin of let's pretend" should be there. It has nothing to do with anyone being less tortured than her. It has nothing to do with the depths of anyone's imagination. It's always there because it's fiction. No matter how real the characters might be in her mind, they're always just pretend. It doesn't matter if she's the darkest, most tortured soul ever to write, if she's writing fiction, it is always pretend.

Which brings me to point #2. For an author who strenuously objects (or at least makes a big show of objecting) to being asked if aspects of her writing are influenced by her real life, it takes some major balls to assume that she can know anything about another author's life from "a few pages". How arrogant does someone have to be to claim that they can tell whether or not an author has "painful depths" from a few pages of fiction? It's insulting to authors who do have "painful depths" but keep them private or don't wish to express them in their work.

Laurell continues:
The way I write is not for everyone, God knows, but for me it’s the only way I know. It’s the way I’ve always written.

So, you heard it, kiddies. The way she writes is not for everyone, but if you don't write exactly the way she does, you're shallow and have no imagination

I, for one, am going to continue being shallow and without imagination. Not because of the dark holes that can swallow me up, but because I write fucking vampire books. They're supposed to be fun and entertaining and disposable. The day I forget that is the day I become an arrogant, insulting person who takes to their blog to lament the pain I feel from being the only author who really writes.

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