The Howling

It is sometimes disturbing to read reviews on Amazon.  Sometimes books I consider masterpieces receive the most vicious criticism.  I wanted to send a friend a copy of John Gardner’s Grendel, which I consider a superb novel.  I re-read it often, and have always considered it a model of prose and pacing and characterization.  I believe it is one of our greatest modern fantasies.

My eye was drawn to the bright yellow stars, and then I saw that some people gave the book 1 star.  Unable to look away, I clicked on the disaster, and found comments like:

So due to this piece, I disregarded John Gardner as a complete idiot. A moron. An inept hack. The worst kind of author. One who has gained notoriety through some kind of fluke. John Gardner became a swear word within my group of friends, something only to be braught up so one could watch me rage against, “That idiot who probably didn’t even read the source material!”

It’s hard not to marvel at something like that.  (Also: it’s curious that some people act so personally hostile.  Why insult John Gardner?  Does he think Gardner isn’t a human being?  Does he think Gardner didn’t try his best?  Not to mention, of course, that this person would not have had the courage — nor, one hopes, the bad manners — to insult Gardner like this to his face, were Gardner still with us.  Why does print make it acceptable?)

But there is also something liberating about seeing these critical vomits.  They remind us that every book — every work of art — has to find its audience, and the people outside that audience might be not just uninterested, but even actively hostile.  Even hostile to a vile degree.

For a writer, it’s always painful when people write dismissive or mean things about your work, and always someone does.  But seeing that any work, even great works like Grendel, will earn some dismissive and mean criticisms reminds us that everything is hated by someone.  Indeed, everything is hated by someone eager to shout personal attacks on Amazon.

The Dark Forward

I’ve taken my first plunge into Kindlespace.  My Marrion stories, which appeared in Analog, have been collected into a novella available on Kindle, under the name The Dark Forward.  I’ve written an afterword, and also revised the third story in the trilogy after I decided the end could be improved.

Genetically engineered children is now a subgenre in SF.  But these stories are unique in developing the idea of an engineered trait with a moral aim.  The Marrion children are not engineered to be smarter or to be sleepless or to have any other trait of — shall we say — obvious commercial benefit. They are engineered to care more about the future.  My conceit is that this would be a very important, and perhaps even very dangerous, trait.

Asteroid Monte on Escape Pod

“Asteroid Monte,” which first appeared in Analog, and is soon appearing in Russian in the magazine Esli, is now available as a free podcast download at Escape Pod.  Reader Rajan Khanna did a fantastic job switching from Sussuratian to Irish to Aussie accents — and, heroically, pronouncing “Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess.”  Check it out at:

     http://escapepod.org/2012/02/23/ep333-asteroid-monte/

This is GOFSO (Good Old Fashioned Space Opera) with an ecological twist.  The world first appeared in a story in Analog called “Demand Ecology,” and reappeared in Analog in the story “The Cold Star Sky,” but “Asteroid Monte” is the first story with these two characters.  I have several other stories, and several novels, in the pipeline about these characters.  I refer to the world as Predator Space.