NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby izanobu » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:48 am

vanaaron- the problem I see with learning to avoid writing badly (not that one shouldn't, of course) is that we don't sell stories and novels based on what we don't do wrong, we sell them based on what we do right. So while it might be easier to learn how to avoid doing something wrong, it is probably better as a writer to take the hard path and try to learn how the skilled ones do it. Ie, I think a writer who works on building their strengths more than just propping up their weaknesses will have better luck improving than a writer who just tries to shore up weaknesses.

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby kyle » Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:44 am

I was going to stay out of this fray, but it's important to remember that every work of fiction has flaws. It's like the old Randall Jarrell quote: "...a novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it..."

The real trick is to look at both what a writer does well and what that writer does poorly. And then strive to do only the best in your own work (as the flaws in your work will emerge entirely on their own).

To me, the most instructive texts to read are the ones that shouldn't work. When J.K. Rowling writes a book that amounts to asking the characters to collect magic coupons to redeem at the end of the book for a happy ending, and then spends a significant chunk of the book with the characters bickering while out camping instead of making meaningful progress, that shouldn't work. And yet, millions of readers ate it up. Even readers who saw the flaws. Something in that text worked, or we'd've all put the book down. (It might be the fact that we were all so invested in the multi-book story we wanted to slog on through a lousy seventh book, but I suspect that Rowling managed to make that book engaging in its own right, and I largely credit her Dickensian wit for that.) When you're reading a book saying to yourself, "Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!" and other readers are raving about it, there's something in there that works. Analyze that, steal it, and use it in something that isn't garbage, and you've found the formula for taking the art form to its next level.

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby vanaaron » Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:15 pm

Annie, I certainly never suggested that we shouldn't try to emulate good writers. I was responding to Scott's concern that by reading poorly written prose, bad habits could seep into his own writing. I've heard a number of successful authors say that they learned a lot by reading bad stuff (e.g. reading slush for a magazine), which tells me it's a helpful, not harmful, exercise.

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby izanobu » Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:22 pm

by vanaaron » Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:15 pm
Annie, I certainly never suggested that we shouldn't try to emulate good writers. I was responding to Scott's concern that by reading poorly written prose, bad habits could seep into his own writing. I've heard a number of successful authors say that they learned a lot by reading bad stuff (e.g. reading slush for a magazine), which tells me it's a helpful, not harmful, exercise.


Ah, I see wotf008

And yes, I totally agree with you.

Also, I think it is useful to find out what one's own tastes are and the only way to do that is to read widely. I know that last year when I sat down and made a list of the things I really enjoy reading about, it helped me define what sort of stories I wanted to tell. (For example- happy endings, explosions, serial killers, bad-ass protagonists, somewhat sympathetic villains, space battles, etc). If you've (using the general you here) have never done this, I feel it is worth doing. I add to the list all the time when I'm reading as well. It also helps me remember when I see a book that does things I love well, so that when I'm trying to do them I can return to that text and see how someone else handled it. (Lately I've been saving sex scene passages from romances and making vocabulary lists whenever I read a hot sex scene that I feel works. Sex is a tough thing to write well but hopefully this will help me not fail too badly in my own romance writing.)

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby soulmirror » Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:13 pm

Well, I was sort of saying it was a concern (logical or not) I have ... but 'who am I to doubt?' ... So it was sort of devil's advocacy spoke aloud.

But to continue the thought, though: If we agree that reading 'bad' writing is useful to developing 'good' writing skillz ... Then how do we KNOW it's 'bad writing' ???

I pick up Da Vinci Code, struggle thru it, feeling the little "ughs" of repulsion as I go ... but how then do we judge if that wasn't the "ugh" that made it a million-seller?

I mean, I've got my own gut reaction of "I didn't like that style" ... and that's where I'd choose to set the book down. That's my own tastes.

If i'm reading bad writing to LEARN from another's bad writing ... what criteria are you using THEN to tell you it's bad? (When it's a huge, successful seller?)

If I see it's BAD in someone else's work, then I already knew it was bad.

If I cannot already see it's bad in MY OWN work ... how do I recognize it's bad in THEIRS?
And if I don't recognize it's bad in THEIRS, and THEIRS sold millions ... maybe I'll accidently incorporate their badness into mine own?

I'm just describing my dilema, not arguing against what is obvious consensus here (which I saw the wisdom of too)

What CRITERIA do we use to approach bad work, to LEARN from it? (Or ... to learn something we don't already know about badness, from it?)
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby izanobu » Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:46 pm

Well, if you write deliberately and only put what you intend into your writing, I don't see how you could accidentally write badly. The goal (in my mind anyway) should be to write the best you can at any given time. Worrying that you aren't good enough yet or that your writing isn't up to some imagined bar is pretty normal. But you can't let it stop you.

When I read, I try to pick out the things that work for me. That's all I can do. I don't know if what I like is "good" or "bad", but that doesn't really matter. What is good and works for me is good in my mind and techniques I will try to use in my own writing. Things that don't work for me, well, I don't do those things. Am I missing out on "good" techniques? Maybe. But in the end I need to tell my stories the way I want to tell them, so that means using the techniques I want to use and that I like.

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Gwendolyn Clare » Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:43 am

vanaaron wrote:I can't comment specifically on The Da Vinci Code, as it's one of the books I deliberately haven't read, so as to avoid having to argue with people who like it (Twilight is in the same category).

Hah! See, I read books like The Da Vinci Code and Twilight specifically to enhance my ability to argue about them with people who like them. wotf011

I imagine it's most important to avoid reading bad prose when you're a kid and developing your intuition for sentence structure. By the time you're an experienced enough writer that the style makes you cringe, you're probably immune to the bad influence. So as long as you can slog through the crappy prose long enough to pick out whatever other qualities make the book successful, it's a fruitful exercise.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:24 am

Excuse me if I misunderstand your point, but I find it strange that people are assuming a book is of poor quality without reading it. And how do we decide what is quality and not quality? I prefer to take the stance that there is something in every book to enjoy and different things speak to different people. The world is hard enough without creating new dividing lines.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Alex Kane » Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:41 am

ThomasKCarpenter wrote:Excuse me if I misunderstand your point, but I find it strange that people are assuming a book is of poor quality without reading it. And how do we decide what is quality and not quality? I prefer to take the stance that there is something in every book to enjoy and different things speak to different people. The world is hard enough without creating new dividing lines.

Well said, Tom. I tend to agree with you. While there is the occasional bit of garbage on the racks -- Snookie's autobiography comes to mind -- most fiction published by large houses is extraordinary in at least some aspect. No one would pay for work that has no merit of any kind, when there are so many other great unpublished manuscripts begging to be read.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:07 am

ThomasKCarpenter wrote:And how do we decide what is quality and not quality? I prefer to take the stance that there is something in every book to enjoy and different things speak to different people. The world is hard enough without creating new dividing lines.


There are two mistakes people often make in this regard:

1. They assume quality is an absolute, objective scale.

2. They assume that they -- and they alone! -- own that absolute, objective scale.

In engineering, we do have an objective measure of quality: "Quality is a measure of conformance to requirements." And so until you define your requirements, you can't measure your quality.

But every customer -- in our case, every reader -- has different requirements: different tastes, different preferences, different likes and dislikes. Their requirements even change from situation to situation. If I'm in a hurry, a short story may have more value to me than a novel; but if I have a long weekend with nothing to do but read (ha!), I may prefer a novel.

So quality cannot be accurately and objectively assessed in isolation from customers; and furthermore it cannot be assessed meaningfully at the level of the individual, since no two customers are alike. Meeting one customer's requirements tells you nothing about the next customer, unless you first know that those two customers are substantially similar in their requirements.

So in fact, the only way overall quality can accurately be assessed is in the aggregate. In other words, in the choices of the market. Or to be specific to our domain, in the choices of the readers.

So I'm sorry to burst some bubbles here, but... Objectively, Da Vinci Code is a quality book, by the only measure that counts: millions of readers liked it and recommended it to their friends.

Some of you are going to argue with me. You're going to tell me how awful the writing is. You're going to tell me about the choppy chapters. You're going to point out the logical and historical inconsistencies. You're going to tell me about the cliched characters.

And you will be absolutely right; but none of that means anything except: "These are my preferences." They're not objective measures of quality, they're simply your requirements as a reader. I'm sorry to tell you this, but you do not own the objective definition of quality.

Some of you will point to other, more worthy books. You'll point out their beautiful style and their deep, beautiful meanings. And to that, I can only quote (or more likely misquote) Heinlein: "A hippopotamus is beautiful -- to another hippo." Beautiful prose, deep symbolism, witty allusions... Those may be things you like, but they're not objective measures of quality.

The only objective measure of quality is what a large number of customers freely choose to invest their time and/or money in. Any other measure is subjective.

And there's nothing wrong with subjective measures! I will be the first person to tell you that "Hudson Hawk" is the best movie ever made, and I'll back that up with arguments. You are welcome to hold and share your subjective values. But don't delude yourself that they're objective. Objectively, "Hudson Hawk" was a flop (thanks to all you know-nothing phillistines...).

And finally, someone among you will pull out the ultimate trump card: "Well, by that way of thinking, McDonald's is better food than fine French cuisine! Ha! Argue with that, smart guy!"

And my answer: "Yes. Yes, it is. And when you understand that, you'll understand what it means to sell to a market instead of to yourself."

Go ahead and flame me. I know you want to. But I'm right on this, and Thomas is right on this. Respect what the market likes, even (especially!) when you don't like it.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Gwendolyn Clare » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:02 am

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:Some of you are going to argue with me. You're going to tell me how awful the writing is. You're going to tell me about the choppy chapters. You're going to point out the logical and historical inconsistencies. You're going to tell me about the cliched characters.

It's interesting to me that you mention logical inconsistencies, because this to me is one of the most objective and least "taste-based" measures of goodness or badness. With say, prose, some people might think the prose is bad and some people might like the prose, and so it's clearly an issue where personal preference plays a role. But I have never met someone who actively liked logical inconsistencies, I've never met someone who loved it when things didn't make sense. Inconsistencies are something that you either hate, or don't care enough to bother hating, but not something you love. There's no controversy over whether they're good or bad, the options are "bad" or "I don't care."

In any case, I thought the general sentiment of this thread was that it was worth reading "bad" but successful books to try to figure out what was good about them, so there's an implicit assumption that there is something good about them even if other things (prose, characters, whatever) are distasteful. I'm not sure you're going to get the flame war you seem to be anticipating.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:10 am

Gwendolyn, I think you're right; but I think a lot of readers fall in the "don't care" category unless the inconsistencies get just too large to ignore. Certainly that's true of a lot of movie audiences: if the action is fast and exciting, implausibilities aren't so important.

And if my post doesn't cause a flame war, I'll be happy. It has every time I've posted this same argument on other forums and in relation to other subjects, so I've come to expect it. But after Thomas's post, I couldn't help chiming in to support him.

Besides, I asserted that "Hudson Hawk" is the best film ever. How can that not provoke some flames?
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby MJNL » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:30 am

I just don't think we're a flame-driven group. Now point-counter-point, that we do.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby kyle » Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:35 pm

OK, still not smart enough to stay out of the fray...

It's impossible to write a story without logical inconsistencies.

If I set my story in a fictional city, that's logically inconsistent with reality as we know it. Ditto if I write about someone who doesn't really exist. To do away with all external logical inconsistencies would be to write non-fiction, not fiction. The very process of reading fiction (especially speculative fiction) means that we're willing to ignore the external logical inconsistencies. Unless they bother us, in which case we're not. And then we declare it a "bad" book.

Internal inconsistencies are less forgivable, of course, but even in masterworks they occur. Some readers forgive Heathcliff's inconsistent behavior because he just loves whats-her-face oh, so much. Others roll their eyes. Some readers love that a wizard who can aparate and works enforcing the laws against enchanting muggle objects would have a flying car. Others spit tacks. And, really, if getting home from Mordor is as easy as summoning the eagles, why not ride on eagles to get there instead of walking the whole way getting picked off by orcs the whole time? Pick a great novel -- any great novel -- and really think about it, and I bet you can come up with at least one or two logic holes.

They key is to tell a good story. If you're doing that, the little inconsistencies don't matter so much. If the inconsistencies get in the way of telling the good story, however, then they've got to go.

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:04 pm

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:Besides, I asserted that "Hudson Hawk" is the best film ever.


I loved that movie. Cheesy and silly but fun and enjoyable all the same. :)
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:14 pm

OK, Thomas goes on the list of non-phillistines.

(If I can figure out one small tech glitch, I'm switching to my Hudson Hawk avatar.)
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Jess » Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:56 pm

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:Respect what the market likes, even (especially!) when you don't like it.

Okay, I might as well jump into the fray:

I won't argue that the market likes what the market likes, and it often pays to cater to popular opinion. However, claiming that popularity equals quality is borderline insane. The market sees cheap, poorly made merchandise as better quality than more expensive, better made merchandise, by that line of thinking. Are we to believe that? Of course not.

The fact is, there are objective criteria for artistic endeavors, writing among them. While "lower quality" goods might sell very well, that doesn't make them high quality. That makes them popular. It's not a relevant comparison.

Also, Hudson Hawk's a fun movie. I like it a lot. But The Princess Bride is the best movie ever made. (Just skip past the Fred Savage parts). Although, I have a friend who claims it's the first forty-five minutes of The Jerk, and he made some valid arguments, as I recall. I was drinking at the time, though.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:34 pm

And the flames begin!

Jess wrote:However, claiming that popularity equals quality is borderline insane.


As long as we're tossing around insults... To claim that popularity does not equal aggregate quality is stupid. But it's a very popular stupidity among self-appointed arbiters of quality.

The market sees cheap, poorly made merchandise as better quality than more expensive, better made merchandise, by that line of thinking. Are we to believe that?


Yes. Read my post. Understand it. You're wrong. "Better made" has no meaning without reference to requirements. Without defining your requirements, you can't define quality.

The fact is, there are objective criteria for artistic endeavors, writing among them.


No, there are not. There are criteria that a self-selected group has all agreed to. Others have not. The self-selected elite do not own the definition of quality. They just tell themselves they do.

There are guidelines that experience tells us ought to lead to quality. Those guidelines are worth studying. But until you define your audience (because that definition itself is part of the requirements) and then see their reaction to it, you don't have the slightest clue what the quality is.

Is Il Pagliacci higher quality than Bourbon Street Parade? It depends entirely on whether you ask an opera fan or a jazz fan. A rap or country fan might find the question pointless, since neither one meets their definition of quality.

While "lower quality" goods might sell very well, that doesn't make them high quality. That makes them popular. It's not a relevant comparison.


Yes, it is. Popularity is the aggregate measure of fitness to requirements. Fitness to requirements is the objective definition of quality.

Also, Hudson Hawk's a fun movie. I like it a lot. But The Princess Bride is the best movie ever made.


The Princess Bride is more quotable, but it doesn't have "Swingin' on a Star".
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Jess » Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:57 pm

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:And the flames begin!

I had no intention of it being seen as flaming. I guess I was just overly dramatic in my word choice.

Jess wrote:The market sees cheap, poorly made merchandise as better quality than more expensive, better made merchandise, by that line of thinking. Are we to believe that?

Yes. Read my post. Understand it. You're wrong. "Better made" has no meaning without reference to requirements. Without defining your requirements, you can't define quality.

I had a big complicated reply written out, then I realized that the crux of my disagreement with you was quite simple. You're presenting quality as largely subjective, when it isn't. That's value. Value is why your high-falutin' French food doesn't have McDonalds' market share. It's why the cheap mower that breaks after two years outsells the durable, more expensive one.

Quality is more objective. Your engineers define the accepted standard of quality in their field, but the dirty little secret is this: they're "a self-selected group" creating arbitrary guidelines, just as much as literary or cinematic elitists are. They also have a certain amount of knowledge of the subject, be it applied, historical, or whatever.

The thing is, the market doesn't necessary want quality. Sometimes lower quality is higher value. Maybe it's more affordable, more familiar, or more comfortable. Whatever the case may be, value is why "crap sells." It doesn't make crap suddenly high quality.


Hmm...deleting my big complicated reply doesn't seem to have saved me any space, looking back on things. Oh well.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:53 am

Jess wrote:Quality is more objective.


Then define it. Objectively, without being circular or otherwise self-referential. If you have a better objective definition than "conformance to requirements", I would be glad to hear it. But other than that one, I haven't heard a definition in ten years that doesn't translate to preference.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby E.CaimanSands » Thu Sep 01, 2011 4:39 am

Martin, I both agree and disagree.

Do I think today's bestseller lists represent the best, quality writing published today? Absolutely not!

Do I think books which become the most popular over time -- and I'm talking probably 50 years at least -- are generally pretty strong works of fiction? Well, yes.

So the market works, just not immediately. It takes time for people to realise what's worth reading I think. People, and I include myself in this despite being an, um, alligator ( wotf007 ), are often swept up by the latest fad or fashion, then only years later realise that, actually, said awesome book was really a load of gator dung.

And as for your comment about hippos... I think alligators are beautiful, and I defy anyone to tell me otherwise! wotf019
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby vanaaron » Thu Sep 01, 2011 6:55 am

ThomasKCarpenter wrote:Excuse me if I misunderstand your point, but I find it strange that people are assuming a book is of poor quality without reading it. And how do we decide what is quality and not quality? I prefer to take the stance that there is something in every book to enjoy and different things speak to different people. The world is hard enough without creating new dividing lines.

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:So I'm sorry to burst some bubbles here, but... Objectively, Da Vinci Code is a quality book, by the only measure that counts: millions of readers liked it and recommended it to their friends.


You may both be right about Da Vinci Code. I haven't read it.

See how this works, Gwen? wotf011

Incidentally, I am massively disappointed that you didn't rise to this challenge and debate the merits of Da Vinci Code. If I had read it (and setting aside the small but important possibility that I might be pleasantly surprised by it), I would not be able to refrain from a foaming-at-the-mouth tirade in response.

Because I absolutely reject the notion that it is meaningless to talk about the quality of fiction. It does not matter how many copies The Bridges of Madison County sold -- it remains a dreadful, wretched book. How can I say that? Martin has already correctly explained it: I, and I alone, own the absolute scale of quality in writing. I mean, somebody has to. wotf013

[Edited, because I accidentally combined Martin & Thomas into one person . . . sorry!]

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:06 am

vanaaron wrote:Martin has already correctly explained it: I, and I alone, own the absolute scale of quality in writing. I mean, somebody has to. wotf013


Fine, but I own the scale for films. It's Hudson Hawk all the way, baby! Note my spiffy new icon!

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Gwendolyn Clare » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:09 am

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:
Jess wrote:Quality is more objective.


Then define it. Objectively, without being circular or otherwise self-referential. If you have a better objective definition than "conformance to requirements", I would be glad to hear it. But other than that one, I haven't heard a definition in ten years that doesn't translate to preference.

Writing -- and, more broadly, all artistic endeavors -- are about communication. So quality writing is writing that successfully communicates. I would also want a definition of quality that takes into account the difficulty of the ideas the artist is trying to communicate. Lots of people don't understand modern art, for instance, but that's because it's trying to communicate really difficult abstract ideas. So I'd say quality art is defined by the intersection of how difficult/complex the content is and how successfully it is communicated.

I think part of the problem we're having in this discussion is that we're describing a whole book as "good" or "bad" instead of describing good and bad aspects of books. As Jess pointed out, McDonald's is good because it's fast, convenient, and dirt cheap. None of these aspects have any bearing on the quality of the food itself, but they can override the food quality in terms of how consumers make their decisions. Likewise, a popular book can have objectively bad prose (ie prose that is non-optimal for communicating what the author wants to communicate), but still be popular because the exciting plot overrides the flaws in the prose. So whether the book is bad or good overall definitely depends on which aspects you care most about, but there are objective standards for what makes different aspects good or bad.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby MJNL » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:12 am

I think we've made good distinctions here, about being able to recognize what individual quality is and what group quality is. I think it's important to study and understand both. After all, we initially write for ourselves. We tell the stories we like in a way that is appealing to us. But only thinking about ourselves doesn't really help us build a career. We have to understand what is appealing on a broad scale in order to build professional success. So, being judicious about what we accept as quality is a good thing, because that can help us grow in our personal struggle for quality. But, understanding what is widely accepted as quality is also helpful, because no professional writes in a vacuum.

That understanding gives me the green light to admit that I personally find Gone With The Wind a waste of paper. It disgusts me that so many people deem it a beautiful story, because it romanticizes abuse. But, I can simultaneously say (and mean just as sincerely) that Gone With The Wind is a valuable literary staple.

Look, the contradictions can live in harmony!

ETA: And I think Martin's last post shows how we can make those distinctions, by picking out what aspects are more important to the group and what aspects each individual finds important.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Alex Kane » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:18 am

MJNL wrote:That understanding gives me the green light to admit that I personally find Gone With The Wind a waste of paper. It disgusts me that so many people deem it a beautiful story, because it romanticizes abuse. But, I can simultaneously say (and mean just as sincerely) that Gone With The Wind is a valuable literary staple.

Look, the contradictions can live in harmony!


I think a lot of what we -- or, at least, the Literati -- consider to be great literature is considered so because of these contradictions and distinctions. Valuable literature doesn't necessarily constitute great fiction; it doesn't have to. It could just be something unique written in a peculiar or historical context which highlights some sliver of the human condition, like abuse or racism or rape or the industrial age in Victorian England.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:22 am

MJNL wrote:That understanding gives me the green light to admit that I personally find Gone With The Wind a waste of paper. It disgusts me that so many people deem it a beautiful story, because it romanticizes abuse. But, I can simultaneously say (and mean just as sincerely) that Gone With The Wind is a valuable literary staple.

Look, the contradictions can live in harmony!


I don't think there are contradictions there at all. When we start to define our requirements, we can assess individual works against them. That assessment can be reasonably objective on the individual level. For instance, I think Hemingway and Faulkner are both ridiculously overrated authors, and I can tell you exactly why. Give me Conrad any day, or maybe Steinbeck. (Ironically, I find it harder to explain what I like than what I dislike.)

But the closest we can come to assessing the requirements of the market as a whole is to see what the market chooses, and then try to analyze why they chose that. If we start with a preconception that it's not quality because we say so, we make it harder to understand the market's definition of quality.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby vanaaron » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:26 am

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:Fine, but I own the scale for films. It's Hudson Hawk all the way, baby!

You may be right . . . I haven't seen it. wotf011

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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby MJNL » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:38 am

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:But the closest we can come to assessing the requirements of the market as a whole is to see what the market chooses, and then try to analyze why they chose that. If we start with a preconception that it's not quality because we say so, we make it harder to understand the market's definition of quality.


I agree.
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Re: NPR's "Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books" of all time

Postby MJNL » Thu Sep 01, 2011 7:41 am

Alex Kane wrote: Valuable literature doesn't necessarily constitute great fiction; it doesn't have to. It could just be something unique written in a peculiar or historical context which highlights some sliver of the human condition


I agree with this, too.
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