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A Response to John C. Wright

The GUARDIAN interviewed me a couple of weeks ago about Puppygate and the Hugo Awards (before the ballot was announced, fwiw), and quoted me in the article that resulted. Here's what they said about what I said (of course, I said a lot more, but only a few bits were quoted):

“The prestige of the Hugos derives from its history. Robert A Heinlein won four times, Ursula K Le Guin won, Harlan Ellison won. That’s a club any aspiring writer wants to be a member of,” George RR Martin says. “When the Hugo ballot came out last year it was not just a right-wing ballot, it was a bad ballot. It was the weakest we’d seen for years.”

Now it appears that John C. Wright has taken umbrage at my opinion. He writes on his journal:

"Evidence enough that Mr. Martin had not read the works on the ballot. I say no more, lest I be accused of self-aggrandizement, for the works he thus criticizes are mine. He did not have so poor an opinion of my work when he bought it for his SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH anthology, however: a fact he conveniently forgot when he began leveling absurd and absurdly false accusations against me."

In the comments section of the same journal entry, someone named "Paul B" says:

"Sir, is it possible that Mr Martin never actually read (at least majority of) submissions for that Dying Earth tribute anthology? I know not how these things tend to work, or if you had any personal exchanges with him during that time (of the sort that included his personal thoughts on your story), but I know of many a case where a name of widely known author on the cover of various anthologies was used to bait potential buyers while said author had little or no involvement with said anthologies (think of those ghost and horror story anthologies of yore, where stories were advertised as “hand picked” by Alfred Hitchcock and the like)."

To which, John C. Wright replies:

" Certainly it is possible. It is possible that he did not do the jobs for which he was paid. That is one of the two possibilities, neither of which redound to his glory. Either he is lying now, when he uses the prestige of his name to belittle my worthy work as unworthy, or he was lying then, by putting his name on a book to lure the unwary reader into purchase, ergo using the prestige of his name to inflate my unworthy work as worthy. Either way, it is a lie."


I am not going to get down into the cesspool with Wright here, though, believe me, the temptation is strong. I will not let his comments go unanswered, however.

So let me just restrict my reply to the facts.

For the elucidation of Paul B, who admits that he does not know how these things work but feels the need to hold forth anyway, I have read every word of every story in all my anthologies, both the ones I co-edit with Gardner Dozois and the ones I edit solo, like WILD CARDS. In the collaborations, Gardner handles the bulk of the paperwork; the contracts, pro rata calculations, paying royalties, etc. But all the creative work is shared equally between us, and no story is purchased unless both of us agree that it is acceptable.

And yes, Gardner and I did purchase and publish a story from John C. Wright for SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, our Jack Vance tribute anthology. The story is "Guyal the Curator." I thought then, and I think now, that it's a good story. Read it and judge for yourself. If you're a Jack Vance fan, I think you will enjoy it. Wright himself is a huge Vance fan. I don't recall how I knew that, but I did, and that fact was certainly foremost in my mind when I suggested to Gardner that we invite him into the book. He replied enthusiastically, and gave us a good story. If it had not been a good story, we would not have published it. Gardner and I did have to reject one of the other stories we had solicited for SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, by another writer; we paid him a kill fee. And there were three or four additional stories that required extensive work; we bought them, but only after giving notes and asking for revisions. "Guyal the Curator" required none of that. It was a solid, professional piece of work, a nice Vance tribute, an entertaining read.

All that being said, I do not know why Wright seems to believe that by purchasing and publishing one of his stories seven years ago, I am therefore somehow required to like everything that he writes subsequently, to the extent that I would feel it Hugo worthy.

It should be pointed out that "Guyal the Curator" was not itself nominated for a Hugo (there being no Puppies around in 2009 to push it). None of the stories from SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH were Hugo finalists, truth be told. Do I think some were worthy of that honor? Sure I do. I cannot pretend to be objective, I'm proud of the anthologies I edit and the stories I publish. Do I think that all the stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH (or ROGUES, or OLD MARS, or OLD VENUS, or LOWBALL, or any of my anthologies) are Hugo-worthy? Of course not. In a normal year, the Hugo finalists are supposed to represent the five best stories of the year in that word length. Was "Guyal the Curator" one of the five best short stories (actually, it might have been a novelette, after so long I do not recall the word length) of 2009? No. It was a good story, not a great story. The Hugo Awards demand greatness. It was an entertaining Vance tribute, but it was not a patch on real Vance, on "The Last Castle" or "The Dragon Masters" or "Guyal of Sfere." And truth be told, it was not even one of the five best stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH. A good story, yes, I'll say that again. But there were better in the book. (And how not? We had an amazing lineup of contributors).

Which brings us back to Puppygate, and last year's Hugo ballot.

I read every word in every story in the anthologies I edit, as I've said. I did not read every word in every story on last year's Hugo ballot, no (or on any Hugo ballot, for that matter). I start every story and give them a few pages. If they grab me, I keep reading. If they bore me or offend me, or fail to interest me for whatever reason, I put them aside. Mr. Wright seems convinced that I did not read his stories on last year's ballot. He's half-right: I did not read all of them. But I started all of them (there were five), finished some, set others aside. The same as I do with any story I read; no special treatment.

I did not find any of them Hugo-worthy. Not one of them was as good as "Guyal the Curator," in my opinion. No doubt others liked them better.

It should be pointed out that the comments quoted by the GUARDIAN, to which Mr. Wright takes such umbrage, make no mention whatsoever of him or his work. I merely said that it was a bad ballot, the weakest seen in years. I stand by those comments; your mileage may differ. And yes, with his five finalists, John C. Wright was part of that, but hardly the whole of it. Truth be told, while I did not and do not feel his stories were Hugo-worthy, there was MUCH worse to be found on last year's ballot in other categories. But that horse has been beaten to death, so I see no need to give it any more whacks.

The bottom line here is that liking some of a writer's work does not oblige you to like all of his work. I yield to no one in my admiration for Robert A. Heinlein, but my love for HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL and THE PUPPET MASTERS and "All You Zombies" and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" does not make me like I WILL FEAR NO EVIL or TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE any better.

In closing, let me suggest to John C. Wright that you do yourself no favors by boasting constantly about the worth and brilliance and "literary" qualities of your own work. You might do better to take a lesson from a writer that we both love: Jack Vance. I had several conversations with Jack when Gardner and I were putting together SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, and never once did he tell me how amazing and eloquent and literary he was. Quite the opposite. He never called his stories anything but "my junk" when speaking to me, and seemed bemused and flattered that so many other writers had found such inspiration in them. Vance was amazing and eloquent and literary, of course, one of the greatest wordsmiths our genre has ever produced, but he left it to others to sing his praises.

Comments

( 103 comments )
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nygoldfish54
May. 2nd, 2016 02:49 am (UTC)
hmm. I don't know much about this particular situation but this John C. Wright fellow has popped up a number of times in the journals I read, with the kindest term used to describe him being "a pompous ass."

the trend continues.

it's funny. his wife wrote a trilogy I liked better than anything he ever wrote anyway. he wasn't even the best writer in his own household.
solarbird
May. 2nd, 2016 04:47 pm (UTC)
John C. Wright is the kind of person who will show up in your blog and accuse you of libel for quoting him accurately and in context. (As he has literally done to me.) So while accurate, "pompous ass" does not go nearly far enough - I cannot imagine a more perfect exemplar of buffoon.
Ron Zoscak
May. 2nd, 2016 02:51 am (UTC)
Both "John C. Wright" and "Paul B" seem to write in the same voice...
Both "John C. Wright" and "Paul B" seem to write in the same voice; and in my head, it was the voice of Jon Lovitz doing his "Master Thespian" character on SNL back in the 80's.
dragonborngurl
May. 2nd, 2016 04:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Both "John C. Wright" and "Paul B" seem to write in the same voice...
I agree and thought the same thing immediately!! I got the impression it was like a kid pretending to be his father answering the school's call to home to see why the student's absent (happened to me.)
marlowe1
May. 2nd, 2016 03:01 am (UTC)
I can't even look at that trainwreck
So this year VD actually pushed some works that people would have voted for regardless of whether he was the one pushing for them. And then managed to get his toxic garbage into the Related Works category (so I think I will have to buy a supporting just to vote No Award in that one) but after last year, I have to stop reading the Puppies. VD beating his chest and declaring victory after he lost was the final straw. Wright continuing to bleat about how he would forgive all the sinners who dared to vote against him and disagree with him was just too much.

Sadly, I came to this point after engaging them. I also engaged Requires Hate who has a Storify about how I'm evil (and she researched enough to find me behaving badly in other contexts - in order to make certain that she was not my only "victim") and after all that, I just realized that these people will never apologize and never admit to wrong doing and never see conciliation as anything but a weakness.

Might as well demand that my middle school bully apologize.
renepavan
May. 3rd, 2016 01:41 pm (UTC)
Re: I can't even look at that trainwreck
These are not common people like you and me. To common people, confrontation is a burden, to them, it's a pleasure. I suspect that a lot of those guys are in what psychologists call the Dark Triad or Dark Tetrad of anti-social behaviour.
sourbillytipton
May. 2nd, 2016 03:11 am (UTC)
yea! take the high road!
and take all this frustration out on the keyboard and turn in TWOW at the end of this month! That'll show all these puppies who is boss!

Ok ok, I may or may not be telling you this for my own selfish need of TWOW. In all honesty, I realize this debate is one of significance to you and you feel you are responsible to be a voice in this fight. But how often have you told yourself, 'Fuck it! This is distracting me of my work!'?
grrm
May. 2nd, 2016 10:56 pm (UTC)
Re: yea! take the high road!
At least six times a day.
Re: yea! take the high road! - sourbillytipton - May. 2nd, 2016 11:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
rjcollins
May. 2nd, 2016 03:12 am (UTC)
Very well said Mr. Martin, as always.
langkard
May. 2nd, 2016 03:26 am (UTC)
John C. Wright is engaging in something which he and his ilk claim to despise. The right-wing ideologues never tire of accusing the other side of desperately looking for reasons to be offended, even if none exist. And yet, that is obviously exactly what he is now doing. Perhaps he should direct his outrage at his own reflection in a mirror.
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May. 2nd, 2016 03:33 am (UTC)
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Adam Shelton
May. 2nd, 2016 03:34 am (UTC)
Well Said
I am often humbled reading this blog, when you refuse to sling mud at times when I would have both fists full of it without so much as a second thought.

You have been a voice of clarity and reason these last puppy-filled years that I have sorely appreciated. Thanks for that.
Jim Rion
May. 2nd, 2016 03:48 am (UTC)
Eloquentialism
I find it hard to take seriously anyone who uses such overwrought structures in daily speech. I know not indeed how it came to be, yet I must rail against the overuse of stilted English, lest I bust a gut.

Yeesh.

If that's what they consider well structured arguments, i don't need to read their stories to know their award worthiness.
ianrgillespie
May. 3rd, 2016 01:23 am (UTC)
Re: Eloquentialism
Yes, this!

Wright supporters routinely claim he is "obviously" among the capital-G "Greatest" and most "literary" science fiction authors of our time. They, thus, hold out his failure to win major awards as proof positive that the game is rigged. And these absurd claims seem to be often or always based his antiquated style of speech - as if this convoluted way of writing was a demonstration his superiority.

Obviously, this is nonsensical, but it's also truly ironic. For someone who's so damned "literary," Wright seems rather intent on aggressively ignoring the influence and impact of Hemingway.
Re: Eloquentialism - redheadedfemme - May. 3rd, 2016 06:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sean Hall
May. 2nd, 2016 03:53 am (UTC)
John C. Wright sounds like he's completely full of himself. Also can't believe he actually thinks you wouldn't read the stories published in the anthologies you edit. You have more willpower than most, I'm surprised your post wasn't just a string of expletives.
Kate Hutcheon
May. 2nd, 2016 03:56 am (UTC)
John C. Wright sounds like a self-aggrandizing ass.

However, I'm not sure you should be giving J.C.W. or any of the Rabid Puppies more exposure or discussion than they're already getting. He's not worthy of your (or our) time.

I doubt anyone actually questions your abilities or dedication as an editor.

I understand it's your blog and you want to vent, but sometimes stony silence is the best reply.
chrismireya
May. 2nd, 2016 04:06 am (UTC)
GRRM, you have the patience of Eddard Stark...
...and the witty, biting words of Tyrion Lannister.

You're a much better man than most!

Phoenician Romans
May. 3rd, 2016 02:10 am (UTC)
Re: GRRM, you have the patience of Eddard Stark...
"GRRM, you have the patience of Eddard Stark..."

And, it's safe to say, a better head on his shoulders...
Bettiekins
May. 2nd, 2016 04:22 am (UTC)
I find it interesting the Paul B and John C Wright share the same overly wordy writing style.

Just sayin'.
Neutrino Increasing
May. 3rd, 2016 01:04 pm (UTC)
No kidding, I just browsed through comment sections of his latest blog posts and it's like half of commenters on his blog use that same "style". Just look at this:

"To deify and worship the flawed, you must pretend it is flawless, and defend all its flaws to outsiders and dissenters.
Hence, all fanatics must simultaneously lie to themselves and lie to others. (And their lies must constantly evolve, as new flaws are exposed.) Fanatics love lies, because it is only their lies that allow them to worship that which they desire to worship.
Orwell knew of this, read “Notes On Nationalism”. He describes, in an essay published in 1945, the exact behavior of not only SJWs but all fanatics. (It is this behavior he was satirizing in “1984”.)
Worshipping anything that is flawed inevitably leads to self-deception, ardent love of lying and being lied to, and an addiction to lying to others."

I don't know anybody who regularly talks and writes in that stilted pompous language, but these guys sound like they are having a contest in who can do it "better"
yagathai
May. 2nd, 2016 04:36 am (UTC)
George, we should start a club of people that have been smeared by that delusional buffoon. Maybe we can throw a party, like the Hugo Losers.
the_corbie
May. 2nd, 2016 08:21 am (UTC)
You're going to need a pretty big venue.
(no subject) - solarbird - May. 2nd, 2016 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yagathai - May. 3rd, 2016 05:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - solarbird - May. 3rd, 2016 05:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ethelmay - May. 2nd, 2016 07:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - solarbird - May. 2nd, 2016 11:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
ianrgillespie
May. 2nd, 2016 05:07 am (UTC)
Posts by the puppies so often seem to invoke sweeping or absolutist claims suggesting the ironclad or self-evident truth of their arguments, while basing those arguments on logic that is, pardon my French, completely fucking dodgy.

In the quotes above, Wright not only fails to grasp the difference between thinking an author's work is worthy of publication and thinking it's worthy of a Hugo award, but he makes several other unsupportable leaps of logic as well.

-Wright assumes that calling a Hugo ballot 'the weakest in years' means there were no worthy works on it at all when, of course, one could easily believe there were worthy works in every category and still see it as the weakest ballot *overall*.

-Wright assumes Martin was referring to his own works in calling last year's ballot the weakest in years when Martin said nothing of the kind.

*Wright dismisses the possibility that Martin simply liked one of his stories, years ago, more than others published last year.

*Based on the above, Wright concludes that Martin must have either not read his previous story, or must be lying now, when - even if you accepted the above faulty logic - there could all sorts of other explanations.

These guys repeat over and over how they're the ones dealing in fact and logic and steely-eyed reason - in the face of fuzzy-headed, emotionally-driven Marxists - yet they go, and on, and on, and on, drawing conclusions without ever addressing the validity of their own premises.
renepavan
May. 3rd, 2016 01:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've noticed that these defenders of steely-eyed reason are very prone to acting in an hyper-emotional and immature manner.

I also get the impression that most of them don't know what Marxist really means. They use the word like an Evangelical Christian would use "Satanist", just as way to say "All that I hate."

Real Marxists were often anything but emotionally-drive. They often denounced sentimentalism as a bourgeois middle-class affectation. Actually, pretty much everybody who is driven by ideology (be they real Marxists, Conservatives, Religious Fanatics, Rabid Puppies, Hardcore Feminists, White Supremacists, Libertarians. etc.) sooner or later will denounce "sentimentalism".

Because simple human emotion, empathy, common sense, good manners, and camaraderie will often get in the way when all you want to do is wage ideologically-driven war. So always be on your guard against those who denounce emotions and sentiment.



Edited at 2016-05-03 01:44 pm (UTC)
move2winnipeg
May. 2nd, 2016 06:01 am (UTC)
Modesty is best attire, my mama told me.
s_scottstephens
May. 2nd, 2016 06:24 am (UTC)
I actually like a couple of stories by John C. Wright. Last Guardian of Everness wasn't bad, it's sequel was fine, too. I do agree with the commenter who said his wife (L. Jagi Lamplighter) has a trilogy that's better than anything he's written but I don't mean that as a knock on Wright, she's really good.

With that said, having to explain that because you like one work by an author doesn't mean you like all of their work is just... odd. That statement by him is also odd. How would not liking last years offerings have anything to do with a deal you guys did in 2009 for one of his stories? How would that mean you don't read the anthologies that your name is on? Seems like quite a stretch and I'd imagine he knows that. At least I hope he does.

Edited at 2016-05-02 06:25 am (UTC)
the_corbie
May. 2nd, 2016 08:26 am (UTC)
I know that you'd be too polite to say this in blunt terms, George, but:

The idea that George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois needed to borrow the prestige of John C Wright to lure people to buy an anthology (one already containing work by Neil Gaiman and Robert Silverberg, to boot) is hilarious. It's more than that, it's delusional.
torrain
May. 2nd, 2016 12:44 pm (UTC)
I think the idea put forth was that GRRM used his own name to lure people to buy an anthology of work he did not find worthy, because maybe he didn't read all the stories submitted and was just brought in so his name could be on the cover and you can tell because he's not adoring the other work of the author whose one story he bought and arglebargle froth flail hiss.

Not that either theory is at all tenable.
(no subject) - the_corbie - May. 3rd, 2016 06:10 am (UTC) - Expand
agreed - Katral Tobiaz - May. 2nd, 2016 08:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: agreed - the_corbie - May. 3rd, 2016 06:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - friendlydog - May. 2nd, 2016 10:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
stephenstark
May. 2nd, 2016 10:01 am (UTC)
vast majority don't care
I understand these conventions and Fandom and all of this other stuff have been a part of your life far longer than ASOIF but damn, can't we get back to what's important? Besides, the big one (Hugo) is coming for you after A Dream of Spring and the greatest and most clever ending to the most fascinating fantasy story of our generation.
Callum Dray
May. 2nd, 2016 10:07 am (UTC)
Ever heard the expression "Don't feed the trolls", George?

Well, that's what you're doing right now with this post. Better to ignore trolls like this rather than give them the attention they crave with big blog posts.

I'd like to hear what you thought of the latest Game of Thrones episode, though!
kalimac
May. 2nd, 2016 10:41 am (UTC)
So this guy thinks that, if you like one of his stories, you're a hypocrite if you don't like all the rest of his stories? Or that you must not have liked the story you bought in the first place?

That's so profoundly delusional that I doubt you'll be able to communicate the subtle concept of "I liked the story I bought, but not enough to consider it Hugo-worthy."

I see elsewhere in the same post that he calls it a lie to say that the Puppies gamed the system. Of course they gamed the system. That's the most obvious thing they did.
catsittingstill
May. 2nd, 2016 11:44 am (UTC)
Having read all of JCW's stories on the ballot all the way through last year (I admit that I hit a point where I could not pay complete attention to every golden word but I forced my eyes to the page until I had finished) I really feel confident that his stuff doesn't suit my taste as a reader.

The idea that he would think the fact that he wrote a story once that you liked was obviously incompatible with the fact that you weren't impressed by his stories last year is baffling. But I have come to expect such blanket assumptions from JCW.

And yeah, it's probably better not to toot one's own horn too much. Believing one has achieved excellence is a significant barrier to actually achieving it. And it carries social penalties. Someone who is great enough can sometimes overcome both but there is always the chance that one isn't that great.
travischesser
May. 2nd, 2016 12:15 pm (UTC)
Hey George,

Ever since last year's Puppy nonsense, I 've followed all sides to a ridiculous agree. I still blame you for even explaining the whole thing to begin with and all the hours down the rabbit hole I've spent since then reading about the Hugos!

I just want to point out that you have been a clear voice of reason and moderation (moderation is an evil word to those on the other side) through the whole thing. Your nuanced, insightful commentary is always a bright spot.

I implore you to not allow Wright to ruffle your feathers. It simply isn't worth it. You are never going to get him to see reason. you're only going to get angry in the process. He is nothing more than an extremely insulting human being, someone who spews venom at anyone different than him all day long, but acts like a self-important blowhard every time his "honor" is questioned. Seriously - he rails against anyone and everyone without cease; anyone with a difference of opinion, different religion, and so on are all ruining civilization and are evil. Yet, say anything about him, and he'll scream libel! (That should have been a drinking game last year - take a shot whenever Wright says libel)

He is playing the victim because that is what he wants to be. He rails against how the secret cabal of secretness won't allow fans like him to be "trufans" and how they are excluded, yet he bitches and moans whenever a gay character is even passingly referenced in a show or book (see his venting about Legend of Korra, I believe it was). So, he complains about how the stuff he likes is being pushed out in favor of "PC forced nonsense" yet he wants to do the exact same thing to anything he finds objectionable.

You're the better man, George. Anyone so zealously wrapped up in their own dogma that anyone on the other side is evil and should be punished is never going to see it from a different point of view.
ianrgillespie
May. 3rd, 2016 12:48 am (UTC)
The whole debate is oddly difficult to look away from - like, if you stare at it long enough, you'll be able to make some sense of the madness.
(no subject) - Piet Nel - May. 3rd, 2016 06:50 am (UTC) - Expand
Ospanov Serik
May. 2nd, 2016 12:40 pm (UTC)
How do you call Jon Snow?
Good evening, sir, is it true that you wanted the name of the character Jon Snow in your book to be written without letter "H" as Jon Snow, but not as John Snow. How do you call this character - "John" or "Jon" Snow?

As I understand that you couldn't call your character "John", becorse of existence of John Lackland in English history. Am I right?

Thank you in advance for your answer.
grrm
May. 2nd, 2016 11:01 pm (UTC)
Re: How do you call Jon Snow?
I don't recall that I devoted any particular thought to the spelling of Jon Snow's name when I came up with it in 1991.
Re: How do you call Jon Snow? - mediabiascom - May. 3rd, 2016 07:25 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: How do you call Jon Snow? - historicfantasy - May. 3rd, 2016 03:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Michael Fosburg
May. 2nd, 2016 12:57 pm (UTC)
Wright seems to have an almost terminal lack of self-awareness--a trait shared by most of these protest blocs. So tedious.
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