Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Sour Grapes or Solid Points?

Last week I came across author Christopher Priest's blog, specifically his post about the recent Clark awards nominations. He's a novelist and Science-Fiction writer, probably best known in the mainstream for his book The Prestige, which was turned into a very successful film staring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. I'll admit I'm only familiar with that latter work of his, but I know he is a well respected and admired author. Unfortunately this only confused me more when I read his comments on the Clarke awards; you see, he's not best pleased.

I recommend reading his blog post (it's a bit long but well written and has far more in it then I could summarise). Now, assuming you've given it a glance, I want to know; is it just me who feels he's being a bit unfair? I get that the Clarke awards are a big deal in the Science-Fiction world. Hell, I've read some books just because they were nominated in the past. But I couldn't help thinking he was taking it all a bit too seriously and getting, well, a bit het up over very little. Then again, in his defence, I don't agree that the SF genre is flagging or is worse now then it used to be. It's just different.

Another thing that came to mind was how dismissive he sounds, as though these experienced writers have done little to earn any respect or admiration, and therefore are underserving of recognition via the Clarke Award. Personal bias alert; I am a huge Sheri Tepper fan (though I recognise her occasional weaknesses as a writer) so couldn't help but be a little rankled that her work, A Water Rising, is dismissed with three sentences. Even if it does have a talking horse in it.

I wanted to mention all this as I think this is relevant for any wannabe writer; it isn't the best plan to go bad mouthing other people's work, or sounding superior about it. The overriding impression from Priest's blog is one of forgotten professionalism; writers have it hard enough out there without them ripping each other apart. That's not to say we can't be critical, but hopefully we can do that without coming across as arrogant.

I have added all the books shortlisted to my "to read" list, despite Mr. Priest's comments, starting with Sheri Tepper's book and China Mieville's Embassytown. I've really enjoyed his other works and think he's exploring some pretty unusual ground in his take on SF and Fantasy. But then, what do I know; I'm just a wannabe.

What about you? Do you think an experienced writer is wise to be dismissive of other writer's work? Or is the rule "some things better left unsaid" a better course of action?

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