Scott (scott_lynch) wrote,
  • Music: "Turn the Sky"-- Angelzoom & Apocalyptica

Touched By A Crazy Person

I received my very first batshit crank critic e-mail this morning! This is awesome. Some entity (I honestly don't know if this person is male or female, and I am leaving out the e-mail address and their pseudonymous handle) seems to have taken exception to the bits of Red Seas Under Red Skies I posted earlier. Weeks earlier, I should add. Why they suddenly care now is a mystery to me, but their bitching is something to be savored. Since this individual clearly reads my LJ (though perhaps not very well), I post their note and my response here.

*****

I am sorry to bother you but i have read the excerpts from your website and I have to say i am not impressed.

Hey, that's your right. The only authors who think they can or should please everyone are profoundly deluded. However, I only wish that Livejournal was "my website;" because I guarantee that Frank the goat would pimp my books whenever you moused over him.

First why would somebody want to pay money to read an obvious rip off of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie which has already covered all these bases?

You're right! Nobody would... except my publishers in England, France, Germany, and the United States! *Rimshot*

Second is it necessary for characters to really swear so much? I for one will not be buying these books because I do not want to pay for swearing I can hear out on the strret. I do not read fantasy to be reminded of vulgairty, and I will be recommending to my friends that they do not buy it as well.

You go ahead and make that recommendation. Heck, make it to both of your friends.

On a more serious note, yes, there is a great deal of extremely colorful vulgar language in this particular sequence of novels. I don't apologize for it because I don't hold with the idea that the use of vulgar idiom by characters is indicative of a moral lapse on the part of the author.

Clearly, there are times and places to do without; Star Wars tie-ins draw the line at the occasional "hell" and "damn" to preserve their appeal to a general audience. The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies are not written for a general audience; they're written for an adult (or at least cognitively mature) readership that doesn't mind the thought of characters in a book speaking like real people who don't know they're characters in a book. And those people, dear reader, very frequently make use of vulgar language.

The tone I sought with these books is a sort of discursive 19th century descriptiveness blended with a more mid-20th century noirish sort of "realistic" dialogue; people say "fuck" and "shit" and "damn" for atmosphere and also because I'm the author and can steal and mutilate whatever techniques catch my fancy. That's the mode of the book, baby. It's not a mock-epic sort of fantasy written in high, striving language.

I have been very careful, in both of the Gentleman Bastard books written so far, to have a character swear within the first page or two, as a fair signal to prospective buyers. Those readers that simply cannot abide "bad" language, for whatever personal reasons, should be able to set each book down after cursory perusal knowing that it's not for them. The title of the Gentleman Bastard series itself is also another giveaway. So if you don't enjoy swearing, I wave you away from my series with warm regards but little sympathy; my conscience is clear that the nature of my work's content is made very obvious with minimal scrutiny.

Lastly, fifteen relatively major characters die in the course of TLOLL, along with several platoons of extras. Some of these deaths are extremely graphic and, uh, unorthodox. You want to complain about the swearing? Bitch, please. The guy with the severed windpipe and the lady getting eaten by a shark (for starters) would like a word with you.

Third your characters are unrealistic stereotpyes of political correctness. Is it really necessary for the sake of popular sensibilities to have in a fantasy what we have in the real world? I read fantasy to get away from politically correct cliches.

God, yes! If there's one thing fantasy is just crawling with these days it's widowed black middle-aged pirate moms.

Real sea pirates could not be controlled by women, they were vicous rapits and murderers and I am sorry to say it was a man's world. It is unrealistic wish fulfilment for you and your readers to have so many female pirates, especially if you want to be politically correct about it!

First, I will pretend that your last sentence makes sense because it will save us all time. Second, now you're pissing me off.

You know what? Yeah, Zamira Drakasha, middle-aged pirate mother of two, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy. I realized this as she was evolving on the page, and you know what? I fucking embrace it.

Why shouldn't middle-aged mothers get a wish-fulfillment character, you sad little bigot? Everyone else does. H.L. Mencken once wrote that "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." I can't think of anyone to whom that applies more than my own mom, and the mothers on my friends list, with the incredible demands on time and spirit they face in their efforts to raise their kids, preserve their families, and save their own identity/sanity into the bargain.

Shit yes, Zamira Drakasha, leaping across the gap between burning ships with twin sabers in hand to kick in some fucking heads and sail off into the sunset with her toddlers in her arms and a hold full of plundered goods, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy from hell. I offer her up on a silver platter with a fucking bow on top; I hope she amuses and delights. In my fictional world, opportunities for butt-kicking do not cease merely because one isn't a beautiful teenager or a muscle-wrapped font of testosterone. In my fictional universe, the main characters are a fat ugly guy and a skinny forgettable guy, with a supporting cast that includes "SBF, 41, nonsmoker, 2 children, buccaneer of no fixed abode, seeks unescorted merchant for light boarding, heavy plunder."

You don't like it? Don't buy my books. Get your own fictional universe. Your cabbage-water vision of worldbuilding bores me to tears.

As for the "man's world" thing, religious sentiments and gender prejudices flow differently in this fictional world. Women are regarded as luckier, better sailors than men. It's regarded as folly for a ship to put to sea without at least one female officer; there are several all-female naval military traditions dating back centuries, and Drakasha comes from one of them. As for claims to "realism," your complaint is of a kind with those from bigoted hand-wringers who whine that women can't possibly fly combat aircraft, command naval vessels, serve in infantry actions, work as firefighters, police officers, etc. despite the fact that they do all of those things-- and are, for a certainty, doing them all somewhere at this very minute. Tell me that a fit fortyish woman with 25+ years of experience at sea and several decades of live bladefighting practice under her belt isn't a threat when she runs across the deck toward you, and I'll tell you something in return-- you're gonna die of stab wounds.

What you're really complaining about isn't the fact that my fiction violates some objective "reality," but rather that it impinges upon your sad, dull little conception of how the world works. I'm not beholden to the confirmation of your prejudices; to be perfectly frank, the prospect of confining the female characters in my story to placid, helpless secondary places in the narrative is so goddamn boring that I would rather not write at all. I'm not writing history, I'm writing speculative fiction. Nobody's going to force you to buy it. Conversely, you're cracked if you think you can persuade me not to write about what amuses and excites me in deference to your vision, because your vision fucking sucks.

I do not expect to change your mind but i hope that you will at least consider that I and others will not be buying your work because of these issues. I have been reading science fiction and fantasy for years and i know that I speak for a great many people. I hope you might stop to think about the sales you will lose because you want to bring your political corectness and foul language into fantasy. if we wanted those things we could go to the movies. Think about this!

Thank you for your sentiments. I offer you in exchange this engraved invitation to go piss up a hill, suitable for framing.
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