Sunday, September 11, 2016

Should We Complain?

I was reading the Ruthless Culture blog, probably a mistake, since the author ripped one of my stories to pieces a while back. Anyway, there is a discussion of this year's Clarke Awards ongoing among GB critics and writers. Ruthless Culture gave a link to Adam Roberts' blog. I don't know Roberts' work, but he is apparently a very well regarded GB SF writer, who should (many people say) been on the Clarke short list. He wasn't, and he is feeling very frustrated about his writing career.

The question I have, should writers post about their disappointments? There seems to be an unspoken rule that we suck it up and never complain. But this gives other people a very false idea of what it's like to be a writer, and it leaves the majority of writers -- who do not usually have great careers -- feeling like solitary failures. We could have been contenders, and we aren't, and it must be our fault. We didn't work hard enough. Our work wasn't good enough. We couldn't figure out the market. We didn't do a good enough job of selling outselves and our work.

I understand Roberts' frustration. The Goddess knows I often feel frustrated. He has a contract for his next book from Gollanz. He says he's going to make it light and conventional SF. He's tired of trying hard. Of course good writers always say when they are pissed. They usually end by writing the novel they want.

I always feel ishy when I talk about about my frustrations. I should be stronger. I should suffer in silence. Many people have a harder time than I do. I should be lucky I have gotten as far as I have. Eat your dinner. Be glad you have a dinner. Remember the starving people in Asia.

But then I remember the Women's Movement back in the late 60s and early 70s. One of the things that happened in consciousness raising groups is people admitted that they had troubles and frustrated ambitions. Everyone had been pretending that she was fine. Everything was under control. Maybe writers need to do this.

I suspect that Roberts is having a low point and will recover. Though it sounds as if one of the British cons should invite him to be GoH.


Blogger pat said...

I read the same article and had some of the same questions. If women hadn't complained, would we have ever had the research to reveal that manuscripts are more likely to be accepted with a male byline?

Roberts' frustrations probably ring true to all the people whose agents have said 'Why don't you try an epic fantasy?' but his article just left me feeling uncertain about the goal of creating something popular. There are a lot of popular things out there - even prize-winning things - that I wouldn't be proud of having created. I think it's better in the long run to have a day job and write the novels you want to write in your spare time.

Of course I might think otherwise if I were getting those awards.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Greg L Johnson said...

I reviewed a couple of Roberts' early novels for the SF Site and I liked them, but it always felt like I was kind of alone on that one. His writing is fairly sparse in style and he's usually concerned with serious moral issues that leave his characters looking inadequate to the task at hand.

I do remember getting an email from him about one of the reviews and I know that from the beginning he was frustrated by an inability to get his books published in the US.

I'm guessing his recent comments have been bubbling up for quite a while.

Greg Johnson

1:13 PM  

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