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March 16, 2005

James Valvis at it Again

Lest one thinks that I only give space to those who would praise my work, I present another installment of James Valvis' long-simmering hatred of everything I do, this one off the message boards of the Thunder Sandwich E-zine. James writes, in part:

Scalzi is a shitty writer, plain and simple. No matter how many "books" he publishes. He's good at playing the publishing game, kissing the right bottoms, and that's about it. To call his novels (2 of them, I think) insipid is to be polite. I could never get past Chapter 3-- and I got that far only because I promised him I would look at it.) Dull and clichéd characters, ridiculous situations, lazy prose, and humor that relies on fart jokes. Ugh. You don't have to be an "elitist" to demand a writer at least *try* to learn his craft.

He's right, of course. I totally suck. However, I am reminded of the story in which George Bernard Shaw takes a curtain call to thunderous applause after the premiere of one of his plays. As the applause dies down, someone in the back bellows something along the line of "your play stinks!" To which Shaw replied, "Sir, I quite agree with you. But who are we to oppose the masses?" For some strange and unfathomable reason, despite my entire lack of competence in the field of writing, people buy my books, and publishers insist on continuing to give me work. I am ashamed to say I have not the common decency to refuse the money. Perhaps one day I will have the strength of character not to publish -- and indeed, in this endeavor, Jim shall be my role model. Until then, however, I will shamefully continue to put out "books."

Of course, Jim's fulminated about my writing before, which I have also duly noted. One does wonder why he bothers. No amount of success I have in publishing will make his writing any more or less than what it is. I would refer Jim here, specifically to peruse tips numbered 2,3 and 4 (and also 9), but inasmuch as the likelihood of him actually following any of my advice is exceedingly thin, I don't see much point. But it's nice to see he's still thinking of me. I regret to say that until pretty much this moment, I could not say the same.

Posted by john at March 16, 2005 02:50 PM

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Comments

Bill Peschel | March 16, 2005 03:14 PM

Everybody needs a hobby. You're his.

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 03:18 PM

I suppose.

John | March 16, 2005 03:24 PM

Was there a fart joke in OMW??? Now I've got to go back and re-read the whole thing to find it. Man, I just *love* fart jokes!

Jill Smith | March 16, 2005 03:30 PM

Well, the ILL service at my local library has finally come through, so I will be able to search for the fart jokes come tomorrow when I grab OMW from the clutches of those disaffected public servants (e.g. "circulation staff") I am so not-fond-of.

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 03:32 PM

John writes:

"Man, I just *love* fart jokes!"

You're gonna love the first chapter of "The Android's Dream," then, John. Here's the first paragraph:

Dirk Moeller didn't know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out.

Yup, I cater to my audience's needs. And proudly!

Lisa | March 16, 2005 03:32 PM

If memory serves, going back to the dim days of the late-90s, wasn't he the one who was stirring up a fuss on journals-l (or maybe it was diary-l)by telling everyone that "real" writers didn't keep online journals, and detailed exactly how online journal-keeping would destroy one's writing/publishing skills?

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 03:35 PM

Lisa: I believe he did make such a claim, although the specifics are lost in the mists of time. He has a blog himself, however.

This can't be entirely held against him, however. For a very long time I maintained that all writing online was good for was learning to write online, and it was only repeated sales of my online work to offline markets that suggested to me it might be good for something else as well.

Lisa | March 16, 2005 03:41 PM

He does now, and he did then, ironically enough. I never quite understood that.

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 03:42 PM

Mr. Valvis is a man of contradictions.

Jon Hansen | March 16, 2005 03:44 PM

I look forward to this feud being added to a later edition of this book someday. Just remember, this needs more than just egos clashing and bashing. Why not consider a lawsuit?

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 03:46 PM

In order for it to be in that book, James would need to publish at one point or another. We can hope.

Jim Valvis | March 16, 2005 03:58 PM

Poor John's ego.

As for your "advice," Scalzi, I read it. Agreed with some, disagreed with other things. Reading, I remember yawning a lot.

Mostly you just bore me, you're so transparently in need of approval, so distraught over any criticism. In that way, you *are* funny. Still, I'm sorry my friend Jazz brought you up. I had pleasantly forgotten all about you.

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 03:59 PM

Sure, Jim.

Kevin Q | March 16, 2005 04:12 PM

I tell people, if the same thing keeps happening to you, at some point you have to stop looking outside of yourself for the reason. Like the person who moans, "Man, people keep hitting my car." No, people don't keep hitting your car. You're a lousy driver.

If a person whom you don't like reading keeps getting published, at some point you have to stop looking outside of yourself, and say, "Maybe it's just me."

K

Scott | March 16, 2005 04:39 PM

I didn't get enough sleep last night. I'm feeling catty (or whatever the vaguely masculine alternative to catty is).

I'm curious why the word 'advice' got the quoting treatment. How is it not advice? Bad advice is still advice. Boring, yawn-inducing advice is still advice (and possibly even more advice-like than the variety which doesn't).

I have similar questions about the quoting of the word 'books' further above, but there's a lot more wiggle room there, since there are plenty of things which Scalzi has had published which aren't books. Some of which may be bookish enough to get called that.

Bowler | March 16, 2005 04:40 PM

"Mostly you just bore me, you're so transparently in need of approval, so distraught over any criticism."

Is he reading the same posts I am? Because "I don't care if you're a better writer than me" doesn't sound like someone "transparently in need of approval."

I'm thinking Jim *definitely* suffers from #9.

John H | March 16, 2005 04:41 PM

What I really don't get is why he's coming over here to read what you're saying about him. If he hates your writing so much, you'd think he would go hang out on somebody else's blog...

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 04:42 PM

Clearly, he is as much an egotist as I.

John H | March 16, 2005 04:43 PM

And by the way, I finally received my copy of OMW yesterday (two weeks after buying it online). But since it turns out you're a talentless hack I suppose I will have to return it unopened...

How did you ever manage to sell out two printings?

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 04:45 PM

Obviously, because I'm good at playing the publishing game. Also, I kissed the ass of each individual who purchased the book. And now, I'm very tired. Also I can't convince my wife to give me a smooch.

Tripp | March 16, 2005 04:52 PM

"Perhaps one day I will have the strength of character not to publish -- and indeed, in this endeavor, Jim shall be my role model."

Ooh, I love this, and I will do my best to remember it. I only steal from the very best!

Paul | March 16, 2005 05:28 PM

"Also, I kissed the ass of each individual who purchased the book."--Why didn't you say so before? I'm off to Amazon.com now.

Ellen | March 16, 2005 05:30 PM

Also, I kissed the ass of each individual who purchased the book.

Is that the special gift that comes with Agent? Because I don't remember getting an ass-kiss when I bought OMW.

I wonder if more popular writers (Ann Rice, Stephen King, all of those) outsource their ass-kissing.

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 05:35 PM

Ellen, you would think they would have to. I for one am glad to still be at the early level of success that allows me to individually handcraft (as it were) each and every ass-kissing.

Jim Valvis | March 16, 2005 05:44 PM

Please. Let's put this to rest. Not every criticism is made out of jealousy. I originally offered my opinions about John's writing before OMW was picked up-- heck, before he published *any* book. I'm not jealous of John-- as I'm certain he's not jealous of me. We have different goals as writers. My goal is to write the best I'm able to write-- his goal is to sell, sell, sell, and who gives a crap how or what. With all possible respect to John's admirable business skills, he has never once written anything I wish I had written. I am not incapable of being jealous, but I'm incapable of being jealous of a writer I think stinks.

Maybe someday John will improve-- and I will becaome *jealous* of him. I don't know. It's possible. But not when you slam every person who ever disagrees with you or finds something about your writing lacking. It's a pretty immature way to go about your business-- though I regret using the word "shitty."

Last, if John hadn't shown up on the TS board, I wouldn't be here. I haven't read this blog in I don't know how long. I look forward to not coming back ever again. I promise to do my part to make that happen.

And that's about all I have left to say about any of this.

Rob R-H | March 16, 2005 06:05 PM

Wow, a blast from the past. As far as I can tell, Jim Valvis has carved a nice little niche for himself in the online world by doing nothing quite so well as criticizing other writers (published and otherwise) for not being as talented of a writer as himself. His own work, oddly enough, seems to consistently cry out "Look at me, I am the finest wordsmith in all the land!", which might account for his publishing success at Kinko's.

He's like a kind of Oscar the grouch who pops up every so often to make snide comments and pontificate on his own worth and then disappears, leaving his audience wondering if that pile of smelly garbage really just said anything at all

James Kew | March 16, 2005 06:11 PM

Looks like they don't want your referrals, John: the link to Jim's thundersandwich post fails with a 403 Forbidden, while pasting the URL into a fresh browser window works just fine.

Bryan W | March 16, 2005 06:17 PM

Kicking back with popcorn for another round of bash the stupid.

Wondering when an ass-kiss will come with my OMW... Maybe it's somewhere inside the book. I'll find it and the insipid fart jokes while I languish in jealousy that John Scalzi makes more money writing than most of us, which at least means that MORE people like his writings than an unpublished wanna-be.

PiscusFiche | March 16, 2005 06:32 PM

I don't know if mentioning that somebody has farted, and that their farts are only the charming part of their personality really descends to the level of "fart joke."

But then it is my personal and considered opinion that bodily functions are given short shrift in fiction. (And this is why my friend and I each have what we call The Menstruation Chapter in our respective novels! Whee!)

I didn't get an ass-kissing with my copy of OMW.

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 06:34 PM

Jim, I think it's wonderful that you're taking the high road; would that you had done it before you publicly called me shitty writer. It's easy to try to be reasonable after you've snarked; try doing it before some time. You'd be surprised at how much embarrassment it saves you.

I don't see why you regret calling me a shitty writer, however, since you actually think it. And if you don't actually think it, you shouldn't have written it, and presumably you are a competent enough writer not to write what you ought not. One shouldn't have to be in a position to tell another writer to have the conviction to stand by what they write.

You write:

"My goal is to write the best I'm able to write-- his goal is to sell, sell, sell, and who gives a crap how or what."

Well, Jim, if it soothes your conscience to think the reason I'm published is the mere facility to shovel piles of commercial crap, while your words strive for the parchment-caressing delicacy of illuminated text and are therefore too precious for mere wood pulp, you just go on thinking that.

Jim, your arrogance as a writer is wholly unearned and has been as long as I've known of you. I can accept your arrogance toward me as a reader, since by reading you are qualified to comment (although you clearly can't be troubled to read a work of mine all the way through). I naturally accept not everyone is going to like my work. But as toward your arrogance toward me as a writer I have a professional disinclination to give your words much creedence. And while we're at it, I find your writerly arrogance concerning other writers of our acquaintance somewhat noxious. Fact is, Jim, you're not qualified for such arrogance.

Come back to criticize me as a writer when you publish, Jim, outside of 'zines and your own chapbooks. Your disregard of publishing as a metric of writing competence does not negate the fact it is a metric of writing competence. I freely admit that many other writers better at the skill and profession of writing than I are publishing. Unless you are less competent than I, you should be able to do the same. Indeed, I will celebrate that book, link to it and encourage people to check it out. But until an Amazon search on your name comes up with something other than "We didn't find any matches for 'James Valvis.' Did you mean james davis?" we don't have much to talk about.

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 06:39 PM

James Kew writes:

"The link to Jim's thundersandwich post fails with a 403 Forbidden, while pasting the URL into a fresh browser window works just fine."

Yeah, God forbid Thunder Sandwich should get traffic.

Carol | March 16, 2005 06:53 PM

OMW and a finely hand-crafted Scalzi ass-kissing. Could life get any better?

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 06:55 PM

Careful, Carol. Too much joy in this world will spoil you for the afterlife.

Byron | March 16, 2005 08:19 PM

Carol,

Yes. We could all get ponies.

RooK | March 16, 2005 08:38 PM

Out of curiosity, I went looking for some James Valvis to read. It was a natural urge, considering that I try to learn writing as a craft by understanding the writing of others. I suffer from some pretty severe jealousy of Scali's accomplishments but sublimate it by realizing what my own writing lacks in comparison to his. It seemed entirely possible that Valvis would be a balancing pool of literary manna for me to drink in.

spit spit spit
-gargle-
spit

John Scalzi | March 16, 2005 09:30 PM

Thunder Sandwich does offer a novelette from James here. It's about zombies. Be sure to open a new window for that URL, however, as the proprietor of Thunder Sandwich appears to be blocking access to people linking from here. He also appears to be blocking the IP my machine is working on.

What the fellow doesn't appear to realize is that my connection is a dynamic IP, so if I switch off my modem and turn it back on, I'll get a new IP address. Or I can just sign on through AOL and use their broswer, which routes through AOL and not my IP -- and indeed, that's what I did. People are funny when they're ignorant of technology.

Steve Eley | March 16, 2005 10:23 PM

I'm not going to analyze exactly why I think today's Something Positive seems apropos at the moment, but I'll take any excuse to share it here, because I think it will amuse.

Anonymous | March 17, 2005 12:07 AM

Given some of the truly rancid stuff I've seen actually published (Stuff the library can't move off the 25-cent old book sale rack, except as raw materials for craft items like doorstops and hollowed-book storage boxes. Stuff like the novel I gave up on back when, because it was still in the process of introducing main characters in chapter 7, with no other action on the horizon. Stuff like Atlanta Nights), I find it hard to believe that anyone with Jim's persistence and output could go unpublished. And yet, there's Jim, in all his unpublished glory. I must say, that does affect the chap's credibility rather like an icy Nor'easter tightens the naughty bits.

And I am still waiting for that booty-smack, btw.

Justine Larbalestier | March 17, 2005 03:22 AM

DISCLAIMER: I'm a friend of John's and I don't know James Valvis. Also I have a nasty head cold.

But it needs to be said: Lots of really fine writers don't get published during their lifetime. Lots of really fine writers do. Lots of unreadable dreck gets published. Even more doesn't.

Being professionally published indicates nothing about quality of the writing (though it should be an indicator about typesetting and proofing etc).

That John has been published and James hasn't doesn't say anything of itself about the quality of their writing.

Can we stop making the being published = being good argument? Being published is a verifiable fact, being good or not is a matter of opinion.

I happen to think John's a very good writer, but I'd think that whether he'd been published or not. I haven't read James.

Okay, that hurt my head. Crawling back into bed now.

PS Fart jokes good.

John Scalzi | March 17, 2005 07:07 AM

I hope you feel better, Justine.

Justine wrote:

"Can we stop making the being published = being good argument?"

I don't think that I or anyone else suggested that being published is automatically equivalent to being good; we all know bad writers who've managed writing careers quite handily. Conversely, there are many good writers who have not yet been published (there have to be, because from the pool comes each class of new published writers).

That being said, being professionally published is, I think, a general metric of minimal writing competence, as barring a vanity press or amateur publication, you need to convince an editor and a publisher that your work is worth being published. There are even exceptions to this, of course, but taken over the entire class of professionally published writers, not many. You don't have to be subjectively good to be published, but by and large you have to be objectively competent (or at the very least, have an immensely competent editor, which to the end user is the same thing).

Professional publication is a minimal end-result demonstration of writing competence and also a process that works to screen incompetent writing on a market-specific basis; therefore, it's a largely useful heuristic for determining if a writer is him- or herself competent to speak toward the process of writing and being published. It's not entirely unreasonable for those people who have been through the publishing process, and who have demonstrated this minimal competence, to want to see like evidence of competence from those who suggest they can speak authoritatively on the subject -- particularly when they also suggest that someone else has gotten published not through their own competence in the craft, but because they know how to kiss the right bottoms.

Now, to the specific case here, I don't really care whether Jim thinks I'm subjectively good or not, and I'm pretty sure I've never made a comment suggesting either that he's a bad writer or that I am a better writer than he (I have suggested to him from time to time that his public fulminations re: me are some of his best writing, but that's independent to the overall good/bad question, and also clearly me talking smack). Even if I had suggested Jim was a bad writer, I'd hope people wouldn't take my word for it; I'd hope they'd read some of his work for themselves and make up their own minds.

However, aside from being subjectively good or bad, Jim publicly attacked my competence speaking as a writer, suggesting that the only reason I'm published is because I'm good at the "publishing game," whatever that may be. Aside from the fact that prior to publication I've been spectacularly bad at the nebulous publishing game -- someone who is good at it doesn't serialize his novel on his Web site because he's too damned lazy to send it to publishers -- this comment suggests that Jim knows what the publishing game is. But as he's not published, and there is little evidence that he knows what is required to be published, he does seem to be mostly talking out of his ass on this score. I feel fine in not bothering to consider his comments as a fellow writer.

Kevin Q | March 17, 2005 07:50 AM

One doesn't suggest that a professional sushi chef is a "bad cook," if they are unable to make a soufle. Likewise, it's hard to call a person with a half-dozen book deals from 3 different publishers (plus a steady stream of paid-for-writing) a "bad writer," just because they don't write what you like.

K

Jim Valvis | March 17, 2005 07:50 AM

John, did I say here that I was criticizing you as a writer? If so, where? Obviously when I judge a piece of writing I bring all my experience to the project, as would you, and I seem to remember you had no problem judging other people's writing long before you had much more than one short story published in an online magazine. (Not that I will insult that publication, like you have insulted other publications.)

Truth is, you use your publications as a crutch. Like being published bars you from criticism from anyone who isn't as published as you are. No wonder you so desperately need to sell. All your validation is wrapped up in selling. Without selling, you might just have to face the truth that your dialogue is false, your characters are flat, and you haven't a clue about structure.

I'm not embarassed at all. Yes, I called you a shitty writer. Yes, I wish I had chosen a better word. (Poor, maybe.) But it is still about your writing and your writing skills. It isn't about your person, except insomuch as you can't tell where John's ego starts and John the writer and John's writing ends. But look at the horrible things you and others have said about me over the years. Not once, but numerous times. Not about my writing, but about my character.

And don't pretend I have to do something to you to inspire you to wrath. After I wrote an admittedly silly email to Mrs. Tor Editor, you jumped in with both feet, gladly kicking me on something that wasn't any of your business. You're the kind of wounded soul, John, who cannot forget or let slide any slight. My big crime was ever questioning you day one, god though I should hold you as.

The TS board has about 10 readers, if that, and is erased about once a month and isn't archived by the search engines. In short, I wasn't looking for a fight. But you were, weren't you, John?

And why? Because you think you can get the folks here riled up into self-righteous anger, maybe sell a couple more books. It's a trick that's worked before-- and it'll work again. But it's increasingly lame, John, and I'm not the only one who notices.

As for publishing... snore. Unlike you, I haven't sent my daughter off to day-care. (Not that there's anything wrong with your choice, it's just different than mine.) I spend the day taking care of her instead of trolling obscure message boards looking for ego fights. That means I'm semi-out of the writing game until next year.

Even then, I will still publish a lot of stuff mainly in obscure journals-- poetry is like that. There are few mass market poetry journals. I believe the number's zero. That's the lot of not just me, but any "literary" writer, whom you continually insult here. But I'll tell you what. You don't make fun of me for publishing in, say, Slipstream or Midwest Quarterly, and I won't make fun of you for never publishing in Asimov's and MoF&SF.

Let's put it this way. When I publish a book, and barring death I will, probably a few of them in fact, does that suddenly validate everything I've said about your writing? Even I wouldn't go that far. It's just one man's opinion, no matter how you obsess over it.

As for arrogance-- okay, if you say so. My family and my church would disagree. I feel like I'm a humble guy, mostly and in most things. I would certainly like to know about these people you speak about whose writing I've been "arrogant" about. Save yourself this one time, I don't remember recently (in the last months or so, say) criticizing any writer in public-- and that includes via email.

Anyway, am I supposed to like everything I read? Or just you and your friends?

Okay. This is old. There's no breaking news here. Years later, I still dislike your lazy writing, you still think I'm unworthy of that opinion. Moving along then...

Jim Valvis | March 17, 2005 08:02 AM

Oh, one more thing, John.

All arrogance is undeserved. That's what makes it arrogance. Otherwise it's confidence.

Brian | March 17, 2005 08:33 AM

And yet again we fall back on opinion. Whether writing is good or bad is opinion; whether someone's demeanor is arrogance or confidence is opinion. Non-argument.

x | March 17, 2005 08:59 AM

You are reminded of the story about Shaw because it is quoted in the comment thread of your other argument with this guy.

Sue | March 17, 2005 09:04 AM

John wrote: "Your disregard of publishing as a metric of writing competence does not negate the fact it is a metric of writing competence."

Except where applied to Danielle Steele. Although, I guess it could be said she's really good at writing the same book over and over again.

I have a friend who wrote a novel that I think is easily good enough to be published, but nearly every rejection letter she's received has said, "This is a great book, but we just don't know how we'd market it" or "You have written a fine book, it just doesn't fit in with the stuff we publish. Keep on writing." Her book just isn't easily pigeonholed, so she can't find a publisher. That doesn't mean it's not a good book.

Neither John nor my friend have written anything that students will be forced to read 30 years from now by high school English teachers. But they're reasonably intelligent books that are exactly what fiction ought to be: entertaining and readable.

Clay | March 17, 2005 09:15 AM

Publicity? How could a successful author like Mr. Scalzi gain good publicity by feuding against a relatively unknown internet columnist? That makes absolutely no sense.

On the other hand, though...

John Scalzi | March 17, 2005 09:18 AM

Jim Valvis writes:

"Like being published bars you from criticism from anyone who isn't as published as you are."

Nonsense. Lots of readers criticize my writing, and that's perfectly fine. And as I've said, I have no problem with you criticizing my work as a reader. I'd like to see more proof of your competence as a writer via publication before I'm inclined to give creedence of your opinion of me from a writerly point of view.

"But look at the horrible things you and others have said about me over the years. Not once, but numerous times."

I am naturally not responsible for what other people say about you, Jim, and as far as I'm aware I haven't said anything "horrible" about you in public, and in private I've never said anything about you that I haven't communicated to you directly. I think the worst you can peg on me publicly is that I've called you arrogant, but I feel that's a justifiable criticism.

"Even then, I will still publish a lot of stuff mainly in obscure journals-- poetry is like that. There are few mass market poetry journals. I believe the number's zero."

Ah, but my Writer's Market has over 100 "little and literary" markets listed -- places that specifically go out of their way to publish poetry, and on a regular basis as well, and even pay cash for their work. Aside from those specific markets there are dozens of other magazines I can find that publish poetry on a regular basis. There are more places to publish poetry on a pro basis than there are to publish, say, science fiction. So I'm not entirely convinced that you can't sell poetry because of a paucity of market opportunities. Besides, you don't only publish poetry, Jim -- I linked to a novelette of yours up the comment stream.

"The TS board has about 10 readers, if that, and is erased about once a month and isn't archived by the search engines. In short, I wasn't looking for a fight. But you were, weren't you, John?"

So, let's see if I've got it right: You go out of your way to to say I'm a shitty writer in a place where I can find it, and I should just let it go unremarked? Please, Jim. Give me a friggin' break. As I've said before, people talking trash about me amuses me, and I like to make sure it gets attention. You're not the only one who I've done this to. If you don't want me to highlight when you're talking trash about me in public, don't do it in public.

"Let's put it this way. When I publish a book, and barring death I will, probably a few of them in fact, does that suddenly validate everything I've said about your writing?"

Up to that point? Nope. However, by that point you'll have experience actually being published, and might then be competent to speak toward the publishing process, which at this point you are not.

"Oh, one more thing, John."

Jim, for someone who keeps announcing they are done, you certainly do come back a lot.

John Scalzi | March 17, 2005 09:21 AM

Sue writes:

"Neither John nor my friend have written anything that students will be forced to read 30 years from now by high school English teachers."

Ha! I see this as a plus, actually.

As toward Danielle Steele: She's definitely competent, in the sense her porse does what's required of it. She's not what I would call good.

Anonymous | March 17, 2005 10:03 AM

"Nonsense. Lots of readers criticize my writing, and that's perfectly fine. And as I've said, I have no problem with you criticizing my work as a reader. I'd like to see more proof of your competence as a writer via publication before I'm inclined to give creedence of your opinion of me from a writerly point of view."

Huh? I believe you're making a distinction between 'large' and 'big'. You want to have your cake and eat it too. You want to say my crits don't matter because I'm not as published as you, but you don't want to insult all the rest of the folks here who are not as published as you by admitting you don't give a crap about what they think. Not gonna fly, John. People aren't that dumb.

"I think the worst you can peg on me publicly is that I've called you arrogant, but I feel that's a justifiable criticism."

On what grounds? Do you know me? Have we ever met? Is anyone who thinks your writing stinks arrogant? Therefore, anyone who thinks your writing is great is humble. Seems odd criteria for judging a man's overall humility, especially when it's so egotistical.

"Ah, but my Writer's Market has over 100 "little and literary" markets listed -- places that specifically go out of their way to publish poetry, and on a regular basis as well, and even pay cash for their work. Aside from those specific markets there are dozens of other magazines I can find that publish poetry on a regular basis. There are more places to publish poetry on a pro basis than there are to publish, say, science fiction."

John, hate to brak this to you, but I have published poems in over 200 print journals, and stories in a dozen, some numerous times. Still, though I have been paid cash on occasion, most of them pay contributor copies, even the most prestigeous of them, and I thought those didn't matter to you. Cause it's all about the buck, right?, and not my seven Pushcart nominations...

"Jim, for someone who keeps announcing they are done, you certainly do come back a lot. "

Yeah, in the past I've let you run over me because I felt sorry for you and never wanted to war with you in the first place and because it didn't much matter to me. No more. From now on you'll get as good as you give.

Jim Valvis | March 17, 2005 10:20 AM

Hmm. That was me.

John | March 17, 2005 10:30 AM

Good lord, are we serious here? Arguing who's a better writer? I read and thoroughly enjoyed OMW. I also read this:

"Mom caught me sludging out in my bedroom and went shit ape. Like, my privacy meant nothing."

Shit ape...Like, my privacy...."

"She was being so unfabular, and I was totally annoyed with her, but I also felt lucky."

unfabular ???

'"Okay, okay. No sense buttering it into the ground."'

buttering it into the ground???

So why are we even arguing about this?

John Scalzi | March 17, 2005 10:36 AM

Jim Valvis writes:

"On what grounds?"

Read your own writing, Jim?

"Cause it's all about the buck, right?, and not my seven Pushcart nominations..."

Pushcart nominations:

"Little magazine and small book press editors may make up to six nominations from their year’s publications by our December 1 deadline."

Which is to say it's the editors' submissions for consideration, not a nomination like, say, a Hugo nomination, in which finalists are voted upon. By this nomination metric, I suppose I've been nominated for a number of awards, too.

I don't always write just for a buck, Jim, but sometimes I do, and I'm just fine with that.

"Yeah, in the past I've let you run over me because I felt sorry for you and never wanted to war with you in the first place and because it didn't much matter to me. No more."

Let's review: You call me a shitty writer who only gets published because I'm an ass kisser, whereas I've not commented on the quality of your writing one way or another, and yet somehow this is me making war on you. Yes, I can see how you are the injured party here, Jim. Poor, sad, put-upon Jim Valvis. It's clearly all my fault.

You know, for someone who was previously affecting such an air of bored detachment, you've suddenly gotten a little sporky, there, Jim. But of course I think it's healthy for you to get it all out. Catharsis is a therapeutic thing.

Jim Valvis | March 17, 2005 10:54 AM

Um, dude? Those verbal ticks of the narrator are intentional. If you bothered to read more than the opening paragraph, you'd have known that. Insert new quarter, try again.

Narrator ticks are not new or original to me. Read Huckleberry Finn or A Clockwork Orange-- or more recently M. T. Anderson's Feed. I think those novels are celebrated enough. I may not have pulled it off, that's for others to decide, but there's nothing wrong with making up words and putting them in a character's mouth. After all, Shakespeare made a living at it.

Jon Hansen | March 17, 2005 11:04 AM

As entertaining as this is to read (and remember, I'm easily entertained), I would observe that: Jim, you're wasting your time prolonging the argument. This is John's space. There is no way he is going to let you get the last word in here, especially on the topic of "I think Scalzi's writing sucks." No neutral referee will come in and declare a winner. The space where you get to make your last word is on your own blog.

Having said that, I will also observe that it's also your time to waste, free country and all that, etc and so forth.

Jim Valvis | March 17, 2005 11:06 AM

Yeah, sure, John. Like your political post. Everyone who disagrees with you is irrational. (Talk about arrogance. I don't believe I've ever said anything so arrogant.) You're the only one who is rational. You and your buddies. The rest of us are weirdo stalkers, no matter how much you instigate and feed the conflict.

You do bore me, John, but you also have some following. I'm not going to let you just walk on me and kick me around. Sorry. If you don't like it, like you once told me: take down the posts. Otherwise, continue to lose the debates, as you always do when I bother to engage you.

Q | March 17, 2005 11:18 AM

OK, now I don't even think Jim is reading any of Scalzi's posts before cirticizing... I may be an engineer and not a literary critic... but even I can't miss the fact the John never claimed "anyone who disagrees with me is irrational"... In fact, he pointed out that there ARE such things as rational conservatives... and that he finds it easier to relate to rational people who still disagree with him...

Jon Hansen | March 17, 2005 11:19 AM

I'm sorry, are you responding to me, the guy who made the last post? I'm Jon, J-o-n, not John, J-o-h-n.

Now I'm even more entertained.

Jim Valvis | March 17, 2005 11:28 AM

I was speaking to Scalzi, Jon.

RooK | March 17, 2005 11:28 AM

Being the jerk that I am, I actually love a good argument. However, this is looking a little one-sided. So, in the interests of fairness, I offer my mercenary services to Jim Valvis - the seemingly unarmed party in this battle of wits.

All right John, despite Jim's overall ineptitude about his criticisms, there is some useful barb in his claims - pertaining to his opinion about the flatness of your characters and dialogue and his regard for your concept of structure. Surely everyone has a baseline of credibility merely as being a reader, as you've already acknowledged. Further, any writing credentials that a person has, however imaginary they might be, should be purely additive in nature and should not undo basic reader qualifications.

Assuming that we agree about this, isn't your dismissal of Jim's "writerly" criticism just a cleverly crafted barb designed to goad Jim in what is likely to be a vulnerable area? Isn't that just possibly a bit churlish and petty of you?

OK, so it's still not as good as you're giving. Motivation is often a problem with volunteer freelance work. Please feel free to delete if I've been too boorish.

John Scalzi | March 17, 2005 11:31 AM

Jim Valvis writes:

"Like your political post. Everyone who disagrees with you is irrational."

Actually, this is what I wrote:

I'm rather more comfortable dealing with someone whose politics I disagree with, but I can see how they got to where they are, than someone who politics are in line with mine but who appear to have arrived at those politics without an intermediary step of, you know, thinking about those politics.

Which rather easily refutes your assertion. But you seem to have a history of not reading all the way through and thereby coming to the wrong conclusions, don't you, Jim.

See, this is why it's no fun to argue with you, Jim. You don't argue well. Possibly it's because you argue from false premises, as you just now did, and the only thing you can think to do to counter it is to complain about how set upon you are when someone points it out for you.

"I'm not going to let you just walk on me and kick me around."

Well, then for Christ's sake, Jim, stop imitating a rug and/or a football. As I'll point out to you, yet again, I'm not the one of the two of us who is suggesting that the other one of us is a shitty writer who only gets work through ass kissing. The fact that you can somehow spin your passive-agressiveness as you being the set-upon person is, well, I think interesting is the word to use.

"Otherwise, continue to lose the debates, as you always do when I bother to engage you."

You're joking, right?

Fine, Jim. Here's one for you. You claim I'm published because I'm adept at "playing the publishing game." Explain to the edification of all how putting Old Man's War up on my personal site after not submitting it to any publisher or any sort and selling the book only after I received an unsolicited offer for the book from an editor I had never met equates to "playing the publishing game."

After all, it seems to me that not submitting your work to publishers, and deciding to self-publish on one's Web site means that not only is one not good at "the publishing game," it means that one is not playing the "publishing game" at all.

But please, Jim, since you are clearly the debate master, explain it to us so that we may bask in the pure light of understanding. Be sure to use small words for those of us who can't handle more than two syllables at a time.

Q | March 17, 2005 11:36 AM

In lieu of a Fart Joke, please accept my interjection of the phrase: Master Debater

That should help amuse us all. Or perhaps just me. Which is really the purpose of master-debating after all.

Kevin | March 17, 2005 11:43 AM

How can we be sure this Jim Valvis guy is real?

At first I thought he was just a troll, but his arguments are so poor, I'm beginning to think that Scalzi invented him as a Simplicio character, all in an effort to make himself look better in comparison to the dim-witted Valvis character. :)

Sadly though, there are a lot of real people out there like Jim. About 10 years ago I had a very ugly usenet argument with someone like him. Surprisingly I recently got an email apology from this person, saying he was just having fun getting me angry, and he was being childish. Maybe the same will happen 10 years from now with you and Jim.

RooK | March 17, 2005 11:44 AM

Q, you have confirmed your engineer-ness. Damn you.

John Scalzi | March 17, 2005 11:49 AM

RooK writes:

"Assuming that we agree about this, isn't your dismissal of Jim's 'writerly' criticism just a cleverly crafted barb designed to goad Jim in what is likely to be a vulnerable area? Isn't that just possibly a bit churlish and petty of you?"

Well, to be clear, of course I'm poking him in vulnerable areas; rhetorically, that's what you do, and I know Jim's soft spots, at least in how he communicates in writing, or at the very least how he communicates with me.

Jim thinks my characters are flat; that's fine. I think that's a matter of opinion, based on his reading experience. His reading experience is no doubt informed by his writing experience (as is mine), but as that's not possible to separate, that's fine too.

Jim also suggests I publish solely because of criteria other than writing (to wit: playing the publishing game and kissing ass); this has nothing to do with his opinion as a reader, and everything to do with his opinion as a writer -- the statement implies he actually knows something about the publishing industry. Naturally, I want to see evidence that he indeed knows something about the publishing industry, so we can see what basis he has for that claim.

Well, in fact he has none, or at least none specific to book publishing. So it's fairly evident that what he posits as fact -- I'm only writing because I know and suck up to people -- is based on his ignorance of this branch of publishing (it's also falsifiable by how I managed to break into publishing, but let's leave that aside). Given Jim is provent to be prone to making wild accusations in his guise as a writer, I am, as I mentioned earlier, disinclined to give such statements creedence and would suggest to him that before he makes sweeping statements about "the publishing game," whatever it may be, he should get published to get a better perspective on it.

If he does that, and makes the same statement, it will still be false on its face, but at least we'll know it's pure spite as opposed to some combination of spite and ignorance.

John Scalzi | March 17, 2005 12:01 PM

Kevin writes:

"How can we be sure this Jim Valvis guy is real?"

He's real. There are others who will testify to this fact.

Jim Valvis | March 17, 2005 12:04 PM

John, very simple. I never claimed you played the game with OMW-- there you just got lucky. I said you played the publishing game. Do you deny that you've *ever* played the publishing game?

I don't know why this is bugging you so much. I said you have admirable business skills. That means I admire them. It's a compliment, near as I can give you one.

Maybe it's the ass kissing thing. Well, that's how I see someone who in one breath bitches that military SF has taken over the whole genre (as you did in Agent's rant about why your great book wasn't picked up) and then goes and writes military SF. That's a person who's interested mainly in selling. Fine enough, if that's what pleases you, but it doesn't impress me as someone overly principled about what he writes.

Clever of you to put words into my mouth, but not much of an intellectual exercise.

And what does dividing up political sides between rational and irrational mean to you? Sure, conservatives are rational when they agree with you, as are liberals. The arrogance is in thinking only you have sole ownership of what is "rational."

I realize this is getting kinda complex, but try to keep up.

As far as how often who kicked who, I think longtime readers here know that John Scalzi isn't Jim's victim-- as you've never passed up a chance to kick me. I mean, you are the big powerful published writer, right? And I'm just the poor schmuck trying to make it, right? Whose opinion is unworthy and whose debating skills are lacking, right?

Shouldn't you-- with all you readers and all your books and all your talent be in a position to be more magnamimous?

No. I don't think so either. What I really want people to realize is that *you* are not *my* victim. You could have let this and all those other times die (especially when it had nothing to do with you) and you didn't. So stop playing up the victimhood while also pretending to be aloof and having fun. It's sad, hypocritical, and old.

Anyway, that's it for today. I'm not saying I won't respond, but I won't anymore today. One thing we can both agree on: there are more important things we need to do.

John Popa | March 17, 2005 12:04 PM

"We have different goals as writers. My goal is to write the best I'm able to write-- his goal is to sell, sell, sell, and who gives a crap how or what."

Isn't that the usual BS battlecry of unknown/unpublished/unpopular writers?

RooK | March 17, 2005 12:09 PM

Egad. Right, that's it. Jim Valvis, I'm officially kicking you off of our side. You're a liability to the cause.

tommyspoon | March 17, 2005 12:10 PM

Now, if you kids can't behave, I'll turn this comment thread around and head back home. I mean it!

KenL | March 17, 2005 12:29 PM

You know, I went partly out of a morbid sense of curiosity, but discovered that "One of Those Zombie Lovers" was actually quite entertaining. The odd slang actually made sense after about two or three hundred words in, and added to the feel.

I don't know exactly how I'd categorize or critique it, but I'd definitely read more. So whatever else, I don't think Valvis is a *bad* writer.

But it does make me wonder -- why doesn't he try to publish this sort of thing? Seems like reasonably good stuff.

Jon Hansen | March 17, 2005 12:32 PM

I'm starting to think I'm going to need a clearer definition of "publishing game" from Jim. I know what I think the publishing game is: you write something, send it to an editor, and see if they buy it. Repeat until it sells or you run out of editors.

Is this not the case? Because I can't see the need for scare quotes if it is.

Q | March 17, 2005 12:37 PM

I'm guessing Jim's idea of "The Publishing Game" more likely involves knee-pads and Hummers of the non-SUV variety.

But that is, admittedly, supposition on my part.

Also, it makes me reconsider my career choice.

Carol | March 17, 2005 12:52 PM

I wasn't going to get involved in the "debate" going on here. It's pretty obvious I'm a fan of Scalzi and his writing and I make no bones about it. Outside of his comments here, I've never read Jim Valvis and, frankly, I have no desire to, as his comments tend to bore me. So I can't speak to his talent as a poet or fiction writer.

But he lost me irrevocably with the follwing sentence:
Sure, conservatives are rational when they agree with you, as are liberals.

Because I'm pretty sure that, just a few comments above, John quoted himself from a previous entry:
I'm rather more comfortable dealing with someone whose politics I disagree with, but I can see how they got to where they are, than someone who politics are in line with mine but who appear to have arrived at those politics without an intermediary step of, you know, thinking about those politics.

That, right there, is proof positive that Valvis does not read through comments before responding to them. That is piss-poor debating. Valvis also wrote:
The arrogance is in thinking only you have sole ownership of what is "rational."

Rational - Influenced by reasoning rather than by emotion.

Irrational - Not rational; marked by a lack of accord with reason or sound judgment

--- The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Based on John's comments, it appears he's using dictionary definitions to determine "rational" and "irrational".

But I'm just a slavering Scalzi acolyte. What do I know?

John Scalzi | March 17, 2005 01:01 PM

Jim Valvis:

"John, very simple. I never claimed you played the game with OMW-- there you just got lucky. I said you played the publishing game."

Actually, you said, "He's good at playing the publishing game, kissing the right bottoms, and that's about it." Which rather strongly implies, well, that that's about it. You may wish for more precision in your writing; it'll save you from being rhetorically exposed later.

Beyond this, of course, I cheerfully agree I am very lucky, in particular with OMW. But as much as both we agree I am lucky, having one of the most-respected editors in science fiction tender an unsolicited offer for a book floating out there on the Web isn't all about luck, either.

Also, something else to consider: I recently sold Agent to the Stars in exactly the same way -- I was not shopping the piece, nor had I any intention to (nor had I for years), and I was given an offer for the book, unsolicited, by the publisher who I had not met, nor indeed have ever corresponded with before. I suppose I could just be lucky again, but then again, maybe there's another factor too. What that might be I'll leave for you to ponder. And in any event I'm wondering how this sort of thing relates to the so-called "publishing game."

"Do you deny that you've *ever* played the publishing game?"

Sure do, if by "publishing game" you mean I've somehow glad-handed my way into nine books without an actual trace of competence in the one salient criterion for a writer, namely, the ability to write. That's just flat-out stupid, and makes you look stupid for suggesting it. I would suggest it might be possible to flummox someone into giving you one book based on sheer flim-flam; managing nine, across four different publishers, however, is pushing credulity.

If by the "publishing game" you mean "do I now use the credit I've accrued as being a reliably competent and well-selling author to get more work?" then the answer is obviously "yes," I do, as do all writers who are fortunate to be in such a position. But that's not what you mean.

I write, and make a living at it. I am a commercial writer, to the extent that I want to make a living as a writer. But being commerical doesn't preclude other motivations, which is a distinction you appear not to be capable of making. I certainly did write military SF because that's what seemed to be selling in the field; I also wrote a military SF novel that I would want to read, and I thought others might, too. It's commercial and (to my mind at least) also good.

What bugs me, Jim, is that your intimations of game-playing and ass-kissing suggest you understand how publishing works, whereas it's utterly apparent you haven't the slightest clue, otherwise you wouldn't write such foolish things. I like to point out your obvious ignorance as an object lesson to other people about the folly of spouting off on a subject you know nothing about where people who do know about the subject can see you doing it -- and also more specifically talking shit about me where I can see it and roundly thump you for it.

As for not being principled: Don't be silly. I am deeply principled -- I write what I want to write. I also happen to be in the happy position of being able to sell it, and doing so on a reasonably regular basis.

"The arrogance is in thinking only you have sole ownership of what is 'rational.'"

That's silly. Rationality is a process; anyone with a grasp of logic has access to it.

"What I really want people to realize is that *you* are not *my* victim."

Good Lord, Jim. No one could possibly think I'm your victim.

John Scalzi | March 17, 2005 01:36 PM

This seems like a good place to stop. Jim, if you want continue, let's take it into e-mail, where we can stab at each other up close and personal. I've reached my public spit and bile limit for the moment.