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July 22, 2006

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Note to aspiring authors: Just remember that for everyone of these you get, you also get one of these. And you have no control over either. So don't fret over either. Just write as well as you can.

Posted by john at July 22, 2006 06:36 PM

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Lars | July 22, 2006 07:12 PM

But the latter isn't really a formal review.

John Scalzi | July 22, 2006 07:22 PM

I'm not sure the "formality" is relevant, Lars.

Lars | July 22, 2006 07:36 PM

What I mean is, it doesn't seem particularly well thought out. It reads more like an off-hand remark than a critique.

John Scalzi | July 22, 2006 07:44 PM

Well, you know. It's a blog post.

Steve Buchheit | July 22, 2006 08:48 PM

Well, hopefully you can change your answering machine message to "I'm sorry, Scalzi can't take your call dissing his book right now, he's too busy cashing his royalty checks, dancing with his Hugo, playing tea party his daughter and enjoying life with his wife."

Steve Buchheit | July 22, 2006 08:49 PM

Whoops, forgot to mention "rewriting his next book."

Chang | July 22, 2006 09:01 PM

Damn. The latter reminds me of a weak review one of my CD's got where the cat just couldn't seem to commit to hating it or liking it. Just felt ambivalent about it.

I'm gonna guess from the fantasy imagery here that these cats may not be your target audience. Celebration of the Apollo 11 landing not withstanding.

John Scalzi | July 22, 2006 09:01 PM

Well, to be clear, I don't point out the negative comment to snark on it; I think people are perfectly entitled to their opinions, even when the opinion is "I don't like this book." I point it out to note two different people can (and often do) have two entirely different opinions of the same thing.

Steve Buchheit | July 22, 2006 09:07 PM

Well, I think it's the "I don't see why" comment that got me snarking. Although I would rather hear, "this just didn't grab me or do anything," than "Thank you for submitting your story to ... We regret we can't give you a personal reply..." any day. The first I can fix (maybe) the second is just non-committal (although understandable). But, you know what, your book is published. And you have a second and a third…

saber | July 22, 2006 09:24 PM

This is just my second day here. Im impressed with your ability to not take everything personelly. It took me forty years to relax, and not get torn up over every little thing. Your ahead of the curve.

Kevin Q | July 22, 2006 09:31 PM

I agree with Steve about the "I don't see why" comment. I know it's not what she meant, but that kind of comment always comes across to me as "the world is full of idiots, and I don't understand them." Especially when a book (or whatever) has been nominated for awards - then it kind of sounds like a "cooler than thou"-type argument.

To be fair, I had the same "I don't see why" response to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It's kind of the feeling of missing the train: the story leaves the station without you, and you spend the rest of the time just trying to hop on. It's also happening to me right now with Elisabeth Bear's Blood and Iron. I'll keep trying to hop on, though the story doesn't grab me like her first trilogy did.


Annalee Flower Horne | July 22, 2006 10:11 PM

meh... you know what they say about opinions. I forget which author it was who said they don't care if someone hates their book as long as they buy it first.

How's TLC coming? (I'm not trying to be a pain in the ass this time-- I'm actually curious).

Jeff Hentosz | July 22, 2006 10:12 PM

"You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."

—Rick Nelson

Kevin Q: I had the same initial experience with Jonathan Strange, giving up after about 30 pages. Then I found the unabridged audiobook at the library, and since I had a few trips between Akron and Cleveland coming up... I ended up getting the book and alternating listening in the car with reading at home. And teared up at the end. Same happened with Moby Dick, too, of all things. The "sound" of some books just takes approaching from a different direction for me to begin hearing it, I think.

JonathanMoeller | July 23, 2006 03:28 PM

I can't remember who said that no matter what you do or accomplish, there'll be legions people willing, nay, eager, to tell you in great detail just how much you suck.

So true, so true.

John Scalzi | July 23, 2006 03:38 PM

And they might not always be wrong.

Josh Jasper | July 23, 2006 09:44 PM

What were you doing that you came across this review anyhow? Did somene point it out to you?

John Scalzi | July 23, 2006 09:50 PM

My vast and well-paid network of spies tell me everything.

David | July 24, 2006 02:38 PM

My vast and well-paid network of spies tell me everything.

Don't you have better things to do than go ego-surfing?

Actually, scratch that, I've seen your ego...

John Scalzi | July 24, 2006 02:40 PM

It's shaped like Khazakstan!

sylvia | July 24, 2006 07:35 PM

Negative is negative; I think the two links make for a decent contrast. Yes it would have been better if both were in the same style but, well, lucky Scalzi, he didn't have a formal negative review to link to on this day. It is particularly intriguing as I read this after a similar good news/bad news response today.

I got a very good review on a short story by a (first-time) proof reader, media person that I know. She loved what I'd written, thought the story was brilliant, absolutely publishable. A few hours later, I received a scathing "throw it away" from a regular proof-reader: my mother.

Talk about a head trip. *sigh*

b. lynch black | August 1, 2006 05:16 PM

I had the strange experience (at least I thought it strange at the time) of submitting a short story to one well-known S/F magazine and had it rejected because, the editor said, "While I like the premise of your story, I just don't believe in the characters." I submitted it to a second well-known S/F magazine only to be rejected for (and I *swear* to you, this is true) "While I enjoyed the characters and their relationship, I just cannot buy into the premise of the story."
I later sold the story to an Australian anthology (which has yet to actually come out). Life is strange. And life in S/F is even stranger.