Daily Archives: February 8, 2006

Achieving Bookosity

What’s that smell? Why, it’s the toasty, buttery scent of author copies, fresh from the FedEx truck! They’re booktastic! More to the point, the fact I have my copies means that although it’s debatable that The Ghost Brigades is going to show up soon at bookstore near me, given that my local bookseller didn’t bother to stock the Old Man’s War until it was out in paperback, it is entirely possible the book is now wending its way to stores near you, ahead of its official February 21 release date. I trust you’ll let me know if you see it.

Also, for those of you who are going to Boskone, I have received word that TGB definitely will be stocked in the dealer’s room at the convention. So if you can’t find it anywhere before you get to Boskone, you’ll be able to find it there. Personally I’m considering Boskone to be the location of the book’s official debut, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

TGB Review at SFSignal

It’s a thumbs-up:

The Ghost Brigades proves that his awesome 2005 debut, Old Man’s War, was no fluke… It’s hard to not like a story when it’s obvious in the writing that the author is having so much fun with it.

It’s true that I had fun writing this one; I like making things up and sitting there and wondering what the hell I’m going to have my characters next. I would note, though, that any one particular day during the writing, I might not appear to be having a whole lot of fun, usually conciding with days when I really am wondering what the hell I’m going to have my characters do next. I honestly do make these books up as I go along (I’m not much for outlining), so sometimes I’m just as surprised as anyone about what happens next.

In The Ghost Brigades, for example, there is a character who I had intended to be in only one scene, but as I was writing the scene I saw that I could use him later in the book to resolve a later issue. And in writing that scene I realized he would be useful in other places, too. The character went from a truly minor player to one who I would say is the moral heart of the book, and is (in my opinion) one of the better characters I’ve written. So this writing style has its benefits, as long as you can handle the moments of blind panic that occur when it’s clear you have no clue what you’re doing.

As an aside, the review asks if I had a particular Firefly/Serenity character in mind while I was writing one of the minor characters in the book. The answer is no; when I first started writing the character I hadn’t seen either. I think both characters are offshoots of a certain archetypal character. i.e., the obnoxious man of action who is useful to have around in a pinch. Hey, archetypes work.

Ursine Wisdom

A bit of intelligence from Elizabeth Bear:

“Feminism is never an excuse for laughably bad prose.”

Indeed not. Feminism is never an excuse; neither, for that matter, is socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, objectivism, Catholicism, Marxism, racism, or any other sort of -ism you wish to think up of, up to and including the ones that don’t, in fact, end with “-ism.” Indeed, in all the history of the known world, there’s been only one excuse for laughable bad prose, and it’s the special case of ferreting out evil publishing folks (an example of which you’ll find here). Otherwise: Bad prose is bad. Try to avoid it, even when you Have a Message. Messages don’t help bad prose, and God knows that bad prose doesn’t help the message any.

A corollary to this: Excusing bad prose with an “-ism” that isn’t actually in evidence doesn’t work either. Which is to say that not every book whose bad prose is defended from a feminist perspective has any relevant feminism in it (or socialism, capitalism, etc); the ideological rationalizations in these cases are bolted on after the fact to defend craptastic writing. One can usually tell when this happens. This is the “rock lyric” maneuver, in which some ambitious undergraduate tries to square his love of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” with his emerging intellectual insecurity by trying to find allusions to the world-historical left in lyrics like “You’ve got the peaches, I’ve got the cream, sweet potato, saccharine.” Yeah, it doesn’t fly, says the fellow who tried to tie some Kate Bush lyrics to the thinking of certain pre-Socratic philosophers, and got a nice fat “D-” for it. You live and learn.

In short, and to repeat: Bad writing is bad. There is no excuse. Don’t make or accept any — either bad writing or excuses. That is all. Thank you for your attention.

NASA Becomes Marginally Less Stupid

Looks like NASA won’t have George Deutsch to kick around anymore after all:

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters’ access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word “theory” at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Mr. Deutsch’s resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.

That last little bit of information, incidentally, uncovered by a blogger (go team blog!). I read about his not graduating yesterday and wondered about whether to append the information on the earlier piece I wrote about the fellow, but eventually decided against it on the grounds that mocking someone for not having a college degree was just a cheap shot (particularly since I can think of at least one extremely smart person I know who if memory served never bothered to even finish high school). However, now that I discover that not only did Mr. Deutsch not graduate, he lied about graduating on his NASA resume, I feel ever so much better about it. Lack of a degree is not an issue; lying about it is. In any event, he’s now out on his ass. This would be a lovely time for the fellow to go back to J-School and take that ethics class I suspect he might have skipped.

However, as I noted in the comment thread to the previous discussion, Mr. Deutsch isn’t the problem, he’s a symptom of the problem. Here’s a relevant quote from the article:

Yesterday, Dr. Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch’s credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information.

“He’s only a bit player,” Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Deutsch. ” The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That’s what I’m really concerned about.”

Oddly enough, that’s what I’m concerned about as well. For every fumbling apparatchik like Deutsch who gets hauled up for ridicule, I suspect there are a couple of others who are less stupid, whose resumes are in order, and who toil away fiddling with truthful information meant to benefit the public — scientific and otherwise — because it runs counter of an administration’s political goals. Deutsch is a case of one down, uncountable others to go.

And of course now that Deutsch has resigned, there’s another presidential appointee position open. Here’s a hint, Mr. President: have someone fact-check the resume first. It’s a small detail. But it’s an important one.