Reader Request Week 2008 #6: Author Relations

Doggo asks:

There are, in the history of literature, famous friendships, rivalries, and downright animosity between well-known authors.

I’d like to hear your take on what your relationships are like with other professional writers. What’s it like when, at a con, you go out for dinner or a cup of coffee? Are you close(ish) friends with anyone we’d know? Or should I know that already?

Your response to the recent SFWA elections was illuminating, but, I’d like a more intimate (not too intimate) view into the relationships of people engaging in the same pursuits. (I don’t have any close friends who do the same work I do.)

Well, to be clear in the case of the recent SFWA issue, a crux of the matter was that the fellow in question hardly qualifies as a professional writer at all, which makes him a problematic choice to head an organization full of them. And I have other problems with him as well, none of which relate to writing directly (or indirectly). I certainly wouldn’t gauge my relationships with actual professional writers off my relationship with this fellow.

As for my relationships with actual professional writers: Well, you know. Some of them I’m deeply fond of, some of them I like just fine, some of them I don’t like at all and some of them I will actively avoid being in the same room with. And the proportions to which writers fall into each of these bins are more or less equal to the proportions to which everyone else falls into these bins as well. Which is to say that save for the fact that writers write, they’re not that different from any other people, at least in terms in how their personalities interact with mine.

I will note that before I started writing science fiction and attending science fiction conventions, I didn’t know very many authors personally; I’d been writing professionally for a dozen years before then, but my social circle didn’t include many writers, save the occasional journalist friend. At my first science fiction convention (TorCon 3, in 2003) I managed to fall in with a group of up and coming writers which included Cory Doctorow, Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, Charlie Stross and Nick Sagan. I’m pretty sure I imprinted on them all like a duckling, since I consider all of them pretty good friends to this day (I dedicated The Android’s Dream to the lot of them, in fact).

Aside from those fine folk I now know a fair number of science fiction and fantasy writers, because overall it’s still a fairly small community, and those conventions we have make it easy to congregate. I’ve also corresponded with a fair number of writers online. Most of the writers I’ve met I seem to get along reasonably well with, although you would have to confirm on their end; maybe they’re all just being nice to me when I’m around. I have occasionally gotten into spit fights online with a few writers; most notably on the SFWA private boards Jerry Pournelle and I have gone around and about on a number of issues. But I don’t think that rises to the level of an actual feud, or dislike (we’ve agreed on things, too, so there it is).

I can’t think of any professional writer with whom I have an open and active feud, literary or otherwise, and I’m not really planning to do so. Literary feuds are often between two authors offended that the other — whom they clearly see as a substandard talent — has somehow managed to get published in the same field. But personally I’m not offended when writers with talents substandard to mine get published or even are successful. As noted previously, someone else’s success is not implicitly or explicitly a referendum on my own, so I’m not sure why I should care; also, well. I occasionally read and enjoy trash as well. I can’t be casting that first stone.

As for people who are offended that I am published, and consider my writing to be substandard, fine, whatever. I can’t be bothered to care about that either. Yes, I suck. Moving on.

This lack of concern on either end of things makes it difficult to build and sustain a true literary feud. Which is fine by me. More time for writing, and for being in the company of writers and friends I actually and genuinely like.

(there’s still time to ask questions for Reader Request Week 2008: Post your question here.)

14 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2008 #6: Author Relations”

  1. John, considering the date, I am shocked! (Yes, shocked!) And dismayed–that you haven’t discussed our long lasting feud based on your behavior at that week-long workshop we taught back in 2008. I mean, your use of that so-called metaphor as an analog of the writing process was so clearly derivative of my essay published in the August 2009 issue of NYRSF.

    Wait a minute.

    (Uh, how may days in March?)

    Could you put this comment on hold until 1 April 2010?

  2. Damn it, Steven! You know the time machine is off limits! Now look what you’ve done.

    Sigh. Now we’re going to have to reset temporal continutity all over again.

    PJ the Barbarian:

    Given that the owner of Scalzibane is tasked with completing one of the most successful fantasy series of all time, I’d say he’s a little busy to feud with me at the moment.

  3. Josh Jasper:

    Well, that’s because Harlan’s still alive. There can be only one!

  4. John @ 3 said:
    Sigh. Now we’re going to have to reset temporal continutity all over again.

    This shouldn’t be too much trouble if you’ve got the latest version of WordPress running. I think it’s somewhere in the “Dynamic Reality Mapping” settings. Just make sure you’ve got the “local” vs. “global” options set correctly or you could turn us all into wombats or squid with mirrorshades or something.

  5. “Now we’re going to have to reset temporal continutity all over again.”

    Don’t worry about it, just retcon it in a future issue. “See, that never really happened at all!” See Bobby Ewing.

  6. Scalzi,

    No time machine? Oh, RIGHT! You’re the one who keeps plagiarizing things I haven’t written yet!

    How do you explain that, temporal boy?

    (Written on my BrainPal while transiting between the 23rd and 24th Centuries.)

  7. I dunno, John… if he has time to do a 15-minute podcast every week, he has time for something nefarious.

  8. I think it’s a crying shame you don’t have a feud going with someone. You need a feud. If you have a feud, then you could have a shootin’ iron and a jug of corn squeezin’s. But, no feud, no jug. That’s the rule, sorry.

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