You’re not going to believe this, but Setsu of Katana Pen nominated me for a Liebster Award. Which only goes to show there’s no accounting for taste. But I am honored, even if I don’t deserve it.
1. Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them. (Done)
2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator. (See below)
3. Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers. (Would that I could, but I don’t really follow that many bloggers, and most of the ones I follow have a lot of followers already. But I have nominated some that I consider excellent and worth your time, and I would nominate Setsu as well if I thought tag backs were in the spirit of the thing. So instead I will at least tell you why I think each of these notables is worth your time. See below.)
4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer. (down further below)
5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them. (Message delivered)
Up first: The Questions I have Been Tasked To Answer!
1. What’s the harshest piece of criticism you’ve grown from?
It wasn’t criticism per se, but that’s only because it was couched in terms of loving advice. I was in my late teens and being a typical dumbass teenage boy, when my Uncle Ray gave me the best advice I’ve ever heard: “you don’t bet the farm on a pair of twos.” Basically I was going all-in all the time, regardless of whether there was any chance I would win or even if I was right, and I was risking my relationships with my family, my friends, and everyone around me as a part of that. It took me a while to fully grasp the enormity of what he meant by it, but I’ve tried to remember ever since then that while you may not win big if you don’t risk big, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you will always win big just because you risked big, or that you even stand a chance to.
2. If you had to be without one of your five senses, which would it be and why?
I’d give up my sense of smell, mostly because I treasure the others far more. I love to read, to watch movies, to see everything, which is slightly ironic since I need to wear glasses. I love to listen to music, to hear My Not So Humble Wife’s voice, to talk with friends. I love the feel of soft skin, hard marble, warm stoves and cold ice cream. I love the taste of food, even if I am a picky eater. I would miss smelling so many things, but I would miss the rest more.
3. What material is hard for you to write, and how do you tackle it (emotional rawness, erotica, gore, etc)?
I find it difficult to write emotionally honest characters. I don’t ever do erotica, but that’s part and parcel of emotional honesty for me. If you can’t be emotionally honest in that moment, it falls flat and becomes hollow; it rings horribly false. The same is true with love scenes, or speeches of eternal hatred, or any other truly emotional moment. The rest is easy; it’s just dialogue and description.
4. What did you have in mind when you started blogging, and how did your blog deviate from your original idea?
I really only intended to write about whatever interested me, to have fun and keep it going. It deviated in that for a while it took over my life and became a grind; I stopped doing it because I loved it and started doing it because I had deadlines to hit, and my writing started to suffer for it. I also didn’t have time for anything else in my life. I don’t blog as often (or very much at all) now, but when I do it’s meaningful for me.
5. What’s the strangest compliment you’ve ever received?
This might be a bit TMI, but that’s why I’m giving fair warning. Feel free to skip to the next question. Mom and other relations, THIS MEANS YOU. Many years ago (long before I met My Not So Humble Wife) I dated a girl and we had a bad breakup. On a scale of 1-10 it was “nuclear warfare”. Needless to say she had nothing but bad things to say about me from what I heard second hand (we didn’t speak to each other for at least six months, but then I wasn’t exactly a prize back then either, so I’m not pointing fingers; just bear with me). Anyway, at the end of one particular description of the entire litany of my flaws (which in retrospect was fairly accurate) she finished by saying “he wasn’t half-bad in bed.”
I’m still not sure if that was a compliment or an insult, but given the circumstances I choose to take it as a compliment.
6. What question do you wish people would ask you, and how would you answer?
Question: “How can I get one of those sweet Bobapalooza shirts?”
Answer: “I’m so glad you asked! There’s actually an entire store full of Bobapalooza merch, including t-shirts, coffee mugs, water bottles, and more!”
I’m such a whore.
7. How do you deal with an unhealthy obsession (if you don’t have obsessions, I suspect you’re fibbing — but go ahead and give advice for ‘your friend’ who does)?
Usually I ignore them. When someone points them out to me, I attempt to justify them. “Eat right, exercise daily, quit smoking, die anyway.” Or else I joke about them to deflect: “Cigarettes: chock full of Vitamin R!” Eventually I may find the willpower to give them up, like smoking. Yes, I’m fixated. I only quit (again) a couple months ago. Give me time.
8. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do, and what would be the first step toward accomplishing that goal?
I’ve always wanted to publish a book. The next step would be to finish polishing up the file and getting it on the Kindle store. Given that it’s taken me six months to get to this point, don’t expect it anytime soon.
9. What makes you a great friend?
Loyalty. There’s three kinds of friends in this world: the kind that ask why you have a body in your trunk, the kind that ask why you need help burying the body in your trunk, and the kind who don’t ask stupid questions until after they helped you bury the body in your trunk. I’m the third kind.
10. What does your personal paradise look, sound, and smell like?
Warm, salty breezes. The sun shines most days, but there’s just enough rain to remind you how good you have it. There’s miles of white, powdery sand. The waves crash on the shore at high and low tide, and it can get pretty high and fierce, but you can swim out a little further and the water is calm once you get past about six or seven feet deep. At night you can hear the steel drum bands playing up the way, and you can always find a bar open somewhere to serve you a cold beer or a hot steak. Parents keep their kids down to one end of the beach, and surfers stay down at the other end. There’s plenty of fun activities to be had up and down the strip, from mini golf to theme parks, and lots of clubs for the young folks. There’s even an old-fashioned boardwalk to stroll on if you get in the mood.
Just a couple miles inland it’s a bit quieter, but still lovely. As the land slopes up from the beach pastures start to take over from the sand, and eventually gentle rolling hills come in. There’s horseback riding to be had out this way, as well as petting zoos and other farm activities. There’s a few golf courses tucked away here and there, and a spa or two for folks who want to get away from it all. It’s only a short drive from the beach, but it feels like a completely different world.
And now… my nominees!
First, Gabriel Garbow. Gabriel is an artist who shares his work online for the rest of us to enjoy. You know that old saying, “I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it”? well screw that. I do know that it’s art, and I do like it. Gabriel’s work moves me in a way that few art pieces do; I can’t say exactly why, except that maybe there’s an honesty and a vulnerability in all of his work that draws me in.
Next up we have The Frazzled Slacker. What I love most about her is that I can’t define her. She writes great DIY posts that, despite the fact I have no interest whatsoever in crafty-type things, make me feel like I’m having a fun conversation over coffee with that cool lady down the street. She also has the occasional rant were she lights the world on fire with a take-no-prisoners attitude (and even took me to task once). Then there’s the posts where she just has something cool or awesome or just fun to share. Oh, and she’s my cousin, which just adds 10% to her coolness factor.
For a change of pace check out Vanessa Katsoolis at One Thousand Single Days. If you’re not sure what her blog is about, read the title again, it’s all right there on the wrapper. Vanessa’s story is inspiring, challenging, and beautiful. She presents the world in a way that I would never consider looking at it, and she has a reservoir of optimism and strength that is absolutely wonderful to behold. There is no simple naiveté here; she clearly has seen life, she has simply chosen to do and be better.
And now for something completely different… Erik over at A Very Strange Place is a special sort. When I say “special”, I mean like “early Robin Williams” special. As in “when Robin Williams was on cocaine” special. Throw in some Eddie Murphy from “Raw” levels of offensiveness and you’re getting close. What I’m trying to say is he’s not just NSFW, he’s NSFAAA (Not Safe For Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere), but if you have the stomach for raunchy humor, he’s your go-to guy, and he writes with the prolificness of a squirrel on speed.
And changing gears once more, we have Rian at Truth and Cake. Rian is another blogger that I love to read for her inspirational approach to life. She is caring, warm, and open, encouraging without ever delving into the sort of Pollyanna attitude that can come so easily when you try to remain positive in the face of everything the world can throw at you. When I read her blog I feel as if she represents a standard to live up to without ever expecting me to live up to any standard other than “be yourself”.
Flowing from the message “be yourself”, I bring you Aussa Lorens of Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy. Aussa’s blog embodies the phrase “sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction”. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you read just a little you’ll want to read it all. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve wanted to punch someone (and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way), and in the end I’ve wanted to reach out and shake her hand for just being resoundingly triumphant.
For something a little more down to earth (and in the sky), I highly recommend visiting Keri and Jeanne over at Heels First. The truth is I’m about as interested in travel as a turtle is interested in being soup, but these ladies understand the value of a good story. They make things fun, engaging, and personal. Reading their posts is like sitting down with a good friend to hear all about the great things they’ve been doing lately. Which is good for me, because they are good friends of mine.
And finally, I have to recommend Setsu of KatanaPen. Yes, I know, I said it was probably against the rules, but I’m already breaking the rules so screw it. Sestu’s blog is incredibly inspiring to me as an author and a martial artist (yes, I have done Liechtenauer style fencing, although it’s been a couple years). She is constantly giving me reasons to push myself further in my work as well as the belief that I can succeed in doing so. And she never said no tag backs.
Oh, and no tag backs.
AND NOW… THE QUESTIONS FOR THE NOMINEES!
- What would you consider to be your core value?
- Under what circumstances would you violate that core value? (If you say “none” that’s fine, I just won’t believe you. Everyone has their price.)
- What is your ultimate indulgence, whether you can afford it or not?
- Who do you miss the most?
- What sensation reminds you of them? (A song, a scent, a food, etc.)
- If you could live a boring life without having made any mistakes or live an exciting life with plenty of regrets, which would you choose?
- If you had to live in any decade of the 20th century, which would you choose and why?
- What is the stupidest joke you’ve ever laughed at?
- Could you kill someone in self-defense?
- What would your perfect date be like?
Recently there was a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham regarding Creationism. The following is the most cogent and well-thought out response I have seen to that debate, written by my Not So Humble Friend, Patrick Hoolahan.
There are a couple of points that I’ll tackle individually but will start (and end) with this thought: there is useless or wasted pursuit of knowledge or exchange of ideas. There is no one who is unworthy to hear ideas and no one should be considered a waste of time to discuss ideas with.
To the first, I would disagree very strongly that, as some have asserted, religion and critical thinking cannot go together. In the papal encyclical “Fides et Ratio”, Pope John Paul II made the excellent point that faith without reason (that is to say critical thinking that falls under reason, as well as understanding of knowledge) leads to mere superstition and worse faith. As put better in said document: “[faith and reason together] serve to lead the search for truth to new depths, enabling the mind in its autonomous exploration to penetrate within the mystery by use of reason’s own methods. . .” (Section 13, paragraph 4). See also “In God there lies the origin of all things, in him is found the fullness of the mystery, and in this his glory consists; to men and women there falls the task of exploring truth with their reason, and in this their nobility consists.” (Section 17). Now, that is clearly coming from a religious belief system, yet it CLEARLY calls for reason to be used in the greater service of God. Again, it is not too far of a stretch to consider critical thinking as part of reason.
But let us take a bit of step back to discuss the nature of and focus of religion and the necessity of critical thinking as a part of a good religion. Religion is the outgrowth and separation from spiritual philosophy. As opposed to the natural philosophy of Socrates, Lucretius, Herodotus or other ancients who thought about how the world they observed moved around them, there were others (oddly including Pythagoras, Aristotle, and others) who thought not just about what was directly observed but about the nature of humanity and individuals. Lacking objective ways to measure and contain their axioms, they merely thought about how the universe may or may not work with logical aspects to each supposition. Each observable point was remarked upon, assumptions based on that were made and inductive reasoning took over from there.
For example, Aristotle’s theory of the Prime Mover (later borrowed by Aquinas for a theorem on God, but we’ll get there). Aristotle noticed things move. Ok. He then noticed that things are either moved by being acted upon by something else or by their own initiative. Makes sense. He further posited that even those thing that move on their own had to be put into motion by something, such as a child being born. Another example would be the bodies in the heavens -they move on their own, but they started from a stopped place (vide Newton’s Laws of Motion). He didn’t CALL it a law of motion, but he had basically deduced through observation and reason that a thing at rest will stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force. He THEN posited that if all things had to be moved in order to move, that there must be a Prime Mover who made all the things move (move ALL the things!) and in so doing started the motion of everything. It was based on reason, deduction and observation but is clearly a spiritual argument since it assumes an intelligence and physicality of a being rather than just a set of laws.
Religion is merely taking these kinds of personalized spiritual exercises and understandings and putting them into organized form. What does that mean? Well, it means that some ideas in the pursuit of a given religion have to be examined and accepted or rejected in order to be part of that religion. There are a couple of different criteria by which ideas would be judged in terms of a religion: how much do they affirm current understandings and philosophies OR how much they expand current understandings and philosophies. Both of these require an exegesis style examination of the new ideas. A new idea is weighed against current ones and either found to support the old idea in a new way that does not contradict; or, it is examined for the new information or idea it brings and the logic or evidence is examined to see if it contradicts anything that is accepted before.
Note this is sadly not necessarily the case with all religions. However, it IS the case with some religions, especially Roman Catholicism, Judaism and Islam. These are religions that have serious scholarship involved in them and volumes of works that lay out very specific cases for how and why ideas are held. This is true of both revelation said to be from God (which is why the Catholic Church has the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints which investigates miracles) and for papers and written things (which is why the Catholic Church has the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith). Reason can be applied to religion, indeed has been. You might not agree with all the axioms, but they are stated quite plainly. Descartes had his axioms, Newton had his and really any study into anything has axioms. Even if it is just “time moves towards greatest entropy and the universe is consistent”.
If one does not use critical thinking skills in religion, then it is a weaker faith for falling for EVERY idea that claims to be religious. That is blind faith, not true faith. That is the mere acceptance of anything because someone in a different hat declared it so. . .and you get everything from Phelps to Jonestown. Critical thinking and reason are the best tools we have for understanding ourselves, our interactions with others, our world and the universe. Or at least so the priests taught me.
The second point I’d like to address about this kind of debate is the idea of it being a waste of time since no one is convinced and that it gives legitimacy to Ken Ham. I will discuss that here, as best as I can. I am first reminded of one of my favorite quotes from “Game of Thrones”, which is “We only make peace with our enemies; that’s why it’s called making peace.” If Nye were going to a place where everyone agreed it would not be a debate or discussion, it would be a symposium (from the Greek meaning, “Drinking together”). That would not be reaching out to people who need instruction, that would not be helping people who do not understand to understand better, and that would not be raising the aggregate understanding of science. It might raise the average since those 200 people might understand one thing REALLY well, but it does not do much for helping the average person understand better. Bill Nye has made his career after comedy about helping people who do not understand science understand it. Mostly, he focused on children. Children don’t understand because they often have not been taught or shown yet. It does not make them evil, it does not make them less than and it does not make them a waste of time.
But this was not for children, this was done at Ken Ham’s behest and invitation. Many have worried about this giving Ken Ham legitimacy and therefore should be shunned. I admit my own failing to see how Nye talking to Ham makes Ham more scientific any more than Ham talking to Nye makes Nye more religious. Nye going to a religious place didn’t mean the religious people took him as more religious nor does the scientific community look at Ham more seriously. Nor would most people all of a sudden take Ham more serious JUST because there is an event taking place. The debate garnered 500,000 viewers at the time, according to just one feed. Which means there were probably more watching on other feeds. Bill Nye required that the feed be broadcast uncensored and uncut. He is also offering it for free on his website for people to check out. Ham, hosting the event, is making money on it but then he is using his resources to host and all of that, so I have a hard time hating that too much. It might be an inequitable business deal, but I have not heard that point raised. The idea of debating with someone giving them legitimacy has been, so the focus shall remain on that idea.
Debates that are not meant to convince the other speaker have happened since time immemorial. Cicero’s Phillipics against Marcus Antonius, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, every trial in America, etc. Ham was not going to convince Nye and vice versa. Both men knew this and both men were okay with this. They were, however, both after the audience watching, and that is the part to keep in mind. Ham was looking for more the immediate win and be done, while Nye was much better about presenting the nature of science as a philosophy (which it is) and the connection from practical everyday things that each person could observe to the understanding of the age and nature of the creation of the earth. Again, this was a battle of competing philosophies, not right vs wrong. Unless there is an objective scoring system to which all participants agree, as in sports, then that was never the goal either. No points were awarded to either debater, as is the case in some debates, nor were votes taken at the end of the debate. This debate WAS NOT designed to stop ALL discussion of anything that disagrees with scientific consensus for now and all time. That would be a pointlessly lofty goal, and one that would be detrimental to the future of science. The point was NOT to destroy all questions, merely to put forth to a new audience the nature of the science involved in determining the origins of the earth in terms so plain as to command their assent.
My own bias as a student of politics comes to the fore here. Not debating with Ham and pretending he and his followers will either go away or suddenly, randomly embrace rational science is naive. To brand him and his followers as somehow incapable of rational thought for some reason is dehumanizing. To say you will not speak to him because of what he believes is the scientific equivalent of “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” A debate like this does not legitimize Ham in a serious way. Many more people who had not seen him speak now got to see him. Many people who had not seen Nye speak now got to see him. Nye clearly came off as both the better speaker and the more informed and prepared debater. He laid out real cases, showed real things and asked real questions that Ham dodged. Sunlight is the best disinfectant in politics, and it holds true in this battle of ideas as well. Both were shown to the world for what they believe and hold true and the audience got to judge.
How did it work out? Well, consider how many fundamentalists are all over the news proclaiming the great victory over the humanist: None. The silence is deafening. If anything, the opposite is happening. Pat Robertson is telling Ken Ham to stop with his crazy beliefs. Pat Robertson, who is no stranger to holding crazy beliefs, is saying there is no way a young earth is possible for Ken Ham to not make a joke of Christians. Did he say that before this debate came about? No. He said he didn’t believe in strict Creationism before, but he didn’t call out Ken Ham before. The creationist believers are shrinking and part of that is because of this debate. More fundamentalist Christians are calling out Ham and others for believing in Creationism when they say it’s just not true. And, if you really want to see who did better after the debate, consider this. As the debate went on, more and more heads started to nod with Nye (watch the footage, it’s kind of awesome) when he made points. At the end of it, Nye shook hands and talked to audience members and Ken Ham made a beeline for the door. This was HIS stage in HIS house with HIS people. He should have been like Caesar in a triumph in Rome, but he left ASAP. He knew he had lost hard and looked sillier for his attempts to try to embarrass Nye.
Nye was respectful of religion, respectful of Ham and generally respectful of people. Nye made it clear what he believed, why, how it works, what the limitations are and what steps a practical person could take to get to his kind of understanding. He didn’t disparage religion, didn’t say a word about God and didn’t say religion and reason were incompatible. He was, in short, the best person for this. He kept his cool while Ham lost his. He was excited about science and wanted to share that with people, not just lecture them for being wrong and deign to correct them. Which is where a lot of people fall apart in these debates. Empathy, as noted by Dr. Carl Rogers, goes a long way in so many things. One can be both scientific and respectful. Nye showed to previously skeptical people that science, evolution and all of that could be respectful of religion and that science is not out to destroy religious belief. In the era of Dawkins, it is a very necessary step to interrupt the confirmation bias that can take place.
While this did not end the debate forever, nothing should. Debates in science should never end. Debates in anything should never end. We advance our knowledge through the Socratic Method, to which Nye alluded when he pointed out that science “loves” to be shown they’re wrong. I disagree about being joyful about it, having known and fought with too many scientists, but agree with his point about science needing and relying on new evidence, debate and conflict to move forward in understanding. Nye showed a good side to science and the need and use for scientific study. He showed the limitations, what it can and cannot do and the simplest forms of how it works. And he did it to people who may not have been exposed to that.
I’m not sure how THAT can be seen as a bad thing.
I don’t know why this set me off, maybe because I have too much time on my hands, but I recently noticed a few folks talking about their future plans for “zombie survival bunkers”.
First, setting aside the complete lack of imagination this requires, let’s assume that we are talking about the typical movie zombie. Fast or slow, they have one thing in common: they can’t climb stairs very well. What this means is they can fall down stairs just fine. So go ahead and have your underground bunker straight out of Cold War paranoia (which is really what most zombie movies are still rooted in anyway). When you become a buried MRE for a zombie hoard don’t blame me.
So what would I recommend? So glad you asked. I’m thinking treehouse.
Let’s consider what you really need for defensibility. Inaccessibility is the first requirement. From zombies that means up, not down. Stairs work fine for this in most instances, although ladders are better. I especially like the idea of a rope pulley backup system. This serves the dual purpose of allowing you to haul up heavy supplies as well as getting yourself up in case of injury. If you’re too injured to make it up with a pulley system, I’m sorry to say your odds aren’t very good regardless, so don’t blame the treehouse.
The second thing you need is food and water. Fresh water is much easier to collect from rain when you’re, I dunno, in a tree than when you’re underground. As for food, assuming you live in the right kind of tree, you’ll have edibles close to hand, and if not, you’re no worse off than in your underground bunker. The difference is you don’t need to compromise the integrity of your defenses to build a greenhouse for growing food.
Speaking of things you don’t need to compromise your defenses to get access to, while everyone enjoys sunshine, there’s something else they enjoy even more, and that’s air! Yes, my treehouse fortress has just slightly easier access to fresh air than a sealed underground bunker. Sure, you could create air shafts, but like I said, that compromises your defenses, and it’s also a lot of work. If I feel like I need more air, all I have to do is drill a hole.
How about clear sight lines? You have to come out of that bunker sometime, and when you do those zombies might very well be waiting for you. Even if they aren’t this time, they could follow you back, and then what? You’re trapped in there. I can swing from tree to tree in a pinch, or better yet I can take shots at those zombies all day long.
Now sure, you can make arguments poking holes in the value of my plan. High winds, tornadoes, fires, and other natural disasters can all undermine the value of a tree fortress, but many of those can be planned for, and there are plenty of natural disasters that would be a total pooch screw for a bunker as well. Earthquakes, rockslides, and fires are problems your bunker won’t necessarily protect you from, and might even make worse. The difference is I can jump out of my tree and run.
It’s cool, though. Keep your bunkers. Just do me a favor and make sure they’re well stocked. I’m going to need somewhere to scavenge from.
Hello everyone and welcome back to The Greatest Music Festival That Never Was! I know most of you are freezing right along with me and it’s hard to remember those soft, warm summer days when we all got together and basked in the glow of our shared love of music and good times. But that’s why I’m here today! To remind you of the joy, the laughter, the fun.
And to pimp my wares.
That’s right, Bobapalooza is selling out, just like all your favorite bands! But first, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:
The Official 2013 Bobapalooza 2013 Playlist
The Doors – Break On Through
Nirvana – In Bloom
Death – Politicians in My Eyes
The Heavy – Short Change Hero
Preston Reed – Ladies Night
Divine Fits – Civilian Stripes
Awol Nation – Not Your Fault
Matsiyahu – King Without a Crown
Sting – Desert Rose
Garbage – #1 Crush
KMFDM – Juke Joint Jezebel
Nine Inch Nails – Head Like a Hole
Animal Collective – My Girls
Axis of Awesome – King of the Hipsters
Nirvana – All Apologies
Volbeat – Sad Man’s Tongue
Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire
K’Naan – Take a Minute
Sting – If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass
Dream Theater – Pull Me Under
Nine Inch Nails – The Hand That Feeds
Johnny Cash – Hurt
The Doors – Riders on the Storm
In many ways this is probably the most challenging playlist for Bobapalooza to date. I feel it has levels of complexity and depth that have been missing from the others, and a richness of character that has only been hinted at before. Not only that, I actually had to go back and look over the nominations from last summer to put this list together, and I have to say again how overwhelmed I was and still am with the sheer quality of artists nominated for Bobapalooza. Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I turned down James Brown. THE GODFATHER OF SOUL. That’s how fierce this competition gets, and it’s all because of you, folks. Thanks for being a part of this.
And now for the part I’m most excited about: the Bobapalooza Swag Store is now open! Love the show? Get the gear! Show your support for the greatest music festival that never was! Remember, I only make a tiny little commission on every purchase, so make sure to buy a lot! Tell your friends, tell your enemies, tell your frenemies! I have no artistic integrity! The Bobapalooza Swag Store: Selling out since 2014.
I got to wondering this morning just what does an artist owe to his audience? What I mean is, does an artist (writer, musician, whatever) have an obligation of artistic integrity to his audience, or can he just go ahead and put out whatever he feels like whenever, regardless of how he might personally feel about it, in the hopes that it will sell (or especially because it will sell)?
As a particular example of this, I’m going to pick on poor Piers Anthony (yes, me and every critic in existence). I used to read pretty much everything he wrote, and my gateway drug was his Xanth series. I read the first twenty or so, which I think allows me at least a bit of leeway in my criticism. Additionally, unless I completely misremember (always possible) Mr. Anthony himself has stated on more than one occasion that he basically keeps the series going because it’s easy to write and it keeps him paid (although perhaps not so crudely). Considering he pumps them out at a rate of approximately one a year, that’s hardly surprising.
So here’s the question: does he (or any author) owe it to his fan base to stop writing a series that he’s not personally invested in? As long as people keep buying the books, clearly they see some value in them. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy the books, after all. This feels rather like a distasteful answer to me, but on the other hand we don’t expect factory workers to love the products they create every day (or I hope we don’t anyway). Is there anything wrong with simply being a craftsman, banging out a product that people enjoy even if you personally don’t care about it, and collecting a check? Do we hold artists to a higher standard?
Another point to consider (staying with Mr. Anthony for reference) is that not every work is one that an artist is doing just for the money. After all, I started on Xanth, but I went on to read Battle Circle, Incarnations of Immortality, Bio of a Space Tyrant, and many more works by Mr. Anthony. Xanth was my gateway drug as I said, but it led me into so very much more. If creating schlock is what allows an artist to keep body and soul and family together while working on “true art”, is that a sufficient and worthy price to pay?
And finally, let me point out that all art is, much like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. There was a time when I actually defended the Xanth series as great literature, and there are some books in the series that I still consider to be pretty good fantasy. Regardless, it’s all just one man’s opinion. Does that make it any more or less “art”? I’m going to go with “no”. It’s neither more nor less, no matter what any one person’s opinion is, including the creator’s. Art is just too subjective to be defined by one person, or even a group of people, for anyone else.
Or maybe I just like knowing those books are still out there, waiting to entice some young kid and become his gateway drug. Everyone has theirs; that first creative work that pulled them in to a favorite field or genre, no matter how disdained it might be by critics or friends or even an older and wiser self. And as long as it brings us pleasure, and brings us to pleasure, I think that’s a high enough calling for creation.
Look MapQuest, we need to talk. Ever since you got on my phone, you’ve been… different. At first things were cool. You’d tell me where to go, I wouldn’t have to print out the directions before we left, you even gave me a heads-up before turns far enough in advance that I felt like I could actually do what I needed to do rather than pull some sort of Dukes of Hazzard maneuver just to get in the correct lane. It was nice.
Lately though, you’ve been acting out, and not in a good way. You tell me you’re avoiding traffic, but even I know the roads you want to take me down are going to be bumper-to-bumper, and that’s assuming you’re not taking me on one of your little “seeing the world” adventures where we find every back road in Virginia when I just want to get to work. It’s bad enough when you play your little games while I’m in the car, but you don’t even seem to know the difference between being in a car and being on foot anymore. “Make a U-turn at the next intersection.” Really, MapQuest? I’m on foot! A U-turn is called TURNING AROUND.
I didn’t want this to get ugly, but the truth is I just don’t know if I can trust you anymore, and if this keeps up I’m going to start using Apple Maps. There, I said it. I didn’t want this to become about threats, but I need you to know I’m serious.
Go home, MapQuest. You’re drunk.