Saturday, January 22, 2005

As Someone Who Absolutely Loathes..

For those in SF circles, you may be aware of the Trent/gabe & friends circle jerk (no, I won't link to him. Matt does. See link to Matt below). I guess I should just be gleeful this time around because he addressed the reader as "you" and reserved "him" for describing any character you might want to write, like a pedophile, who's of course a default he. All he's saying this time around is that you should "force genetic rules" on a character to make them - I mean, him, this is Trentland, after all - more interesting and "truer."

Trent insists that people are boring and consistent and undergo no change whatsoever, or that they follow these "rules" that you can chart like math, so your characters should be boring and totally predictable, too, just like physics.

I'm sorry, what was that about physics? Theories, not facts? Oh nevermind. I mean, that's all psychologists, you know, those people who study people, really do with their time. They make these complex math formulas that tell you that if Sara had a coke at 3pm and Shawna kicked a ball close to her at 4pm, then Sara would "turn into" a lesbian and lose all her money betting on horses when she turned 40, and marry a gay guy named Enrique at 60 who made model airplanes.

Sweet fuck, if people were boring, I would have no friends.

Anyway, people should be just like math problems. Which is why that Golden Age SF stuff had such incredibly fascinating, riveting, characters. Trent has once again stepped down from the mount to exposit to all us "newbies," "wannabes" and "maybes" about how we're supposed to be writing, what we're supposed to be writing, and etc.

I think he mainly writes these things cause he's not spending enough time writing his own damn fiction.

But I don't have to even address this flailer, because Matt Cheney already has.

Bless you, Matt.

6 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I think most people usually are predictable. Which is what makes those mements when we do something totally unpredictable such interesting fodder for stories. 

Posted by Ampersand

Anonymous said...

I don't think "consistency" in a character is the same thing as "predictability". Otherwise, there is no point writing about ANY particular character at all; one might just as well simply throw unattributed snippets of dialogue into a sort of soup of swirling descriptive metaphors. It can be done; it has been done; it is often critically acclaimed for its groundbreaking shattering of something or other, but what it is, is unreadable, and frequently pretentious. 

Posted by Katharine

Anonymous said...

The problem is that I recognize what Trent was trying to say, which is something you'll hear from any writer anywhere: the Twain quote, that if your character talks low-class on page one, they can't talk high-class at the end *unless you've given a good reason for it.*

Unfortunatley, the flippant way he puts the entire thing, the way he makes these brief statements without qualifying them, come across as knee-jerk, fast-and-hard "rules."

::If you're going to write about living creatures we know and understand, you have to follow their rules. If they don't follow their own rules, they fall apart.::

The problem with saying stuff like this is that most *people* don't even know their own "rules." What, exactly, are the "rules" of my existence? I could tell you I have certain values, certain ideals, but I can't guarantee that I would react consistently in all situations with a mind for those ideals.

I could say, "I'm never going to get married and have kids, and I think religion is bunkum," and ten years from now, could undergo some incredibly traumatic expericence and become a born-again Christian, get married to an accountant or insurance salesman, and pop out six kids.

This could happen. The liklihood of it happening? --

Not great.

But hot damn, wouldn't it be interesting to come up with a story as to why somebody like me did something like that? Because I do believe you could do it, you could find a traumatic moment, a transformation.

People are incredibly complex. They have incredible stories and they do things for incredibly complex reasons.

If you took who I am now and just ran it out into the future, taking all of the assumptions about what I've done, about what my fears and quirks are, you'd likely come out with somebody interesting, but you couldn't treat it like a math problem. Who I am now does not equal who I will be or could be.

It's the weird-ass, "The fuck did she do that for?" that makes the best stories, and I think too much talk of "rules" can stifle the best stories. One of the most shocking moment, growing up, is realizing that all those rules and social boxes and "the way the world works" crap you got fed as a kid isn't actually "true" in real life. The people around you don't operate that way. Not everybody's straight. Not everybody gets married. Not everybody has kids. Those happy hetero marriages that look so 50s? He's just as likely to be having an affair with a guy on the side, she's popping Vicadin and studying for the GREs behind his back, cause he doesn't want a wife who works, and they've made an agreement that she can still see her college boyfriend for a wild affair one weekend a year.

Something that looks like it's following the rules, that looks like it all makes sense and is totally consistent, is more often than not... not. And just because it has its own internal rules doesn't mean that the guy won't decide to run off with his boyfriend and move to Cape Town, and she'll ditch the house and have a lesbian affair with her best friend Patricia and take up scuba diving, and the kids will get emancipated and join a rock band.

People you've known for years and years often don't make sense.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

My fundamental issue with Trent is that he's putting lots of big words around primary-school writing concepts, but refuses to admit it because he needs to use the word paradigm five times per day in order to achieve orgasm. Then he preaches these primary-school writing concepts as if they're God's new message, serving no particular purpose except to irk the vast majority of the writers online and impress five wannabes who haven't figured out that the reason Trent looks a bit like the great serpent Ouruborus because he's got his head so far up his ass.

I've got no trouble being preached at if I'm being preached at by someone with credentials. When I went to Oregon, I got preached at by Dean Wesley Smith. He's published a shitload of stuff and owns half the mountain he lives on. He can preach at me however he likes, and I'll write it down. But Trent? Trent has few to no real fiction publications. If Trent tries to tell me how to write, that's gonna raise some alarm bells.

On the other hand, I do hope he keeps preaching, for two important reasons. First, few things give me such guilty unenlightened joy as heading over to Trent's criticism page and seeing it look like this:

"Blah blah blah blah blah paradigm blah blah thing I vaguely remember from a sociology class blah blah."

"Blah blah blah blah pimping the fiction of one of my Clarion buddies without admitting it blah blah blah."
-- O Comments

"Blah blah blah here's why someone with more publications now than I'll ever have is wrong and I'm right blah blah blah."

I don't know what shit he's trying to stir, but he's talking to an empty room at this point. There are five wannabe writers who are wowed by him, a few other writers who come in to pick their scabs by sparring with him on occasion, and those of us who just want to fume or snicker.

The other reason I'm glad he keeps preaching is because that's less time he has to write. I am honest enough about my unenlightenment to acknowledge that watching Trent see commercial or critical success as a fiction writer would be trying for me, but fortunately, that's never going to happen, because he'd rather impress people than tell a story.


Posted by Patrick

Anonymous said...

Now, Patrick, tell us how you *really* feel. ;)

And yea, ditto pretty much all of that.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

for awhile I just thought the comments section didn't work at the Singularity blog. 

Posted by Simon