Thursday, June 04, 2009

Positive

Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics is a new group blog founded by author Andy Remic with the aim, up until yesterday, of "celebrating all that is positive in genre fiction." If that sounds rather vague to you, you're not alone--the good folks at SF Signal invited Remic and his cohorts to a Mind Meld about their new venture, but were so unclear about its purpose that they mistakenly assumed that the blog had arisen as a response to "an imbalance towards a negative futuristic outlook" in the genre. Responses to the Mind Meld make it clear that even SFFE's contributors aren't entirely clear what the new blog stands for. Though Remic himself was on hand, his attempts to shed some light on the issue only succeeded in further muddying the waters:
I believe there's a lot of people out there sick of the constant whining and moaning and tearing down - after all, it's much easier to destroy than create. That's why myself, and so many other brilliant authors, are involved with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics project (the SFFE) because we want to promote a positive attitude in the industry, and make and ethical stand against the constant poison and vitriol which, I think, has been invading and escalating for a long time.

I chose the name "Ethics" not because I wanted to explore the ethical contexts of novels or films, but because I wanted to make an ethical stand against the motherfuckers who, to my mind, are systematically ruining the SFFH genres. In short, I wanted to do what I believed was intrinsically, morally, ethically and intuitively right. I want to celebrate everything that is good in SFFH, because it's all subjective, right?? - and, hopefully, we can lead by positive example.
This, of course, begs quite a few questions, most notably: who are the motherfuckers? You can read some of the puzzled responses to Remic's statement in the Mind Meld comments, and a more vigorous discussion, with Remic himself and at least one other SFFE contributor in attendance, in the comments to this post by Martin Lewis. What you can't do is read an entry on SFFE itself titled "Some Confusion," in which Remic accused Martin and the other commenters on his site of "[hiding] behind their anonymous internet connections," because, as Alastair Reynolds points out in the Mind Meld comments and as Jeff VanderMeer notes in this post, it was deleted some time last night. In the interim, Remic has responded to further queries with tautologies ("We are out to promote the positive. Some people are out to promote the negative. We don’t do that."), requests to conduct further discussions in private e-mail, and a refusal to name names (from "Some Confusion": "I assumed people would make up their own minds as to who I was referring; after all, we all get annoyed by certain things, comments, sites, people, while other stuff goes over our heads"). The closest thing to a straight answer seems to be his response to Reynolds at SF Signal, in which he excuses his decision to delete "Some Confusion" with the headache-inducing claim that "the SFFE site just didn't seem the right place to having that sort of argument," and apologizes for the 'motherfuckers' comment by saying "Yes, I presented my views badly. Yes, I presented them after a few whiskies."

The Princess Bride jokes are left as an exercise to the reader.

As of this morning, the mission statement of SFFE has changed to "The aim of this site is to promote positive reviews of books, movies and comics" (the old mission statement can still be found on the group's old blog). This emphasis on positive reviewing as opposed to positivity in general is bolstered by comments by SFFE contributor M.E. Staton on her own blog--"It isn’t that we disagree that their [sic] should be criticism in the world but that it doesn’t always have to be negative and if you find you really love something the SFFE is someplace you can share that joy without the worry of ridicule." Which would be almost anticlimactic--a blog on which people can talk up the things they like, how novel--were it not for the continued emphasis on positivity and ethics. As Jonathan McCalmont puts it, "If you say “I think we should do more of X” then by definition you’re saying that there’s some kind of problem with not-X," and statements like Remic's and Staton's (or Neil Williamson's observations in the comments to VanderMeer's post) make it clear that there are specific people who have not behaved in a manner which the SFFE members consider to be positive and ethical, and whose effects the blog is intended to counteract. (Though it should be noted that Remic and Staton don't necessarily speak for all SFFE members; in the comments to Martin's post Jetse de Vries, for example, quickly distances himself from the fracas.)

Meanwhile, the issue of positive reviews was already on my mind due to a Torque Control post Niall made a few weeks back, in which he quotes a writer describing her experiences bumping up against a "Prominent SF Magazine"'s mostly positive reviews policy. In the comments, NYRSF editor Kathryn Cramer posts links to two essays on the subject: her own, titled "On why what people like about books is more interesting than what they don't like," and a 2004 editorial by David G. Hartwell. There are several assertions I find questionable in Cramer's essay ("There are all kinds of reasons one might react negatively to a book, many of them personal"--as opposed, one takes it, to positive reactions, which are entirely objective?), but it's Hartwell who takes the cake, with the following "hard-won guidelines for responsible reviewing":
First, as in Hippocrates, do no harm. Second, never stoop to score a point or bite an ankle. Third, always understand that in this symbiosis, you are the parasite. Fourth, look with an open heart and mind at every different kind of book with every change of emotional weather because we are reading for our lives and that could be love gone out the window or a horseman on the roof. Fifth, use theory only as a periscope or a trampoline, never a panopticon, a crib sheet, or a license to kill.
To which the most polite response I can make is: um, no.

I could go through this list point by point, but they all seem to boil down to the same thing. Hartwell, and Cramer when she says things like "We publish to promote the aesthetic advancement of the field and are not a buyers' guide," are working under the assumption that a reviewing organ should be oriented towards the industry. That a reviewer is writing for, perhaps even in service of, authors and publishers. That's not an unreasonable stance, but I don't hold to it. I don't write for authors or publishers. I'd like to say that I write for other readers, but that's not really the truth either. I write for myself, because I have thoughts in my head that are clamoring to get out, and for the pleasure of being able to express them clearly and beautifully, and in the hopes of finding someone else with whom to discuss and develop them. I am not a parasite. I am a reader.

Obviously, this approach can be taken to extremes, and lead to self-regarding wankery for the sake of nothing more than the sound of one's voice. As aggravating and overstated as I find it, Anton Ego's argument about the critic's responsibility to his material is sound. I do owe something to my readers, be they publishers or authors or just people who read, but it is no more and no less than this: honesty, clarity, and the best use to which I can put the English language. I don't owe anyone positivity, and it is this frustrated entitlement that I sense at the core of the SFFE's complaints about vitriol and ruination. Like Cramer and Hartwell, it seems to me that Remic and Staton think that reviewers write for the sake of the industry, and that negative reviews represent a reviewer's failure to live up to their side of the bargain and thus constitute a meaningful, and no doubt deliberate, blow against the genre. (Interestingly, this kind of reaction isn't limited to industry insiders--check out the irate, almost injured comments to Martin Lewis's negative review of Mark Charan Newton's Nights of Villjamur by fans of the book, as opposed to Newton's own cheerful response to it.)

At the close of his editorial, David Hartwell laments "reviewers who perform to entertain the reader rather than to illuminate the text for the reader." I was all set to become outraged over this statement as a reviewer (seriously, is it that difficult to believe that we genuinely and truly didn't like the book?) when I suddenly realized that I ought to become outraged as a reader. What the hell is wrong with entertaining readers? I like to be entertained. I derived a hell of a lot more entertainment out of John Clute's takedown of Brian Stableford's Streaking, or Adam Roberts's skewering of the new Star Trek movie, than I did out of the works themselves, and in fact those reviews offered me some small compensation for having slogged through Stableford's senseless, terribly written novel, or the brain-dead experience that is new Trek. Isn't that an achievement worth celebrating? For a reviewer, isn't it worth emulating? Insight and illumination are important--good reviewers crave them--but sometimes the only insight to be had is 'this is a lousy book.' If there's any meaning to be drawn from the muddled and self-contradictory statements made by Andy Remic and M.E. Staton, it is that this is an unworthy, perhaps even unethical sentiment, and they are more than welcome to pursue their goal of a blog founded on that philosophy. But I'm staying out here, where people aren't afraid of a little negativity.

24 comments:

Kit said...

We need you. You read and watch terrible things and then warn the rest of us that they're terrible. That's your job, as far as I'm concerned. It's great when you like something and explain why you liked it- I watched DS9 on your recommendation and was well rewarded- but the reviews of yours I most value are the negative ones. You saved me from Battlestar Galactica.

It seems to me that the unethical thing is to give only positive reviews. That's like eating at a restaurant that gave you food poisoning and then recommending it to your friends. Even aside from any desire you may have to improve the quality of local restaurants, that's a horrible thing to do to your friends.

Plus purely positive reviews devalue the reviewing process. There's always someone who likes a given movie or show or book, no matter how terrible, and I don't want the only review I read to be that one. I want to read yours, because you're incisive and when you say something is good, it usually is, and when you say something is terrible, it usually is, and that way I can forewarned not to read or watch it.

The reason I started reading this blog is because you panned "Thud!" which everyone else in Pratchatt fandom seemed to love. I felt like the kid in "The Emperor's New Clothes;" I was was desperately seeking someone else who had noticed how bad that book was. You can't imagine my relief when I came across your review and you articulated exactly why it was so lame.

Kathryn Cramer said...

I think David and I have a rather different project than Andy Remic.

Jonathan M said...

That's a very neat summary of everything that's happened in the blogosphere today. Very eloquent :-)

KindKit said...

What all this "be positive" stuff looks like to me is an attempt to create a space where awkward questions (about, for example, racism in science fiction and fantasy) are not allowed. Especially considering Remick's comment about people hiding behind anonymous internet connections, it's pretty obvious this relates to the recent racism controversy. It's another attempt to block discussion of problems in the genre by claiming such discussion is hateful and ethically invalid.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't fond of the SFFE people deleting their post, and thus your and Martin's comment. And I agree with everything you say about the problem with only running positive reviews. I think SFFE wasn't formed after careful thought but in reaction to some stimuli--which is usually not a good reason to start something unless you're reacting to genuine oppression...and the absurdity of applying that to book reviewing is apparent given, first of all, the sheer number of review blogs and print media.

But I do think you pass over David Hartwell's comments too easily, and in a way I don't believe you would in your best reviews.

First of all, you can't say that everything he puts forth there is the *same* argument. Surely you can't be saying you disagree with this: "never stoop to score a point or bite an ankle"? And what, exactly, is wrong with the idea of approaching each book with an open mind, as per "look with an open heart and mind at every different kind of book with every change of emotional weather because we are reading for our lives and that could be love gone out the window or a horseman on the roof." I'm also not sure I see how this is bad advice: "use theory only as a periscope or a trampoline, never a panopticon, a crib sheet, or a license to kill." At the very least, not using theory as a crib sheet or shortcut makes a lot of sense.

But the problem is--whenever something comes up about reviewing, you get as defensive as some of the authors who you review. And I think it's very revealing that you tell us here that you do your reviews for yourself. Well, you can write a book for yourself. You might even get away with writing a book of criticism for yourself. But reviews have an implied functionality that removes them from being, in 99% of the cases, a form of art. Creative, yes. Taking writing talent, yes. But *reactive*--simply not existing without the thing being observed. This is the sense in which Hartwell means "parasite," although I think the word is not the right one to use. It's obviously disrespectful.

Yet you seem to want to get out of reviewing, out of blogging your thoughts about books and other media, what a writer gets out of creating a book, and I'm not really sure that's possible. But it would explain why you are so quick to dismiss other people's opinions about reviewing. And why some of your reviews--the worst ones, in my opinion--display an absolutism that I'm sure you think is a sign of being uncompromising but is actually a great weakness.

It's also somewhat false to say you're just a reader, because most readers, even given the proliferation of blogs, do not do what one would call full-on reviews or critical essays. If you were truly writing for yourself, why would you seek out publication beyond your blog? Why would you link from your blog to your reviews? I think this is a simplification of your relationship to "audience" that doesn't hold up under scrutiny. You even contradict this to some degree in your own post.

Understand that I'm not saying you're not a good reviewer IMO (which I'm sure you give two shits about either way)--given the right match of you as reviewer and book (I'm not suggesting a good match requires that you like the book--just that your absolutism creates blind spots, and because they're blind spots you, of course, can't see them). But there are many books you are not a good match for, and you often do the writers an injustice that you seem blind to. There are even forms you're not familiar with that you dismiss simply because you're not familiar with them.

Your strength is often your ability to analyze, and not from a position of being an insider, but being an outsider. You help keep writers honest, to some degree. Thanks for that. But just as often when you go "negative" it is due to a misreading on your part that is disguised by your strengths as a writer.

I now await the all-knowing, all-confident arse-ripping with the cheerful confidence that I'm unlikely to return.

JeffV

Kathryn Cramer said...

AN: A challenge -- post a list of they year's best negative reviews. Or just ten great negative reviews in SF. (Finding bad ones is really easy.)

Kathryn Cramer said...

"they" should read "the"

Adam Roberts said...

I don't agree with JeffV.'s assertion that 'reviews have an implied functionality that removes them from being, in 99% of the cases, a form of art.' I agree, rather, with Abigail, that a review is a text like any other in that a duty is laid upon it to be worth the reader's time: to be a good read, well-written, informative, insightful, entertaining.

Meeting Kathryn’s challenge wouldn’t be hard, I think.

The pedant in me, though, thinks it's worth pointing out that the "hard-won guidelines for responsible reviewing" are not Hartwell's (nor, in his post, does he pretend they are). He's quoting a fairly famous if contested passage by John Leonard, discussed on the internet by Andrew Seal, and subsequently at The Valve.

Kathryn Cramer said...

It's not intended to be an impossible challenge. Rather it is intended as a basis for discussion of the virtue of negative reviews.

Mike Taylor said...

For what it's worth, Abigail, I find that the reviews of yours that I return to more than once are the positive ones -- when you love something that I do, but you're able to explain why that is in a way that I'd not seen on my own. Those are the reviews that have legs, in the sense of re-readability -- if you like, the reviews that have lasting value as literature rather then merely transitory value as a warning or a you-might-like-this pointer. I agree with whoever it was that said a good positive review is more _interesting_ than a good negative review (even if the latter can be more fun, at least in the short term).

Of couse that's not to say that you shouldn't do both.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Kathryn:

I think David and I have a rather different project than Andy Remic.

It certainly wasn't my intention to imply otherwise. As I said, I sense similar underlying assumptions, but clearly very different things have been done with them.

Top ten negative reviews: an interesting question that I'll have to think about (and probably not for a couple of days as I have a busy weekend ahead of me). My first instinct is to go for pieces like the Clute and Roberts reviews - funny skewerings of lousy works (Anthony Lane does a good line in these as well) - but I think you'd also want to give pride of place to essays like "Epic Pooh," and others like it that slaughter sacred cows.

Kindkit:

That was my first instinct as well, but remember that it's dangerous to assume that someone outside your immediate internet circle is seeing, and becoming outraged over, the same things you are. It seems just as likely to me that Remic was referring to conversations like this one, in which it's suggested that SH is antagonistic to epic fantasy, or some BSFA brouhaha.

But of course, the internet being what it is, everyone immediately thinks of the slapfights they're involved in, and immediately starts to wonder whether they're the motherfuckers. Which is only one more reason why this was a foolish and destructive move.

Jeff:

Since you're likely not to respond to this, I'll be brief.

It seems implicit to me in all of the exhortations Hartwell quotes that the only reason for a reviewer to give a negative review is because they're putting on a show - biting ankles, choosing to entertain rather than enlighten - rather than expressing their honest opinion. That's an attitude that seems to flow directly the belief that a reviewer owes writers more than what they owe other readers.

You're right that there's a danger in writing solely for myself, but as far as I can see the danger is chiefly to myself - I can go too easy on myself, tolerate an underdone work because it's good enough for me. Other than that, it seems to me that writing for myself, rather than the praise of others, is the only way to keep myself honest.

As for defensiveness, you and I have a pending discussion on this matter which I think takes precedence.

Mike:

It's certainly been my experience - and I know I'm not alone in this - that positive reviews are harder to write than negative ones. It's easy to point out the ways in which a book doesn't work, but much harder to analyze it when it's a complete success - there's no access point. Whether that means the end result is more worthwhile I don't know, but at any rate I don't actually write many wholly negative reviews (or, for that matter, wholly positive ones) - most of the things I review have entries on both sides of the ledger.

MJ said...

KindKit,

that's exactly what I thought as soon as I started reading the first quoted paragraph. The vagueness of the accusation (who is doing what?), the "why do people have to spoil my fun with their negativity?!", and then, further on, the dig at internet handles, they all sound too much like the worst rhetoric used during RaceFail.

That's why I find it incredibly... low that such a thing would have the word "ethics" attached to it.

chance said...

Here's a link to the full review that the Leonard quote came from.

Andy Remic said...

Hello Abigail.
Could you please email me at jappo@talktalk.net? (despite your post, I've received no email from you). This is a friendly request, no need to get riled up or angry - honest. :-)

Andy Remic

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Hi Andy,

My e-mail address is on the sidebar if you want to contact me privately. However, I should say that as this discussion was begun in public, and as it regards a public website, I think it's only right that it continue in public, and I will consider anything you send to me on this topic to be fair game for public consumption.

Adam Roberts said...

'My first instinct is to go for pieces like the Clute and Roberts reviews - funny skewerings of lousy works (Anthony Lane does a good line in these as well) - but I think you'd also want to give pride of place to essays like "Epic Pooh," and others like it that slaughter sacred cows.'

I second Lane. Roger Ebert likewise: his review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo deserves to be engraved upon a large platinum menhir and placed in some central Hollywood throughfare: paragraphs 1-3 pin the film down, paragraphs 4-9 are some of the funniest movie reviewing I have read.

Staying with genre, Dave Langford (his brief account of Mack Reynold's is a marvel of comic prose, to say nothing else about it) and Nick Mamatas (the latter for his film reviews) should also be up there. Plus, the clincher for me: Nick Lowe's hilarious, sublime, brilliant piece on plot coupons: the very Platonic Form of required reading for anybody interested in Fantasy, and wholly motherfucker (if you see what I mean) from start to finish.

Nora said...

Wow. Totally missed this fracas, which is sad given that it tangentially brushes on something I said. Thanks for summarizing it all so neatly. (Side-note -- I've become a regular reader of your blog because you're talking about interesting stuff in a smart way. Thanks for giving me something new to look forward to!)

I agree with those who've said that a purely-positive review policy is unethical, esp. if reviews are intended for consumers (as I think they should be). However, reviewers (and the markets/venues that provide reviews) don't operate in a vacuum, and there has to be a balance between ethics and practicality. It's ethical to inform on gangs and the mob, after all, but doing it carelessly can lead to a pretty short career as an informant.

That's a disingenuous comparison because SF isn't the mob. But I have recently seen some examples of harassment, retaliation, unjustified lawsuit threats, and other highly unethical behavior among professionals in this industry, and that tells me it's not a safe place to be carelessly ethical. I imagine magazine editors have to think about this too, given that most operate on a shoestring budget and can be seriously harmed by bad publicity -- which is why I have no problem with Prominent SF Magazine's policy on mostly positive reviews. Only those who are immune to retaliation have the freedom to speak honestly.

Which does do readers a disservice, yes. My only hope is that the readers will continue to do as they've been doing, take advantage of the flattened hierarchy and relative anonymity that the internet provides, and craft their own reviews and reviewing venues. The readers aren't immune to retaliation, but they are safer from it than producers. That gives them power, and I'm glad to see them use it -- even (especially) if it's not always positive.

Jon Dahl said...

Re: negative reviews, I would also be quick to point to any of the William Atheling Jr. reviews, or Damon Knight's flayings (especially of A. E. van Vogt); likewise, I would possibly point out Poul Anderson's gentle criticism within the essay "On Thud and Blunder" or even the not-so-gentle criticisms produced by Stanislaw Lem.

Armitaj said...

Second James 'Atheling' Blish, who is interesting and useful and often very funny too. In his intro to More Issues At Hand he mentions a panel at the 24th SF Convention in 1966, asking 'Has criticism of science fiction done more harm than good?':

"At least some of the panelists seemed to think that if the critic did not actively love and praise all science fiction, he ought to shut up. This seems to me to be nonsense, though it is a kind of nonsense we hear often in our field.
[...]
"Obviously, then, I think a good critic in any field is a useful citizen, who is positively obliged to be harsh toward bad work. By a good critic, I mean a man with a good ear, a love for his field at best, and a broad and detailed knowledge of the techniques of the field."(MIAH, Advent, Chicago 1970, pp 2-3).

Criticising bad work, and saying in what way it is bad, is a service to potential readers and also to the writer.

Matt Denault said...

I wouldn't want to give up quite so easily on the idea that negative reviews cannot "promote the aesthetic advancement of the field." I do think that the field (which I take to be different than "the industry," BTW) can be advanced by reviews -- and not just "essays," which to be fair is what the Lowe and Moorcock pieces are -- that make important criticisms of lauded works and thereby raise the consciousness of authors, readers, and reviewers alike. Clute and Roberts do this with some frequency (I'm not sure what the "best" ones would be, but Roberts on Anathem is a decent and recent example). I might also suggest Farah Mendelsohn's review of Julie Phillips's Tiptree biography, precisely because it offered a new and illuminating perspective on a work that was otherwise pretty universally lauded. And going back further, I'm thinking of how someone like Joanna Russ could do this sort of negative review very well, as in her review of Le Guin's The Dispossessed, which among other things nearly anticipates the Bechdel Test.

Standback said...

There's something in this discussion I'm really not clear about. The opinion that supports weighting criticism in favor of positive reviews - is that taken to mean that the reviewer should read lots of stuff, but only publish reviews of the fairly good stuff? Or does it mean that the reviewer should read lots of stuff, dig out Points o' Light from whatever he reads, and publish only the positive part of his review?

Niall's post, for example, seems to imply that reviewers are not allowed to dislike a book, which seems patently absurd, and reduces reviewers to undercover advertisers. But if the statement is only "we prefer to focus on stuff we did like than on stuff we didn't", well, that at least seems like a legitimate preference that can be debated. But mailing a book to a reviewer saying "Enjoy this book, or else!"? Um, not so much.

Martin Wisse said...


it seems to me that Remic and Staton think that reviewers write for the sake of the industry, and that negative reviews represent a reviewer's failure to live up to their side of the bargain and thus constitute a meaningful, and no doubt deliberate, blow against the genre.


It's the idea of science fiction as one big club united against the big mean world outside, where loyalty should trump honesty every time.

Jan Vaněk jr. said...

I come rather late, but thank you for expressing perfectly what I found most problematic about Hartwell's article: "aesthetic advancement of the field" is incompatible with pointing out bad esthetics? (BTW, "in ... symbiosis ... parasite" seems an ugly contradiction in terms.)

As for great bad reviews, I loved Dave Langford on The Number of the Beast. Or the young(er) Clute on The Legacy of Heorot. And the immortal Nick Lowe on Starship Troopers, while positive about the film a
itself, is a masterpiece of deconstruction of Heinlein's follies in passing.

tad said...

I'm coming 2 this discussion really late, working backwards from Adam Roberts' long post about the current Hugo novel nominees, thru yr reviews of the same novels, thru the "ethics" thing ... I read Kathryn Cramer's & David Hartwell's blurbs on "guidelines" 4 reviewing (which both seemed ... kinda THIN considering what sharp people they R), &....
Wow, can't we just share views on books w/o getting all angry about it? It's HUMAN & good 2 share opinions about books & stories, & if something disappointed U strongly, it's certainly OK 2 say so....
Found yr's & Adam's views on the current Hugo nominees very Nlightening, DEFinitely Ntertaining, even FUNNY -- good reviews, the sort of writing I read reviews 4, & the kind I try 2 write. I wonder if Hartwell & Cramer R more advising sorta-know-it-all (but actually know-nothing) fan-reviewers 2 not B NEEDLESSLY CRUEL 2 some book or writer. I haven't yet read NE needlessly brutal reviews on the Net, but I wouldn't mind Bing pointed in the right direction....
William Atheling/James Blish & Damon Knight's names have already bn mentioned 4 boosting the good but not downplaying the REALLY BAD. I'd add Algis Budrys' old reviews 4 GALAXY & F&SF -- he knew what he liked, 4 sure, but wasn't afraid 2 say if he thot something really sucked. & he may have bn "performing," but he was Xcellent at it -- always illuminating & funny. & he had a really wide range of SF he could read & appreciate.
I useta think John Clute could B pretty cruel, but as I've gotten older I've come 2 really Njoy his sometimes acidic wit. Same w/ Joanna Russ, Harlan Ellison, Barry Malzberg, Norman Spinrad.... None of these people Blieved in holding back. (Course, mayB the market/field/genre was a little stronger then?)
I guess generally I agree w/ Hartwell & Cramer's "Be gentle" guidelines -- I tend 2 write about stuff I Njoy & would like 2 turn other people on2, & I don't hava lotta time 4 things I dislike.
But I think if some piece of work is poorly constructed, fulla plot holes, illogical, factually inaccurate, fulla cliches, info-dumps at the Xpense of progress/flow &/or Ntertainment, is riddled w/ typos, or was clearly written while the writer was asleep, it's a reviewer/critic's job 2 say so.
I don't think 2 many authors R writing much worse than they absolutely want 2, but I think stronger criticism might actually make 4 stronger novels. I've read 2 many novels (especially in the last 20 yrs) that should've bn cut by 1/2, or where the 1st 1/2 is brilliant, vivid & inventive but the last 1/2 sucks, or where a little stronger editing coulda made a shorter, better book. This may B why I haven't finished a fairly-current SF novel since about 2002....
Cheers! -- TAD.

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