Crab Bucket Bullshit

in #blog3 years ago

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I didn't want to get involved in this bullshit.

I really didn't.

But people just won't let this retarded crap die, and I'm sick of being restricted to 240 characters, so I'm gonna make this post about this. Because frankly I think everybody is being a little bit retarded here. So y'all can listen to me or don't, do whatever the fuck you want, but I got some shit that probably doesn't need to be said that I'm gonna say anyway.

So what I'm talking about is this whole Groffin shit. For the uninitiated, and I only know the story so far back, apparently Groffin is an internet commentator who got into a slapfight with Jeffro over the supposed chest-thumping and victory-declaring that happens on the right side of politics, particularly The Vox Day Side Of Things™. I don't read Vox' blog, I catch maybe a post every two or three months, and I don't generally trouble myself about what Vox is getting up to because he's a big boy and can take care of himself. So maybe that chest thumping is happening over there, but that's not what I'm here to talk about.

So Groffin cheesed Jeffro off, is the point to that. Then Jeffro done did this. So that happened.

Now I think G-man has some points here. Or at least he's describing reality. Big deal. Anyone can do that. I'd have thought the things he said didn't need to be said, because they were obvious. I thought everybody already knew what Groffin laid out, but apparently for some people this was more of a bucket of cold water to the face than a "Well, duh, now tell me the color of the sky" moment. But then again, here I am giving a short, autistic internet history lesson of recent events so I can say the incredibly obvious bullshit I'm about to say, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Anyway, on with it.

So Jesse Lucas (who doesn't have a steemit but you can find on twitter @JesseLucasSaga) makes a post on the pulprev dot com, linked here. Jesse lays down some truth here as well. It's worth a read, even if I think it is being depressing and melodramatic for no reason.

Now this is where shit gets divided, because it's been a common thread of butthurt up til now.

The people in the one camp are butthurt that Groffin is calling their fiction mediocre or flat out bad. I'll admit that I personally haven't seen any of this. Stuff has been pointed to that is supposed to be examples of it, like this post by Jeffro, but I read that a completely different way, apparently. Either way this attitude is retarded. A lot of us have only recently started writing, and for those of us like me who have been writing our entire lives we've only recently discovered good writing and started studying it in an attempt to find a similar vein of ore. Of course we're not gonna be great right now, because we're beginners. So get over your ass pain and take the criticism. Especially if it's constructive criticism. You become a better writer by writing a lot, reading a lot, studying what you read to identify good tools to add to your own kit and mistakes to avoid while building your own stuff, and finally by listening to the critique of other people. If people are actually giving you critique, like Cahoutek did with me and my story, then take the critique in stride and work to better your fiction. Grow a thicker skin, there's no reason to be so sensitive about your writing, especially if you're just starting out. Actually, showing your stuff to people and asking for critique (which sites like steemit, tumblr, wattpad, and various others make ridiculously easy to do), is probably a good thing if you're just starting to write, because then you can get the advice of people with actual experience to help you develop your own style. A wise author once said, "Murder your babies," which means be particularly hard on stuff you write that you like, because it's probably the stuff that has the biggest problems you'll overlook. A corollary of this could be, "Sacrifice your babies," by giving them up to the criticism of the wider internet. Yes, trolls may show up to post "lol dis gay kys faget," but that's the risk we all take, and you should know to ignore those people if you've been on the internet longer than a week.

Then there's the people like Jesse, who are butthurt about this butthurt. From what I can gather, his issue (and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong because I'm not gonna be keeping this post a secret) is that people shouldn't be so sensitive to get riled by something like what Groffin said... while getting riled about what Groffin said. Basically he says we should admit our flaws and work to change them, and I agree with this. Seriously though, go read the pulprev dot com thing I linked above, it's from the man himself, and he explains himself better than I could summarize. Anyway, this is all well and good, but what I need this crew of people to do, Groffin and Jesse included, is to stop whining about the whiners described in group one and go tell specific people what they think they're doing wrong. You need to name names, and break that stupid shit authors have about being sensitive to criticism that Brian Niemeier brought up on Twitter. If you got a problem with something I wrote, drop into the comments section of that part of that story and tell me what you think I'm doing wrong. Or hit me up on Twitter and we can crawl into DM's and work it out. Ask for my Discord or Skype, if you'd rather go through one of those platforms. I'm perfectly fine with having my work critiqued, and that's part of the reason I'm putting them out here on Steemit. I value that feedback.

Sure, having people suck my dick about my stories is nice, but what feels really good is stuff like the dinner and a conversation that Cahoutek treated me to when he gave me a pretty in-depth review of Fire On The Bayou. I'd assume most authors would also value that level of criticism, but I'm probably autistic or something, so I'm not a good judge of where most people are at. But I'm assuming we're all adults here, so maybe that's my mistake. Of course I don't mean that you should take the "criticism" of "lol this sucks kys faget" seriously. But if someone comes to you with in-depth thoughts about that thing you wrote and how it could've been better, take notes and apply them next time, because they cared enough to not only read your whole thing but try and help you get better as they see it. So this is a lot of work for everybody, but it's what, in my opinion, needs to happen.

PulpRev absolutely needs critique to get better.

PulpRev authors need to swallow their damned pride and take the criticism to heart and learn how to write better.

The people giving that critique need to be exacting and precise about what they think is being done wrong. This person has a problem with characterization, that person has issues with dialogue, this person needs to work on their prose, this guy needs better action scenes, that gal needs to work on her descriptions, etc. etc. etc.

And if you're not gonna give this level of critique, shut the fuck up and go home because nobody needs you here.

This is why I don't take Groffin seriously, I don't understand what Jesse is so ass hurt about, and I have no idea why Ben (@cheah) is giving air to this bullshit. Nor do I understand why I'm giving air to this bullshit. I am a deeply confused man at the moment, and I'm just getting this shit off my chest because I'm beyond tired of hearing about it and thinking, "I'm not gonna say anything, it'll go away on its own without my help." Apparently I can't keep my goddamned mouth shut, so here we are!

Critique is all well and good, but I'm gonna show you some bullshit right now. Let me directly quote Groffin.

And for all your glorification of the insular and self-aggrandizing indie-literature circuit, you have no minds of comparable >skill or prestige, and will not for years and years if ever.

This bullshit hits Jesse where it hurts? This is what's upsetting people so badly? This is what people are taking as serious critique?

This?

I should mention that the other group of butthurt people are people like me, who think that everybody including themselves is being completely fucking retarded by letting this oxygen thief waste our goddamned time with this. And yes, it is defeatist. Saying, "You're not there yet, but you could be as good as X one day if you did Y," is offering vital criticism to help someone get better. Saying, "You'll never be as good as X because you just suck," is discouraging bullshit that helps nobody and is essentially saying, "lol u suk kys faget."

This is nothing.

What in the goddamned hell are you people shitting yourselves over?

Yes, this is truth. It's a very blatantly obvious truth. It's a truth that, as I said, I didn't think needed to be expressed because I'd assumed this was very blatantly obvious to everybody. Of course we don't have any Robert Howards, or Edgar Rice Burroughses, or Jack Vances, or Abraham Merritts, or Leigh Bracketts, or [insert great pulp author name here]. We've got some people who are getting there, but most of these people only started seriously writing in the last two years. Getting mad at Jon Mollison for not being Jack Vance yet, or Dominika Lein for not being Leigh Brackett, or Schuyler Hernstrom for not being Robert E. Howard is like getting mad at a guy who just started martial arts training a year ago for not being a kung-fu master. Practicing writing, actually reading old books and figuring out what these people did to get so good, and developing a personal style as a writer that can take you out of the sea of pink slime that most of us have been swimming in since fucking birth takes time. Shit, not even the greats were great when they first started seriously writing. Have you read early Lovecraft?

You don't go from writing shit like "The Beast In The Cave" to writing shit like "At The Mountains of Madness" in just a couple years, but you have to go through the cave to get to the mountain.

So calm your fucking tits, people. And I mean everybody. So some guy said you're not as good as your favorite pulp author. Get the fuck over it. So someone says that while we don't have any greats, we've got people on their way to being greats right now. And that's true, and you can get the fuck over it as well. Because the way the first camp seems to be talking sounds like you think you've reached the top of the mountain, and buddy I can tell you that we're only in the foothills. And the way the other camp talks sounds like we need to just delete all our old stories, cancel any new ones, pull everything down from Amazon, delete Microsoft Office (or comparable Mac programs) and just give up because a largely unknown internet movement primarily pushed by maybe thirty to forty people that's only seriously been around for two years hasn't completely revolutionized the face of modern fiction and burned traditional publishing to the ground yet. And frankly I'm sick to the back fucking teeth of hearing both of it.

This argument is autistic, even for us.

THEN you have the other group of people, like Ben Cheah. Ben, in his piece I linked above, seems to be taking the incredibly broad criticism to heart, and working out solutions to help people actively become better writers. This I applaud, and it's possibly the only good thing to come out of this retarded shitfit. I refuse to use the term "GroffinGate" mostly because I've cooled on the -gate names for controversies, but also because I don't think this particular ride on the short bus is worth naming. The Warboss seems to be saying to everyone, "We can all do better, but there's not much criticism to work with, so here's some things we can do that I think will help us all get better. Apply as you think necessary." Warboss Cheah mentions Singaporean Literature and how low energy it is, to the point that he, a single man, was able to co-opt the hashtag and fill it with his own particular brand of pulpy goodness. With any luck he will single-handedly regain the honor of his country. But he worries about the PulpRev becoming this stagnant and stale, and I really don't think it's much to be worried about.

As I said, reading these old books, not just reading but studying, takes time. Practicing these literary conventions takes time. Becoming better writers takes time. That's all this is, is it's taking time and people are getting impatient, or thinking that things are slowing down when all that's really happening is people are off working to get better. Some specific criticism would help individual cases, but most of the PulpRev people that I'm talking to are either working on stories or reading something that they've never touched before. Maybe we're running in different time zones, so we're talking to different people, but all the people I talk to seem to accept that it's going to be a long hard climb up the mountain. We're going to have to work, and work, and work, and it's gonna be a slog to write all those words and read all those books, but they're committed to doing it and the only thing left to do is get their noses back to the grindstone. This is part of the reason I have no time for this crab bucket bullshit Groffin is pulling, and why I immediately identified it as something best ignored, and why I'm so pissed off I apparently need to write this blog post.

This generalized criticism of multiple writers at once is garbage-tier bait, and I'm utterly fucking flabbergasted people fell for it so goddamned hard.

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Here's a nice little tip for the critics: PulpRev is not a monolith. PulpRev has no leader. You cannot get the whole to do what you want just by poking a part. You can't even properly critique anything to come out of PulpRev except on an individual basis. I'm not looking to write like Jon Mollison, or Brian Niemeier, or Ben Cheah, or Not John Daker, or anybody else affiliated with the PulpRev, and none of those guys are trying to write like each other either. Therefore any blanket criticism regarding writing quality meant to catch all of them will catch none of them. If it does catch anyone it'll be by complete chance, which is why I call this bullshit for the bait that it is.

On Twitter I likened this to a bunch of people building a house, and I'm going to expand on that because this is really how I see it. We're pouring concrete for the foundation, we've got guys looking over the blueprints, we've got carpenters getting the wood ready, plumbers with the pipes, electricians with the wiring, and all the rest of it. We're currently in the beginning stages of building this house. We're pouring the concrete and planning everything out and naturally there's a lot of talk about how nice this house is going to look when we get finished with it. We all think it's gonna turn out really well, and we know it's going to take a lot of work that we're all 100% prepared to put in, but thinking about what it'll be eventually is encouraging to everybody and we're ready to be proud of our work in the end. We'll deserve to be, if that house is built to our specifications.

Then some jackass wanders up off the street who doesn't seem to be actively involved in any kind of building projects at all and says, "Wow, there isn't a house here at all! I thought you guys were building a house! You guys must really suck at building houses! I've been watching you "build this house" from across the street there, and you all are terrible at it! Just terrible!"

And at this point I've been listening to this guy go on for so long that I'm sick as shit of it and I'm asking, "Okay, motherfucker, you gonna pick up a hammer? How about helping us get this foundation squared and smoothed out? You a carpenter? Plumber? Electrician? Are you gonna get down here with us and help us build the house? Or are you just gonna sit there and jack your cock all day talking that good shit like you know what the fuck you're doing?"

I've heard complaints about the books, about the short stories, about the magazines, about everything, but you know what I haven't heard? Actual criticism on how they can be better. It's just been, "Well I didn't like it." Okay, you didn't like it.

I'm gonna need you to explain why I should give a fuck about your opinion before I give a fuck about your opinion.

Most people don't like the Star Wars Prequels. I happen to love them, and I don't let other people's negative opinions about them affect my enjoyment of the movies. Same with my writing. If you don't give me something concrete that I can work with to get better, I'm gonna fucking ignore you because you might as well be saying, "I don't like The Phantom Menace," to me, and I don't care about your opinion. I care about what you think is identifiably wrong with my writing. And this, "You're not Rob Howard!!!" bullshit isn't news to me.

Since you know so much, either explain how I can get that good, or keep fucking walking. Because if you're not offering actionable critique of my writing personally, I don't care what you have to say and I'm gonna ignore like you're an anon on 4chan who called me a faggot. I might actually take the anon more seriously than you, because maybe my taste in anime does indicate that I like to suck dick, but me not being Robert Howard right now is something you, me, God, and everybody already know. To go back to one of my metaphors, we're climbing a mountain right now. If you've got a helicopter that can get us to the top with tons of successful novels and magazines and major awards and winning back the major audience that SFF literature used to have and all the rest of the shit we talk about, then gas that bitch up and let us hop in, because you're the exact type of person we could use. I'm just not seeing a lot of helicopters lying around gassed up and ready to go. Go outline a general game plan that'll help us take over, start publishing your own stuff, make your own magazine and publish shit that you think is ready for prime time, give constructive criticism to writers, or whatever you can think of that might actually help to fix the problems you think you've identified. If you're not prepared to do any of these things, your bellyaching is less than worthless, and actively detrimental as it might affect someone easily influenced by the bad attitudes of others.

So I'm gonna go ahead and wrap this up, but to recap:

  1. Take Ben's advice. It's good general advice.

  2. We can all become better writers, and actual critique helps us get better. Learn to separate critique like Cahoutek's from heckling like Groffin's, and take the former deadly serious.

  3. If you're gonna critique, pick someone who's doing something that you particularly like and try to help them get better, especially if you have a different angle or simply have read more of the genre than they have. Just make it actual criticism, not heckling bullshit.

  4. Drop this whole entire incident, because it's retarded and we're all autists for even thinking about engaging in this in the first place.

And there we go. I hope you guys learned something. I know I didn't. But at least I feel better having gotten all that bullshit off my chest. I guess that means I'm breaking even.

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Great post!

I suppose I'm 'giving air to this bullshit' because Groffin's words remind me so much of the literature scene of Singapore, and because the PulpRev crew is the first scene I've been in that actually cares about putting out good work. But, yeah, I'm not going to take the blackpill and lie down and die. That's not the Pulp way.

This whole thing is getting too autistic even for me. We just need to learn what needs to be learned and keep driving on. There's plenty of work to do and the Revolution ain't going to run itself.

Glad it went over well. I guess it just seemed so obvious to me that I couldn't work out what people were getting upset over until today. Maybe I had a Rain Man moment with this particular thing, but I hope this puts an end to at least some of it.

Speaking as an old fart to the next generation, the training montage is a lie. That's the saddest lie y'all have been fed and it's liked the work ethic and motivation of many of your generation (not pulp rev folks. Y'all work.)

Between the training montage and "chosen talented one" lie, why bother? So you tried something a few times and it wasn't brilliant, time to give up and play video games and surf social media.

No, no! The only way is hard work and time. It takes time to get good! KEEP GOING, PULP REV!!!

The bottom line is that work has to come first, before group identity or friendship or ego. That doesn't mean a critique has to be unkind, simply that it has to be honest.

An honest critique requires introspection on the part of the critic. I have to be aware of my own tastes and prejudices, and to be able to present my reactions to the work as personal. That's tougher than it sounds.

A critic needs a thick skin just as much as an author. It's easy to say "this sux bawls!" It's much harder to say, "I was confused at this point, angry about what happened to that character, and disappointed when this other thing didn't happen."

A good critique means being vulnerable. It means telling a writer, "this is how you made me feel."