I was surfing on We The Armed (which believe it or not, has a great creative writing section for all of you aspiring writers looking for a place to post samples to get feedback) and I came across this thread:
http://wethearmed.com/index.php/topic,12410.0.html called Ever read a “must read” just to go “And”?
It was about how some books that are “classics” really aren’t that special, or even good. I wasn’t surprised to see a bunch of smart, educated, intelligent folks chime in about some of the awful trash that they were forced to read when they were in high school. I’ve got pretty strong opinions on this and it seems that I’m not alone. I quickly posted the following rant (edited here because I cranked this out in 3 minutes and can’t spell) :
Don’t get me started on high school English. The garbage that gets force fed to kids in the guise of education is why so many Americans do not read. We beat it out of them. We club them over the head with boring tripe that is only a classic because some professor declared it to be a classic a hundred years ago. We force them to read these things, until in their mind reading equals tedium, and then we’re shocked when as a nation we don’t read as much. FRIGGIN’ DUH! You ignorant literati sluts! You are too busy giving each other awards to realize that nobody reads your nonsense.
True story. A friend of mine is a successful fantasy novelist. He was asked to speak to a creative writing class about his first book. The teacher asked him what it “meant.” He gave her the plot synopsis. No. What does it “mean”? It is a fantasy, about magic, and– NO. What is the real “meaning”? You see, college English is the only place where Freudian psychology is still legitimate. Everything has to have a deeper meaning. A book just can’t be a story. It has to be an analogy for some social commentary. And heaven help us if it wasn’t, because then all those no-talent hack English professors wouldn’t be able to write 1,000 page commentaries on what the whale in Moby Dick REALLY represented.
I’m a professional writer. I’ve made a career out of it more than 99.9% of the English majors in the US will. Because what they are being taught is mostly crap. And. They. Just. Don’t. Get. It. The education establishment hates people like me. We’re pulp. We’re trash. And at the end of the day, I will have one thousand times the readership of the most prestigious literary journal.
If I wanted to win some awards, I’d remove the humor, put in more bleakness, despair, depression, and then maybe have somebody get raped, and then have a thinly veiled reference to the evils of something liberals hate. Boom. I get an award. If I’m going for a sci-fi award instead, I’ll do that, only I’ll have a robot get raped. Everybody cries. The end. I get an award and sell fifteen whole copies.
And some of these books mentioned here really are good, but they shouldn’t be FORCED onto fourteen year olds! Pick books that these kids will actually, I don’t know, something crazy… ENJOY?
Worst book for me was the Scarlet Letter. I almost became illiterate after being forced to read that piece of crap. Suffer. Suffer. Suffer. More suffering. Oooh, look, suffering. Tedium. Bored. Suffer. Oh, now let’s make her horrible child a bad analogy. Didn’t see that coming. Oh, please is it almost over? I can barely read through the tears of boredom. Please let it be over soon. Suffer. Whine. Suffer. Everybody dies. The End.
Okay. So that was the rant. Yep, I was sitting in my angry chair on that one.
Afterwards, I got to thinking about it, and I want to address this some more on my blog because I’ve been thinking about this topic, of what is literary and respectable and wins awards and gets critical acclaim but nobody actually reads, versus the kind of stuff that I write that is wildly popular and makes piles of money but gets sneered at by the literati elite. This also relates directly to the crap that is foisted on kids in school in the guise of an English education.
Oh, but Correia, we need to expose our kids to the classics of literature! Okay, sure. What makes some book a classic?
Uh… It just is?
Why is the Scarlet Letter a classic? Reading it gives you a sensation similar to repeatedly giving yourself paper cuts across the cornea. Let me ruin it for you. Spoiler alert. A woman has to wear a big read A. People suffer. All the light will flee your soul. Puritans are jerks. Yet, it is a classic because at some point in time, some dude with a doctorate in English proclaimed it to be a classic.
One definition says that these are pivotal or influential works that influenced society… Uh huh… Pivotal because an English professor said so. If being influential was the official definition for a classic then my kids would have to read the screenplay for Star Wars in school, and my grandchildren will have to read the collected works of Twilight.
Maybe we should have our kids read books that are award winning! Well, except that just because a book won an award doesn’t mean that it is good either. (though many people can’t seem to make that distinction). Literary awards are usually circle jerks of like-minded people giving each other awards. It doesn’t matter how good or popular a book is, if it doesn’t fit the mold of what that group wants, it doesn’t get an award. And in some cases, it doesn’t matter how bad a book is, because if it fits the criteria or some tiny group of judges is fond of it, it wins.
I remember getting in trouble in high school English class because I had a disdain for “good books”. I was too busy reading awesome DragonLance novels to really give a flip about James Joyce. (who just goes to show that if you want to sell a bunch of books, you just need to get banned somewhere!)
Let me explain what I was like at the time. I was probably the most well read kid in school. I lived way out in the boondocks, was the first one picked up in the morning, and spent close to three hours a day on the bus reading a novel. I had read every single book (not an exaggeration) in the tiny El Nido public library before I ever went to high school. I had read something like 90 Louis L’amour novels. My favorite book in 6th grade was Dune. I was that kid.
Yet, despite the fact that I read way more than most adults, I got terrible grades in English. I had a finely tuned BS detector at an early age. Since I was extraordinarily well read for a fourteen year old, I already had a grasp on what a ‘good’ story was. I recognized that most of the books we were being forced to read were just plain boring, and then we were expected to read these terribly dull books and discuss them for like a month! Sorry, there just isn’t that much to talk about. I would normally read the book in a day, and then by the time the rest of the class was done reading The Great Gatsby and discussing the “hidden” symbolism of a bunch of hedonist socialites and their tedious existence, I’d have read ten other more enjoyable books.
The one good thing about being forced to read The Great Gatsby was that I discovered Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft afterwards because I figured that not everybody from that time frame could have been that incredibly annoying.
My sophomore English teacher dismissed those works as “pulp” not “literature”. Really? Because who has influenced more people in succeeding generations? Cthulu or Gatsby? My money is on the big squid.
So, at the end of my education, I hadn’t done most of the assignments, thought most of my teachers were dolts, lost all respect for academia, got mediocre grades, and slept through class. I did everything absolutely wrong according to my teachers, yet, I’ve gone on to read thousands of books and have a successful writing career despite teachers doing their best to make me despise the written word. Yay, school!
You want to get kids in high school to like reading? Don’t force them to read the same old tired crap. It isn’t educational just because it was written by a sexually-frustrated Victorian woman. Let them read other things. Let them read modern books. Let them read from different genres. Give them a giant list to chose from. News flash, not everybody likes the same thing. I know that is incredibly difficult for academics to swallow, but it is true.
Is the purpose of a education to teach you to think, or is it to check a box saying you read X number of approved books? If the purpose is to check a box, then congrats most teachers. You win. Sure, these kids grow up and hate reading for the rest of their lives, but whatever. You checked that box real good.
I loved Don Quixote. I enjoyed Silas Marner. Count of Monte Cristo is bad ass. I like a lot of Shakespeare, with MacBeth being my favorite. Those are classics by most accounts… And not a single one of them was enjoyed because of an English class. Odds are that if I’d been forced to read any of those in English class, then months of discussing the hidden themes (that may or may not have been there) and then getting tested on it would’ve beaten any enjoyment right out of those works.
I’ve been surprised how many e-mails I’ve gotten in the last couple of years from mothers telling me how excited they are that their kids liked my books. It is usually some variation of “Johnny hates to read, but he read your book in three days! He’s never liked a book before.” Well, that’s probably because the other books Johnny has been exposed to just aren’t interesting to him.
Teachers, there’s nothing wrong with that! Some people hate fantasy but love thrillers. Some people have an affinity for romance novels but would never touch a western. Let them find their niche. Believe me, once reading becomes a habit, they will expand into other things… But nobody, and I mean nobody, likes bullshit written by angsty whiners about their laudanum fueled binges of pathetic boredom. Even the literary geniuses at the finest universities foisting this crap on us only skim it. They say the love it, but they lie. They just read the Cliff Notes to impress chicks from the Art Department.
I’m not saying that my work is a classic. Heck no. By no means. I’m proud to be a pulp writer. I don’t write books with themes or hidden meanings. A gun is a gun and werewolves are not a symbol of feminist liberation. Most normal writers are in the same boat. We don’t have literati pretensions of smug superiority. We write to get paid, and the more entertaining we are, the more we get paid.
Now, if you don’t want to be one of those boring old writers that make a living off this stuff, and instead you are in this for the “art” and to win prestigious literary awards, let me give you some helpful hints on things you need to put into your book to get awards. The more the better.
- Make it dreary and impossible to understand. The more befuddling the better.
- Don’t resolve anything. Resolutions are so bourgeois.
- Somebody has to get raped. If it is sci-fi, rape a robot.
- Suicide is good too.
- Humor is not allowed, unless it is ironic hipster humor that mocks the establishment.
- If there is an antagonist, make him a thinly veiled version of Dick Cheney.
- Right-wing dystopia OR evil all-controlling religion. (bonus points for both!)
- Gay cowboys eating pudding.
- Make every single character unlikable. If you accidentally create a likable character, see #3 or #4.
- Moral compasses are so passé. Have your protagonist sexually assault a horse or something.
- Drug abuse is fun for the whole family. Somebody better be huffing paint.
- Global warming. Award juries love dying polar bears.
Seven or more gets you a Pulitzer. Get 10 and I guarantee you’ll win the Nobel prize for literature. All 12 might just get you on Oprah.
Tomorrow night from 6-8 at Sam Wellers in SLC, I’ll be doing a book signing with a whole bunch of bad mamba-jambas of the writing world. Including:
Kevin J. Anderson
Jessica Day George
Eric James Stone
Mary Robinette Kowal
Some dude that looks like James Gandolfini and has written some books about monsters, another one about the 1930s only with more dirigibles, and a thriller about some guys doing stuff in the middle east with lots of expolsions, or something.
As in there are probably others that I don’t even know about. There are a bunch of best sellers on that list. So come on down to Sam Wellers book store in downtown Salt Lake City. Inevitably when I go downtown I get accosted by crazy homeless people, so a fun time will be had by all!
Recently I posted the final cover artwork for the thriller Dead Six, coming out in October 2011 by me and Mike Kupari. I also posted a bunch of the final badge logos so you can see what we were choosing from. Well, if you want to see some of the other things that Kurt worked through to get to the final, go here:
He read the book and then consulted with me and Mike for our opinions. He worked up Photoshop roughs of a wide variation of designs, some that were action scenes from the book, others that were kind of a movie poster montage showing the two characters. One of the things that came about was the whole black/white duality. Some of these had pictures of Valentine and Lorenzo, while others were just their guns.
Once Kurt had a selection of ideas, he ran them past our editor, Toni Weiskopf at Baen. Toni then picked the style that she liked the best. One thing to keep in mind that I didn’t when I was picking my personal favorite, is that Baen is known as a sci-fi/fantasy publisher, so they need to be careful to differentiate their thriller covers. Hence the simplified version with just the guns. (which, by the way, are accurate for the characters)
Once Toni had decided on the style, it went back to me and Mike for our opinions. That was when the D6 badge got jazzed up. Kurt worked up several, Mike and I picked our favorites, and then Toni picked one of those.
Cool huh? Now you know how book covers work. Well, not really as it is different every time.
It is time to help out my racist/hick/red-state/hate-monger readership again. Some of you have been confused by the media coverage of yesterday’s tragic shooting. As a “wise Latino” who understands the media, let me help you:
A left-wing, Communist Manifesto reading, schizophrenic, nut-bar, dirt bag that posts obviously deranged YouTube videos about mind control, who has no association with the Tea Party, shoots a congresswoman = SARAH PALIN IS EVIL
Yes, that can be confusing. I know. Bear with me. Remember the last time we went over this kind of thing:
A Muslim in the US Army, after preaching Jihad and corresponding with Al Queda in Yemen, goes on a shooting rampage while screaming “Allah Akbar” = NOT TERRORISM
I know you may be thinking that the correct thing to do here is to take the assassin, try him, and execute him accordingly, but that would be incorrect. The proper thing to do is pin the whole thing on the people that the media don’t like first.
Tea Party movement is about how regular Americans are sick of paying too much in taxes and the government is too big and ineffectual = SETTING A DANGEROUS AND VIOLENT TONE
Making a movie about the assassination of George Bush = ART
Okay, I’m ticked. You know it is time for a political blog post when you get to sleep in on a Sunday morning and you still wake up angry.
Why am I mad?
Because I am sick and tired, because I’m a gun owner, for being blamed every single time a nut job goes on a rampage. But at least I’m used to it. I was a gun rights activist back when Bill Clinton was president. We’ve been blamed for every whackadoo, schizophrenic, off his meds, mopey-ass nitwit crying for attention that has ended up on the news.
It never mattered that people like me and the people that I trained were the last line of defense against these types. It never even mattered when it was a CCW holder that stopped the shooting. That part usually didn’t get mentioned.
But we got used to it. Gun people see it coming. We expect it as soon as we hear that there has been another senseless murder on the news. We know that we are going to get maligned and vilified by a media that only cares about pushing an agenda (and gun control was liberal cause #1 back in the 90s) and not that their 24/7 coverage and insta-stardom for the bad guy is going to spur copycats, but that’s okay, because like I said, we are used to being the bad guy.
So… How do the rest of you feel now?
See, now it isn’t just us gun owners, it is the entire right leaning half of the country. It is the one third of the nation that belongs to the Tea Party. This shooting yesterday? The media declared it was your fault, your hatred, your bitterness, that set it off. They were open and blunt about it before the facts came in, and once the facts were out, the mainstream toned it down to just insinuation while the lefty fringe got even crazier.
I wasn’t even paying attention until I stupidly took a break from writing (ironically, about an incident involving a lone nut assassin in 1933) and went onto Facebook where I discovered that there had been a shooting and that it had been caused by (in order of evil): Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Arizonans in favor of closing the border, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party, and easy access to guns… Whew. My people came in last for once!
So I looked into it, fully expecting the shooter to be some right-wing crazy spouting off Ayn Rand.
Nope. Not even close. But I forgot. Reality doesn’t matter.
Right after the shooting, before anyone knew what was going on, so early that the president himself didn’t even know if the congresswoman was deceased or not, the Daily Kos (the mixed nut selection par excellence) ran an article about how this was Sarah Palin’s fault because Giffords was one of the members of congress she had “targeted”.
Targeted. Yes, to get voted out of office. I missed the part about shooting them.
Apparently, we are no longer allowed to use any words that can be construed as weapons related. The chain of stores known as Target will henceforth be called Big Red More Expensive Walmart.
Oh, but Correia, surely Sarah Palin was calling for VIOLENCE with such careless use of words.
If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun. – Barack Obama (in a lame attempt to sound like Sean Connery) during the fight for Obamacare.
I had one Facebook idiot (Hi, Bob Snare!) who has since unfriended me so I can’t find the quote, say how Sarah Palin was bad because she called the shooting a tragedy. He said that she couldn’t call for violence and then have it both ways!
Uhm… What? That’s loopy as hell right there. I pointed out that she hadn’t called for violence (outside of in the imagination of lefties where us evil conservatives are going to round them all up and put them in reeducation camps run by Jerry Falwell) and besides the shooter turned out to be a schizophrenic nut-weasel. (I watched his YouTube videos yesterday… wow. Just wow).
We went back and forth, with me typing on my iPhone. The shooter wasn’t even from my side of the political spectrum! I pointed out that among the assassin’s favorite books were the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf.
I was told that there were other books on there too…
Yes, but there aren’t a lot of Tea Partiers with the Communist friggin’ Manifesto in their FAVORITES list. I read the Communist Manifesto once, mostly so I could argue with morons more effectively, but it sure as hell wouldn’t make my favorites list. (It is horrid) Nor would it make the favorites list of anybody who listened to Sarah Palin so intently that they’d go shoot somebody for her.
Then various liberals jumped on said that the Bible was responsible for the most killings of all (actually, I’m pretty sure Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Imperial Japan edge out Jesus and the Crusades by a good margin) and then somebody else had a giant rambling bunch of BS about how Communism and Nazism are both exactly like being conservative today, and how they are nothing like being liberal… He also used a bunch of big words to display his academic prowess, though he used several of them wrong. (for the record, I’ve written two books on the 1930s… Don’t try to spout off about historical political theory to impress me, because you are probably going to look like an idiot).
I was told to shut up and **** off. All in caps. Like he was screaming it while ineffectually punching at his crying pillow. (it smells of lilacs… and shame) Man, I wish I could access that quote, because it was comedy gold. Basically, children are dead! I was told that I have a blog and to take my “right wing ideologies” there because I wasn’t welcome on his and that people would listen to me because I have “bestsellers” and he actually put bestsellers in quotes.
(for the record, I’ve now made 4 different national bestseller lists on multiple occasions, top 25 on Amazon and #4 in the country on Nielsen Bookscan in my genre, and the big dog, the NYT… so I don’t really think the quotes are necessary, Bub)
He told me to take it to my blog.
Then he posted this to my page: During his campaign effort to unseat Giffords, GOP challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot an M-16. “I don’t see the connection,” said John Ellinwood, Kelly’s spokesman. “I don’t know this person, we cannot find any records that he was associated with the campaign in any way.” John Ellinwood is clearly an idiot.
Okay. So because somebody else shot a gun at some point in time, that is clearly what motivated the shooter that didn’t listen to nor had any association with the people that shot the gun. If he had asked them to help him shoot an M-16 AT SOMEBODY, then I could see the issue.
Bob, you are an idiot. You are a half-wit, slobbering moron. My brain will not allow me to descend to a level of dumb sufficient to form a response that you will understand. For everybody else, M-16s are a lot of fun to shoot. (not a lot of fun to carry around all day with crap bolted to them). To most regular people, guns are a normal part of life. We use them. They are fun. Politicians like things that are fun, because then they can use said fun things to raise money.
Only in la-la land can you stretch that far and still sound credible. The rest of us just scratch our heads and feel kind of sorry for you.
Once upon a time, after ObamaCare was passed, Nancy Pelosi said that the founding fathers would be pleased. The response I put on this blog was “Bitch, George Washington would run you through with his sword.” So by the media’s demented reasoning, if Nancy Pelosi ever gets murdered, it would be my fault.
An Arizona sheriff(you get one guess where he falls on the whole secure the border thing) issued a statement yesterday saying that “Arizona has become a Mecca for prejudice and bigotry”.
What is with these people? Do they wait for something awful to happen so that they can harness it to whatever their pet issue is? Yes. The white congresswoman and a bunch of white people were shot by a crazy white guy because of prejudice against Mexicans. Do these idiots ever listen to themselves? Wait… shouldn’t the sheriff have to apologize for using the word Mecca in a negative light?
I read repeatedly yesterday about how Glenn Beck has been calling for violence… Really? Has he ever actually done that? Or has that just been repeated over and over again on the left as some sort of mantra until it has become their truth? Here’s the thing. I listen to Glenn Beck on my morning commute because it is one of the only stations I can get up in the mountains. I’m not a Beck defender nor am I a huge fanboy (mostly because a lot of the stuff he’s saying now I was called crazy for saying ten years ago, so it is kind of old news. Welcome to the party, Brother Beck). Beck is the opposite of calling for violence. He’s railed on it over and over, and he’s terrified that somebody on our side will do something stupid. He’s asked people to pray for the safety of our elected officials.
That sure sounds like a call for violence to me.
This whole thing ticks me off, though it shouldn’t. I should know better. I should know it is coming. I’m tired of the media talking about average Americans on my side of the fence like we’re just simmering and ready to explode, while Black Panthers threatening people with clubs get a pass. I’m tired of union leaders being caught on tape talking about using violence and intimidation as a valid political tool getting zero coverage, while people on my side are maligned for things they didn’t say.
None of this is new. Crazies have been killing politicians since they were tossing black powder bombs under their carriages. The only reason Roosevelt lived long enough to become president only because Gieseppe Zanagara (who believed evil capitalists had cursed him with a disease that caused flatulence) was short and had to stand on a wobbly chair to see over the crowd.
The victims are the people that got killed or injured. The villain is the person that shot them, not regular America, no matter how fervently the press wishes it would be.
EDIT: I just got an e-mail with a link where it was pointed out by a random illiterate internet moron that my facts were wrong and “cringe-worthy” when I said that the Crusades had killed fewer people than various modern political ideologies because the Crusades went on a really looong time. Nope. Read a book sometime. Population density was much lower then. In fact, even if I take the highest estimated death toll numbers for all the Crusades put together that I can find, Stalin by himself would probably still win.
Cool. MHV came out a few months ago, but it is still hanging in there and selling well. I have no idea how Locus calculates their list, but I was #5. Which is odd, because I sold a much higher number of books during the release month (October, when I made the New York Times bestseller list) but I didn’t show up on Locus then, but Bookscan had MHV as the #4 fantasy novel in the country.
I don’t know how these bestseller lists work. They’re like voodoo or something. Maybe they hired that octopus that predicted the World Cup. I don’t know.
So both of my released novels have made the Locus list. Let’s see if we can get Hard Magic on there next. Maybe one of these days Locus will review/mention me.
Oh, and writing update. There are not going to be three Larry Correia releases in 2011. There are going to be FOUR. TGC:1 in May, MHA in August, D6 in October, and TGC:2 in November. EDITED for clarity. I forgot that it is 2011 already.
Yep. Things are hopping around here.
http://unclehugo-edgar.livejournal.com/182316.html Though Lois Bujold took me in dollars, what with her fancy hard covers. But still, if you’re going to lose, you might as well lose to somebody that awesome.
Uncle Hugo’s is one of the biggest stores in the country. They are who introduced me to Baen back when I was self-published, and if you recall, that’s where I steered the blog traffic for autographed copies when MHV came out. I’ll be flying out there in May to sign a bunch of hard covers of Hard Magic too.
Here is the cover art for the thriller written by Mike Kupari and I. Artwork by the very talented Kurt Miller. http://www.kmistudio.com/ Check out Kurt’s page. He is one very talented dude.
Thrillers are a relatively new thing for Baen. There is the Paladin of Shadows series by Ringo and the Countdown series by Kratman. Baen, being known as a premier publisher of sci-fi/fantasy has to go out of its way to make sure that its thriller covers look like thriller covers.
The black and white contrast works well considering that the story is told by two different characters, on different sides, written by different authors. On the left is Lorenzo’s gun. Valentine’s is on the right.
EDIT: Coming November 2011.
The D6 logo went through several revisions. I thought you guys might enjoy seeing some of them:
Next Wednesday, January 12th, at Sam Wellers in SLC, starting at 6:00 PM, I’ll be doing a book signing with a whole mess of authors, most of whom are bestsellers. It is for the Superstars of Writing Seminar. Kevin J. Anderson, Eric Flint, Brandon Sanderson, Tracy Hickman, Dave Farland, Rebecca Moesta, Eric James Stone, Brad Torgersen, and more.
Spread the word if you don’t mind. I can’t be outshone by all those famous people.
Oh, and for your viewing enjoyment, here is a video from my buddy Jeff who was passing through Utah. We went shooting last week. http://www.facebook.com/#!/video/video.php?v=476711236212&comments I’m the ruggedly handsome one. Me, Mike, and Jeff had a pair of Berettas. Of course we had to get our Chow Yun Fat on. He just makes it look cooler.
And yes, that beautiful scenery? That’s where I live. Pretty awesome. Cold… But awesome. As for the plate rack, I’m usually faster, but it is hard to shoot good when you can’t feel your finger tips.