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December 1st, 2009


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03:06 pm - Let's try this phrase on for size: "yuppie fascism"
Terry Goodkind made an interesting statement at some sort of forum. He claims he doesn't write fantasy, but instead he writes about people.

He's far from the first person to do that. Anne Rice went so far as to preface the VHS version of "Interview with a Vampire" with a 10 minute speech about the fact that she's writing about people, not vampires. Which makes me laugh a little because it suggests that "vampires are people too!".

Someone noted similarities between his "Sword of Truth" series and the "Wheel of Time" series. He responded that "[I]f you notice a similarity, then you probably aren't old enough to read my books."

Someone mentioned that they've been defending his books a lot to former fans of the series, to which he replied:
Don't be fooled. The assertion made by these detractors is a note wrapped around a brick thrown through the window. These people are not fans. There are hundreds if not thousands of fantasy books that fulfill their professed taste in books. Why would they continue to read books they claim are bad? Because they hate that my novels exists. Values arouse hatred in these people. Their goal is not to enjoy life, but to destroy that which is good -much like a school child who does not wish to study for a test and instead beats up a classmate who does well. These people hate what is good because it is good. Their lives are limited to loathing and indifference. It isn't that they want to read a good book, what they want is to make sure that you do not. Ignore them.


Here (and elsewhere), a bunch of people have commented similarly to this comment:
It is just my luck that I have read the whole serie [sic] of The Sword of Truth before reading the various answers and interviews of Terry Goodkind. He just seems to think that people who don't love him the way he is are beneath him (how awfully pretentious). Anyway, his books are good, but now that I got a glimpse of how he thinks of himself and the rest of the world I will think twice before reading another of his books. How can a writer write good books when he/she him/herself is a narcissic [sic] person, just like Goodkind? Don't be scared by his real personality and it shouldn't be an obstacle to read his books.

and
I've never heard of this person but you folk have already put me off him. The thought of purchasing anything by this pompous windbag and therefore contributing to his earnings fills me with horror!


I emphasized that statement because it is yet another instance of the phenomenon I commented on a few posts ago. People are so obsessed with the idea of "voting with their money" that success becomes a matter of being on a tightrope and attempting not to offend anyone, lest they decide that someone "like you" could never write a "good book".

In the simplest form, these are textbook statements of an ad hominem fallacy. You're claiming that someone's work isn't good because of who they are. These say, "You can't write a good book because you don't agree with me."

Reader:
You are a pompous windbag if you ever judge someone's work by what they believe in.
You are attempting to curtail someone else's income because they exercise their right of free speech in a way you don't agree.
You are attempting to prevent someone from earning money in a particular way because they had the audacity to disagree with you.
Furthermore, you have likely produced nothing and you are trying to destroy someone else's work because they disagree with you.

I wonder if we'll start censoring achievements based on the things people believe. Perhaps we'll start rewriting the textbooks. Some suggestions:
Thomas Edison didn't really popularize the lightbulb because he hated academics.
Nikola Tesla didn't really create Westinghouse's AC transformer because he hated fat people.
John Travolta was never in a good movie because he's a Scientologist.
Mark Twain never wrote a good book because he maliciously poked fun at people.

Do you really believe you're somehow making the world a better place this way? You really think that by forcing your beliefs upon people by refusing to let some people profit improves the universe?

If you believe that, you are more egotistical, self-righteous, and incapable of seeing reason than I am. I accept that I can be wrong when I say something. You are committing yourself to action which cannot be taken back because of the things you do.

I am coining the term "yuppie fascism" for this belief and I expect that many people are going to earn this label in short order. Some among my friends list have already earned it.

(26 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:lishd
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
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wait this isn't your vacation/travel post

why am i reading this
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From:theswede
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
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I actually ran into trouble with reading the Ender's Game books because of the views of the author. But, I expect crucially, it came about the other way around for me. I really enjoyed Ender's Game - it was well thought out, didn't pull the punches, and the "happy ending" was rather pyrrhic for the protagonist.

But the following books just kept descending into something I couldn't quite place, but wasn't too happy about. So, I researched the author and his views (unintentionally at first), and it became clearer what my problem was.

Thus, I most certainly see the argument implied by the shrill comments quoted; that a writer who holds views which one strongly disagrees with might very well create stories which one doesn't enjoy reading. But there are quite a lot of examples of the contrary as well, so taking that as a given does indeed seem, at best, premature. Or at worst - especially when applied to a writer who's works one *knows* one likes - as you say, "yuppie fascist".
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From:testing4l
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:46 pm (UTC)
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You know -- I thought I was the only person who felt that way about Speaker for the Dead and the rest of the trilogy.

I went into it knowing that Card was a Mormon (I'd read a story in his Seventh Son series) and when he started talking about the principles behind the ansible and the suggestion that souls were like that, I instantly recognized them as beliefs from Mormonism. Maybe it was my familiarity with them that stopped them from being interesting.

I chugged through them and quit after Children of the Mind. I ended up reading Ender's Shadow though. It recaptured some of the magic of Ender's Game.

Anyway, that point is well taken, but I don't think I'd say that I didn't like most of the Ender series because Card's a Mormon. howardtayler occasionally does the same and I still <3 Schlock Mercenary.
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From:theswede
Date:December 2nd, 2009 12:17 am (UTC)
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Yes, Schlock Mercenary is just awesome. I have all the books but the latest one so far, he really deserves support. I can't begin to comprehend how Howard can reconcile his worldview with all the hard science he has crammed in together with the devout mormonism, but I'm not complaining that he's able to.
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From:nekojita
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
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I think this is something that's going to happen a lot more thanks to the world of blogging/twitter/et all, and there's a flip side to your 'yuppie fascism' - that people can 'boycott' books and the such because of a writer's opinion that has nothing to do with inaccurately labeling the writer themselves (it's just easier to go w/ the writer example right now).

There are several writers out there whose works I WILL NOT touch because of their views, stated in their own words, which usually run along the lines of being racist, misogynist and/or homophobic. A couple I've read their works, and I'll agree that they do have talent (if that's the case). In some occasions, the books were readable but there was something I felt was lacking in them (such as the treatment of certain characters), and lo and behold, I'll find out about the writer's online rant against gays, women who want something more out of life than to be someone's wife and mother, or people who aren't of the writer's ethnic group. In that case, I tend to put that writer on my 'do not read' list.

They are free to their opinion, and I am free to mine. I put in a lot of work for my money, and I feel I'm entitled to decide if I want to waste it and my time reading something that may upset me as the writer's personal viewpoint creeps into the plot and characterization. I'm not trying to make the person poor (difficult to do with some of these authors), I'm not badmouthing (most of) them or getting everyone I know to stop reading their works, I'm not setting out to change their mindset, I am just putting my money toward books that won't make me upset to read them.

I've been vocal against some writers whose works I have read and can't stand (ie LKH and the Twilight francise), but I've never called for a boycott. I know people who keep buying their books, some of them even agreeing with the negative points I make about them, and there's no browbeating on my part to make them stop. Everyone is free to buy and read what they want. People are free to tell me I'm wrong in my opinions. I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said a thousand times over by other people, and I know better than to think I'll have any impact on their sales. Heck, the badmouthing I may do is on part to what they themselves have put out in public. I believe that if you post something, in some cases your personal laundry, you should be prepared for the consequences. Of course there's freedom of speech, but there's nothing saying that you can't disagree w/ someone's words or opinions, or that what you say will not cause offense.

Anyway, I hope that makes sense. I highly doubt I'll be a 'yuppie facist' just because someone comes off a bit arrogant or pompous (for all I know, there would go most of my library), but there's no reason why I should enrich someone who I feel is spewing hate or who produces something that quite frankly, I think is terrible.
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From:testing4l
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
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I'm pretty confident that I can say you aren't a yuppie fascist based on the thoughtfulness of this response. Amusingly (and arguably hypocritically, given the focus of the conversation), this is partially on the basis that I agree with what you've said.

For my part, I make a point of reading people I disagree with. It helps to keep me from being a complete curmudgeon.
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From:nekojita
Date:December 2nd, 2009 12:12 am (UTC)
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For my part, I make a point of reading people I disagree with. It helps to keep me from being a complete curmudgeon.

I'd rather put aside the 'bad' and keep trying new authors, some who I may disagree with, but not because reasons I've stated above. For all I know, some of my favorite authors may have opinions that I disagree strongly with, but they manage to disassociate it from their writing.
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From:theswede
Date:December 2nd, 2009 12:21 am (UTC)
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I agree here, and to take it further, some authors have used or expressed opinions I disagree with to various degrees and that has made for some very powerful stories. And a lot of soul searching on my part, as well. A good story can make me squirm or squeal, I'm happy as long as it stirs powerful emotion in me.

And sometimes it makes for a good laugh, when an opinion expressed in literature just becomes too absurd. Like, say, Atlas Shrugged. ;)
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From:beethatbumbles
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:40 pm (UTC)
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How about "I will not read the Twilight series because it's really poorly written, creepy, and stupid" ?
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From:testing4l
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC)
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I salute and echo that sentiment.
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From:beethatbumbles
Date:December 2nd, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
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:)
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From:wimpdork
Date:December 1st, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
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I am having trouble wrapping my brain around that first comment. What are you saying, person?!

It sounds like "I am glad I read the books before I found out he's a jerk, because I like the books but I don't like that he's a jerk, and I am not going to read any more of his books because you can't write a good book if you're a jerk. But if you don't care that he's a jerk, you should read his books because they are good." Maybe it's just a case of trying to agree with all sides?

My opinion is if you like it, read it, and if you like it but feel icky about supporting the author, just check it out at the library.
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From:testing4l
Date:December 2nd, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
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I think the numerous errors in it suggest that it really was stream-of-consciousness and not really a well thought out comment. In its way, that's more interesting because it shows the internal struggles of their tortured mind!
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From:spiffikins
Date:December 2nd, 2009 07:37 am (UTC)
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This is something that I struggle with - how to separate the "artist" from their "art".

I do find that my personal experiences with an author or musician will color my enjoyment of their work. There are bands that I don't listen to, because I've witnessed how the lead singer interacts with people, and now, when I listen to their songs, emotionally I have this negative perception of the singer, and it leaks into my enjoyment of the song.

Authors and books I find somewhat easier to separate out - I'm another person who really enjoyed Ender's Game, but after reading some of the author's rants on homosexuality, I really don't feel like I can financially support him - so I choose not to purchase his novels.

With respect to Mr Goodkind - this interview was a train wreck, and certainly doesn't encourage me to pick up his new novels - but at the same time, I grew tired of his books years ago. Although, I suppose, I'm too young to read his novels because I remember pointing out how his first couple of novels were paint-by-number renditions of the Wheel of Time series.

Specifically to your point though, the "logical" extension of your argument, in order to show how silly it is, may be valid - but isn't *reasonable*, in my opinion.

I don't see anyone in your examples doing anything other than expressing their emotional response to the article - whether or not anyone needs to hear 100 people chime in with "me too! I'm disgusted!" is a different discussion - but I don't see how anyone is forcing their beliefs upon people and refusing to let some people profit? Your point seems to be that they *should* buy these books anyway? I don't think I'm following your logic?

You are a pompous windbag if you ever judge someone's work by what they believe in.

I don't think this can be the absolute statement that you are making here - it is human nature to insert your own personality and beliefs into your day to day life. Sure, my religious (or lack of) beliefs probably don't inform the java code I write...but we're specifically talking about fiction here - and many authors use their novels as the pulpit from which to preach their beliefs and ideas - it's kind of the whole *point* of some writing.

You are attempting to curtail someone else's income because they exercise their right of free speech in a way you don't agree.

You are attempting to prevent someone from earning money in a particular way because they had the audacity to disagree with you. Furthermore, you have likely produced nothing and you are trying to destroy someone else's work because they disagree with you.


Maybe I didn't read deep enough, but who is trying to destroy anything? I'm not seeing a rally with pitchforks and torches to burn these books?

In the same way that any other person who pursues employment, the actions of an author vis a vis their co-workers and customers will affect their ability to successfully do their job. If I start telling my customers that they "must be too young" to use our software, chances are, I'm not going to keep my job for long, and I will lose my income over my beliefs - not necessarily due to the product that I've created being poor. In the same way, if an author belittles and insults other authors and the people who read his novels - chances are, he's going to lose some sales.

The definition of a "good" fiction book or song to me, is something that I will enjoy reading or listening to - if that enjoyment is marred by the personal actions or words of the creator - then yes, for me, that product is not "good" and I won't purchase it.

I'm not saying that other people don't have their own opinion - I'm simply exercising *my* right to not spend my money to support them as artists, nor spend my time on their art.

My resources, both time and money are limited, and the world is full of books and music that I can enjoy *and* feel happy about supporting the creators.

[User Picture]
From:spiffikins
Date:December 2nd, 2009 07:37 am (UTC)
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wow, I actually had to cut some of my reply because I kept being told I was exceeding the comment length - I didn't mean to write a novel on this!
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From:testing4l
Date:December 7th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
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Your point seems to be that they *should* buy these books anyway? I don't think I'm following your logic?

Someone saying "I'm disgusted that he supports gay liberal communism and universal pet health care" is a different thing from "I'm disgusted and I'm never going to buy one of his books again because he supports gay liberal communism with a side of universal pet health care!"

Expressing dislike with the way someone writes and being uninterested in their books? Great! Go for it!

Expressing dislike with someone's writing because you don't like them? Yuppie fascism. It's even a formal fallacy -- ad hominem -- but logical inconsistency rarely stops people.

..but we're specifically talking about fiction here - and many authors use their novels as the pulpit from which to preach their beliefs and ideas - it's kind of the whole *point* of some writing.

In some cases, yes. In others, no. There's plenty of authors out there who don't write as a pulpit. There's even some who write trying to promote a belief and, in spite of your disagreement, are able to make it thoughtful. Card is an excellent example of that. I don't agree with LDS, but I'm a great admirer of things that make people think. Speaker for the Dead through Children of the Mind seem to have done that admirably.

Maybe I didn't read deep enough, but who is trying to destroy anything? I'm not seeing a rally with pitchforks and torches to burn these books?

Most people see their refusal to purchase a book as a refusal to give someone $5. They don't see that as a significant amount of income and so they don't see that as a serious attempt to starve someone out. To them, this excuses their actions because they see their action in a vacuum.

Some people promote the practice of boycotting that individual whenever possible. To them, that person can always do something other than writing. McDonalds, for example, is a commonly cited option for them to support their families.

To begin with, this sort of action could be extended to just about any form of employment. In some cases, it's illegal, but I don't think that often stops an employer. In other cases, someone might be unable to do anything else for various reasons.

Consider the case of Howard Tayler. He's a deacon of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. He used to work for Novell and quit to see if he could become a cartoonist because he loves cartooning. In refusing to support him because of his private, religious and political beliefs, you are trying to force him to stop doing what he loves.

The action of refusing to give someone money because of their beliefs is a despicable practice that ought to be stamped out whenever possible. It's an ugly attempt at repressing the ability of some people to disagree with you by starving them out.

(Did I avoid novel length? Yes! *fist pumps*)
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From:spiffikins
Date:December 8th, 2009 03:34 am (UTC)
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I guess I'm going to have to disagree here - as a consumer, I *absolutely* have the right to decide how I want to spend my money.

If Joe Smith gets a novel published, and quits his day job - the fact that he needs to sell X number of copies in order to put food on the table and keep a roof over his head - is *not* my problem. I am not obligated to support him by purchasing his novel. If his novel is interesting to me, I may purchase it. If his novel is interesting to me, but I witness him kicking small dogs - chances are, I'm less interested in purchasing his novel.

Is there a direct connection between "Joe Smith: Abuser of small animals" and "Joe Smith: novelist" ? Possibly not - but at the same time, there are a lot of novels out there written by people who don't kick puppies.

Your argument that my *only* options when confronted with someone who acts in a manner offensive to me are to talk about it or not talk about it (I exclude your third option, because generally individual actions are not something I get to vote upon) - seems to indicate that somehow I am *obligated* to support them financially by buying their wares.

You are stating that my reaction of "well I'm not going to spend my money on their wares" is invalid, makes me laugh. Of *course* I get to decide how to spend my money.

If I look at a novel and don't like the cover - I can choose not to buy it. If I look at a novel and don't like the first paragraph - I can choose not to buy it. If I pick up a novel and read the back cover and see that the main character's name is the name of an ex-boyfriend - I can choose not to buy it. If I look at a novel and say "gee, I saw an interview with this author where he was super rude to his readers" - I can choose not to buy it.

And if someone were to ask me, right at that moment - why did you put this novel down and not buy it? Any of my answers - as ridiculous as they may seem to the other person - are equally valid - to me. And since I'm the consumer of the novel that I've picked up for something to read on the plane, I have the power in this transaction.





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From:testing4l
Date:December 8th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
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You are stating that my reaction of "well I'm not going to spend my money on their wares" is invalid, makes me laugh. Of *course* I get to decide how to spend my money.

This is the giant stumbling block that no one seems quite able to get over. This isn't a matter of telling you how to spend your money; it's a matter of what reasons are good reasons for not spending your money. If I say you can't murder someone with a knife, then that doesn't necessarily mean you can murder someone.

People love jumping to that conclusion for some reason.

There are many good reasons for not buying a book. Citing a disagreement with an author or a perception of an author as your sole reason is what you are terming "invalid" -- I'd use "irrational" (on the basis of the formal fallacy) and "immoral".

(If the "immoral" label troubles you, then perhaps we can at least agree that it's not a very nice thing to discount someone's work on the basis of what they say or do.)

I'm not saying "you must buy this book". I'm saying that "If you enjoy this book, you shouldn't let some jerk ruin it for you -- even if that jerk is the author".
[User Picture]
From:spiffikins
Date:December 8th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
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Ok - so that's not what I was understanding from your points above - when you say that it's immoral or irrational to prevent someone from making a living (selling their book) because I don't like their opinions.

And that's true to the point of - I wouldn't consider it rational for me to go to their publisher and say "you should not publish this novel about puppies because the author dislikes kittens and I like kittens better than puppies".

However, to go the next step and say that it's somehow wrong for me to not purchase the book myself, doesn't follow.

The important piece here is - "if you enjoy this book" - any my point is, there are many things that affect my "enjoyment" of a book - including the opinions and actions of an author. "Enjoyment" is an emotional thing - affected by more than just the story.

If I miss out on a story that I might have enjoyed, because I choose not to spend money on a novel by someone I don't want to support - it's a valid choice, it's not irrational and it's not immoral - it's simply choosing to forego one thing because of another. In the great scheme of things - it's not really that big of a deal - I'm spoiled for choices in reading material.

Now, if you take it to an extreme - I'm stuck on a deserted island with only 1 book to read, written by the guy I'm stuck on the island with. The guy is a jerk and won't share his papaya, but he'll let me read the book if I give him one of the fish I caught. As long as I'm just stuck there waiting for rescue - chances are, I'll give the jerk my fish and read the book at some point - I gotta read something :)



[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:December 7th, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC)
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In fact, I'll go one step farther.

Any reaction to someone's belief that involves something other than:
a) verbal disagreement,
b) disinterest in discussing the topic, or
c) voting against it

ought to be considered a universal sin, regardless of your religion (especially if you're an atheist).

(That's probably not a complete list, but that seems like a pretty decent one)
[User Picture]
From:aatheus
Date:December 3rd, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
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Well then, I guess I'm a yuppie fascist.
[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:December 7th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
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You are what you want to be.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 5th, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)
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Terry Goodkind is overrated. His first novel was decent. Then, he sort of freaked out when he got signed for a series. He turned to Ayn Rand's "How to Write Fiction", and turned into an Objectivist zombie. All of his books after the first book are just a bad impression of Rand, set in a fantasy world.

Meh. There's far better fiction out there.

- Simon
[User Picture]
From:testing4l
Date:December 7th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
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And this is exactly not my point.

I'd write the same thing if the author in question were Bruce Sterling, L. Ron Hubbard, or Adolf Hitler. I haven't even read Terry Goodkind and I don't have any immediate plans to.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 8th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
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You are using a terrible example in Terry Goodkind though. His argument invokes Ayn Rand, whose opinion on the subject is completely opposite of your point. Ayn Rand believed that one should intertwine their philosophy (actually, her philosophy) into their writing. This is exactly what Terry Goodkind did. His fans fled in droves. She also believed that one should not at all financially support someone with a flawed (read, not her) philosophy, because financial support is the ultimate way of proving the effectiveness of one's philosophy.

However, don't be mistaken. The fans didn't vote with their money, they simply stopped caring about Goodkind's little Objectivist fantasy world as it descended further and further into Atlas Shrugged.

Once authors become fanatical about something unpopular, to the point of incorporating it into their works, they must be willing to accept the consequences. Goodkind talks a big game, but he is shifting the blame of his waning success on demonized effigies of his former fans. He wishes to invoke your argument, but his failure is not because of yuppie "fascism." It is because he has failed as an author to create entertaining books. That is the unfortunate consequence of fanaticism. People get bored with you.

- Simon
[User Picture]
From:babe_of_beyazit
Date:December 10th, 2009 08:38 am (UTC)
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Do you think maybe these people were just soured on the idea of reading Goodkind's books because the author has taken the attitude that "if you don't like my books, it's probably because you're a life-hating loser with bad taste?" Either you're then going to feel pressure to like the books--and you can never approach any work of art or literature objectively if you feel you *must* like it or dislike it, so there the book is already ruined for you--or you've decided that the author is being inappropriately condescending to his readers, in which case you might refuse to buy his books because you feel insulted. He is, in fact, making an ad hominem attack on the opinion of readers who don't like his books, and might I add, it is quite obnoxious! I mean, how can you pick up a book and think "the guy who's telling this story is going to think I'm a waste of flesh if I don't like it" and not feel uncomfortable reading it? Then the book is either a trap or the farcical, self-important prose of a man with the misguided notion that his words are golden.

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