Monday, April 9, 2012

Haughtiness VS Confidence

I just finished reading the special edition of Piers' Anthony's 'But What of Earth?', a book that flopped on first release. He went ahead and, after regaining full rights in a legal settlement, schlepped it over to Tor books in an unedited format, with a section in the rear for his comments on the editorial staff's original notes.

Now, if you're Piers Anthony, you can do something crazy like that and not get yelled at. Well, I'm going to yell a little anyway. He was spot on about most of the issues he had with their edits—they were either pointless removals, stupid changes, or they created more work than was really necessary—and I'm not going to talk about any places where I disagreed.

My beef is with the way he wrote up those comments. He had this sort of high-and-mighty author air about him, as though he was Piers Anthony and he could do no wrong. Often, he questioned the purpose of editors, of why he should even be edited for anything but spelling and grammar. That's what got under my skin. I don't see how any author can feel that self-important and arrogant. We have flaws, we make mistakes. I admit that he got a really bad set of copy-editors and, aside from screwing him on a lot of edits, they violated key parts of his publishing contract, but to call into question the validity and usefulness of outside editing?

It's one of things I really want to avoid. I definitely want Piers Anthony's level of recognition, but my goal, and it's a goal I'd like to see from other authors, as well, is to not get that arrogance. He also has a good point—author's kind of need to be a bit arrogant, or at least confident. It's our only real defense against publishers—we have to stand up for our work, when push comes to shove, even if it does mean losing a contract. However, I've noticed that a lot of the 'old boys' of sci-fi and fantasy have the same damn complex about themselves. They feel that they are the infallible lords of the speculative fiction genre, all hail, all praise.

Sure, if Piers Anthony, Orson Scott Card, or Asimov's ghost wanted to give me advice, I'd take it—they obviously know what they're doing—but I don't agree with anyone in any business that feels they are the top. It takes one nudge to knock down the Jenga tower. Besides, being properly humble around editors and publishers is good for your business, wouldn't you say?

Now, of course, I'm sure some people are going to be very unhappy with me because of this post, particularly those that really like Piers Anthony. I'm not saying he's a bad writer, but no one is so good they can't benefit from an editor—just not the editors assigned to that book.

Preparing for the flame war,


martine said...

Never heard of Piers Anthony but just had to visit since you have the coolest blog title ever:-)
thanks for sharing

Erin M. Hartshorn said...

Sadly, many authors reach a point where they feel they don't need to be edited. (See Anne Rice for another example.) And with some authors, editors may be afraid to edit, sure they don't want to tamper with greatness.


Mike Manz said...

Piers Anthony has ever been thus, and he's made the same mistake as many others and conflated "popular" with "good". He is a popular writer, he is not a particularly good writer.

This is the same guy who took a double fistful of short stories that had been rejected over and over again and pushed them through a publisher with the weight of his name. "Anthonology" is proof positive that the gatekeepers serve a purpose - the vast majority of the stories in it are terrible.

That being said, he has done a lot of good in the writing community with regards to educating new writers on the business side of things and helping expose the seedier, scamier side of the industry, so that's something. :)

Anonymous said...

Your method of snagging people with an exotic name has worked once more! I've always seen this Piers Anthony's books in the used store but never took the time to crack one of them. If I ever do get around to trying him out, I'm going to have trouble disconnecting him from his massive ego.

Sylvia Ney said...

I've never read anything by him. I'll have to look into his books.

New follower here. I’m enjoying reading my fellow “A to Z”ers. I look forward to visiting again.


Kaye Draper said...

Hello :) You have a great point. I'm laughing as I read this, because when I was younger, I loved his Xanth series... I think I still have almost every book.
I tried to read one a while back (hadn't looked at them in years) and was shocked. This is terrible, I thought, how in the world did this get printed. There were so many typos I wanted to tear my hair out.

Anyway, I digress;)

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that writers need confidence and that it is our only defense. I think that someday when I am an amazing writer (um, both popular AND good), I will avoid this dilema by remembering just how I was treated along the way. I have interacted with "gatekeepers" that were short, superior, and had absolutely no respect for my time. I've also interacted with those that were polite, concise yet sincere, and treated me like a human being. I would like to be counted in the latter group.