Hello, good morning, good Thursday, and an early Happy Solstice to all. To those who celebrate it, I wish you a very Happy and/or Merry Christmas next week. And Happy Newtonmas—also December 25th—to those who celebrate the date (on the Julian calendar) of Isaac Newton’s birth. If you don’t celebrate this, of course, it’s difficult to blame you. Though he was probably the single greatest scientist who ever lived, Newton was, by all accounts, a real shit. Also, on the Gregorian calendar, he was apparently born on what would have been January 4th, 1643. Now, Johannes Kepler, whose laws of planetary motion helped Newton derive and apply the principle of universal gravitation, was apparently born on December 27th by the Gregorian calendar, so Keplermas might not be an unreasonable celebration. He’s always seemed much nicer than Newton, and his commitment to intellectual honesty is legendary. He’s reported to have said, “I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.” It’ a bit sexist, perhaps, but he was born in 1571; it’s hard to expect otherwise.
There’s little that’s categorically new here in Robert Elessar Land, but I’ve certainly written a good deal on Unanimity over the past week, making steady progress toward the end of that novel. The editing of Penal Colony also continues at a good pace, and though there have been a rare few new bits added to it here and there, the dominant theme has been removal. I’m prone to run off at the keyboard when writing, and I often repeat myself. What’s more, I frequently say the same thing more than once, and on more occasions than I would prefer to admit I tend toward greater wordiness than is, strictly speaking, necessary. Thus, a crucial step in making my stories better is for me to be as ruthless as possible in eliminating the redundant.
Alas, it is not my greatest strength; why use only ten words if twenty will do, after all? (Of course, there are complex and nuanced ideas that honestly require many words to convey, but usually it’s just a bad habit.)
This is one reason it’s useful—for me at least—to edit my work over and over and over again, with several added “overs” into the mix. If I edit and reread my writing often enough that I lose almost all proprietary affection for it, I find that I’m much more able to say, “That’s crap, isn’t it?” and try to make it better. I suppose it’s possible to go too far along that path, but I seriously doubt that I’ve ever done so; I love my own words too much.
Solitaire has been out for about a week now, and I haven’t received any negative feedback about it. I can honestly say that those who’ve read it and responded, either recently or in the past, have all said that it’s good, but also that it’s pretty effed up…in the sense that it’s about pretty effed up things. If you disagree—on either point—I would be delighted to hear from you.
Okay, well, if you hate it, I probably wouldn’t be “delighted” to hear from you, but I would consider it a valuable service, so please don’t be shy. I can take it…I think. I do try to live up to Kepler’s example.
Perhaps this is a good time to exhort you all to take a moment to review books that you’ve bought and read. It’s tremendously useful to authors, especially independent authors. It’s also terrifically helpful to others who are considering reading a book. Reviews from The New York Times, Kirkus, or Publishers Weekly are all well and good, but many of us find it much more useful to know what other “ordinary” book consumers/lovers think. This is one of the greatest services provided by online book-sellers, in my opinion: the ability of readers in large numbers to rate and review books and other creative works.
If you buy a lot of books, it may be asking too much of you to review each one (though giving a star rating, if you bought the book from Amazon for instance, is the work of mere seconds). But if you only give a written review to one tenth of the books you read, you’ve done a real and great service. As Carl Sagan says in Episode 11 of the original Cosmos TV series, a person can only read—at most—a few thousand books in a normal lifetime, and there are literally millions and millions of books from which to choose. “The trick,” as Sagan points out, “is to know which books to read.”
By rating and reviewing books when you can, you help your fellow bibliophiles, and even sporadic readers, to make better decisions. I can’t say that it’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of such a service. I could, for instance, claim that the very fate of the universe hangs on your choice to review or not review, and if you don’t, all present and future life will be cast into an eternal Hell where they will suffer interminable agonies beyond anything we could possibly imagine. That would be an exaggeration. I think.
But to review books is important and useful for your fellow readers, and it’s a wonderful thing to do for an author. Consider it, if you wish, a very cheap Christmas/Saturnalia/late Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Newtonmas/Keplermas/New Year’s gift.
Thanking you in advance,