Sunday, February 10, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: Quoth the Raven, Flaming War!

So anyway Friday afternoon I drove up to Austin to stay overnight with some friends prior to attending the SCBWI conference in Austin, and we went out to eat at Kerby Lane. I of course showed them the cover for Sullivan, and remembered during supper that I've been saying for ages that I'd get on Facebook when I had a book to promote, so now I need to hurry up about it. So I got advice on how to keep it from eating my life.

My friends had also, the previous day, been to an event for The Apes of Wrath, an anthology of great ape stories edited by Richard Klaw, including Poe, and Robert E. Howard, and James P. Blaylock. At some point in the course of conversation, one of us made a joking remark about how hard it had been resurrecting Poe and Howard and the other dead authors on the list to get a contribution.

But the really hard party, I realized, would be getting any decent work out of Poe once he discovered the internet.

See, Poe did not die poor and alone because he was an alcoholic, or a tormented genius, or any of that. He did so at least partly because he frittered away a vast amount of his talent, energy, and editorial capital in the 19th-century version of flamewars. He was a harsh literary critic of others and could not leave an argument alone.

This was no more unusual in the 19th century than it is now; newspaper editors, in particular, wasted a lot of ink in vituperative attacks on each other. But at least in the 19th century this sort of thing was limited in the damage it could do to a life by the pace of composition, publication, and response. You wrote your screed, you sent it to press, and then you could do something productive for a little while, and once it appeared, savor the unanswerability of your remarks for the time it took your opponent(s) to write their screeds and get them through the press. Whereas now, of course, you sling your mud at a Facebook wall, or through Twitter, or onto a newsgroup, and before you have time to shift gears not one but a dozen idiots, hacks, demagogues, and illogical evildoers have demolished all your perfectly-reasoned, balanced, and above all justified zingers with the hatchet of their blunt and inferior wits. So then you have to demolish them in turn and suddenly the day is gone.

The concept of Poe with a Facebook page, Twitter feed, online news outlets with enabled comments, etc., is not at all a bad one for a satire. If you happen to enjoy Poe's style particularly, you could have a lot of fun writing it.

Poe's style gives me a bit of a headache, personally; and flamewars give me a huge one. My approach to them is to walk away.

Which is a big help to my personal life, but not at all funny for the onlooker.

And, believe me, when you think you're making your most cogent points in a flamewar? That's when people who don't like you are laughing at you the hardest, while the people who love you are rolling their eyes and wishing you'd consider your blood pressure.

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