The Sour Grapes of Wrath

The following is a fairly random and pointless rant that, as I continued with it, I came to recognise not as a specific and solid complaint, so much as something I needed to work out of my system in order to realise I didn’t have any specific problem and I wasn’t all that mad after all. Consider it a controlled venting, but since I am on hiatus right now I might as well post it in order to keep my blogging muscles trim.

A couple of disclaimers for this one:

No, in this blog entry I am not referring to the books written by my esteemed peer Lucas Thorn. While I do (snobbily, arrogantly, shamefully) consider my work to be more technically proficient, this is purely a matter of me working in the field of spelling and grammar editing and language validation, and being a nitpicker about that sort of thing. Anything stylistic is purely a matter of opinion. And indeed, any complaining I might be tempted to do about his phrasing and typos … well, I think Edpool has that covered in his complaints over how few of his editorial suggestions ended up being implemented. Bless this horrible little sinewy mass of directionless aggression (Thorn, that is, not Edpool – Edpool is not sinewy), and read his books.

And don’t worry, I’m not talking about Mr. Bloom’s writing either. As a matter of fact, while I have purchased Helsinki Noir, I have yet to read it since it has momentarily vanished into Mrs. Hatboy’s book-restoration-and-tagging system. I always look forward to seeing his new stuff.

So, this being said, I have an unhappy confession to make. And that, unsurprisingly, is that I am a snob. I am a great big flabby snob with rather too high an opinion of myself and my skill (please note I am talking skill here, not talent – there is a difference).

When I encounter a story that is badly-written, difficult to read or otherwise crummy, I get more offended than I should be by it. Sometimes, it flat-out outrages me.

And it’s not necessarily just because it has found an agent, publisher, marketer and audience. I’ve made my opinion on the submitting-and-acceptance game already, so I relinquish any claim to competitiveness or envy over authors who take that path. And we are all aware at this point that even a worldwide bestseller with massive following and movie adaptation can still be horribly-written and full of ideas that are bad, unoriginal, or both[1]. It can be a matter of being frustrated that this inferior author had better luck than I did, but it’s really not that. These days, the whole idea of landing a publishing contract and making the big bucks … well, it’s a classic fairy tale, isn’t it? You might go into music daydreaming of being the next Elvis, or directing with hopes of being the next Scorsese, but you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment the first three or four hundred times you fall on your face.

[1] Yes, those links led to my own books. What, did you think I was going to give free advertising and link-cred to some actual piece of shit?

No, sometimes it can be a book from my humble independent author end of the pool. It still represents a story that someone thought they should tell and then release to the public, and it grates on me in a very personal way when they evidently also decided that it wasn’t worth actually putting any effort into writing it well. Ooh, especially when it’s hogging my genre and getting more reviews and – okay, usually worse reviews, but those reviews still amount to visibility. Sure, I’m happy to admit that’s just sour grapes. We authors are all in this together and I don’t actually begrudge them their sales … but could they just have some more pride in their stories? Please?

And I know, by a similar rationale I should like these books, because they’re the work of my peers and I should respect them. And the quality of their work really has no bearing on mine. If anything, isn’t a lot of bad writing going to make mine seem even better in comparison?


And in a lot of cases you have to say “okay, this person just isn’t very technically skilled, they clearly love to write and they’re churning out these books and just flinging them out there in sheer joy, good for them and I salute their bravery and their sharing spirit.” There are whole genres of writing dedicated to this sort of stuff. It’s not bad in and of itself. The thing is, most of the time actual publishers won’t touch this stuff with a fifty-foot pole, so they have to go through independent presses if they want their beloved stories out there. Heck, I’m entirely happy to be classified under this category myself, as long as I get a little credence for also being able to write coherently. Professional pride.

It is quite the opposite, indeed, when I encounter a story that is so damn good, and so damn well-written, that it makes me envious[2]. It makes me wish I had come up with an idea that cool, that I could write stories that engaging, characters that brilliant. And I’ll rave about those stories, and try to get as many of my friends to read them as possible. That’s the sort of envy I’m happy to live with. When those sorts of books get picked up by publishers, I feel it restores the cosmic balance. And when they appear out of nowhere on the independent presses, it is amazing. I just can’t accept that this feeling of mine is pure why-are-these-crummy-books-selling-better-than-my-crummy-books sour grapes. I hope I’m more fair than that.

[2] No, those aren’t mine. I’m not completely tacky.

So okay, maybe the independent authors get a pass on this. Guidelines are less strict (although Amazon and assorted presses still put some stock – sometimes ridiculous stock – in technical correctness) and if you are a passionate but perhaps slightly-less-skilled writer this is a good alternative to just being crushed by rejection letter after rejection letter. You want to write a story? Do it. We live in the future, you know. It’s never been so easy to get your book out there in an assortment of formats. And nothing[3] will ever compare to that moment when you open the post-package and pull out the book you wrote.

[3] Okay, quite a lot of things will compare to it. But it’s a fucking brilliant feeling, anyway. That’s my point.

Independent authors get a pass. But when an actual publishing company decides to throw its resources behind a badly-written piece of crap, it riles me up. Because 99% of the time, it’s going to be about a gimmick. It’s going to be about the publishers making money because two million idiots are going to buy the book, and then twenty million idiots are going to follow the “TWO MILLION COPIES SOLD!” hype.

And heck, can I even argue with that? Twenty-two million idiots can’t be wrong.

Oh wait. Yes they can.

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
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15 Responses to The Sour Grapes of Wrath

  1. brknwntr says:

    I don’t write, so my outrage generally is from a readers perspective. However i read a trilogy the other day, out of pure bordem, and a desire to have specific words for my hatred of said trilogy. MILLIONS of people proclaimed it to be the work of fiction that got thir blood flowing, excited them to read yada yada yada. it was the most utter garbage i have ever read. Pure, vile, trash. NOT because of subject matter or content, purely on the basis of execution. the worst thing i have ever read in my entire life. They just made it a movie. I dont think it should have even recived a passing grade as a middle school creative writing assignment.

    • dreameling says:

      Mr. Grey will see you now.

      • brknwntr says:

        That’s the one.

      • stchucky says:

        Oh man, you went there? I didn’t even think about reading that one. Although obviously I saw all the scorn aimed at it, and the fact that it sold millions and got a movie … well. Okay.

        I hope you borrowed the book!

      • brknwntr says:

        No, I bought the trilogy for my kindle. I was warned in advance that it was bad. So I put it off for a long time. But I do try to have informed opinions on things I dislike. So I wanted to read it purely from a research point of view. It was like 10 euros for the trilogy.

      • stchucky says:

        Well, I can’t object to that, since you clearly spend more on far superior books. And it is important to not bitch about a book you haven’t read. That’s why I don’t bitch about 50 Shades, and when I bitch about Eragon (for example), I am careful to note that I have only skimmed it for general writing quality.

      • brknwntr says:

        No, I bought the trilogy for my kindle. I was warned in advance that it was bad. So I put it off for a long time. But I do try to have informed opinions on things I dislike. So I wanted to read it purely from a research point of view. It was like 10 euros for the trilogy.

      • brknwntr says:

        Keep in mind, I enjoyed Twilight, The Maze Runner, the Divergent series, even The Hunger Games. FOR WHAT THEY WERE. Young adult fiction. Intended for an audience of 12-16 years of age. Essentially children’s books. I find them a bit simplistic, fluff reading if you will. But they are at least halfway decent fluff.

      • dreameling says:

        I feel like such an illiterate: I’ve seen the Twilight movies (meh) and the Hunger Games movies (really quite good), but haven’t read the books. Also not read Maze Runner or Divergent, nor seen the movies, and certainly not planning on to. I’ve also seen the Eragon movie (shit), but haven’t read the book, because why would one? (I did read the prologue, though, which was crap, so I think I’m mostly justified in my snobbery.) Also haven’t read 50 Shades or seen the movie, and not gonna.

        But I am actually reading something: Drednanth. And the prologue on that one? A doozy!

      • stchucky says:

        I would very much like to say that more skill and effort went into the prologue of Drednanth than the entire 50 Shades trilogy. But can’t, because ts;dr.

  2. brknwntr says:

    I’m not sure why that double posted, but I apologize.

  3. JonathanBloom says:

    I act like this about films. It happens to everyone. It’s not healthy, at least I don’t think so, but it happens.

    • stchucky says:

      This was precisely my thought. It feels like a real negative sort of superiority-complex thing, and yet it just boils down to not liking things that are shit! How does that make sense? I guess the best we can do is follow Edpool’s old adage about life being too short to hate stuff you can click away from. Or in our case, stop reading or watching.

  4. aaronthepatriot says:

    Oh my, the DIVERGENT comments on this blog entry, hur hur….

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