Hating as Spectator Sport

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The 2014 PFG Playlist

Let’s ignore for the moment that you could count on both hands the number of posts between the 2013 and 2014 editions of this list. I wrote a book, people!

The last time I drafted my annual list of favourite songs, I was surprised to find that there were actually tracks that I had to leave off to keep it at ten, the first time in recent memory that had happened.

Yeeeeeaaaah. Didn’t really have that problem this year.

While I still ended up with more than ten songs (opting to scrap my self-imposed limit this year), my sense of disconnect and indifference with the current musical landscape returned more ferociously than before, for a few reasons, chief among them my two-footed jump into record collecting.

Devoting so much of my extracurricular efforts to educating myself on what vinyl’s worth my time turned my musical attentions backwards. I refocused on the things I always loved and started self-directed studies in the jazz and soul records that formed the foundations that built hip-hop; it’s an endeavour that’s proven rather labour-intensive. Turns out there’s a shit load of music that’s been produced in the last sixty years, who knew? But I still try to stay out here.

If there’s any thematic unity among 2014’s selections, it would be a sudden surge of female artists onto the list in the year’s latter half and the abrupt end of my brief flirtation with guitars, following Deafheaven’s surprising appearance last year.

I was saying to a friend last weekend, and I’m aware of how arrogant this sounds, but I really feel like after a certain point, you just start to get bored with the sounds that things like six strings through distortion pedals can produce. The kids at my job are getting their lives over Ty Segall and King Tuff, and I just caaaaan’tBecause all that music makes me want to do is listen to Dinosaur Jr or like, I don’t know, The Cave-In. Or Hot Water Music. Or Quicksand. Or any of the dozens of rock bands I was into at their age that they would undoubtedly find wack as hell.

Look at  it this way: back when I was playing in the band, our mandate always seemed to be that we were trying to play as loudly as possible to punch through to some sort of transcendent emotion, and personally, I don’t feel like we ever fully pulled it off because we were limited not only by our skill set but by the instruments we were using. I find that synthesizers and software are twanging that note in my soul more lately, and 2014 was the year I fully accepted them into my life.

Not that anyone cares nearly two weeks into the year, but I’ve already come this far, so let’s get this over with, in no particular order.

(more…)

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Christmastime is Here: Redux

I must be the only person who looks forward to a vacation so he can…work. Just, you know, work on the things he wants to do and enjoys instead of the things he’s mandated to do by financial and fiduciary responsibilities.

I’m writing this from my parents’ kitchen table near Windsor, Ontario. The last time I was here, in June, I was working through the first draft of the book. That was rarely a cheery process, so I cherish the opportunity to visit and just…be. I’ve made no plans with friends, nor do I intend to. I kind of just want to hang out with the fam jam, pet some dogs, eat snickerdoodles, pilfer their record collection (see results on Instagram) and recharge the batteries before heading back to Toronto and researching more ways to make rice and black-eyed peas (meal of champions).

This time last year I took a moment to walk y’all through the holiday music I actually enjoyed, those songs that add comfort and meaning to my holiday season. Since I’m in such a good mood today, it’s a perfect time to look at the songs I cannot stand, the ones that make me burp peppermint-tinged vomit into the back of my throat. I’m only working with those songs admitted to the canon; there are countless atrocities buried in the holiday albums of pop acts from today and yesteryear (looking at you, “Funky, Funky Christmas“) but I want to discuss the mediocrity that’s somehow slipped through the cracks of common sense and become standards.

Jingle Bells

In last year’s post I mentioned that “Jingle Bells” is no one’s favourite holiday song, and the practice of adding a few tinkles of the melody on the outro of your version of “The Christmas Song” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is pandering and repellent.

Look, “Jingle Bells” is fine when you’re a kid and you’re commenting on the odour of certain superheroes and their egg-laying abilities, but there’s no way to save this song for anyone past the age of 11, not that it’s stopped crooners of the past sixty years from trying, and no one fails more spectacularly than Barbra. My mother plays this record every year and I will cast no shade to “I Wonder as I Wander,” but this scat-tacular rendition of “Jingle Bells” is a sewing needle in my ear.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

“Say, what’s in this drink?”
“The answer is no.”
“What’s the sense in hurting my pride?”

Nuff said.

All I Want for Christmas is You

Okay, just—*ducks tomato* will you just *dodges cup full of piss* just wait a minute, damn it!

It’s not a bad song. I might even go as far to say that I actively like it, I’m bouncing in my seat as I listen to it. The issue is, I don’t know that I consider it a Christmas song, or just a pop song wearing a Santa hat, and maybe that’s what makes it exceptional in the first place, but I don’t think it deserves its honour as the last song to enter the all-time canon of holiday classics. But I swear, the fervor that this song inspires in you people, the nuclear rage that can erupt at the slightest criticism of it, is unreal.  It’s good, I will give you that. It’s just not as good as y’all think it is, and not as good as any of the songs I mentioned last year.

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

I mean, do I really have to? Sure, it’s for the kids, fine, whatever, if the day ever comes when I’m blessed to loose some spawn on the world I’ll grit my teeth and put this song on repeat, too. But I know grown adults who still hold it down for Gayla Peevey, think it’s adorable. Get your lives together, people. And this is me saying that.

This Christmas (by Chris Brown)

This is not an indictment of the Donny Hathaway song, this is an indictment on the need for anyone [especially the above…individual] to cover it. Stop. Erase the tapes. You have nothing, absolutely nothing to add to the original. As a friend once said, “I know God is good because He brought us Donny.” Anyone thinking they need to trot their flat-ass voice all over the perfection of the original needs to sit down, pour a glass of egg nog and think about their choices.

So those are the songs I’ll be avoiding this year like a kiss from your auntie with the beef smell. Let me know how wrong I am or what I missed in the comments when you’re hiding from family in the bathroom this week.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all y’all who take ten minutes out of your day to read the junk I throw up here. I appreciate it more than I’ll ever let on.

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“So, how’s the book going?”

It’s a reasonable question. It’s about the halfway mark of this adventure I’ve been on. I’ve read a pile of books, a stack of articles, reached out to and spoken with amazing, brilliant people, I’ve listened to Donuts and the records used to create it at least 75 times front to back [and that’s likely a conservative estimate].  So I can certainly understand why people ask.

Doesn’t mean I have any fucking clue how to formulate an answer.

But I try. People are being polite, taking an interest, and I’d like them to pay for the thing when it comes out, even if they have no intention to read it and buy it out of courtesy. I’ll take it. The popular answer, as in the one I go back to again and again is the ‘oil tanker’ response.

See, oil tankers actually consist of eight to twelve smaller tanks within the ship. Keeps the cargo from slooshing around too much, which could compromise the ship’s balance; less movement = more stability. My brain currently feels like an oil tanker with a single tank: production techniques, Soren Kierkegaard, the Kubler-Ross scale, Albert Camus, different approaches and opinions on late style, Roland Barthes, the epidemiology of lupus; all these things are just rolling around clumsily from one end of my brain to the other. I’ve given numerous lengthy and sensible ideas to the showerhead as I prepare to face each day, but this hasn’t translated into as many words on paper as I would like.

Put it another way: late last year the webcomic Toothpaste for Dinner put up a single panel gag called ‘The Creative Process.’

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That seems accurate. We’re well into the ‘Fuck off’ segment of the program, far enough from deadline that panic isn’t on my back yet, but it’s waving at me from just over the horizon, a box of tissues in its twitchy hands.

And that’s fine, because I know it’ll get done. The structure of the thing, what I wanted it to accomplish, has been loosely in place since I began, a requirement of the proposal. Scenes, fragments, caveats and addenda are floating to the surface with more regularity than they once were; you can’t have all that material swishing around in your brain without something coagulating into something usable eventually. It will get done. It might have more academic meandering than the heads will want, and not enough for the theory kids, and maybe it gets savaged on Goodreads and the Stones Throw Message Board, but it’ll get done. If you’ve been with me a while, friends, you know that’ll probably end up the most surprising victory of all.

So keep asking the question. It’s good, it keeps me focused. Just don’t expect me to have an easy answer for you.

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One Step Inside

A couple of weeks ago I got the following text from the lovely and talented Joyce Vogler, who I used to work with at the store and is now studying art and being generally wonderful at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.

If that ain’t a dream assignment, I don’t know what is.  Here’s a young woman, seeking to actively engage in the art of rap and culture of hip-hop [“good stuff from the 90’s,” specifically] .  I grabbed my weathered copy of Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists off of the shelf, just to make sure I wouldn’t gloss over anything in my enthusiasm.  It was an intro-level playlist, I admit, but illustrated some of the best the music’s had to offer over the last thirty-plus years.  The whole exercise was a pleasurable one, reminding me what I loved about the music I’ve dedicated so much thought and energy to.

And then, this.

Sometime this morning a video of Lil Reese, an 18-year-old rapper from Chicago signed to Def Jam and a crewmate of Chief Keef [he who does not like] started exploding the rap webs.  In the video, Reese appears to be arguing with a young woman [the mother of his child, according to some reports] who asks him to leave her home [though it’s unclear whose home it is]. He pokes her, she smacks his hand away. He shoves her, she rushes up in his face, where he proceeds to unload on her with punches.  Once she’s knocked down, he continues to kick and stomp at her head while her friends scream in the background.  As onlookers do nothing and the cell phone cameraman keeps it all in the shot.

I’m not running a news site here, so I’m not going to post the video because frankly I don’t want it here in my ‘house,’ but it’s on Miss Info’s site [with the appropriate tone] for anyone who wants to see it.

Forgetting for a moment that the kid beat the shit out of a woman, adding a layer of awesome sauce to this whole disgusting mess is Reese’s complete and utter lack of remorse, or even awareness about his actions, tweeting: The haters tryna see a mf Dwn lol Dey gotta b broke and bored wanna upload sum shit from years ago damnn we winnin it’s 2 late… #3hunna  [Notethe tweet seems to have been deleted in the hour I’ve been working on this post].

What are we to make of this, then?  If Joyce chooses to continue her studies in the culture, how do I explain/defend this?  Does it have to be?

Look, I’m a rap fan since nine-years-old, I’ve had plenty of practice navigating the thorny dialogue about violence and misogyny in the music, but I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t for a moment believe the reprehensible actions of a foolish kid speak for or should reflect on the culture as a whole. As some have pointed out, back in August Pitchfork reported cops charged John Paul Pitts, the frontman of something called Surfer Blood with domestic battery and no one started pointing the finger at indie rock as the culprit.

But. But. I also don’t think there were a crew of plaid-shirted, knitcaps on Twitter  defending Pitts’s actions. But check out the search results on Twitter for him, or even in Info’s comment thread on the original story.  You’ll see a surprising amount of people looking to defend or justify kicking a woman in the faceRepeatedly. One person doesn’t reflect the culture as a whole, no, but when a surprisingly large segment of the culture seems to empathize…the tried and true argument starts to show its cracks.

How odd that this hits the same week Kendrick Lamar’s much hyped major-label debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city hits the shelves, to near universal acclaim, due in no small part to his portrayal of a kid trying to avoid the street life who can’t avoid the drugs, guns and botched home invasions that run throughout it, whether he’s personally involved with it or not.  It should be a good week for hip-hop, but I can’t help but wonder if for every Kendrick, Childish Gambino, or Big Sean, there are a dozen regional acts owning the streets [and thus, the culture’s conversation] that saw that video on World Star and went, ‘yeah, I get that.’

Almost twenty years ago Tupac Shakur, no stranger to explosive outbursts of violence himself, released a song with the following lyrics:

And since we all came from a woman
got our name from a woman and our game from a woman,
I wonder why we take from our women,
why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
time to heal our women, be real to our women.
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies.

That complexity, that contradictory nature, that the same dude who was spitting on reporters and flipping the bird from an ambulance gurney following a shooting could still write lyrics pleading for better treatment of women is what made him such a compelling artist.  And without that flipside to the rapper posturing, what are we left with?  And how much longer will it stay something I want to be a part of?

Thirty Days of Stories: Day Ten

Title: Newlywed

Author: Banana Yoshimoto

Appears in: Lizard [1995]

Premise: A newlywed man who can’t bring himself to go home after a night of boozing encounters a strange being on the commuter train out of Tokyo.

Thoughts: And here we are, the story that threw the whole enterprise off the rails with a severity I never would have expected.  It didn’t occur to me when I started this that any of the stories I read might be…useless to the experiment.  This should not have been surprising to me, but it was. I read three stories in this collection, and while all of them were….fiiiine…..none of them inspired anything in me like the other nine stories I’d read so far.

And that, coupled with people’s unexpected re-discovery of something I wrote years ago that started getting unexpected praise, knocked me back down into the vortex of the “internal decathlon” pictured below.

(Artwork by Grant Snyder)

There is no reason for this.  I’m working on it, that’s all I can say right now. Serious this time. It’s a process.

So what was the problem with Lady Banana?  The first problem isn’t necessarily even her fault, and it’s a reality of reading Japanese authors in translation that I caution customers about all the time.  Japanese translations into English can read very plainspoken-bordering-on-boring; there’s a lot of telling, not showing [that cardinal sin of every creative writing class].  Newlywed definitely suffered from that problem. The narrator is always telling you how he’s feeling, it’s all blabby blab blab: for a story with a supernatural being in it, it felt really frigging plain. 

To be fair, the book takes care to note that Newlywed originally appeared as a series of serialized posters on Japanese commuter trains, like those ads you sometimes see on buses with poetry on them, something to bring some culture to the lowly public transit rider.  I’d like to think that fact contributed to the issues I had with the story, but I found Helix, another story from the collection, to have the same sort of dispassionate prose.  Maybe it’s just something in the Japanese character I’m unaccustomed to, and is actually something Yoshimoto captures brilliantly.  Still doesn’t make for a captivating read.

Lesson: Plain is boring, and deceptively hard to do.  Just because you write plain sentences doesn’t make you Hemingway.

Favourite line [or what passes for one]: “I’ve been watching this city long enough to know that it’s full of people like you, who left their hometowns and came here from other places. When I meet people who are transplants from other places, I know I have to use the language of people who never feel quite at home in this big city.”

Thirty Days of Stories: Day Five

Title: The Fuck Machine

Author: Charles Bukowski

Appears in: The Most Beautiful Woman in Town [1983]

Premise: A pair of drunks have sex with the titular ‘fuck machine,’ built by a German scientist living in the apartments above their local bar.

Thoughts: Ohhhh, Bukowski.  Working in a bookstore as long as I have, I can always tell when a certain style of customer slows their pace in front of the poetry section, they’re looking for Buk.  It’s pretty obvious. And it’s understandable, in its way: when I first read him in undergrad, I was deliriously shocked and amazed by the filth, promptly buying as many of his books as I could find.  Then you start to realize, he’s really writing about the same thing over and over [can anyone pull from memory the details of any of his novels?  I only read Women and I can’t remember a single fact about it]. Only the most salacious parts of his short stories have stuck with me. I remember when I first got online with any sort of regularity, I started digging for audio recordings of authors I liked, and was horrified when I listened to Bukowski reading. I expected to hear a haggard, sandpapery voice like Tom Waits drinking chlorine. Instead, I got Snagglepuss.

DO NOT WANT.

Anyway. The Buk’s the perfect candidate for this experiment, so I dug into the books I’d kept of his and tried to find the most offensive title I could.  I think I succeeded.

The thing about Bukowski is he always reads like he just wrote down the first thing that came into his head.  I know if he was any sort of writer he must have considered the things I’ve already noted in the previous four stories, but that never comes across.  The narrator [presumably his literary alter-ego Hank Chinanski, but never named in the story], Indian Mike, Petey the Owl who tries to pay the bar patrons to blow them, nobody gets any sort of description, or defining character trait [well, I guess Petey does, but it’s pretty one note].

Thing is, buried within all the drinking and filth and robot fucking, Bukowski throws out the seeds of ideas larger and better than the story he’s telling.  As the narrator and Indian Mike wait for Von Brashlitz to ready the machine, he mentions how when he was still in Germany, after it became clear the Axis would lose, the real battle became over how many German scientists each conquering nation could claim: Russia or America.  Whoever had the most, they’d be the ones to reach the moon first, they would reap the benefits of technology, etc.

It’s a throwaway sentence, immediately followed by the narrator informing him that “I’m still not going to stick my dick, my poor little dick into that hunk of sheetmetal or whatever it is!”

ASIDE: I’m finishing this entry at work, and was talking about the story with one of the young ladies I work with.
“It’s called ‘The Fuck Machine,’ guess what it’s about,” I said.
“A…fuck machine?” she said. “Like, a tube of some sort?”
“No, no. A fully functional robot named Tanya built by a German scientist after the war.”
“Can women use it, too?”
“Of course not.  Bukowski never cared about women.”

It was an interesting moment, because it honestly hadn’t occured to me how fully Bukowski fails any woman so unfortunate to read him. A topic for a million grad papers. End aside.

But, there’s something to be said for Buk’s discipline.  The guy really had no internal filter. Whatever idea he had, he made it into a story or a poem. Whatever awful thing happened to him, whatever depravity he engaged in, he used it as fuel for art, and that’s certainly preferable to the quadriplegia my creative self has been suffering from for three years.

Lesson: Sometimes, the act of finishing is worth more than the strength of the premise; don’t disqualify an idea without giving it a dry run first.

Favourite line: “20 bucks to fuck a machine?”
“he’s outdone whatever Created us. you’ll see.”
“Petey the Owl will blow me for a buck.”
“Petey the Owl is o.k. but he ain’t no invention that beats the gods.” 

The PFG Throwback: Final Fantasy XIII

I have a complicated relationship with RPGs.  Originally soured by the experience of playing Ultima IV on an Apple IIc with no instruction manual or clue what my objective was [to be a good person, as it turned out. Wait, what?!], I was wooed back by the Phantasy Star series for the Genesis [Rune Walsh til I die, son!] and won over for good when these ads started airing in 1997.

Done. Like dinner.  I borrowed a friend’s copy and didn’t come out of the basement for months.  When my TV blew its tube I rigged my Playstation up to a 12-inch black and white TV so I didn’t have to stop playing.  While I’m  not as much of a fanboy as some [I’ve only played from VI on, and I still prefer the Chrono series], Final Fantasy was a staple of my gaming diet.

Strange thing happens as you get older, though.  Well, lots of strange things happen, but one of them is that the time you can dedicate to a video game, especially at one sitting, decreases dramatically.  Any fan of RPGs knows one of the highest orders of concern when discussing a new game is the time requirement.  What are we talking here, twenty hours? Thirty?  Child’s play, I spent nearly 60 level grinding on FFVIII, drawing Aura spells all over the southern parts of the map.

Sixty hours might not seem like much on the surface, but spread out over weeks and months, that’s a hell of a commitment.  And it just wasn’t one I felt comfortable making at this age. I sold Fallout 3 after three hours of gameplay, simply because I could tell that game demanded way more than I was prepared to give it.  I just didn’t have that kind of time.  So despite my happiness that 2010’s thirteenth installment of the Final Fantasy series would be available on the 360, I didn’t think I’d be able to devote the time to get through it.

And then the reviews started coming in.  Too linear.  You just run in a straight line and fight monsters, then run some more.  Boring characters. Gets good after hour 20.  Not exactly the sort of ringing endorsements that’ll make you plunk down your seventy bucks.

If you look at this and hum the battle theme, you're one of us.

But I had to get to it.  I mean, this is Final Fantasy!  This is what I do, I play Final Fantasy!  When the price for used copies dropped to something I was comfortable with, I traded in my completed copy of LA Noire and spent three bucks to walk out with a copy of FF13.

So was it worth it?  For three bucks, hell yeah it was.

Taking the game as a whole, giving the hyped up expectations to cool down, I think the press was way too hard on the game.  To hear them tell it, the first two thirds of the game [the ones taking place on Coccoon, as opposed to the portions on Gran Pulse, which even people who hate the game agree are awesome] all take place in one hallway in the same building, which isn’t true at all. The story splits up the party  into pairs fairly early on, which gave the game a kind of plot development I wasn’t used to from Final Fantasy.  Some hardcore JRPGers have issues with that, since it means the game basically leads you around and you don’t get to do what you want.

Thing with me, though?  Even with the most open-ended Final Fantasy game, I still did what the story demanded of me without much exploration, because that’s what I’m here for.  I play Final Fantasy to lose myself in the story of the characters, regardless how melodramatic and silly and convoluted it may become [and this is a Japanese Role Playing Game, so count on the story to check all three of those boxes in short order].  I didn’t care if the game didn’t let me choose who was in my party.  I was taken by the story of Lightning and Hope looking for meaning in their quest [despite Hope being the whiniest bitch in the history of whiny bitches]; I loved the odd couple affection that developed between Sazh and Vanille, and the guilt and tragedy that got layered onto their story the more I played the game.  I don’t play these games to manage inventories or level grind [fun though that can be].  I play them to see things I can’t see anywhere else.

I’m not trying to say the game is perfect.  Not by a long shot.  It’s Final Fantasy, so the story stops making sense somewhere around hour four, and you can only listen to people talk about Santum fal’Cie, Pulse fal’Cie, l’Cie and Cie’th for so long before you start to go a little buggy [as the lady said after overhearing the dialogue of a tender cutscene, ‘This shit is ridiculous!].  Plus, Sazh has a little too much shuck and jive in his character, which is somewhat troubling to see in a rare FF character of colour.  Though the Chocobo chick that lives in his afro is probably what made me buy the game in the first place.  Eidolons [Summons] continue their tradition of being useless started in FF12, and I suspect the difficulty is about to ramp up on me at any minute in a cheap attempt to keep me playing.

But something about the game, all the familiar elements I remember about playing previous installments, conjure a very specific brand of nostalgia.  Casting Fira, battling Behemoths and summoning Odin all feel like coming home, in a way.

And that might just have been the nerdiest thing I’ve ever written on this blog.  Good for me.

The sequel for FFXIII, a rarity for the series, drops early next year.

BONUS!: If you’re like me, the first thing you noticed about the game is how utterly sublime the battle theme is, an earworm of graceful string notes that get stuck in your head for hours after you finish playing.  The fine folks at Complex recently counted down a list of dope game music remixes.  This lovely ditty was on the list, and has been bumping in my headphones the last twenty minutes.  Nice.

Two Stories About Silly People

1. Actress Ashley Judd caught the ire of the hip-hop press this week for comments made in her newly released memoir All That is Bitter and Sweet.  In the book she talks about being approached to work with an organization called YouthAIDS, a group the produces youth targeted PSAs and throws concerts to raise awareness.  Turns out Ms. Judd was less than pleased to find Snoop Dogg and Diddy included in the list of contributors.  Which brings us to the pull quote:

As far as I’m concerned, most rap and hip-hop music — with it’s rape culture and insanely abusive lyrics and depictions of girls and women as ‘ho’s’ — is the contemporary soundtrack of misogyny.

The aforementioned press has done a wonderful job of pointing out how…well, dumb such statements are.  Hip-hop has never told me to rape anyone.  Well, Odd Future does, but that’s beside the point.  It wasn’t hip-hop playing at Woodstock 99 when the assaults and rapes were occurring.  Even still, are we not past the point of blaming media, whatever it is, for the vileness perpetrated by individuals?

This is not to suggest I’m not conflicted about the misogyny of hip-hop. Someone on Twitter recently asked why it’s okay to say ‘bitch’ at Hip-Hop Karaoke but the rules prohibit the use of the n-word.  It’s still not something I have an answer for.  All I can do is take responsibility for myself, and as such I don’t perform songs that are flagrantly misogynist at HHK: if I think it’s hateful, I don’t say it onstage, period.  I don’t blame Big Pun for putting out ignorant raps anymore than I blame Philip Roth for writing cringeworthy sex scenes.

2. Good piece in the New Yorker this week [link, paywalled] about the fantasy author George R.R. Martin, writer of the ‘Song of Fire and Ice‘ series which is being turned into the next HBO prestige series ‘A Game of Thrones.’  Martin’s been working on the latest book in the series since 2005, it’s become the fantasy version of Dr. Dre’s Detox.  And people have become pissssssed, harassing Martin on his blog and on popular message boards, starting rival websites specifically to question Martin’s motives and abilities.

The article tries to paint this behaviour as the unfortunate consequences authors can face by engaging with their fans more closely, but I don’t think it’s totally that, I think this is a very specific sort of acting out that fantasy [or sci-fi, or comic book,or video game or…] fans are susceptible to, and I think it stems from the self-esteem problems genre fiction can suffer from.  Because fantasy and sci-fi tend to be the domain of the yellowing paperback and other pulpier traditions, it’s not that far of a stretch to suggest that the fans pestering Martin to finish the book can’t believe that it could be difficult for him, that he would care enough about his craft to take his time.  These are “disposable entertainments,” so why should they take so long to create? And dammit, we buy the books that allow you to make a living off of them, so you owe it to us to deliver them in a timely fashion, just like all the other writers that spit them out with seasonal efficiency.

This would not happen in any other type of fiction, a fact highlighted by some jokes made in the article by the producers of the HBO show, musing about starting an Ian McEwan hate site to lament the absence of ‘Atonement II’.  That idea is laughable.  Yet why does it seem so feasible in genre fiction?

Martin, for his part, does seem to take the criticisms to heart in the article, maintaining [rightly so] that his only responsibility is to his art, while also wondering if certain elements of the enterprise are turning out to be more difficult than he anticipated.

At any rate, A Dance With Dragons has a scheduled release date of July 12.  Still no word on Detox.