Fisking the NYT: It isn’t just me. My whole religion can’t be *real* writers!

Several people sent me this article on Facebook yesterday. I supposed I kept getting tagged because everybody knows I’m Mormon and my writing has such a “sunny outlook”.  Then I saw a few other Mormon authors making fun of this on Twitter.

At first I just laughed at the article because it is the usual pretentious New York Times piece written by somebody remarkably clueless about the subject (and as a gun rights activist I’m fairly used to that), but the more I thought about this article, the more it pissed me off. It just hit too many of my pet peeve buttons: “you’re not a *real* writer”, academic self-righteous posturing, and cultural/religious ignorance based on stereotypes masquerading as unbiased reporting.

The original article is here.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/09/us/mormons-offer-cautionary-lesson-on-sunny-outlook-vs-literary-greatness.html?_r=1&

As usual the original article is in italics and my additional comments are in bold.

Note. I don’t normally post about my religious beliefs on the internet. I am in no way a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, because I really struggle with all those important love and forgiveness parts of the gospel, so anything religious I say after this is strictly from my point of view, hence the casual swearing and complete lack of patience for idiots.

MORMONS OFFER CAUTIONARY LESSON ON SUNNY OUTLOOK VS. LITERARY GREATNESS

BY MARK OPPENHEIMER

The title offers a great look into Mark’s predetermined world view. Normally “cautionary lessons” are learned when somebody fails so badly that their only purpose in life is to serve as an example to others. So our “sunny outlook” has caused us to fail at achieving “literary greatness”. Like most NYT*** articles, we’re going to learn a lot more about the author than their subject.

In 1888, speaking about the possibility of Mormon literature, the church leader Orson F. Whitney made an audacious promise to his fellow Mormons: “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” Yet 125 years later, there is no Mormon Milton. There is no Mormon Milosz, no Mormon Munro.

That’s fantastic. 125 years later and we don’t have 3 copies of three dead guys, two of whom are so famous and widely read still that I had to look them up on Wikipedia. But what makes someone a literary great? That’s the big question. Well, Milosz won a Nobel Prize in 1980. And as everybody knows, if it doesn’t win the Nobel Prize it is crap.

Mormons are, on average, better educated than most Americans,

Yep. And we tend to be disproportionately successful in a bunch of different careers as well, but I’ll get back to that. 

and they have written popular fiction.

Understatement of the year, but I’ll get to that too.

But Mormon authors tend to cluster in genre fiction, like fantasy, science fiction, and children’s and young adult literature.

You mean we tend to cluster in the areas of fiction that are the most popular and widely read, rather writing *real literature* where we will only be read by a handful of college English classes and have to supplement our income by being a guest lecturer or barista at Starbucks. Go figure.

Orson Scott Card, who wrote “Ender’s Game,” the sci-fi novel on which the country’s current top-grossing movie is based, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So is Stephenie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” series.

Sure, Card is one of the best selling authors of all time, who wrote one of the most pivotal works in sci-fi ever, and who has entertained millions and millions of people over the last three decades, but where’s his Nobel Prize? Huh?  Okay, he was probably collecting about fifty grand in royalties a month before the movie, but who cares about success, money, and popularity if some douchenozzle with a PhD doesn’t like you?

Yep. Stephanie Meyer is Mormon too, and though I personally hate her writing style, she’s entertained millions of people. You can’t deny that she is very successful. She sleeps on a giant pile of money inside her house made of gold bars.

In the United States, Jews, blacks and South Asians, while they have produced no Milton or Shakespeare — who has, lately? — have all had literary renaissances.

Well, if it isn’t the soft racism of the left rearing its ugly head. Because you know, Jews, blacks, and South Asians are all the same. They are a perfectly homogenous group with no individuality, just like Mormons!  

And the fact that he keeps bringing up Shakespeare (the original popular *genre* author) to mock authors who write popular stuff in order to get paid, is very ironic. If Shakespeare was alive today, is anyone stupid enough to think that the guy who specialized in writing entertaining plays for the masses would be writing stuffy, pretentious dreck for what works out to be $3 an hour in the hopes of winning a prestigious literary award? Hell no! We’d all be watching William Shakespeare presents Star Wars vs. The Avengers III: The Jedi Hulkening this summer, and it would be awesome, and the NYT would hate it.

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“Ye olde mission statement readest thus, deadlines loom, find they gonads within thy trousers, place thy ass upon the seat, set quil to parchement, and get paid, bitches.”

And Milton? He’s mostly famous for an epic poem involving a civil war with angels and devils and monsters, interdimensional portals, with the devil as the big bad, and on the side he was a snarky political blogger. Oh, and like all writers you’ve actually heard of, he liked getting paid. Maybe in 300 years I’ll be considered a *real* author too.  

Mormons are more likely to produce work that gets shelved in niche sections of the bookstore.

Niche… In most of the country that means the big part of the store where people actually purchase things. Romance and thrillers are *genre*. They’re not *real* writers either. Guess what sells the most? It sure as hell isn’t lit fic unless it ends up on
Oprah’s Book Club or something like that.

Let’s put it this way. I live in a new 4,500 square foot house on a mountainside across from a ski resort paid for by my *genre* writing. My wife doesn’t have to work to support me like most *real* writers. I don’t have to beg for patrons. I don’t have to kiss ass at my local university for a guest lecturer position to make enough that my car won’t get repossessed. 

If you want to actually make a living as a writer, you will focus on writing things that people will actually give you money for. If you want to focus on highbrow writing have fun, and yes, I would like fries with that. 

Think of it this way, thinking that *real* writing is the correct way to be a writer, is exactly the same as people thinking it is better to go to college for 6 years and getting $200k in debt so you can have a masters in gender studies and then be unemployed and living in your parent’s basement, but still looking down your nose at the debt free guy who makes $30 an hour welding or fixing diesel engines.

And as it turns out, Mormon authors themselves wonder if their culture militates against more highbrow writing.

Not really.

They have a range of possible explanations.

And now we will hear from somebody a lot nicer than I am.

“It is a fair thing to point out,” said Shannon Hale, a Mormon who writes young adult fiction, “that there have been very prominent Jewish writers that have received a lot of accolades, and worldwide the number of Mormons are comparable to the number of Jews, so why hasn’t that happened?”

I’ve met Shannon. She’s cool. And she does ask a good question why hasn’t that happened? Why haven’t Mormons gotten a lot of accolades?

Serious answer? There are more liberal Jews than there are liberal Mormons, and awards go to whoever checks the correct boxes.  If you are an active Mormon you are going to have some fundamental beliefs that go against the establish group think of the literati elites. Now someday they’ll find a disgruntled ex-Mormon that says all the things that makes them happy, who can also coherently string together words into sentences, and he will be showered with awards.

But more importantly, most real writers understand that accolades are fundamentally crap. Accolades don’t pay the bills. Prestigious literary awards mean absolutely nothing except that your book appealed to a one small awards jury, and since most awards juries are circle jerks of like-minded individuals patting themselves on the back about how brilliant they are, who cares?

I get my accolades every six months when I cash my gigantic royalty checks.

Yet, I’m still going to do another Sad Puppies Campaign to get a Hugo because I’m just filled with spite. :)

Ms. Hale’s theory is that literary fiction tends to exalt the tragic, or the gloomy,

Or in other words, lit-fic tends to be dreary navel gazing about dying polar bears where nothing interesting actually happens for hundreds of pages, and boring, unlikable people sit around talking about their problems.  

while Mormon culture prefers the sunny and optimistic.

Meaning that Mormons aren’t a bunch of whining pansies.

“When I was an English major, then getting a master’s, most of the literary fiction I read was tragedy,” said Ms. Hale, whose “Princess Academy” was a Newbery Honor book. The books she was assigned treated “decline and the ultimate destruction of the human spirit” as necessary ingredients for an honest portrayal of life.

Gee whiz. That sounds like some fun reading! No wonder lit fic is so wildly successful!

But what if Mormons do not think that way?

You mean we tend to actually go and accomplish stuff, rather than whine about it? (or wait for the government to come fix it for us, but that’s a topic for another day).

“I think Mormons tend to have hope and believe in goodness and triumph, and those portrayals can ring false in a literary world,” Ms. Hale said.

Shannon is being very diplomatic in her response. My response would be a little more direct. “Why the hell would anyone want to read dreary, pretentious, wordy bullshit, and why the hell would I want to sit in front of a computer for hundreds of hours to write that?”

If the NYT reporter actually knew jack about his topic, he’d know that Mormon history has been filled with suffering. For not being around very long, we got run out of one state, then run out of another state, and another, freezing and starving the whole time, then our homes were burned by mobs, and it was actually perfectly legal to shoot us on sight, so then we all suffered and died in the worst exodus of the last few hundred years, in order to settle in the most godforsaken bit of country available. Then we worked our asses off and turned a wretched desert into something decent through the power of our industry and the strength of our backs, and then the army invaded us.

Ask any Mormon about the Haun’s Mill Massacre. Ask us about Johnston’s Army. Or Liberty Jail. Our church was founded in hardship, grew in hardship, but we are the definition of will not quit.  We stick to our guns, stick to our principles, and now we’re 15 million badasses worth of can do attitude who won’t quit until we feel like it.

My wife is descended from those pioneers. Mormons are still super proud of our pioneer history and learn about it constantly Me? I’m a convert, but I grew up descended from surly, angry, Portuguese dairy farmers, so strangely enough I fit in great.

The reporter seems to like comparing Mormons to Jews. They’ve had a much longer history of suffering. The thing is he’s probably writing this with liberal New Yorker Jews in mind, while Mormon culture is much more in line with Israeli Jews and their “Come at me, bro” attitude. Mark sees it as sunshiny. We see it as roll up your sleeves and get stuff done.

One of our popular hymns says Put your shoulder to the wheel and push along. Do your duty with a heart full of song. We all have work. Let no one shirk. Put your shoulder to the wheel.

Writing as a career means you have to work your butt off and hustle. Mormon culture still takes pride in having a work ethic. Anybody who takes this to heart will succeed in life. It isn’t a Mormon exclusive, and not even all Mormons get it. Mike Rowe gets it. So there’s another reason Mormons succeed in writing…   

When Mark uses the word sunshiny it is code for naïve. “Oh, those quaint and foolish Mormons, out there in red state in flyover country, clinging to their guns and religion, with their absurd outdated moral values. If only they could be enlightened, like the people who think exactly like I do.”  

Rachel Ann Nunes writes in the romance, paranormal, fantasy and young people’s genres, and she founded LDS Storymakers, an organization for Mormon writers. She said that Mormon theology makes otherworldly and escapist genres natural fits for church members. “We believe that God created a lot of different worlds,” said Ms. Nunes, who also writes under the name Teyla Branton. Jesus Christ came to Earth, and to America, but “atonement stretched for all the worlds,” she said. “It’s natural for us to think that a lot more might be out there.”

There are a ton of Mormon authors. Of course we can have some philosophical explanation for it, or it could just go back to that first bit about how we’re more educated and we like to read more than average. Readers make writers. And the generation of us that is writing genre now also happens to be the generation that grew up with that stuff as our primary reading material.

Of course, many non-Mormon Christians work in genre fiction, too.

No! Really? The NYT is super good at the maths!

 J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic and C. S. Lewis a devout Anglican; Christian readers are among their biggest fans. Christianity and genre fiction both depend on Manichaean, good-versus-evil plots, and the savior motif, in which an anointed one saves the kingdom or the world, is important to sci-fi and fantasy and central to the Christian Gospel.

Well huh… All this time writing all these successful novels I thought I was depending on telling a fun and entertaining story! I never realized I needed… Manichaean… whatever. I’m sure Mark didn’t just use that word so he’d sound all sorts of smart.

Yet Mormons gravitate even more powerfully than other Christians toward genre fiction, and for reasons that have nothing to do with theology. For example, if you are a bookish young Mormon, your church role models work in genre fiction: major figures like Mr. Card and Ms. Meyer; young adult writers like Ms. Hale; and many others, like J. Lloyd Morgan and James Dashner, who work in genres within genres, like fantasy fiction for children.

Or me, or Brandon Sanderson, or Dan Wells, or Howard Tayler, or Jessica Day George, or Brandon Mull, or Richard Paul Evans, or Jason Wright, or Dave Wolverton, or John Brown, or Eric James Stone, or Steve Diamond, or Amber Argyle, or Zach Hill, or Brad Torgersen, or Rob Wells, or George Hill, or Julie Wright, or Tracy Hickman… All of those are writers who are Mormon who write for the national market, not “Mormon authors” writing for the LDS market.

Hmmm… Looking back over that list (and I know I’m missing a ton of folks since I’m just doing this off the top of my head) I see a bunch of bestsellers and really successful people. I also see a bunch of award winners. (but those awards like totally don’t count, because the NYT said so and stuff).

Success breeds success, established writers help new writers, and there are only two and a half million people in Utah. So the writing community tends to know each other, and we also tend to be a helpful bunch. It isn’t even a Mormon thing as much as it is a Utah thing (heck, look at my own Writer Nerd Game Night, Paul Genesse and Patrick Tracy are both Utah writers but not Mormons) only Utah is like 70% Mormon, so statistically it is going to work out that way.

Sure, the NYT can look for some weird philosophical underpinning that all Mormons—or blacks, Jews, or Asians—share (because you know all groups are just homogenous little voter blocks to big city liberals) but looking at that partial list above, I think it is more about strong networking in a relatively small community than anything.

But then we couldn’t have this pretentious article! 

Unsurprisingly, the heavily Mormon state of Utah has become an incubator.

Duh.

Brigham Young University, in Provo, hosts an annual Symposium on Books for Young Readers. Many members of LDS Storymakers live in Utah, where they can connect in person as well as online. The Utah-based children’s author Rick Walton runs an email list that further connects people.

“A lot of writers who might have gone another way have gone to children’s or young adult because of the strong communities,” Ms. Hale said.

So that part there hits on the nuts and bolts reality of the matter, but don’t worry…

But there is a specifically Mormon logic to the trend, too.

Because Mark quickly dismisses it in favor of his own pseudointellectual interpretation.

Realist literature for adults often includes aspects of adult life like sex and drinking, and the convention is to describe them without judgment, without moralizing.

Note that he proclaims this convention, but he doesn’t establish who it belongs to. That is a fun trick, like writing “some experts say (insert made up bullshit here)” or “FACT (insert more bullshit)”. 

I think Mark is flat out wrong on this one. I’m going to proclaim the opposite. Strong writing is going to have judgment and moralizing based upon the perspective of the Point of View character. But what do I know? I’m not a *real* writer.

Mormons don’t write about drinking? Huh? Just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean my characters won’t, and each one will have their own take on the subject. Jake Sullivan drinks, but usually only when somebody else is buying because he’s cheap. Owen Pitt doesn’t drink, but that’s because he worked as a bouncer and has zero patience for drunks. Lorenzo drinks sparingly, but only because he’s a health nut. Earl Harbinger drinks lots and lots of beer. But my record holder PoV is Francis Stuyvesant who is only outdrank by the master Raymond Chandler himself!  And come to think of it all of those guys had premarital sex, because their actions are consistent with the make-up of their character.

I’m pretty sure Dan Wells isn’t a serial killer. I don’t think John Brown serves a dark god. Brandon Sanderson, to the best of my knowledge, has never killed anybody by shooting nails with allomancy. And holy crap, some of Orson Scott Card’s short fiction is DARK. I’m talking child molester dark. So why this hackneyed nonsense about not being able to separate authors beliefs from their characters?

Because it simply isn’t true, but something being true will never hold back the New York Times!

By writing for children and young adults — or in genres popular with young people — one can avoid such topics. Mormon authors can thus have their morals and their book sales, too.

I’m a perfect example of why this isn’t true. I very specifically don’t write for kids. I write extreme levels of violence. Depending on the series, I write very realistic violence. Dead Six and Swords of Exodus were co-written with a veteran and proofed by a bunch of combat vets, and in the second book they take on the sunshiny topic of modern slavery. Or I write crazy over the top violence (I am the leading cause of Google searches for the term Snow-Go).

Personally, I don’t write sex scenes. Though I write things where you know damned good and well that sex has happened. I just tend to do the 1950’s movie style of cutting away. Why? Because of the audience I write for. Do you really think the average Correia reader, somebody searching for technically competent, two fisted action, explosion-o-rama adventure yarns wants to read a scene featuring my attempt at writing a steamy, yet totally pointless, sex scene? Hey, Tom Clancy readers, how many of you remember and cherish his few ham fisted forays in writing sex? Remember Bear and the Dragon? Yeah… Exactly.  I don’t need more descriptions of the Chinese secret agent’s magnificent wang again, thanks, Tom.

Now, if I was writing for Laurel K. Hamilton’s audience, then I’m going to sex it up. Different audiences, you give them a different product. (Gasp! He called it product! He’s not a *real* writer!) Brad Torgersen, Mormon author, who has been nominated for the Hugo/Campbell/Nebula (totally doesn’t count) is a great writer, and I know for a fact that man will go all sorts of sexy in his writing. I’ve had to make him clean up game fiction before I could put in on my blog. My kids read this page!

But of course, if I was a *real* writer, then my dreary navel gazing about the dying polar bears should be sporadically interrupted by sex scenes where afterwards everybody cries and talks about the cismale gendernormative fascism of the patriarchy and the symbolism of who was on top.    

“I’ll tell you why they write young adult,” said Ms. Nunes. “Because they don’t have to write the pages and pages of sex. They don’t want to spend a lot of time in the bedroom.”

The NYT is confusing all genre with YA, which is just one genre, and they’re also assuming that something YA can’t be sexy… Which shows that Mark hasn’t read much, because there is some R rated YA out there. YA doesn’t have straight up porn in it, but I can think of more Mormons who write adult than YA.   

In an email, Mr. Morgan added that the absence of sex in a novel can lead booksellers to pick a genre for it: “I believe that most writers who are LDS are by default labeled as ‘young adult’ writers because graphic sex scenes, graphic violence and swearing are omitted from their writing — even if the material is for a more mature audience.”

And here is another problem, one which I’ve talked about before. The entire concept of genre is fake. Genre categories exist for one reason, and one reason only, book stores need to know where to put stuff on the shelf. Period.

Look at my Grimnoir Chronicles trilogy. They are written for an adult audience, they’re well researched alternative history, but they’re fantasy with magic, only the magic is like super heroes, except the whole thing is written hard boiled noir pulp style… Yeah… I didn’t know what genre they were until Amazon assigned them to a category, but apparently they are Paranormal, because I’ve won two Audie Awards so far in that category, and in France they’re fantasy because I was a finalist for Best Fantasy there. So go figure.

But to the literati elite, what category you put a book in is everything. They don’t care about if the book is actually good, or fun, or entertaining, or uplifting, or thought provoking, or even sellable. They just care about checking boxes on a checklist. So why the hell should a bunch of college professors who’ve sold dick be the final arbiters of what is good or not?

Another factor is possible church disapproval.

This next portion is utter crap. I’ve written scenes of murder, torture, mutilation, genocide, and have brought in religious plot elements from Catholicism, Asatru, Wicca, myth, everybody’s folklore, and all of it has been heavily laced with profanity, and I’ve had one… count them one comment from a church leader in all this time, and it was “Wow. You sure do have a potty mouth” from a Bishop who then went on to read the rest of my novels.   

The novelist Brian Evenson said he was forced out of Brigham Young University for writing fiction that displeased church leaders, and in 2002 he was excommunicated.

Okay, since the vast majority of my blog readers aren’t Mormon, you probably didn’t catch that this part raises some red flags on the BS meter. Let me give you a doctrinal, nuts and bolts look behind the curtain of how my religion works.

First off, BYU is a school earned by the church, but it isn’t the church. It is our Notre Dame. When you go there you sign an agreement that you’ll follow their honor code. And personally, I think their honor code is ridiculous (and filled with a bunch of extraneous stuff that isn’t against any actual commandment in our religion, like drinking caffeine, which still drives me nuts because that is perfectly fine for the rest of us, but every time I go to a con people think I’m a bad Mormon because I’m drinking coke, thanks BYU)  I figure college students are adults with their own free agency, so they shouldn’t need the threat of getting kicked out of school to help them keep the commandments they’ve already committed to uphold. But I went to Utah State. Go Aggies.

So this dude got kicked out of BYU for writing fiction, yet I look at that list of authors above and I know that several of them went to BYU, and they’ve written all sorts of weird crap with no problems… I start to get suspicious. I’ve never heard of Brian Evenson, but 9 times out of 10 when the NYT trots out some disgruntled ex-Mormon (I swear they must keep a list) they usually have a grudge and can be counted on to reliably portray the rest of us as knuckle dragging morons.

Next, he was excommunicated in 2002. You’ve got to understand that Mormons save excommunication for serious stuff. Excommunication means we kick you out of our church entirely because your fundamental beliefs or behavior are no longer compatible. If you commit adultery or are convicted of a felony you usually only get disfellowshipped, which means you can still come to church, but you’re not allowed to hold any callings or do anything special or participate in any ordinances until you repent and get your life back in order.

Getting excommunicated means that you really pissed us off. Normally that means you murdered somebody (I’m assuming even the NYT isn’t that desperate) or you are continually preaching false doctrine which goes against the established teachings of the church. So a cursory Amazon search shows that Brian’s books are about the typical anti-Mormon BS of early church leaders murdering people in blood atonement and some weird crap about temple marriage, and having been married in the temple and knowing our doctrine rather well, from just reading just the back cover description of his book Open Curtain, uh… WTF is this crap? 

So for my non-Mormons readers, this would be like some member of your local church loudly proclaiming that he doesn’t believe any of your church’s doctrine, actively subverting what your church believes in, leading your fellow parishioners astray, and testifying that your preacher/pastor/priest has gay sex with farm animals. You don’t believe our doctrine? Fine. We’re not going to change it to suit your weird ass beliefs. Bye bye. Of course, now this person is exactly the unbiased source people should go to in order to learn about your religious beliefs.

When he was a child, he kept a journal, and his parents told him to “only record the happy things, and not the negative things.”

What a strangely useful remark from our disgruntled ex-Mormon that handily validates our reporter’s predetermined narrative!

It is the kind of instruction one cannot imagine coming from Jewish parents, or even from sin-worried evangelical Protestants.

Because remember, you all fit into neat little boxes. My kid’s journals have notes for windage and elevation adjustment clicks based on what load they are using… but I suspect they may be an anomaly.

In the Latter-day Saint culture of uplift and consensus, it somehow makes more sense. But it did not strike Mr. Evenson as being helpful for the budding artist.

Gee whiz… Yet hundreds of us have managed to sell millions of books while not being douchebags tearing down our religion! Poor Mr. Evenson. He’s quite the special snowflake.

“That kind of attitude, which is symptomatic in Mormonism as a whole, makes it very hard for some serious things to come out for Mormons,” Mr. Evenson said.

Yes. It is hard for *serious* things to come out of Mormons… Sure, we excel in science, engineering, math, finance, business, and even the arts, but we have totally failed to meet the NYT’s arbitrary and capricious standards of *real* writing… But don’t worry, the minute an active Mormon (or any other member of a group they don’t like) wins a Nobel Prize for Literature, it won’t count anymore either.

“There’s a weird pride in the limitations of the culture, and that to me is something that kills the possibility of artistic creation.”

Kiss my ass. Yeah, the way my religion says I shouldn’t beat my children while snorting cocaine off of a dead hooker is so limiting to my muse.

This is for all the aspiring authors out there who are hung up about creating art, put your big girl panties on, read this, and get to work:  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/ask-correia-14-how-to-be-a-professional-author/

Patrick Madden, who teaches English at Brigham, says that there are Mormons who write excellent poetry — he mentioned his colleague Lance Larsen — and intellectually ambitious fiction. But he agreed that Mormon writers were comfortable with genre conventions.

This is kind of funny, because they are citing BYU as some sort of help. WRONG. They used to be good but over recent years the BYU English department has become as deluded with pretentions of literary greatness as the rest of the country. They’ve done their best to squash genre and focus on *real* writing.

One reason Utah has such a vibrant writing community is because of Dave Wolverton who writes under the penname Dave Farland. He taught BYU’s creative writing program for years, and he focused on the actual business end of writing instead of muses and dead authors nobody ever read to begin with. He had over 200 students go on to become professionals and 40 become bestsellers. That’s amazing. That’s a better success rate than any other creative writing program in the world. Brandon Sanderson, one of Dave’s former students, took over teaching Dave’s class. If an article about Mormon/Utah writers fails to note what Dave accomplished, then you know that zero research was done. And Dave did it despite BYU, not because of them.

Then there is the LTUE writing symposium. It is one of the best creative writing symposiums in the world. It was held at BYU for most of its existence. However, since BYU’s English department was hung up on *real* writing, we moved it first to UVU, and now it is being held off a college campus entirely. Thank goodness. If you want your writing to actually grow up GET OUT OF COLLEGE!

One problem with lit-fic, since it is almost impossible to make a living at it, is that it is mostly written on the side by college professors, published in prestigious literary journals (where you will be read by literally dozens—if you count the editorial staff) and then forced on students who’d rather be reading something actually entertaining. Newspapers then review it as brilliant, and socialites skim enough of it talk about it at parties. Meanwhile lit-fic ignores the rest of the world, and now we’re supposed to feel bad because those of us winning at life don’t satisfy them? Whoop-de-fricking do.   

“I think there is a pretty thriving LDS book culture,” Professor Madden said. “But a lot of it is faith-affirming and uncomplicated-type writing. Maybe that’s why there’s a pretty strong thrust of LDS genre writers. Because when you write sci-fi and so forth, things aren’t as messy as with realistic fiction.”

He sees uncomplicated. I see entertaining.

Realistic fiction… Why? If I have the ability to create whole new worlds from nothing, and populate them with fantastic characters, and then take them and do amazing things, why would I want to write “realistic” fiction? Most people read books to escape their reality. Why do I want to shove an even shittier reality in their face?

And you don’t need to be Mormon get that. You just need to exist outside the echo chamber of the literati elite and academia.

 

***One quick note while I’m bashing the NYT’s sloppy writing. I’ve had people ask how come I mock the NYT, but I’m proud to say that I’m a NYT bestseller. Fair enough. The NYT bestseller list, despite being terribly inaccurate, is still the most prestigious bestseller list in publishing mostly because everybody has heard of it. I tell somebody who isn’t even much of a reader that I’m a NYT bestselling author and that conveys a level of success. So I use it. As far as accuracy? It is crap. The list is based on a sampling of the sales of around two hundred secret bookstores, most of which are clustered in the north east, specifically New York. Nielsen Bookscan on the other hand, tracks about 75% of the book sales in the country, so it is way more accurate. And I’ve made the Nielsen list more often, ranked higher, and have stayed on it longer than I have on the NYT. Only when I say Nielsen Bookscan, the average person has never heard of it. So that’s why I use the NYTBSA bit. 

238 Responses

  1. Larry, don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel…

  2. In the latest episode of The Simpsons, Kent Brockman goes to NYC to look for a new job. He asks a Newsie where to find the NYT, and he replies, “This IS the New York Times!”
    :)

  3. Thanks, Larry. This is the kind of sunshiny writing I needed today.

  4. While reading the article, I was astonished that he could begin by citing Ender’s Game, then go on to say that books by LDS authors avoid complicated moral issues which have no clear answer.

    He obviously hadn’t read Ender’s Game, or seen the movie, either. But that raises the question: why write this article at all? If he doesn’t respect fiction by LDS authors, then why even mention us?

    The answer is obvious: he’s worried. LDS authors keep churning out moneymaking novels, movies, and franchises, and this phenomenon can no longer be ignored. To those people who disagree with LDS values, that may be a frightening proposition.

    So, all in all, the existence of this article is telling of the importance of LDS authors (and also of non-LDS genre writers, who deserve our love and the NYT’s fear). In some ways, that’s a huge compliment.

    • Also, Shakespeare was a fantasy author. A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest are some of his best plays. Julius Caesar features a soothsayer as a character, Macbeth has witches, and Richard III has ghosts, yet those plays are considered “histories” instead of fantasies. The only Shakespearean plays that lack fantastic elements are some of his comedies. And comedy writers are even less respected than fantasy authors these days.

      You can’t criticize genre fiction without criticizing Shakespeare.

      • Actually, the soothsayer bit in Julius Caesar was cribbed from history.

      • What I was going to point out.

      • Soothsayer may well have been mundane, as in history. I haven’t read the play.

        Romans were real big on divination, it was, IIRC, involved in some of their political offices. Caesar, having pulled political strings, also held some religious offices.

        He had, IIRC, apparently been manipulating some of the official prophecies for years.

        My guess is that he figured the soothsayer was just an enemy pulling the same sort of stuff.

        It is possible that the soothsayer knew of the conspiracy, and was trying to warn Caesar about it.

  5. The weapon of mass instruction has been released.

  6. Loved it Larry. Not LDS, but I’m a librarian, so I guess I’m a traitor to some cause for loving entertainment reading and not liking lit-fic. You want to know a secret? (bet you already know the answer though) I check out a lot more entertainment reading than literature. I don’t keep track, but I can guarantee the J.D. Robb novels go out a lot more than Hemingway or Steinbeck. And what’s with the liberal attitude that money is bad if you make it through work, but good if you get it from the sweat of someone else? What these folks don’t realize is if you scratch the outer layer off of any relatively conservative person you are going to find similarities underneath, regardless of what square you want to assign them to. I’m from the inland Northwest originally, now live in the coastal southeast. Want to know the primary difference in mindset between me and the folks who are native to the area, my accent is not southern. Anyone who grew up in a rural farming community is intrinsically different from effete Northeastern liberals, and will be till the cows come home. I sure wish they’d get over themselves.

  7. At least the author talked about “Mormons” and “other Christians”… some wouldn’t have gotten that right.

    • That is rather remarkable by NYT standards. I’m amazed his editorial staff let him mention Scott Card without immediately talking about gay marriage. :)

      True story. Last time I was in Alabama I was having a conversation with several other people at a sci-fi con. We had Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Church of Christ, and me, and we were having a religious discussion when the Catholic pointed out that Christian religions are becoming more unified than ever before because “We’re all in it together against THOSE assholes.” meaning people like our friends at the NYT. :)

      • Amen.

      • “We’re all in it together against THOSE assholes.”

        Oh great. Now some pearl-clutcher from the NYT is going to read that comment and talk about how the ChristoTaliban are going to bring back the Crusades.

      • Oh, they’ve already scheduled that article to run on page one tomorrow anyway. (Obama apologizing to America for lying and causing your health insurance costs to triple was on page A16) :)

      • “We’re all in it together against THOSE assholes.”

        That should be the tagline of every eccumenical meeting for the foreseeable future.

      • NR Pax:

        The Crusades were about Europe uniting against invasion by Islam.

        If the Crusades had not been organized, we would be living in a medieval craphole in Europe, and still beheading people for not praying five times a day. As an Atheist, I consider myself fortunate to have been descended from people who supported them.

        Atheists who badmouth the Crusades are freaking clueless.

      • People who go off about the Crusades like they were some proto-western genocide against the peaceful defenseless Muslims thus demonstrating the inherent evils of Christianity make it obvious they know dick about history.

        Did bad stuff happen? Yep. Did they Crusaders do horrible things? Yep. That’s what happens when you engage in some of the largest wars in history, in one of the most brutal time periods in all of human history. They didn’t call them the Dark Ages because they were so sunshiny and fun. Not to mention that the Muslims of the day were total military badasses dedicated to conquoring the world (like every other badass society that actually survived). Saladin wasn’t some poor put upon little shrieking violet who was victimized by those big mean Crusaders. He was a badass motherfucker dedicated to wrecking face. And he came up against Richard the Lion Heart, who was an equally badass motherfucker dedicated to ultimate face punching, and they had themselves one hell of a war.

        But the Muslims never invaded Europe! BWA HA HAW HAAAAAaa snort. Wow. Yeah. I’ve heard this one.

        The Crusades were like every other war mankind has managed to throw over the last several thousand years, only half of the guys in it were wearing crosses on their tunics, so we still have to listen to bullshit about them because the help the left’s narrative about big mean bully Christians.

  8. “…things aren’t as messy as with realistic fiction.”

    I call bullshit, right there. Those are the words of someone who’s never read genre fiction in his life. The last serious thing I wrote involved a guy who had to deal with the fallout of a shadowy government agency forcing him to murder his best friend. The fact that he’s a werewolf (yes, because I am me) is completely secondary to the maelstrom of emotions he feels over that, and how he deals with it by NOT letting his inner wolf loose on the person responsible, but by doing it as a MAN while pointing up who the real monsters are in the scenario.

    And, you know, I don’t have any literary pretensions, and I don’t expect to win any awards; I just want to tell a rip-roaring story. But even I swerve into “messy” things like that in my werewolf fiction, which Mr. Oppenheimer would no doubt turn his nose up at.

    And, seriously, he starts off by citing “Ender’s Game,” which deals with kids (isn’t Ender SIX in the book?) as soldiers and freaking GENOCIDE. How is that not messy?

    • Not messy? Wasn’t Ender’s killing another kid with his bare hands viewed as a good thing in select him for the program?! And he obvioulsy hasn’t read early Drake, Weber and Stirling.

  9. This atheist is 100% on your side on this topic. Your faith is your business, and not something to be casually mocked. The NYT is despicable and dishonest, and has been for the better part of a century.

    I used to be part of that world. I’ve got a degree in English Literature from a prestigious East Coast university. I’ve actually taken a class on Feminist Literary Criticism (I smiled, told them what they wanted to hear, and got an A).

    I’ve spent a couple of hundred dollars buying such “deep” books over the years, but when I want to actually ENJOY a book, I buy books from authors like you. Needless to say, it’s been an expense of far more than a couple of hundred dollars.

    Just keep writing. You’ve earned every penny of commission you’ve made from me.

    As for me, I quit that world, moved to the country, started my own business, and bought guns … and I’m a lot happier these days.

    • Heh. Too bad you hadn’t taken a vo-tech or STEM degree. A lot of money was sunk into that English Lit “certification”.

  10. This last quote really gets me:

    “I think there is a pretty thriving LDS book culture,” Professor Madden said. “But a lot of it is faith-affirming and uncomplicated-type writing. Maybe that’s why there’s a pretty strong thrust of LDS genre writers. Because when you write sci-fi and so forth, things aren’t as messy as with realistic fiction.”

    Since he didn’t mention Brandon Sanderson in his article, he clearly doesn’t know about him and that in and of itself is proof this is a slap-dash opinion piece with zero research behind it. But Sanderson’s “Mistborn” is incredibly complex and certainly not the least bit sunny.

    I wonder if this guy reads anything at all, regardless of it being lit fic or genre or whatever. I think he really, genuinely doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. Note that he didn’t actually give any examples of the so called “realist writing”. I mean, who’s he talking about and what is it he thinks is so much better? Be specific. He can’t because he doesn’t read. So he has no business writing anything about writing/reader/publishing.

    • Yeah, Mistborn was all sorts of sunshiny. I think the sun actually came out for a few minutes through the murky death fog for a few minutes at the end of the last book.

      And Grimnoir… That’s like a day at Disneyland and all you can eat icecream, what with the whole 1930s Great Depression as a back drop for a story about statism, eugenics, and genocide.

      But then you’ve got John Brown, where humans are being farmed for their souls by an evil god. Or Dan Wells writing about sociopaths, dead babies, serial killers, and one with a schziophrenic narrator. Mormons are just filled with sunshine! :D

      • It’s a clear case of “did not do the research” along with “cherry-picked his so-called data to get the result he wanted.” Funny, I thought you weren’t supposed to do that. This right here is why no one takes the NYT seriously anymore.

      • Well, Grimnoir did have the cheery scene where a favorite character’s girlfriend (someone who hadn’t had a a very sunny life in the first place) got turned into a zombie. Oh, and as for zombies, they’re rather light-hearted and filled with hope and happiness in this mythology. All that pain and anguish forever and ever with nearly zero chance of stopping it … good times, good times.

      • Hmm, that raises a question: would a nixie obliterate, and thereby free, the undead? Or do nixies just open a gate to somewhere else?

      • would a nixie obliterate,

        Am I the only one who read that and thought: “perhaps not, but Exodia would.”

        Probably.
        ;)

      • To be fair, in each of the “dark” stories mentioned, the evil exists to be overcome. A worldview that calls evil by name and requires it be confronted is hopeful and uplifting in and of itself. This is probably the foreign and misunderstood idea at the root of the article’s error.

      • It didn’t come to mind, but now that you mention it, I want to see some good Yu-Gi-Oh/Grimnoir fanfiction.

  11. Holy crap, man. We need to be friends. I had so many people send this to me too, and I wanted to punch this guy in the throat. Yes, I’m a Mormon. Yes, I write genre fiction. But my Mormonism doesn’t make me write genre fiction, the awesomeness of genre fiction makes me write genre fiction. This guy obviously doesn’t read much. This article is just painful. Although I have to say I’ve had several people complain to me about the three instances of swearing in my novel, Alchemy. But maybe it’s because I’m a Mormon woman. The rules might be different for me.

    • It’s more likely because Larry’s first novel starred Owen, a giant pit fighter who bore a striking resemblance to Larry himself. I can personally attest to the resemblance.

      Owen put himself through college as a bouncer and illegal pit fighter. Until he beat one psychopath so badly he knocked an eye out and nearly killed him. With just fists.

      Anyone who read enough of MHI to see the swearing also read that part.

      And he’s also a competitive shooter who wouldn’t be caught dead without a gun or three strapped in various places about his person.

      Such people are seldom publicly reprimanded.

  12. The NYT still exists? Huh. Weird.

    • The NYT is a self contained outhouse of self perpetuating stupidity. Full of fetid, rotting corpses who masquerade as people with functioning brains; which are in actuality nothing more than mountains of pigeon shit.

  13. I am LDS and have never read your books (although I have read several of the authors you referenced) I have to tell you this made me laugh out loud several times and now I’m going to go to Amazon and find something by you to pick up for my winter “hot cocoa and a good book days”! Thanks for making my day!

    • Kelli, I am a HUGE fan of Larry’s…and I’ve given his books to my sons and friends…have even checked them out of the library for a friend to read since i won’t lend mine to non family members and I couldn’t get my hands on a copy to buy….and yes, they are great hot cocoa and good book days…esp if it is snowing.

    • You are going to need more than one. One won’t last more than a single snowy day because you won’t be able to stop reading.

  14. Speaking of not knowing which genre you belong to, neither does my library. They shelve your Grimnoir series in a different section of the library than your MHI series. One goes into Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, the other is shelved in the regular fiction section. I don’t remember off the top of my head which one is shelved where.

    • When it comes to fiction, my library doesn’t even bother trying to sort by genre. We put all fiction in it’s own section and sort by the last name of the Author:-). The only exception is Graphic Novels, which go in their own area and are sorted by Publisher.

    • Regular fiction? But that could potentially make me a *real* author! Quickly, you must warn them! :D

      • Dead Six is in the “regular fiction” section of my local library.

      • After twenty years, it still bugs me that neither David Drake nor Manly Wade Wellman are considered wortyh of being included in bookstores’ “Local Authors” sections… in North Carolina, and even in Chapel Hill.

  15. Thanks for the rant Larry. As for Evenson, I was at BYU when everything went down and had professors that sided with him. The short version is that he wrote a book, Altman’s tongue, that is very violent and dark. The school leadership thought that it was inappropriate for a BYU professor. He left and got bitter. I’m not sure about why he got EXed. While I also think BYU is overly restrictive, it is the church flagship and they want the squeaky clear rep. Evenson wasn’t ignorant about the standards, so he had no reason to whine when he was told to stay within the standards that were a basic condition of his employment. The fact that the NYT picked him as a spokesman for LDS authors is further proof that the Grey Lady is just a Soiled Dove.

    • The article conveniently lumped the two things together like they’re the same thing… Because you know how those small minded, jerky, religious extremist types are being all judgemental and wanting to put their Jesus in your uterus.

      I bet if a New York Times employee wrote a book that was scathing and insulting to the New York Times, and the NYT management thought it reflected badly on their organization, they totally wouldn’t fire him.

      And I know that when I want the straight scoop on an organization, I interview somebody who got kicked out of it for bad conduct! But scrolling through his Amazon sales rankings and reviews, for a brilliant literary genius whose creativity was stifled by those evil Mormons, his only books that have actually sold worth a damn were an adaptation of a Rob Zombie movie and some video game tie ins for Dead Space… It looks like our literary elitist had to pay some bills!

      • Evenson keeps calling himself “excommunicated”, but apparently he resigned his membership, he was not excommunicated.

        “Evenson asked to be excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he says, “not because of a profound disagreement with the doctrines of the church or because of moral differences” but because he felt he couldn’t be both a writer and a Mormon. If he remained a member, he says, he found himself “too consciously weighing the church’s opinion” of what he was writing. Being a member also limited “the way in which I processed emotion in my work,” he says.”
        http://www.deseretnews.com/article/645192575/Ex-LDS-author-says-art-church-clash.html?pg=all

      • Seriously? Wow. He’s an even more special snowflake than I originally thought.

        If you want to leave the LDS church, you can either just go inactive and never come, and if you want to really leave and never have us bother you again you can request for your membership stricken from the records. Neither of which is excommunication. Oh brother.

      • Heh. If he wants to be excommunicated, he has to do something to earn it.

        I suggest publicly sacrificing a goat to Satan.

        Being an atheist does not require special snowflake recognition. You just have to not believe. Simple.

  16. Because when you write sci-fi and so forth, things aren’t as messy as with realistic fiction.

    Talking about LDS writers and claims “not as messy”? Did the person even read Ender’s Game (even the short form)? The story just drips moral ambiguity. (Not so much of the “Gray goo” variety but of the “between a rock and a hard place” variety.) While the real world might be “more messy” that’s pretty much as “messy” as fiction gets.

    • Ender beat a kid to death in the shower. He’s a child soldier who psychologically cannot lose waging a genocidal war. It is profoundly deep. There’s a reason Enders Game has been one of the top selling novels every year for decades.

      This reporter knows two things about books. Jack and shit, and jack just left town.

      • This is why I say he hasn’t even read what he thinks is the “good stuff”. If someone asked him which currently publishing authors he considered top notch they’d get back a lot of “homina homina homina”. The guy doesn’t read, plain and simple.

      • “He’s a child soldier who psychologically cannot lose waging a genocidal war.”

        I’m not sure what you meant by psychologically, but my memory of the book is more than 20 years old. I remember the beating the bully to death scene and think it’s one of the most interesting introductions to a main character I’ve ever read.

        Having the general staff come back to Ender again and again with their “here’s a new game you have to learn to beat because if you don’t the human race is dead” makes me wonder what part of the book is supposed to be sunshiny.

        This goes for the next two books in the series, so yeah, I think you’re right that he is simply taking an indirect shot at LDS authors in general because the movie is in theaters.

      • actually I remember him being rather broken about beating the jerk to death.

  17. “Genre categories exist for one reason, and one reason only, book stores need to know where to put stuff on the shelf. Period.”

    Genres also exist to tell the literati what they’re supposed to look down their noses at.

    • I think genre categories exist so bookstores can fill my vision with stuff I might buy while searching for good reading.

  18. I’m not as eloquent as most people here, so I’ll just say… you nailed it. I love your books and stories for exactly the reasons you stated. Thank you, Larry!

  19. … my religion says I shouldn’t beat my children while snorting cocaine off of a dead hooker …

    Has me wondering whether there is a religion where that is one of the commandments. And if so what the others might be:

    E.g
    thou shalt smoke crack while fellating a bull

    honor thy regular ho and her pimp and give them an extra tip during the holidays

    thou shallt not commit adultery, but pedophilia is just fine

    thou shalt not even mention the word gun, neither shalt thou draw it or make any graven image of one.

  20. Larry have you been researching me? I was in college for 6 years and I do have 200K in debt (but that is between school loans and my house XD). My degree was in CompSci though so it’s not all bad right?

    IMHO: The only time a writer’s political and/or religious views should factor in is for 1) statistical analysis, 2) if it affects the story in such a way as to render it as a poor story, 3) the author wants it noted

    I just wish more people were of the ‘live and let live’ variety instead of the idea that everyone must fit in their precious little molds. We’d have a better world if we did :)

    Thanks for the great blog post as usual Larry! Keep it up! :D

  21. Oh and the original article now has this hilarious correction:

    Correction: November 9, 2013

    An earlier version of this article misstated the genre of the author Terry Tempest Williams. She is an essayist in creative nonfiction, with a focus on environmental and social justice issues — not a fantasy author.

    Is it wrong for me to think that “creative nonfiction, with a focus on environmental and social justice issues” sounds like the classic example of dreary pretentious politically correct crap?

    • Sounds to me like she’s now just a more sharply defined fantasy author.

    • IDK… It sounds like a form of Fantasy that will never be popular…

    • She is an essayist in creative nonfiction, with a focus on environmental and social justice issues

      I’ll bet THOSE are some can’t-put-down page-turners. :D

      • Eh, the first one was OK – some beautiful writing about the family and specific events in the environment (high water in the Great Salt Lake) but “environment” and “women’s issues” took over and I quit her second book a few pages in.

      • I’m going to start writing about enviornmental issues (there are monsters in it) and women’s issues (Julie/Heather/Holly shooting the monsters). Sweet.

    • Creative nonfiction, with a focus on environmental and social justice issues? You mean she writes the IPCC reports?

      • Ah yes. Glowball Worming.

        Now that is a surprisingly popular sub-genre of fantasy. More popular for authors than readers, for the most part. But fantasy none the less. Although given that they frequently claim that it is “scientific” and is observably at odds with reality maybe she’s actually a “Science Fiction” writer not a fantasy one

      • It can’t be fiction. Fiction makes sense. Hence the “creative nonfiction” appellation.

      • But, but it’s such a compelling story, as long as you don’t corrupt it with pesky facts that is.

        The polar bears are dying*, the seas are boiling**, there are more super hurricanes*** and we’re all doomed unless we bow down before the mighty goddess Gaia. See? makes perfect sense.

        Of course the actual facts are oterhwise
        *Polar bear populations are *increasing*
        **Global oceanic temperatures are up some small portion of a degree – even surface ones. Down in the depths there is no noticeable change whatsoever
        ***In recent years we’ve seen fewer tropical storms with lower aggregate energy than ever in recent recorded history.

    • Ha. Environmental and social justice issues are definitely “creative” (in the sense of being made-up BS) but not non-fiction.

      “Fantasy” is a very good description of such books!

  22. Holy crap on a cracker.

    I had this discussion with someone recently. They asked if I had considered writing about life in the Deep South, something like Faulkner. I responded that if I tried to do that, I would probably end up gouging my own eyes out with a melon baller.

    There is a reason that there is a stereotype of the drunken writer. If I felt like I had to write that crap day in, day out, I’d probably stay drunk as well.

    So-called “genre” fiction has a bad name, but why? Millions of people read the kind of things you write. Honestly, isn’t that the goal of any storyteller? Isn’t the ultimate reinforcement of your writing in the idea of entertaining a butt load of people who just really enjoy the words you used to convey that story?

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’d much rather write “genre” fiction and love what I’m doing, than to struggle through pages upon pages of crap that amount to nothing more than me describing my breakfast and detailing the futility of life for 300+ pages.

  23. I don’t see the following quote in the article:

    “Ye olde mission statement readest thus, deadlines loom, find they gonads within thy trousers, place thy ass upon the seat, set quil to parchement, and get paid, bitches.”

    It seems a bit more Correia-ish than NYT-ish to me, but it’s in italics, not bold.

    • I think it is in regular text, not in italics. It was Larry captioning some word’s of wisdom from ol’ Bill.

      • I think it’s the Shakespearean version of “Evil looms. Cowboy up. Kill it. Get paid.” :-)

      • Peter O, you are dead on correct.

        I nearly posted ‘Larry needs to learn HTML’, but stopped the moment I envisioned the consequences of Mr. Correia posting: ‘I’m putting off Nemesis for a couple of months to learn HTML, thanks for the tip, Henchman!’

    • Dude, it’s the caption for the picture of Shakespeare!

  24. I once took a Sci-Fi and Fantasy class at my local Community College. The instructor was a fan, and as we read Ursula LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness”, she made an interesting observation. She noted that critics used to complain that LeGuin “wasted” her talents on sci-fi and fantasy novels instead of “real” literature.

    That’s the same sort of nonsense I’m seeing in the NYT piece.

    Also, I figure Tracy Hickman probably ought to get at least an honorary mention, seeing as how popular the Dragonlance books he co-authored used to be back in the day!

    • Crap. Can’t believe I forgot Tracy! He’s a friend of mine.

      • Somewhere, I have an interview he did about his Star of the Guardians game, where he said he was going to use the profits to colonize Mars. Awesome writer, didn’t know he was a Mormon.

    • A lot of LeGuin’s stuff is boring and preachy enough to qualify as “real literature”.

      • LeGuin’s an interesting author, and has had some pretty good ideas. The Earthsea books are probably her best known. But other books of hers that I’ve read include The Dispossessed (which talks about the problems in an anarchic society) and The Left Hand of Darkness (in which the humans living on a far distant planet naturally switch genders multiple times over the course of their lives). She’s got a knack for finding an interesting and unusual idea and running with it.

  25. I worked in the book industry for years. Worked for one of the major retailers in the nation. Every week we had to change out our main A frame where we kept the NYT “Bestseller” book list at the front of the store. And every, single, fucking. week. it was the same shit. Cook books, self help books, oprah reading list, plus a couple of back then…popular well known authors. Clancy, Coonts, Brown, Grafton etc. by and large though it was the aforementioned cook/pshrinkurself/oppie books. In Other Words. Books that outside of a few of the cookbooks, I wouldn’t even condescend to wipe my ass with. use it for kindling for a bonfire on the other hand….

  26. This isn’t the first time the NYT pushed the idea that Mormons can only create light, fluffy entertainment, and thus aren’t really capable of handling ‘deep’ issues.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/magazine/when-hollywood-wants-good-clean-fun-it-goes-to-mormon-country.html

    I remember reading more articles than this that were variations on the same theme, but my google-fu is weak.

  27. I actually was one of those people who DID think that Mormons weren’t allowed to have caffeine, possibly because of BYU-compliant adult Mormons. So thanks — I like getting things accurate, which is why I’ll never be NYT material. ;)

    • Interestingly, there are divergent views of that particular doctrine.

      One camp (big) says “Hot Drinks” means caffeinated, including tea and coffee, and caffeinated soda came later, so got added to the prohibited list. Lots of older, respected LDS leaders see it this way.

      Another camp, (tiny) says “Hot Drinks” includes hot chocolate and broth, and anything else hot to drink.

      Another camp (huge) says caffeinated coffee and tea only.

      The last camp just ignores it, and drinks their coffee quietly in the mornings: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

      • My mission president used to tell us to avoid colas – “Avoid the appearence of evil” and all that. i.e. because lots of people thought that we weren’t allowed to drink colas, the missionaries (the face of the church for much of the public) should avoid drinking them.

        Didn’t stop one of my companions from buying a case of Dr. Pepper every week when we went to the supermarket, though. Or our local ward mission leader in that area from raiding our fridge for Dr. Pepper whenever he stopped by our apartment.
        :P

      • “Didn’t stop one of my companions from buying a case of Dr. Pepper every week when we went to the supermarket, though.”

        I didn’t know Dr. P counted as a caffeinated drink. :P

        (Or, as a former acquaintance put it: “Drinking Dr. Pepper for the caffeine is like dating your sister for the sex.”)

  28. Well that NYT article got you at least one more book sale. I’m from Utah, no longer consider myself Mormon, but obviously I know lots of intellectual and amazing people who are. Added your Hard Magic to OSC, JRR Tolkien & George Martin on my Audible List. Thanks!! <3 :-)

  29. Dang, I guess I better stop writing sci-fi and fantasy and start writing “literature.” Who needs to get paid? Money’s for chumps.

    • Zach, since your zombie book has forever disqualified you from the wine & cheese crowd anyway, please keep writing.

      I’m really looking forward to reading about Gaspar Correia in the zombie apocalypse. The biggest question is “What is Gaspar like when the chips are down?” There are certainly SF/Seals who are outrageous liars, but are still good to have around when the fan gets hit. There are also “Flashman” types who are soldiers, but craven cowardly weasels with the luck of the gods. Or he could be an utterly worthless armchair commenter who gets gakked day one.

      Inquiring minds (with book buying money) want to know!

      • Clarification: I’ve never heard of U.S. SF types in either of the last 2 categories. They’d probably never make it through training.

        I just thought I’d better make that absolutely clear. Foreign soldiers whom US SF trainers are unable to fail for diplomatic reasons are a different matter, obviously.

      • Oh! A Minimum Wage Historian zombie novel. Mr. Henchman, you sir, are a genius. I bet Napoleon would kick but. I wonder how Anna would handle herself though. She’d probably get Matilda and Mulan to be her body guards.

  30. I love you, man! :D

  31. Great! My oldest daughter has an application in with the BYU English Department. Her concern isn’t great literature but that kids read. Anything as long as they read.

    • I got my MA from BYU in English Literature. But after being told that writing my thesis on Harry Potter would be tantamount to career suicide if I ever wanted to be taken seriously in academia (I wrote it on the Lord of the Rings instead, which passed muster because Tolkien was an Oxford Don, but just barely) I decided that getting my Ph. D. and teaching at BYU just wasn’t going to happen. I was sick and tired of being told what to read and how to read it, and I wasn’t about to sentence myself to a life of Faking It by pretending that I actually liked most of the “literary” crap I had to read or actually believed half the things I wrote in my essays just so I could teach a single class every semester on Rowling or Bujold or Laurie R. King.

  32. Reblogged this on The Worlds of Tarien Cole and commented:
    Don’t worry, it’s not just Mormons. It’s anyone who doesn’t check the right boxes, as Larry noted. Don’t qualify as a ‘victimized’ member of the underclass who can write White Guilt schlep of fake a biography (Roots I’m looking at you! http://www.amren.com/news/2012/03/alex-haleys-fraudulent-roots/) or even better, an autobiography (Yes, Mister President, I just got YOU in this discussion too), then you aren’t a ‘real’ writer.

    Pardon me for saying do, but I’d take a pile of money and fans waiting for my next book over a lifetime of living off a grant and an EBT card. Besides, when it comes write down to it, I write what I like to read. Not pretentious drivel that puts audiences to sleep.

    And I LOVE how the Left can always identify the plurality that disagrees with them as “extreme” or “niche.” While they themselves are ‘the majority.’ Never mind if you go into any bookstore, you’ll find “Literary Fiction” jammed between cookbooks and references, and people STILL walk around it!

    • What do you have against Roots? Isn’t it obvious that a half dozen white guys can run down entire African villages with nets and drag them back screaming to ships while the meanest and fastest members of the tribe, who hunt and kill big game for a living (with pointy sticks) all cower in the bushes?

      Didn’t all slave owners back then beat, maim and cripple their livestock, just like they all do today?

      Ask Larry! He’ll tell you about his father forcing him to go beat the cows every morning until they give milk. They used a cat of 9 tails on the plow horses, too.

      Yeah, slavery is evil enough without lying to make it seem even worse. (Of course, it’s still perfectly legal in a big hunk of the world that can’t be described without being called raaaaacist.)

      • My Dad had a better idea than that. He sent me out in -30F Minnesota winter, to cut wood for the fire from the 20′ high pile. Of course, it was almost always petrified and the ax-handle would reverberate through my arms until they felt like worn guitar strings.

        THEN I’d have to throw it down to the basement and stack it.

        I’d take the cat of nine tails over that any day. :P

  33. STUPID QUESTION FROM THE GODLESS HEATHEN… for the idiot author at the NY Times…

    If Mormons are so blasted happy and Positive about the future WHY do they have a basic policy of having a metric CRAPLOAD of supplies to last through what ever nonsense the rest of the world throws at them? People that are happy and positive do NOT stock a Metric CRAPLOAD of goods for when the fecal matter hits the air impeller. They roll the dice and hope the Deli stays open when the flood waters get waist deep. (stupid New Yorkers)

    • Oh you godless heathen. Mormons are happy and positive about the future BECAUSE they’re the ones that will be prepared.

      You don’t get beaten, raped and murdered out of a couple of states, then eventually walk 1000+ miles to get away from the bastard neighbors without learning to be prepared.

      Once you’re prepared, you’re happy. Especially when you contemplate what will happen to those jerk neighbors when it hits the fan.

      Preparation also means guns, so you can laugh at the jerk neighbors while you piously spout the parable of the ten virgins. Or the ant and grasshopper.

      – Or tell them to google “Boggs mormon extermination order” then “Shadenfreude”

      • “We take God and all the holy angels to witness this day, that we warn all men in the name of Jesus Christ, to come on us no more forever. For from this hour, we will bear it no more, our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity. The man or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed.—Remember it then all MEN”

        A quote for our times, IYKWIMAITYD. ;)

    • Have you considered that maybe they can afford to be happy and carefree precisely because they have that metric crapload of supplies against trouble?

      • Good point Writerinblack hadn’t thought of that. Or more likely because they work hard enough to be able to afford all that stuff AND the necessities of life. Being well off (or as Larry puts it sleeping on a bit pile of money which i Hope he does just because it would be awesome) Tends to make one happy. and please note.. I wasn’t bashing Mormons at all That is why i directed the question from the writer from the NY Times.

    • Old joke:

      An old woman cruises through a stop sign and gets pulled over by a local policeman. She hands the cop her driver’s license, insurance verification, plus her concealed carry permit.

      “Okay, Mrs. Smith,” the cop says, “I see your CCW permit. Are you carrying today?”

      “Yes, I am.”

      “Well then, better tell me what you got.”

      Mrs. Smith says, “Well, I’ve got a .357 revolver in my purse. There’s a 9mm semi-auto in the glove box. And, I’ve got a .22 magnum derringer in my right boot.”

      “Okay,” the cop says, “Anything else?”

      “Yeah, back in the trunk, there’s an AR15 and a shotgun. That’s about it.”

      “Mrs. Smith, are you on your way to or from a gun range…?”

      “Nope.”

      “Well then, what are you afraid of…?”

      “Not a damn thing…”

      • Actually had that conversation in real life…
        (wife of a fellow who had been invited to game with us, who had just noticed that the bulge on my right hip wasn’t just some oddly shaped goiter): “Omigawd, you’re carrying a GUN! What are you afraid of, that yo have to have a GUN?!”
        (Yours truly, in a voice of deep calm): “I’m not afraid of anything, lady… I’ve got a gun. What are YOU afraid of?”

        Things didn’t really break down,though, until Ms. Hysteric turned to the wife of the guy whose house we were gaming at, thinking that Shared Sisterhood meant that she was as good as an ally…
        (Ms. Hysteric): “Do you let him have a GUN in your house? Aren’t you afraid for your children?”
        (homeowner’s wife): “Why should I be? After all, it used to be my gun; I traded it to him a year ago… see, this one I’m carrying used to be his.”

    • On a complete tangent: While I quite like the TV show Revolution, I have to laugh every time I see a map of the post-apocalyptic US. Right where Utah is, is a non-country area labelled ‘Wasteland’. Obviously no one working on that show has ever been to Utah nor have they any grasp of Mormon culture. If the world went to pieces, Utah would make it through better than a lot of places and wouldn’t be a wasteland.

      • I dunno. A nuke to Hill Airforce Base could make a sizable hole in the north part of the state. Or possibly those left in Utah after the apocalyptic event are not communicating with the outside world (aka, announcing themselves as a new target), so show on the map as Wasteland?

      • The Folk of the Fringe has some interesting short-fiction takes on how Utah might develop after a nuclear war.

  34. Larry, this fisking would have been so much more awesome if you’d made it into a pleading tear-jerker about a poor, misunderstood, introverted gay teenager who kills himself because his parents and friends don’t understand him. Because everybody knows Real Literature is about being sad and having no purpose in life beyond feeling bad about how sad you are, because you feel bad, because gay, because oppression, because mean people. Anyone who says differently is a racist.

  35. About Orson Scott Card– Not only were the Ender’s series laced with darkness– he had short stories that talked about freaking genocide and recarpeting desolated worlds, and a few post apocalyptic stories that would curl our NYT writer’s hair. He also wrote “Lost Boys” which was a semi-autobiographical horror story about the terrible things that can happen–to parents. Everything a liberal likes, except how being a part of a community and having faith in God pulls you through hell on earth. Oh yes, and there were children involved. They were treated like people, which was probably his first “mistake”.

    It was an early work, but still a work of genius.

  36. Very disappointing, Larry. I couldn’t get to any good points you may have because of your irrelevant and biased anti-intellectual and anti-liberal rants. They are out of control and don’t help your point.

    Did you ever consider that maybe the reason Oppenheimer focuesed the way he did is because he was looking at why Mormon writers seem to be successful in genres and not in literary fiction? Whether or not he is biased to thinking that literary fiction is better is really beside the point, and your overreaction just makes you seem like a looney toon!!

    The argument over whether or not literary fiction is better or more important than genre fiction is really old and tired. You dragging it up again and turning it into a club to beat the Times and Oppenheimer with doesn’t help anyone.

    • Kent. I’m so sorry that I dissapointed you and hurt your delicate lilac scented feelings. I can barely type this response through the salty tears of sadness. For the record, I’m not anti-intellectual. I’m anti-pretentious-know-it-all-elitist-NYT-self-righteous-douchebagery pretending to be intellectual. But yes, I am rather anti-liberal, because I’m not fucking idiot.

      You think the argument is old and tired and doesn’t help? Did you tell that to the NYT, or do you only sound off against opinions that dissent from your predetermined views? But it doesn’t matter, because you are wrong anyway. Looking at the comments here, on Facebook, and Twitter, the reads, shares, and links, I’d say there are thousands of people who disagree with you… Heck, this blog post is now more widely read that most lit-fic.

      That’s got to suck. :)

      • Who said you hurt my feelings. I’m just pointing out that your rants get in the way of valid, useful points you may have somewhere in your article.

        Instead, you just look like someone with a chip on your shoulder against anyone with a Ph.D.

        If you don’t care, no skin off my teeth. But don’t expect me to read anything further from you — I don’t need to re-read the same tired anti-intellectual arguments over and over. BORING!

      • I love PhDs. I have lots of them who are fans. Usually in useful subjects. Not so much among the underwater basket weaving and gender studies types.

        And look at that… We’ve got ourself something from the checklist. I should totally not share my opinions on this matter because all proper good thinking people like Kent will have to boycott me. This is my shocked face. :)

        Aw… Shucks. I’ve bored Kent by writing about a particular topic on my blog. A cursory blog search shows that the last time I mentioned anything about this topic was in July, but uh oh, Kent has grown BORED! All in capitol letters! And today is also the first time that Kent’s email has ever appeared in these blog comments. GASP! Uh oh. Whatever will I do?

      • A superb example of #7! :D

      • For the record, I didn’t think the Times article was very good. It misunderstood Mormonism, missed a lot of the Mormon writers out there and made bad assumptions. But that doesn’t justify your anti-intellectual attacks, IMO.

      • Oh horseshit. You’re assuming these doofuses deserve the term intellectual. I pointed those misunderstandings, misses, and assumptions you speak of in this “not very good” (you must grade on the curve there, professor) and you decided to get offended.

      • Mostly #2, with a dash of #1 subcategory No Labels. :)

      • I’d boycott Kent, but apparently he doesn’t do anything but bitch on the blogs of people who actually accomplish things. So never mind. :D

      • Gee, what a bunch of jerks. Go ahead. Pile on anyone that disagrees with you. Very Christian of you.

        I should have known what kind of people you were by Larry bragging in the article about his oversized house, as if that somehow makes him better than everyone else.

        Go ahead. Justify your obvious feelings of inadequacy. Beat up others on this blog to show you are “better” than them. I don’t need to.

      • #2, #3, and a little #5.

      • Kent’s profile says New York, New York…which DOES happen to be the home/mother ship of the literary elitists. Makes me wonder if that might be art of what’s at work here?

        Seriously Kent, have you ever read any of Larry’s stuff before today? If so, did you enjoy it?

        My guess is that you didn’t. You probably came here from someone’s link on Facebook, and you don’t think Larry’s being very nice. Well, he’s not. He, like a lot of us, are sick of seeing the most popular writers in our favorite genres being treated like they’re hacks just because they choose to tell stories that are enjoyable rather than three hundred page tracts comparing navel lint to the futility of life.

        Don’t like it? Fine. Don’t read his stuff. As you can tell, Larry’s not going to miss that commission from someone like you. Frankly, I’ll make it a point to buy his books twice, just out of spite.

      • Kent’s response was so predictable that I wrote a blog post about it months ago. :)

        http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/the-internet-arguing-checklist/

        Let’s see, he hit a bit of #1, some #2, and massive helping of #7.

      • You’re assuming these doofuses deserve the term intellectual.

        BINGO.

      • Ah, here we go. Someone disagrees, so we label them a troll.

        Must be great when you can enforce living in an echo chamber.

      • He didn’t label you a regular Troll. Oh no. David called you a Concern Troll. It is a very different species. :)

        But hey, if you’ve got an argument to make or a point, then bring it. So far you came along and posted “Mew Mew Mew! I’m offended! You shouldn’t offend me! Now I’m more offended and bored, so you should be scared to say things that offend or bore me because you will lose customers.”

        And you say I’m boring? :D

      • Sorry but “someone who disagrees” would actually discuss content, with specifics. Generic insults like “anti-intellectual” are not “disagreement”.

        “Argument Clinic” was a comedy routine, not a how-to:

      • #5.

      • Big difference. He is still being dismissive just because I’ve bothered to express my disagreement. Its still an “echo-chamber” protecting move.

      • “Sorry but “someone who disagrees” would actually discuss content, with specifics. Generic insults like “anti-intellectual” are not “disagreement”.”

        Sorry, I though the anti-intellectuallism was rather obvious. If you want a list, I certainly can provide it.

        But your attitude makes me think you don’t really want it.

      • With every post you demonstrate that I nailed it.

      • You see, what you’re calling “anti-intellectualism” is actually anti-pretentiousness.

      • #2.

      • Since when is thinking someone is a pretentious snob “anti-intellectualism”?

        The truth is, while I know a lot of Ph.Ds who are wonderful people, I know a lot more that actually are pretentious snobs who think that anything that doesn’t fall into “X” category is fluff for the masses versus literature.

        Of course, the fact that this “literature” many of them love actually sucks is irrelevant.

      • I wonder if Kent could define dismissive to me. Isn’t a reply to a comment the opposite of dismissive? Oh, and Kent, you think you got “piled on”? Yes the name-calling is childish and stupid, but you were nowhere near being “piled on”.

      • Chester, obviously you are not fluent in Liberalese. Here, let me help you with some definitions:

        Dismissive: Not immediately buying into liberal bullshit.
        Bullying: Defending yourself after a liberal insults you.
        Piled on: What happens if two or more conservatives respond in any way to a liberal.
        Anti-Intellectual: Disagreeing with tired liberal stereotypes.
        Echo Chamber: Any group of people who deviate from proper goodthink into badthink, usually inferred by the liberal after being Piled On or Bullied. (and accusing this blog’s comments of being an echo chamber shows that he’s new around these parts, becaus holy moly we’ve had some good fights in here) :)

    • “Whether or not he is biased to thinking that literary fiction is better is really beside the point…”

      No, actually, that is EXACTLY the point. Oppenheimer completely dismissed genre fiction (and especially genre fiction by Mormons) as being OMGunworthy without actually Doing the Research or knowing what the hell he was talking about–and was justifiably ripped to shreds. I thought “intellectuals” were SUPPOSED to be smart enough to actually look at facts and THEN draw conclusions, rather than cherry-pick what they think are facts to support their biases–

      Oh, wait, no they’re not. Nevermind.

      • And now, I’m going to put on my own “intellectual hat” here for a moment.

        Returning to something close to the original thesis, one has to consider what the purpose of “literature” is and what actually accomplishes that purpose.

        I submit that, when it comes to written fiction, the purpose (if one goes beyond “make money for the author”–something which I do not disparage for its own sake, but we’ll come back to that shortly) is to create an emotional resonance within the reader. The reader reads, and is touched in ways that generate that emotional response.

        Now, some folk are given to sneering at “popular fiction”, claiming that it addresses the “least common denominator” and, I’ve heard it put rather crudely “shit floats.”

        That, of course, can be trivially dismissed. If it were that simple, then anyone could to it and sleep on big piles of money from the sale of same. Excuses abound for why proponents of that theory don’t do it but as we go on and on and so very few do demonstrate that “anyone could do it”, it become eminently clear that the reason they don’t is simply that they can’t. The “theory” doesn’t hold water.

        You see, for fiction to be popular it has to strike a chord within a broad swath of the population. That’s less a prescription than being very nearly a definition. If it doesn’t strike that chord then people won’t decide that book is worth more than the six pack of cheap beer they could have otherwise purchased and the book doesn’t get bought, and certainly doesn’t become popular.

        So, to be popular, fiction must strike something within people’s hearts and minds. It must resonate with many people. It must tap into the heart of what makes us human. Jung might call that the “collective unconsciousness.” Whatever you call it, it’s something that, without which, fiction cannot be popular.

        That something can be base in nature–appeal to sex drive and titillation, for instance–and some areas are certainly easier to get that emotional connection than others. But that very ease only speaks to how very powerful the emotional drive in humanity is. Porn, to use the classic example, is an economic powerhouse precisely because the drive is so powerful. The danger with that one is that it is so powerful that in stories that evoke it everything else gets lost behind the power of the sex impulse. And the stories become only about sex, with the rest being mere window dressing.

        But another drive, one nearly as powerful, is that toward what we can call agency. Whether a person has control over their own life, or not. I note that a lot of “literary” fiction is about the lack of agency. They are overwhelmed by events, swept along over which they have not control. Popular fiction often takes the other side. People’s fates are to a greater extent their own. While they may face enormous challenges, their actions matter, if only to them. Agency is at the core of both events of the story (plot) and character development.

        Now, some people might claim that that’s unrealistic. That people have little control over their own fates that they are swept along by events beyond their control. Perhaps. In some places and some circumstances. But he idea of agency is deeply rooted even in classical literature. In Shakespeare’s tragedies, for instance, the tragic characters build their horror with every choice they make. the events are only tragic because of the choices the characters make. If Hamlet had made choices of the kind Othello would have made, he would have carved Claudius like a suckling pig the very night the ghost told him of his murder. If Othello had made decisions of the kind Hamlet would have made, he would have delayed and waited, and checked and double checked until Desdemona’s innocence was at last revealed. In neither case would the story have been a tragedy, not in the classic sense. They built their prisons, brick by brick.

        And so, it would appear, agency is at the heart of much, if not most “popular fiction” (genre or not). It also appears to be at the heart of that “classical literature” that people actually read and enjoy. Shakespeare survives not because professors of literature declare his works as “literature” but for the simple reason that through the centuries people watched and read and were swept away in his work. He was among the popular fiction of his day . . . and to the present time, in fact.

        And thus, we see that popular fiction is literature, in the true meaning of the term, in that which touches the heart, the mind, and the soul. Without that touch, nobody would read it. Without that touch, nobody would buy it.

      • Oh, David. You’re so anti-intellectual because I said so.

        Heh. :) Anybody accusing people like us of being anti-intellectual has never seen what it is like when a bunch of authors and fans are hanging around at a con debating every subject imaginable. And my PhD hatred must come as a surprise to the folks at the last con I went to, since it was in Huntsville, which has the highest per capita number of PhDs in the world, and half the audience of every panel I was on was rocket scientists.

        I’m afraid that in poor Kent’s mind Liberal = Intellectual.

      • Well, looking at the little write up I did above on popular fiction as literature, I decided it was worth putting up on my own writing blog: http://thewriterinblack.blogspot.com/2013/11/popular-fiction-ii.html

        (Hope you don’t mind my plugging my own place here. ;) )

      • I don’t mind at all.

      • Speaking of Shakespeare as popular fiction, can you, or anyone else, recommend some good novelizations of Shakespeare’s plays? Not modernized versions, but historical fiction using the actual characters and staying as true to both the stories and the vocabulary (if not the iambic pentameter) of the original plays as possible?

    • Are you AWARE that you’re a douche nozzle? Or do you just blunder on in blissful ignorance?

  37. As far as “And holy crap, some of Orson Scott Card’s short fiction is DARK. I’m talking child molester dark. So why this hackneyed nonsense about not being able to separate authors beliefs from their characters? ” goes- You should see some of the garbage I see spouted by more leftward sci-fi fans about Card, contrasting his writing to his political views and coming to the conclusion he must be a self-loathing closeted-homosexual, have been molested himself, or worse, come just shy of accusing him of child molestation and letting it leak out into his work. They honestly can’t comprehend that he’s not, at least subconsciously, writing his real self, but just making characters and stories -it’s pathetic.

    • The irony is that the “Bad Things”(tm) that the paths of Card’s characters are a part of his religion. Really, really, really bad things invariably happen to Card’s protagonists. And as a result, they become better people. It’s an acknowledged truth both of the LDS religion and of the world at large that overcoming adversity makes you a stronger person.

      Which, of course, means that some of Card’s protagonists must be just about the strongest people around…

      I also suspect that some of the hostility toward Card is because he’s openly a Democrat. His haters see someone who’s at least partially open to their views, but won’t budge on the social issues that clash with his religious beliefs. And I suspect that enrages his haters all the more.

      • Card’s own thoughts on the subject of evil in fiction written all the way back in 1980.

        Money quote:

        Over the years, some people whose judgment I respect have asked me a question that you might think is naive, but it is not. “Why do you have to write such depressing stuff? Why can’t you show the good things in life? Why do all your characters have to suffer?”

        Well, why indeed? After all, fiction isn’t fact. Fiction is lies. Those people are made up. They’d better be-if they’re not, you can get sued. As long as you’re making things up, why not make up a happy life for them?

        The most obvious answer is also the most trivial. Money. He who writes about happy people being happy in a happy world ain’t gonna last long as a writer. Nobody buys that happy stuff. Evil is intrinsically more interesting. More entertaining. Evil sells.

        [snip]

        Evil is more entertaining than unrelenting goodness because any depiction of life without evil is a lie. Now, fiction is made up, but it is not all lies. Or rather, out of the sum of his lies the author’s view of truth inevitably emerges, and if the writer has wrought skillfully, some portion of his view of the world will remain with the reader, changing and shaping him.

  38. This reminds me of that P.J. O’Rourke essay that begins, ‘well, I feel a spate of better writing coming on.’

    Thanks for going Porter Rockwell on a group of folks who deserve it.

  39. ” We see it as roll up your sleeves and get stuff done. ”

    Damn right. Where’s Kaylie?

  40. I get the feeling this guy’s knowledge of Mormon literature comes from casually browsing the Deseret Book website, plus knowing what Twilight and Ender’s Game are. I’m a semi-agnostic liberal, who drinks, smokes, swears, has premarital sex (though less than I’d like), and I’ve never once felt like MHI or any other books by Mormon authors (I don’t know which ones I’ve read were Mormon, but I’m guessing you’re not the only one) weren’t “adult” enough for me. I enjoy “real literature” sometimes, but most days I’d rather read something by Carl Hiaasen or Elmore Leonard or Christopher Buckley, because reading is supposed to be enjoyable, not dreary. Same reason that, while I appreciate American History X as an incredible film, if I have a choice between watching that again or watching Out Cold or Die Hard for the dozenth time, I’ll take the latter.

    I’m probably a Philistine though.

    • raises a toast to a fellow philistine agnostic economic conservative.

    • Howdy fellow athiest!

      Yet another godless heathen fan of Correia here. I’ve known plenty of Mormons, and we’ve discussed lots of LDS doctrine. They make great neighbors.

      “We can’t be sure of anything,
      (our limits we perceive)
      but if you know that you can’t know
      (you certainly don’t believe)”
      – from “You’re an Athiest” by Penn Jillette.

  41. *Applause* I agree with 90% of what you’ve written here (which, if you know my strong opinions, is saying a lot).

    I had the misfortune to have Evanson as my teacher while I was at BYU. I’m pretty sure his book was already at that point, and he was still teaching.

    His writing aside, he was, hands down, the WORST professor I had in the English department as an English major. It was like he didn’t even try but assumed his ego and arrogance would do the job. I left thinking the class he was pretty much a jerk. I wasn’t at all surprised when he didn’t get tenure. I WAS surprised when he blamed it on the powers that be not approving of his book. He had no business teaching. So, yeah–in my opinion, you’re totally right in calling out the BS meter on him.

  42. I considered going off in this article, but I was lazy (how unMormonlike of me!) and decided to let you take it.

    I’ll just say one thing: Winter Queen is the OPPOSITE of sunny. It’s dark and heart wrenching.

    And I haven’t been excommunicated yet.

    So suck it, NYT!

  43. I have a great deal of respect for the academic accomplishments of the modern LDS church (BYU and Mormon funded medical research) a long with the fact the LDS church is one of the few sects of Christianity that has not persecuted the Jews. I have not read any of your books, although I do enjoy your blog.

    That said, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s series is a massively shitty sci-fi franchise. Sorry.

    My absolute favorite sci-fi book is Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein. Ender’s series is the anti-Starship Troopers. Cards’ writing takes no pride in victory against a species that twice tried to exterminate the human race. In fact, he through Ender, apologizes/justifies the near extermination of humans as a “misunderstanding” by a superior species that tried to “improve” the humans. Heinlein would never had put up with that crap. Bugs try to wipe us out, we’ll nova bomb one of their planets from orbit. Speaker for the Dead is just a guilt trip for winning an entirely justified war of self defense (the buggars attacked us first).

    Ender’s Game follows in the footsteps of other anti-war, anti-technology (and perhaps vaguely anti-Amercian) Hugo award winners such as The Forever War and Slaughterhouse-Five. On a side note: the broken clock of Vonnegut’s counterculturalism did get it right with Harrison Bergeron, one the the best and most important sci-fi short stories ever written.

    I’ll give you the NYT article was… bigoted. The author of it is obviously a pretentious douche. But don’t defend Card. He may be good at telling a story, but his story is shit.

    • Now that is up for debate. :)

      But I too prefer Starship Troopers and RAH.

      I liked Enders Game, but I last read it like 20 years ago. I didn’t like Speaker for the Dead or Xenocide.

    • I disagree with your assesment that The Forever war is Anti War Anti Technology or even Anti American. Its about the POINTLESSNESS of war and its about a man caught out of his time. a stretched out version of what happened to Mr Haldeman in his exploits in Vietnam. See you go overseas for a long time where you really don’t have a lot of contact with the greater society you might get little bits and pieces but not the gestalt and that society just kinda chugs on without you so you get less and less adapted to the times. Its kinda like Jail where you cant read a newspaper and you just MISS stuff. I would reference a one of Baen’s other authors Spider Robinson and his Tom Hauptman character. Or Brooks from The movie “Shawshank Redemption”. Haldeman just extended it out to extremes. Slaughterhouse 5 I haven’t read but IIRC it was very much Kurt Vonnegut dealing with his own issues coming home from WW2

      But then what the hell do I know I’m no fancy pants literary critic.

      • Honest question: If Forever War is about the pointlessness of war, how can it not be described as anti-war? Isn’t describing the pointlessness of something in detail inherently arguing against that same thing? Is it possible to argue the merits of something by discussing the pointlessness of that same thing?

  44. The title offers a great look into Mark’s predetermined world view. Normally “cautionary lessons”

    And THIS, in the eyes of the NYT, is why you fail: any properly snooty “literary” author would use “weltanschauung”, not “world view”.

    And you speak of the horrors Mormons have encountered in history, but not the biggest horror that the LDS have inflicted on the world. I refer, of course, to the Osmonds. . .

    In short, I’d say just continue laughing all the way to the bank, Because only Chris Christie actually WANTS the approval of the New York Times. . .

  45. Reblogged this on The Improbable Author and commented:
    Grat rant on the disregard religious writers and genre writers are given at the New York Times. Read it!

  46. The Bear and the Dragon. Gott im Himmel, did you have to remind us of The Bear and the Dragon? And why it was so frakkin’ long?

    I could cut the pages devoted to the “Secret Agent’s special equipment” out of the book, bind them, put a cover on it, and it would qualify as a doorstopper all on its own.

    And what makes things even funnier is, I’ve got a copy of “The Cardinal of the Kremlin” that I bought at a used book store, and someone had crossed out all the swear words.

    OK, maybe it’s only funny because it’s four o’clock in the morning right now…

    • And I love Clancy, but Bear and the Dragon is the best example ever of not giving your audience what they wanted. :)

      • As in, 800 page war book in which the war doesn’t start until page 600… blech!

      • Now, mind you, those last 200 pages were a hum-dinger, and that old codger with the Mosin. . . . (smile)

      • An old codger with a mosin nagant and a shed full of wolf pelts covered in gold dust.

        Is there a Russian equivalent to “Man be mad pimpin’, yo!”?

      • By then, Clancy had fallen prey to Anne Rice Syndrome: “Too popular to edit”. Trimming that paper cinderblock down by a hundred pages or so wouldn’t have hurt reader enjoyment one bit, and might have produced a better book.

      • I actually liked it but then I am a bit … ok a LOT weird.

  47. Great article! My own post questions the very idea there can be any conscious Miltons and Shakespears. We should stop worrying about the Great Mormon Novel, and just write; although improvement is always good.

    http://www.millennialstar.org/unrealistic-expectations-of-mormon-miltons-and-shakespeares/

    Here is another Mormon author thad didn’t write a “sunny” story, although it is genre in the mold of X-Files:

    http://www.parkingorbitpublishing.com/

    One last thought, I have been really surprised by the great comments here standing up against the NYT. Its refreshing to know not all conservative voices have been silenced. We need to start writing our own pretentious books, even in jest.

  48. Sheesh, Larry. The NYT, (et al.), are the ones that tout that writer of bad soap operas, Garcia Marquez. “Nobel Prize Winner!!!” they chortle! The naked emperor in the room is: his novels read like sleezy soap operas – but they aren’t even as interesting as General Hospital. Not one character to identify with, not one character worthy of respect. I struggled through two of his ‘novels’, took a long hot shower and feel much better now.

    Sure, humans CAN be rotten, but they can also be heroic. The zeitgeist in writing is that now, we must ‘celebrate’ all that is squalid and sordid in humanity. The more deranged and degenerate the main characters, the more likely they will garner the author Lit-ra-chure honors.

    When any book hints at all of heroism it is proclaimed one dimensional – or ‘genre’. It does not portray ‘real life’, the critics explain.

    Shakespeare wrote of human failings, some of which were squalid. But he made us give a damn. He also wrote comedy, and fantasy and poetry… but Marquez is NO Shakespeare, no matter how many university per-fessers claim him as their own.

    Perhaps the only writer that has come close to the richness and complexity of real human interactions in the last half century or so is Patrick O’Brian. Nobel Prizes for O’Brian? Ahhh, no. He apparently does not dwell in the foetid angst of human failings nearly enough.

    Thanks for all the writing, Larry. I eagerly await the release of your next book, as I have all the ones that came before!! (For the record: I love Shakespeare and other past lit-ra-chure geniuses too. But with few exceptions, such as O’Brian, they have been thin on the ground in the last half century or so. I add you to my list of favorites!)

    Back to lurk mode.

    Fair Winds,

    Cap’n Jan

  49. Note, Kent posted and it fit the Checklist beautifully. I didn’t post any of the numbers yesterday in the hopes that he would actually form some sort of coherent response, but nope. So today I went through and pointed out which number he used on the Checklist with each of his posts.

    This thing works great. :D

  50. The sadly hilarious part (well, one of many), is that Manichaeism was a belief Christians rejected centuries ago because it’s completely out of line with their faith–something Tolkien and Lewis would have known quite well, being a historian and a major apologist respectively. If their works really are reflections of their beliefs, then by definition they would NOT be Manichaean.

    The author tries to sound smart by dropping in big words, but ends up looking like even more of a moron to those who know Church history.

  51. NYT must have been desperate for filler to run that piece of crap. I’m not a conservative by a long shot but that’s just shoddy, biased reporting on an irrelevant topic.

    Am I a lesser person because I love to read sci-fi, fantasy and other genre books? I think that all the bashing of the authors is also a sideways swipe at the audience for those genres. And why bring up specific races when your article is supposed to be about a specific religion? None of it makes sense.

  52. That. Was. Awesome.

  53. “William Shakespeare presents Star Wars vs. The Avengers III: The Jedi Hulkening”

    Please post an address to which I can send money for this!!! Heck with that, I’ll just forward my paycheck automatically!!!! Take my money!!! Give me movies like this!!!!!!!

    Awesome fisk, as well. Always great to “watch” a bully/liberal (but I repeat myself) not only be stood up to, but handed their “intellectual” arse.

  54. I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Correia. I do not care one whit who a writer is or what pretensions they might have, I just want to read wacking good stories that entertain. So I read you and Tom Kratman and the “Jack Reacher” novels and so on. I suffered through enough reading of “great” books when I was in college and now I do not suffer it.
    I would like to relate a story, when in high school I had to take the mandatory lit. class. I full expected to be subjected to much boredom. Instead our teacher brought out the Heinlein juvenals and Starship Troopers and we went to reading and discussing. It was the best lit. class I ever had.

  55. Dude. If you know of any $30 an hour welding jobs (that aren’t out in the Bering Sea), let me in on it!

  56. So, the NYT now thinks Mormons can’t be authors. A year ago, it was “A Mormon Can’t Be President”.

    I’m wondering how many years before they release the list of all six jobs they think you folks should be allowed to do?

    • You have to admit that they were right he couldn’t be president. Then, I am sure they would say that about any Republican.

    • Don’t worry. Mormons make great white collar workers, number crunchers, and the people who actually make businesses work. They allow us into Manhattan through the servant’s entrance on the bridge. :)

      • Driving any of the bridges into Manhattan are tests of faith. Driving IN Manhattan is actually the first level of hell.

  57. Whoa, Larry, at first I was going to recommend that you drop a couple of quaaludes and calm down, but then I realized that watching you go off was just too fun!

    Then I realized that my inner desires were at odds with my sunny disposition. So now I would suggest that you hold a daisy, pet it, say a prayer, and smile until you feel as if your teeth will break.

    • Dave, I think you are correct. We should all hold hands and sing our cares away! Oh it is so nice to be a frivilous and care free Mormon author! :D

    • Is this the same Dave/David mentioned above who taught many in the ways of the word? Are you still teaching? My mind is empty; I could use a few lessons.

      Oh, and Larry, you had me rolling when you said your children’s journals record wind and elevation information. That’s precious, and priceless. As for the rest of the article: very bold, but your style is also filled with sarcasm. You write well enough that it’s fairly easy to see most of the sarcasm, but maybe newcomers to your blog don’t yet understand that. Kent for instance will probably be smacking his forehead in a couple of days. And someone not long ago told me I was dismissing them, exactly the same way, without explaining exactly how they supposed I was dismissive. And then they wonder why the subject changes so fast. Ironic, isn’t it?

  58. Ditto to everything you said, (minus the salty language, haha). What’s the chances that NYT would publish your rebuttal? (Bigger haha)

  59. This was brilliant. I… just… THANK YOU. I want to write a ten pages worth of compliments, but that would be boring, so instead I’ll just say: rock on, man.

  60. I am totally putting this quote in vinyl letters on a painted 2×4 in my family room: “Ye olde mission statement readest thus, deadlines loom, find thy gonads within thy trousers, place thy ass upon the seat, set quil to parchement, and get paid, bitches.”

  61. Larry channeling some Porter Rockwell here. His six-shooters are smoking.

  62. If writing in the RPG business and video game design counts, one Mormon to add to the I-Don’t-Write-Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy-Stuff Club is Sandy Petersen. He wrote the rule book and some of the scenarios for the RPG “Call of Cthulhu” and worked on a little game called “Doom” that featured a demon or two in it and a few veiled hints of satanic imagery. :)

  63. My first thought was, “Dude, you’re a Mormon?! I had no idea!” I am afraid I know little about LDS. Mainly from references in books. Louis L’Amour referred to their persecution and migration in one of my favorite books, Bendigo Shafter. In the only other two references they were the bad guys(Conan Doyle and Zane Grey. Lol). I forgot the second thing I wanted to say. But the third was this; dude, you suck. Do you have any idea how long it took me to forget Clancy’s jade sausage?! Years! Fracking YEARS! I love you and your books but you suck, dude. :-(

  64. This was an awesome article and said so many of the things I’ve been saying–but without the swearing. Loved it, Brother Correia!

  65. Mormon’s are naive and intellectually lazy, explains a naive and intellectually lazy NYT writer.

  66. As a homeschooling mother, I put together a little course for my boys in genre literature. I picked out what I considered to be important genres, and then decided on an early pioneer. (I was aiming for the first commercially successful writer that I could think of in that genre.)

    Verne, Kipling, Austen, Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tolkien, Mary Shelley, Dickens, Humor, and yes, Zane Grey–just not Riders of the Purple Sage. I made the boys read a short bit from one of the author’s pieces, and then we discussed what the characteristics of each genre were. Oh, and I made them read some poems that I like, because I’m mean like that.

    In case you are wondering–no, I didn’t get two middle-school aged boys to read Jane Austen. I read it to them while they were forbidden to leave my sight. The twelve year-old left one foot above the edge of the couch to satisfy my requirement.

  67. […] And left a whole lot of very long comments on my friend’s post, but everything I said, this guy said better, with more swearing (and I must say, I was certainly having four-letter feelings, even […]

    • I had to reply in this blog’s comments:

      Dissapointment noted, but not needed. You must not have read my blog before.

      For the record, I have no problems with any genre or fans of any genre. Write whatever makes you happy. Read whatever you like. I read a little bit of everything. However, if you want to actually make a living as a writer, don’t be surprised when you have to write things that people will actually purchase. It can offend your artistic sensibilites, but that’s just reality.

      Second, I’m not anti-academic. I’ve got people in the comments with PhDs, Masters, and doctoral candidtes arguing and debating all the time. I think that’s great. I judge any argument based upon the merits of the argument itself. I have no problem with education in general. My problem is with anybody who shows up and says “My argument automatically wins because I went to college for 12 years. Appeal to my authority.” Whoop de do. And when you disagree, you are anti-intellectual, which somehow assumes that somebody can’t argue a point deserves the term.

      • Having a 12 year degree in a soft subject labels you as either a sucker who has indentured himself for decades as a barista in order to enrich academia … or a member of the soft degree academic mafia.

        I’m more interested in the opinions of STEM majors, and the opinions of people who actually produce value.

        Some jerk with a PhD in Underwater Lesbian Basketweaving Studies does not meet my definition of intellectual.

  68. Thank you, sir. As a Mormon who sort of is into the whole forgiveness and charity thing, I have to say it was really, really enjoyable to see someone in my team throw a punch. And I’m a Mormon middle grade author. Which means I deal exclusively in sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. So that’s really saying something.

  69. […] good New York Times article (too many books sold aint good lit!) and the reverse elitism of Larry Correia’s mostly good rebuttal (not enough books sold is pointless lit!)—or Scott Hales’s look at the brouhaha for […]

    • I had to respond in this blog’s comments.

      Wait just a minute. You can’t say “his words, not mine” after a bunch of things that I never said. That’s disingenuous at best.

      First off, to clarify I don’t give a crap what you write or what you read. I read stuff from all sorts of different genres. If you want to write in an obscure genre because that’s what makes you happy. Awesome. Knock yourself out. However, if you expect to actually make a living at being a writer, shockingly enough you need to write stuff that people will actually want to purchase. I know that many offend artistic sensibilites, but that’s how it is.

      I don’t think that any genre’s readers are better or smarter than any other, and in fact if you want to use my actual words from that essay I pointed out that genre is fake. Genre is an artificial construct that exists so that stores know where to shelve the books. So if you want to set up an anti-intellectual strawman, pick somebody else.

  70. While living in Utah I found there is local support for writers groups, “Utah League of Writers”. I joined the Provo chapter, we had a mix of members LDS and Non-LDS. Several members went on to become successful writers. There seems to be an underlying support for arts in the state.
    As for me I read for entertainment or learning not to wallow in the muck of what people tell me is “true literature”. The same goes for movies. I have times when I just want to go see something that can funny and off the wall.
    I wonder what Captain Skullnumb makes writing for the NYT ?
    Well, at least he can qualify for food stamps.

  71. Just had a thought: When discussing Shakespeare, your declaration of how he’d be doing in the modern day reminded me of Joss Whedon. The implication being in 300 years we could study Joss’s work as examples of timeless greatness. I could totally see that happening.

  72. What writer was it that ST:TNG characters referred to as “the classics”? Some oddball genre writer I’d never heard of, I believe.

  73. that was awesome. thank you so much. this made my day.

  74. About four years ago I heard an Honors Colloquium speaker at BYU Hawaii say “Shakespeare is literary caviar and in a world full of candy bars and ice cream, why would I want to develop a taste for fish eggs?” Loved it. I’ll always go for “ice cream” and have many, many “flavors” from various LDS authors on my shelves.

    Enjoyed your commentary.

  75. […] Fisking the NYT: It isn’t just me. My whole religion can’t be *real* writers! (larrycorreia.wordpress.com) […]

  76. Dear Mr. Correia, You would *love* the short book by B.R. Myers, “A Reader’s Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose,” in which Myers triumphantly skewers–with telling examples–some of the crap that NY T**** reviewers, e.g., Mich**o Kaku***i, have praised to the skies. You will chortle with delight, as I did.

  77. “Christianity and genre fiction both depend on Manichaean, good-versus-evil plots,”

    Larry: “Well huh… All this time writing all these successful novels I thought I was depending on telling a fun and entertaining story! I never realized I needed… Manichaean… whatever. I’m sure Mark didn’t just use that word so he’d sound all sorts of smart.”

    I thought I would mention that the Manichaean belief system hinges, so far as I understand it, on two equal principles, one good and one evil, warring over domination of the universe, which sounds like the best way to describe the essential premise of a whole lot of great fantasy. Sorry, I do use library and bookstore labels, but that is because I hang out there a lot. For the record, I have read many of your books, bought a lot of them, loved them all, and plan to buy many more. I also laughed so many times reading this that people looked up in the computer lab of the Catholic college I attend.

  78. Briefly: Bravo!

    Wonky net access here so I probably can’t read the whole thread, and I’m sure one or more other commenters have said this already: The whole idea of a clear distinction between ‘genre’ and ‘literary’ fiction is arguably a bogosity dreamt up by people whose livelihoods and reputations are based on writing pompous BS about other people’s writing.

    You rock.

  79. Love this! The NYT is so full of swiveling self important twits…wait, I just described most liberals. Anywho, great stuff, man, I’m going to check out your books.

  80. […] Vision. Other replies: “The Quest for Great Mormon Literature”, by George Handley (Patheos), Fisking the NYT: It isn’t just me. My whole religion can’t be *real* writers!,by Larry Correia, The Missing Mormon Literary Renaissance by Nathaniel Givens (Times and Seasons), […]

  81. Gol darn it! I wanted to sound off too. Why am I always late to the party?

    Oh, yeah. I was busting my kiester trying to get simplistic happy sub sub sub sub genre novels out the door and totally missed that article and all the reaction. And I’m worse than your regular Mormon author because I (gasp) have gone all indie. Which means I really am trying to pander to the masses.

    But the writer didn’t get the deeper plot. Didn’t dig into the dark manichean machinations of the Mormons. You see, happy upbeat endings, fun characters, and plot–it’s all the opiate of the masses. And we’re going to control it.

    Zippa-di-do-dah, Comrade Correia. Zippa-di-do-dah.

  82. Larry,

    Just for fun, maybe email that writer at the NYT and ask him what authors/works from the last 50 years he’d consider to be up there with Milton and Shakespeare.

    Just for an exercise in pushing their buttons, why not write a short novel guaranteed to please the lefty intellectuals? Start with a contemporary Holden Caulfield, blend in some emo Pajama Boy, have him volunteer for the campaigns of X, get disillusioned at the phonies. But how to reach a climax? Maybe have him buy a Subaru and leave on a road trip to Portland? Write it under a false name. See if they take the bait.

    When ‘Family Guy’ did it they were trying to hit Oprah’s audience. I’d wager you could do it for real.

    I’ve really enjoyed your MHI series and want to see more.

    • Number Six,

      Yours is a brilliant suggestion. But why stop at merely impressing the Lefty intellectuals at the NY Times? Go all out, full bore, and aim for a Pulitzer and a Nobel–those loftiest of literary cachets–to boot. For either award, it will be essential to assume a multiculti nom de plume that has a vaguely Afrocentric ring to it; for good measure choose one that also hints at a Native American heritage. I would suggest that you adopt the moniker “Jamal Twelve-Trees Mmbazo,” which not only covers the correct cultural bases, but will flow mellifluously off the tongues of the presenters at your awards ceremony, and confirm (by their choice of a minority as the laureate) that they are indeed more morally superior-than-thou when contrasted to others more benighted in the literary industry. Most important of all, as you’re relaying in your novel the true-to-life adventures (all imagined, of course) that you experience crisscrossing the country or the globe, be sure to detail all of the horrors of oppressions and discrimination that you encountered at the hands of the dastardly, racist, homophobic, heteronormative, white males whom you encounter.

    • Sure he could do that… OR he could write books that don’t suck instead. Personally, I’d rather see him spend his limited time on the latter. (Granted it WOULD be amusing but still…)

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