Insecure Author Syndrome

25 January 2002

You know what I said in yesterday's journal entry, about how I needed to get little stuff done? I am a big fat liar. (Okay, Timprov, I'm a medium-sized liar. That's as low as I'll go, though.) I spent yesterday on the big projects, mostly. I finished the new ending to Reprogramming. Worked on research reading for the Not The Moose Book. Read the first third of Lori's novel for the crit group next month. And worked a good bit on "Take Back the Night." I suppose I also did little things. But the focus was big projects, exactly where it wasn't supposed to be.

I'm not at all repentant, though. It's an incredible relief to be ready to print this book out and send it out again. Major burden off my shoulders, psychologically speaking. Now I just have to get the important research stuff read before it's due back at the library (because I trust their online renewal system as far as I can throw it, and it's very hard to throw something that exists mostly in the aether somewhere). (Hee hee, I said aether! For awhile, aether made any joke funny in the group of physicists I hung out with. Not just the lame "aether bunny" family of jokes, but anything dealing with the aether at all.) The deadline for WIHA is also fast approaching, which seems to mean more stress on everyone except me, because I can see an end to my work in sight.

As I've been reading slush, I've noticed a curious phenomenon Kev calls "Insecure Author Syndrome." Here's how it goes: the author tells you something involving an adjective that requires judgment. Then the author reassures me, sometimes twice, that he or she selected the adjective well. The slightly less obnoxious form goes like this:
"That Carla sure is trashy," said Nadine.
Trashy was the right word for it. Carla was a very trashy person.

Okay, that's bad enough. But the worse form is this:
Carla was a very trashy person. Trashy was the right word for it. She acted trashy all the time.

Okay, folks? You're the author. If you tell me once in authorial voice that Carla is, in fact, trashy, I have to believe you. Reassuring yourself that you've chosen a good word is not necessary, and it won't help if you haven't.

There are more advanced forms of Insecure Author Syndrome, unfortunately. I was reading Timothy Findley's Pilgrim when we were in Milwaukee, and it featured several journal entries within the story that we were reading as the characters were reading them. And then the characters would react to the journal entries in quite extreme ways. They would weep, dance, get erections, whatever. And the author would be sure to tell us, not just "Carl wept," but "His words were so powerful that Carl found himself weeping." Don't tell me they're powerful, bucko! I just read 'em! I know whether they're powerful or not! And frankly, I'm not weeping!

This is also known as SF Poetry Syndrome, as Timprov rightly points out. A science fiction or fantasy author (coughMcCaffreycough) will want to have a character who is a famous poet or lyricist, the best of the era. And that's fine, that's great...until they show me some of the lyrics or poetry. And then I feel really sorry for that era, because the rest of the poets and lyricists must be less talented than the proverbial monkeys at typewriters. Some people are equally talented at prose and poetry. Some people who are good enough at prose are even better at poetry. But for the most part, the stuff that prose authors in the genre present as really, really great (coughMichaelFlynncough) is just Not Good.

I'm channeling my mother channeling Life With Father: "I'll tell you what's good!"

Perhaps I'm a tough crowd. I don't know.

(I have a feeling that that's going to be one of the things that makes Scott laugh at me: "Oh yeah, maybe you're a tough critic! Maybe. Who knows, might turn out to be that way." He did it with "intense" and a few other things. I wouldn't be surprised.)

I could tell I was in a good mood last night, because I was amused and not intensely annoyed by the censorship in "Bull Durham" on TV. They can't say "laid." "Laid" is a bad word. But they can show Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner in the bathtub pressed against each other and rocking the water out of the tub. They could play the "Sixty Minute Man" song (which I am now singing...and if you haven't heard it, trust me that it's not about how long it takes the guy to make dinner). But they couldn't refer to somebody getting laid. Censors are dumb. But when I'm in a really good mood, I just laugh at their idiocy.

I'm going to go about my morning now. Be well.

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