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Does science fiction lack good criticism?

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message 1: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 4974 comments He's none too flattering of Locusmag reviews. Honestly I can't tell whether they like a book or not when I read them.

message 2: by Michal (new)

Michal (MichaltheAssistantPigkeeper) | 290 comments Meh, as long as my blog is up and running, sff has all the excellent criticism it needs.

In all seriousness, however, John Clute and Darko Suvin have done really great work on sf, and as long as Strange Horizons keeps on delivering harsh reviews I'm not sure the complaint really applies.

message 3: by Alex (new)

Alex Ristea (alexristea) | 654 comments Full disclosure: I only skimmed the article because it was so long.

I'd say that the author doesn't understand that we're nerds, who "are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”"

One of the reasons I love this community is because we get to share our love of SFF fiction.

Can you imagine how boring the Sword & Laser podcast would be if T&V just complained about what they had read?

Screw criticism. When I check my Goodreads newsfeed, I want to see what my friends are EXCITED about.

I subscribe to the Rothfuss rules of reviewing: if you loved it, tell the world, if you hated it, tell no one. It's not worth the time and energy to negatively review a book, in my opinion.

Maybe it's also due to the sheer number of books we read. I'd say, of all genres, SFF readers are the most voracious. Personally, I see myself as the first line of defence against bad books, but this doesn't mean I need to proclaim it to the world. It just means that when my friends ask me for recommendations, I can go on and on about the awesome books I've read, without ever needing to mention the bad.

message 4: by Robert of Dale (last edited Feb 19, 2013 09:39AM) (new)

Robert of Dale (R_Dale) | 185 comments There are all sorts of logical fallacies in Paul Cook's criticism of genre criticism. He's over general about fanzines, assumes that what is an "error" to him is without question an incontrovertible factual problem with a book, and he seems to think that "if A happens and then B happens, A must cause B", as in the anecdote of the author who "befriends" critics to get good reviews from them.

I wouldn't pay him much mind... but then again, I don't pay most critics much mind. Critics seem to see flaws as more glaring than I do, and elevate "innovative" techniques in storytelling over the story's entertainment value. As a result, I rely more on aggregate consumer ratings, such as Rotten Tomatoes for movies, and Goodreads star ratings for books (giving more weight to ratings by friends with similar taste).

Does he have a point? Maybe. Does his rhetoric get in the way of any valid criticisms? In my opinion, absolutely without question*.

* Note that I am fully aware of the irony of my criticism of his criticism of genre critics... it's so very meta. :P

message 5: by Robert of Dale (new)

Robert of Dale (R_Dale) | 185 comments By the way, Alex, excellent use of a John Green quote. Nerd Fighters FTW!

message 6: by SW (new)

SW (swhannan) | 7 comments good criticism isn't about hating a piece of art or emphasizing a work's faults. It is about extracting and examining the quality of a piece of art in such a way that the reader/audience is able to appreciate the work or appreciate the work in a way previously unknown to them. The only criticism that deserves to be mostly negative is when the critic is at an absolute loss on how to appreciate a piece of art. And even then, the critic ought to be gentle and comprehensive in his or her confusion. All critics are subject to their moods and may be crass from time to time. But If they are cruel on a regular basis then it is bad criticism.

criticism is not flawed. It is necessary to an artist who sells to better his or her work.

message 7: by SW (new)

SW (swhannan) | 7 comments edit: who aims to better his or her own work.

That's what I get for commenting on a forum using my phone.

message 8: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 1385 comments There's also the distinction between criticism and reviews. I think Locus is much more focused on the latter than the former -- they're not trying to dig deep so much as to point out what's forthcoming & interesting. For actual criticism I think you'd want something more like the New York Review of Science Fiction.

As for the general positive tone of most of what they post, well, there aren't enough column inches to cover everything, so wouldn't it make more sense to focus on pointing out the good stuff rather than the average or terrible, barring exceptional circumstances?

message 9: by Trike (new)

Trike | 2578 comments Scott wrote: "That's what I get for commenting on a forum using my phone."

And how astonishing is that? The future is awesome, baby!

message 10: by Trike (new)

Trike | 2578 comments I read the article. Talk about cowardice: name some names, you wuss.

message 11: by Timm (new)

Timm Woods (Kexizzoc) | 43 comments Loving the Nerdfighter love in this thread. What I got from this article was that Cook wasn't a fan of Speaker of the Dead (neither was I). I'll just generally state that I've never seen how negative criticism really encourages better ANYTHING. That's a sweeping statement and I'll probably have to qualify it in a million ways before i can actually defend it; my point is simply that as bad as bad genre fiction can get, I don't think we improve it by winnowing from the bottom-up. There are some days when I think the world would be better off without Twilight and other embarrassing fanfiction, but at the end of the day all that sentiment succeeds in creating is an atmosphere of judgment around myself and every other would-be author. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone gets to express it, but that's different from saying we need MORE negative opinions just for the sake of negativity.

Particularly in the dawning age of the ebook, we're going to see a lot more schlock. It's inevitable. But if we get 1 classic work for every 1 million forgettable ones, that's a net win for the genre. What we should be looking for in criticism is a way of sorting the cream from the chaff, since we don't have infinite reading hours to throw around. But since truly great literature is so often the exception rather than the rule, I'd rather have someone I trusted spending their time recommending books I should read rather than bashing books I shouldn't. This is is my issue with negative criticism; it's inefficient. As some posters have mentioned already, us fantasy and scifi fans tend to follow the nerdthusiasm. I get that if every review is positive, you can't trust the source, but that just means you need to find a critic that is more in line with your taste. It's a self-correcting problem. What we have in this article is a GREAT argument for Sword & Laser: a grassroots social-media community of fans who discuss books and point each other in the right direction.

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