gridlore: One of the penguins from "Madagascar," captioned "It's all some kind of whacked-out conspiracy." (Penguin - Conspiracy)
[personal profile] gridlore
For a couple of years now I've going to a writing "class" offered by Santa Clara Adult Education. I put class in quotes because the format is more of a writing group, with people reading their works as the rest read along, and then offering comments and suggestions.

It's been amazingly good for me, both in terms of my mental health and in encouraging me to write on a more regular basis. Each session is four weeks, meeting on Monday mornings, with 4-5 sessions a year. There is a core of regulars who come to class after class, some for years. I've made good friends there, and I'm especially proud to call Rafael my friend. He's a 94-year-old retired US Marine who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Never once loaded a weapon, as the Marines realized very early that he could type and had been taking accounting classes. He's an incredible writer, and we have to keep him away from the women, as he remains an incurable flirt.

I am the youngest in the class by at least a decade. Which I don't mind at all, I love listening to the others' stories and memories. I like that my best friend in class is a fellow writer of fantasy and really value the feedback I get from them.

Then there's Ralph. Oh, dear Halford, there's Ralph.

Ralph is a nice enough guy, a retired engineer (like several people in the group) who wants to write fiction. However, there's a slight problem. He can't write to save his life. I wish I was kidding about this, but his work is just jaw dropping.

First of all, he writes like he's still writing engineering papers. Everything is stiff and formal, overloaded with technical details. In a series of stories he wrote about two women rowing across the Atlantic, he detailed every single building they passed while rowing down the East River towards the sea. No emotion about setting out on the trip, no description of the smell of the water, the weather, the sound of the oars in their docks . . . just a monotonous list of places. He does that all the time.

Then there are his characters. Think of the worst-acted movie you've ever seen. That's how his characters speak. Stange declarative sentences that pop out of nowhere, spoken with no emotion. No emotional reactions at all. In his latest masterpiece, a man with his family at the Santa Monica Pier realizes that the Big One is imminent, and races to reach the Mt. Wilson Observatory. At no time in this story do any of the adults question this action. Nor do any of the children react to suddenly pulled from a fun day at the beach in the traditional childish way. No one objects when a near stranger joins them.

It drives me crazy.

But today took the cake. I literally had to keep myself from screaming or writing "YOU ARE A HACK!" in giant letters across his latest. Because in today's installment, the characters, at the conveniently abandoned Mt. Wilson facility, having found the fully equipped arms locker found at all the best observatories, decide to take target practice. Just as two Evil Dudes on horses ride up. Remember, this was happening as target practice was underway. Evil Dudes seem to think that all the gun shots were signs that the people there were easy pickings. Two dead Evil Dudes and a rescued boy.

But afterward, we were confused about how long the Swiss Family Woebegone had been up there. "Oh, several months." Was Ralph's reply.

Several months. Let that roll around your head. He was writing about a quake and tsunami that devastated the Los Angeles basin. WHERE THE FUCK DID HE THINK THE REST OF THE COUNTRY HAD GONE? There would have been National Guard, FEMA, Red Cross, mutual support from fire departments across the state, aid coming in from Mexico. . . he just thought that a big earthquake in L.A. would be ignored.

Niven and Pournelle did it better, dude, and their end of the world novel was a racist, misogynistic mess.

He's no better reading your stuff. He misses the obvious and gets diverted by pointless details. I can't begin to calculate how much time has been wasted explaining to Ralph things that were in the work to begin with. As an example, I wrote a piece about our visit last year to the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul. I included how pleased I was to find a relief of Teshub. I gave his entire history, explaining how the storm god of the Hurrians moved west into Lydia and Greece, becoming Zeus along the way, and giving us the idea of God as a man sitting on a cloud.

Ralph's first comment? "This thing about Teshub, I feel I'd need to know who he is to appreciate it." I almost killed him.

He is the only thing about the group I don't like, and I can tolerate him. But I needed to get this rant out.

Date: 8 May 2017 23:55 (UTC)
kshandra: The Burning Man effigy, lit in blue neon, arms by his sides; an orange half-moon is visible over his shoulder. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kshandra
Even if they ARE the only people left on the planet (until the Evil Dudes™ show up) - WHERE ARE THEY GETTING THEIR FUCKING FOOD?!

I'd tell you to show up with a copy of Lucifer's Hammer next week and beat him over the head with it, but he wouldn't get it.


Date: 9 May 2017 01:56 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] isomeme
Sounds like classic deep Asperger's to me, on all points. If so, cut him some slack; he can't help how his brain is wired. And yet, still: Wow.

Date: 9 May 2017 14:34 (UTC)
cmdr_zoom: (oops)
From: [personal profile] cmdr_zoom
The fully equipped fallout shelter in the basement, of course.
All that delicious 60-year-old canned food and MREs.

Date: 10 May 2017 09:11 (UTC)
feyandstrange: can of "plot spackle" (plot spackle writing)
From: [personal profile] feyandstrange
I used to know way too many teenage boys who wrote like that; I mentally tag this "Tom Clancy syndrome", although Clancy is a fairly readable form of Excuse Me I Must Now Spend Eight Paragraphs Talking About This Engineering Marvel. (Jules Verne. a few other early sf/f writers.) It's a little forgivable in sf and "techno-thrillers" because the "techno" part can be important, and in fact it can be difficult to shoehorn in all those details in a highly technical short piece without sounding like a textbook sometimes. But most of the time it's just that the author REALLY LIKES [details] and wants to go the hell on about how gee-whiz the explosions are. [Tom Clancy: SUBMARINES blah blah LASERS blah blah SATELLITES blah blah oh look, a girl, MISSILES blah blah DANGER blah blah THE NATION IS IN DANGER FROM TEH TECHNOLOGY!! WE MUST USE THE RAELLY GOOL TECHNOLOGY TO DEFEND US!! maybe the girl will like me if missiles LASERS BOOM YEAH.]

Take out your frustration on his manuscripts.

Also: fuck yeah Marines. That dude sounds amazing.

Date: 13 May 2017 15:37 (UTC)
claidheamhmor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] claidheamhmor
Oh dear.

Sadly, I suspect I write like that...

Date: 3 Jun 2017 20:01 (UTC)
nodrog: the Comedian (Comedian)
From: [personal profile] nodrog

I disagree with your pocket review of Lucifer’s Hammer, tho’ it’s not worth argy-bargying about.  The one thing they did get wrong was the climate, the lack of what’s now called “impact winter.”  True, Comrade Carl of Cornell deliberately overstated the case of “nuclear winter” in an attempt to scare the West into paralysis (rather like wasp toxin, with results as unfortunate for the victim had he succeeded; his friends in the Kremlin would have liquidated him as a «жид» - a Jew - but never mind) but the truth is bad enough; see “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death”.

Maybe your engineer friend ought to collaborate, Niven-Pournelle fashion.  He might be able to design wizard spaceships.  Let someone else write about the people.

Date: 3 Jun 2017 20:17 (UTC)
nodrog: T Dalton as Philip in Lion in Winter, saying “What If is a Game for Scholars” (Alternate History)
From: [personal profile] nodrog

The other problem with Tom Clancy was that he believed the sales pitches of the fat-cat, closed-bidding defense contractors who built those incredibly complex, horrifyingly expensive “weapons systems” that weren't meant to work, they were meant to make jobs and burn money.  So (for example) in Red Storm Rising everything works perfectly, including the people.  Result: Victory.

General Sir John Hackett's The Third World War:  August 1985 (1978) is far more realistic in this regard:  Only sheer stupid luck allows the deafened, terrified NATO forces to hold on against the Soviet Army long enough for the real enemy to show up and hit both sides, after which the war becomes a race against systems breakdown in men and materiel - that the Soviets lose.


gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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