The OF Blog: So you have a voice, but do you know when to be silent?

Monday, May 17, 2010

So you have a voice, but do you know when to be silent?

Meta-discussions on blogging and who has the "right" to say what and how has been argued ad nauseam over the years.  Part of me is always inclined to think (and sometimes say), "Yes, you do have a lovely-sounding voice, but are you really saying anything within that tangle of words you have spewed out in a blog post?"  That internal critic is not limited to others; my internal editor is unsparing of my own sensibilities on occasion.

But since this topic seems to have raised its hoary head again, might as well provide a few links and a brief take.  First up is a post on Floor to Ceiling Books.  Amanda Rutter received a critique of her review of Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon that is unflattering of her abilities as a literary critic to say the least.  In my brief comment there, I noted that a reviewer, amateur or professional alike, has to have faith in his/her abilities to engage with the work and to write a review that reflects the degree and kind of their engagement. 

However, there is a second side to this coin, one that is a bit uncomfortable for us to consider at least, lest we lose confidence in our abilities to do whatever task we may want to do, in this particular case reviewing books.  What if we are failing to engage with a work as well as we could?  What if we are too quick to snap decisions and are not willing to listen to counterarguments?

I see a little bit of discussion has sprung up recently over what Gavin Pugh posted recently on the "death of SF."  When I first read his post about a week ago, I shrugged and thought "it's a bit too generalized even for a rant and doesn't have much to support his arguments."  Then I saw the reactions to it on VanderMeer's blog and thought, "OK, I guess I wasn't the only one," before I proceeded to have fun with something of an off-color nature, since I didn't think there was much more to say.  Now I see there has been some actual debate on the issue between Jeff and Gavin.  And I'm left thinking, "What the hell is being argued now?  That one can hold an opinion unsupported by evidence and that one shouldn't be called out on it?" 

Everyone has the right to hold opinions, even those who have some truly dangerous opinions in my view (violent, psychopathic opinions that bear an imminent risk of physical harm being my definition of "dangerous" here, lest some fear that I've become overnight a cryptofascist!)  But at the same point, having an opinion, strong or weak or indifferent, does not give that opinion holder shelter from others' skepticism.  If someone, say Gavin in this situation since I'm linking to this particular discussion but this can apply and has in the past to myself, has an opinion unsupported by evidence and that person is called out upon it, it might not be the best of ideas to say something like this:

My interest is in healthy science fiction not in a history lesson… and that doesn’t mean I have explored SF. A lively SF should be a willing to mix the old and the new and be prepared to have people that see it differently.

The reason for taking an extreme is the attitude that you’ve shown. A fan of SF isn’t allowed to have a casual interest in SF – you have to be initinated into the cult of SF and be tested on it’s canon.
It sounds rather petulant, especially since I didn't see anything in the original response to warrant such a retort.  If, for example, I wanted to argue that SF fiction was declining in importance, I probably would want to show evidence for my opinion (print run drops, shift in balance to "fantasy" books - not that I believe these show anything other than transformations in the SF market).  The hyperbole of "being initiated into the cult of SF and tested on its canon" is rather ridiculous here.  Sometimes, the blogger has to provide evidence that s/he is well-grounded in what s/he is trying to argue or else just be silent for a spell and try to listen to the points another is making.

I know I am often mistaken in some of my assertions.  This happens even when I try to provide evidence to back up my points.  I learned quickly during my days as an undergrad that even with evidence, there are going to be points of criticism raised.  These are not to be feared or something to ruin your day, but rather, depending on how well that detractor makes his/her points, a learning (or teachable) moment.  One worry I have in my blogging is that I don't receive enough critical feedback.  Too often there's either silence or overly effusive praise, praise that I distrust due to having this sense that there's always an angle that I missed, downplayed too much, or just misinterpreted.  Never a bad idea to think that there are always holes in the argument and that if you yourself cannot find it, perhaps someone else will and that will be presented in a way conducive to learning.

That's not to say that unfounded criticism ought to be considered at length.  Sometimes, there are some oddball responses that make one go "buh?"  But for those rare critiques that offer some helpful suggestions, it might just be best to shut yo trap and just listen for a bit before questioning it all again.

39 comments:

rahkan said...

I think that this post is somewhat too hard on Gavin's "death of SF" post. Sometimes you need evidence to sustain an opinion and sometimes you don't. It kind of depends on what kind of conversation you're trying to have. And who you want to have it with. Everyone on the internet is not necessarily trying to talk to everyone else.

When you're talking about the "death" of something that is just an abstract concept, you're just talking about feelings. You're talking about a sense of its vitality. Whether it still has the power to call up an emotional response and whether it still has the power to bind people together into communities.

And what kind of evidence is relevant in that sort of conversation? All you can say is, "I kind of feel like it doesn't have this power anymore." Death of SF conversations are not conversations about whether it is actually dying or not. For the people who engage in them, that is a given. For them, the conversation is about why it is dying and what can be done to stop it.

To me, your post and Jeff Vandermeer's (while I did not disagree with them) came off as slightly tasteless, like a physicist making fun of postmodernists. If you're not on board regarding the central assumption of Gavin's post, why bother to comment on it? It's like you wandered into a theological discussion about how many angels can fit on the head of the pin, and said, "Hey guys, you're missing the real point....God doesn't exist."

Larry said...

Interesting take. If you're arguing that if the post in question deals with "feelings," then wouldn't it make some sense to just admit that others have different takes and move on? Like I said, I had just a mild reaction to it at first that I really didn't bother saying anything until I had just read his latest retort a few hours ago.

Look, I can write about my "feelings" about mimetic and speculative fictions. But if I make claims without evidence and I'm called out on it...I shouldn't admit that I failed to take certain things into account? Adding evidence can only help my arguments and to show that my "feelings" are worth others reading.

But if you want to stick with this "death of SF" bit, if you want to talk about the "why"...shouldn't something actually be provided for that why than "because I feel things aren't as good as they used to be or should be"?

The "tasteless" part is what intrigues me here. I would think that, if anything, it revolves quite a bit on "taste," not the absence of it. And in matters of discourse, it is, ahem, accepted practice to lift elements from what others have said in response to others (who may in turn be addressing others) and add to a growing, multi-platform discourse.

In other words, I disagree with your last paragraph and think the analogy you use is unsuitable for what you want to argue.

rahkan said...

Regarding "taste," I admit that I didn't quite think it through. I oscillate wildly between thinking of blogging as a conversation between individuals (like instant-messaging in public) and as the creation of durable text, like journalism or academic writing.

I'm kind of uncomfortable with blog posts criticizing other peoples' blog posts in a way that I am not at all uncomfortable with critical op-eds.

A critical writing, of any kind, basically hurts one person's feelings, but it does so in order to create knowledge. Generally speaking, while I think that it's good and right to avoid hurting peoples' feelings, that's a tradeoff that I'm willing to accept in almost every medium of discourse.

But not in blogging, or at least not entirely. Sometimes I think that, at least with regards most blogs, the audience is far too small to accept that tradeoff. I'm not sure that providing a modicum of knowledge to 50 or 100 people is worth hurting anyone's feelings. It's entirely possible that the only reason I feel that way is because I blog on occasion and I don't write op-eds or journal articles, and hence I feel more sympathy for people who write the blog posts that get mocked.

Regarding evidence and feelings and such, I only think it's useful to ask people to back up their feelings with evidence when they're asking you to feel the same thing that they're feeling.

Because it's so difficult to prove most of the things we say about why the world is the way it is or what's happening, it often seems to me like asking for evidence is just a really easy way to score points off people you disagree with. Anyone can be caught up short by a demand for evidence. Anyone can be reduced to incoherence, because most of the things we say are kind of incoherent when we think about them hard enough.

And with regards to science fiction lacking an emotional power that it once had, what kind of evidence is acceptable? How would one go about backing up that assertion with proof? It often seems to me like this entire death of science fiction conversation springs from some shared psychological process amongst a certain subset of fans. The work has ceased to affect them the way it once did, and they're searching for why that is.

Perhaps, instead of asking for evidence, it would be better to ask for a more precise description of the feeling itself. That way, the reader could see what parts resonate with them and which do not, and see what parts of the resulting (vast) froth of argument that spring from this feeling will have any meaning for the reader.

Martin said...

Sometimes you need evidence to sustain an opinion and sometimes you don't.

I find this statement absolutely terrifying.

Larry said...

Interesting take on what a "critical" approach involves. I rarely, if ever, conceive of it in terms of "hurting another's feelings," probably because I'm so inured to having positions critiqued for so long. In fact, I seem to rarely associate one's positions with that person's own self. So it is with genuine puzzlement that I read your comments about "hurting feelings" and so forth.

It almost puts me in that odd position (all the more odd because of my understanding of my own intent) of being insensitive to this argument you present. Ideas are not exclusive to any particular person; opinions in part are not exclusive either. Critiquing ideas in essays is not engaging in ad hominem attacks. So I really can't bring myself to care all that much whether or not one takes the critiquing of ideas presented in an enthusiastic or hurtful manner.

And pardon me if I continue to insist that there be some evidence or at least well-grounded rationale, behind one's opinions. Mine are based on experiences as a history MA graduate, several years as a public and private school teacher, and on having to defend my takes from fellow students and later students that I taught. Having my stances questioned was not a hurtful experience, in large part because there was the realization that ideas can be separated from the person. If a personal comment were made, I tended to shrug it off, again because of past experiences.

Although I did consider your points, I just cannot bring myself to agree with them, based on my experiences noted above.

rahkan said...

Given the amount of vitriol that flows back and forth in the blogosphere (and academia, and politics, etc), I didn't think it was controversial to say that criticizing a person's ideas will possibly hurt their feelings. Whether or not that should be the case is another question, and one I don't really know the answer to. Having to consider other peoples' feelings would add a whole meta-narrative to blogging that seems like kind of a hassle, and would have systematic effects on the kinds of things people talk about and the kinds of opinions they express; systematic effects that would probably not result in more interesting posts.

If you don't accept that there's any negative consequences to criticism of ideas, then my points are kind of mooted. Clearly people should make whatever points they feel are convincing (or at least satisfying) and ask for whatever evidence they feel like asking for. Since blogging proceeds on parallel tracks, it's not even disruptive to do so (as it might be in a face-to-face discussion).

Harry Markov said...

I have several points to raise here that may or may not carry a lot of sense.

1) I think that the evidence Gavin has brought to his statement is the behavior of the people included in the mindmeld. From a psychological standpoint, the exclusion of newer works can be seen as a ground for the assumption that SF is indeed in the stages of dying. Figuratively speaking. This is perhaps not the evidence you might want, because it is not grounded in facts, but merely a conclusion from what he has observed. As a person, who is not well-read in the SF genre, this may or may not be so. I can't judge.

2) Some people take offense, when you critique their work as they see ideas as extensions of their selves and there is not a clear division between ideas and feelings. I talk with experience, because even if I do understand the logic, I can't seperate these two. Not pleasant, really.

This does not make you insensitive, but it rather underlines the two types of people in regards as to how they receive criticism.

Larry said...

Rahkan,

I think I can accept more of what you say in your latest response, in part because there are indeed those who won't separate ideas and feelings (or the person from the arguments they make). There are consequences to that, I'll agree, but I just don't think they are as essential to this as has been made out so far.

Harry,

I remain unconvinced by that. It's a rather specious argument to use something like that Mindmeld discussion (which, from what I gather, practically depends upon the naming of established books to talk about works that should be considered by others) to argue that there is no "new blood" really being proclaimed. It is a Fallacy of Accident; the generalizations generated from that SF Signal post leave out several possible exceptions. Namely, for several, such a post would indicate naming "classics", without giving the possibility that recent favorites might be considered if pressed slightly to name possible classics of the future. Or that the SF Signal participants do not represent the breadth and depth of SF readership; is it a representative list? Who decides this?

I tend to distrust arguments (even my own initial reactions) that seem to fail to consider possible counterarguments. But that's just me, I suppose.

And hey, that "insensitive" part can also refer to me not being as bothered when another critiques me. After a while, thicker skin develops, but hopefully not to the point where I don't try to see the points of those with whom I may have a disagreement regarding approaches and ideas.

Harry Markov said...

This is why I think Gavin labels them as rants, because rants are referred to as an expression of negative feelings. This is not a structured article based on facts. It is an opinion based on emotions and as such it is a momentary state of mind. Gavin himself wanted to be disproved and garner a different set of opinions.

I am speaking, because I think I know Gavin as a person and am trying to seperate his rants from the category of opinions you are talking about, which are more on the firm view-point spectrum.

BUT in the general sense I do agree that one needs backup in order to talk about something. Hence why I am not so popular with my mind-blowing discussion posts.

I certainly hope to manage the thick skin. As a writer I really really need it and so far I fail miserably at displaying it. :D

rahkan said...

Yeah, regarding the actual content of Gavin's post, I also didn't see what the big deal was. There _are_ plenty of books in it from the last ten or fifteen years.

Just glancing through, I see Starfish, To Say Nothing Of The Dog, Finch, Oryx and Crake, Blindsight, The Android's Dream, Market Forces, Dark Matter, Stories Of Your Life and Others, and probably more whose publication date I am unfamiliar with.

Is that how many there _should_ be? I don't know, it seems fine to me. As an actual, working, category, science fiction is more than eighty years old. Probably no more than fifty books are mentioned in the post. And more than 10% of them are from the last ten years....

It's the kind of argument that only really makes sense if you're out there actively looking for signs of decay, and not if the whole notion of decay doesn't resonate with you.

Larry said...

The problem with rants is that for those reading them, if the ranter comes across as being too emotional and not enough as someone who has solid assertions to make, the rant then risks becoming viewed as being flawed and the next rant might be viewed in a similar way some view some of (for example) Terry Goodkind's ravings on social matters :P

As for thick skin, there's always a need for thicker, as doubtless I'll soon experience in the next 9 months.

Larry said...

Rahkan,

I agree. Perhaps the worst part about using that post as an example to pair up with the first one I provided is that it keeps life into a topic that perhaps should have been put to rest some days ago.

Anonymous said...

The main point is this: if you're going to rant, then you can't get offended if someone pushes back as strongly as you ranted.

As for the supposed mentality of the MindMeld responders...well, for one thing, it's a very limited sample. For another, you get a request for this kind of thing in the middle of a very busy schedule and then a nudge to turn it in and maybe you don't always think it through as well as you should.

But, you know what? So what? So what if one feature on one blog happened to contain lists that weren't as current? How is that in any way a true reflection of the state of SF?

Nor does my push back mean I hate this guy or that I'm gonna even remember this in a week, like any of the rest of us.

My main point, too, was simply: OMFG, this rant is old. The guy doesn't even know the history of rants in the field, hasn't even done a google search to maybe say, here--this is what I meant, I'll spare you my own thrice-masticated version of it.

"Tasteless" btw is terribly misused in this context.

JeffV

Larry said...

Nothing much to say other than I agree, Jeff. I do find myself wondering if it's a generational thing, this jumping to conclusions and then becoming overly sensitive when those conclusions are swatted back as if Federer were doing a forehand slam.

Aidan Moher said...

If you find a rant/argument weak or non-compelling in the first place, why bother responding to it? Isn't it better to just let it speak for itself.

Larry said...

True, but it was discussed merely as a counterpoint to the first part of the post, which seems to lack the discussion that the second half did.

rahkan said...

Both Larry and Jeff mentioned that "tasteless" was the wrong word to use. I kind of want to know why? I thought that "taste" could also refer to delicacy in terms of social situations, and a sense of what is appropriate within a given context. As in, just as someone with "taste" can sense the various nuances of food, they can also sense the nuances of conversation. If I was saying that it's kind of inappropriate to make a comment on this post, then I think "tasteless" is well-used as meaning that it demonstrates a lack of ability to judge the appropriate thing to say.

Is it just that the juxtoposition of the two usages is jarring? Since in some sense, this conversation also refers to aesthetic judgments? Like, what if you get invited to a dinner party and the food is really, really bad. And you tell the host, "Wow, this food is awful." Would that not be a tasteless comment?

Or is it something else? I am just curious, since it struck both of you as the wrong word.

Larry said...

Tasteless is generally used to describe things such as Tub Girl and Two Girls, One Cup, not people who disagree with another's rant. If you think it's insensitive for that to be done or that it was done without tact being employed, "insensitive" or "tactless" would be better word choices that would convey the intended meanings better.

Not that I would agree, but that's beside the point.

Larry said...

And by the way, I highly recommend that you do NOT click on any images associated with either, unless you want to vomit afterward.

Elena said...

Entirely off-topic except that I wanted to engage in some critical dialogue about your take on a book, and I just wasn't sure that if I left comments on a post 3+ weeks old you'd see them. If so let me know and I'll happily hunt up the post so we can talk below that post. :)

Anyway, what I wanted to bring up specifically was your review of the two Matthew Swift books. I've finally gotten my copy of the second, and I am actually going to disagree with your assessment on the pacing of the two. You had said you thought the first read much slower due to all the listing, and that the second has less of that and to having action that developed quicker. I actually think they're fairly well matched in terms of descriptions and actions. The first one, I think, just *seems* slower because it drops you into the story en medias re and you're trying to figure out what's going on and what events are important to the bigger story and what aren't. AND you have to cipher through all the paragraph-long lists. But eventually two things happen: you pick up the story at last, so what is happening begins to feel like action and not just events, and you realize that the incessant listing is how MS/tbea view the world. Once that flipped in my head in the first book, it read much faster. I think reading them back to back you had flipped that switch at some point maybe without quite noticing, and the second one seems to read quicker because you started it with that mindset already in place vs developing halfway+ through the book.

Larry said...

That's quite likely, Elena, and a valid point to raise about my comments on the pacing there. I wonder what would happen if I would re-read them weeks apart now...which is part of the impetus behind these re-read commentaries I've been doing.

Thanks for commenting and pointing out something I might need to consider in the future!

gav (nextread.co.uk) said...

It's quite odd seeing yourself talked about in the third person.

I'm letting this fire die down if I can on my rant, thoughI do think I have a valid point as badly made as some see it, there isn't really that much further it can go without getting mixed up too many issues that may or may not confuse or clarify things.

I do though think that comment and opinion pieces in newspapers come as they are. You either accept that persons opinion or you don't. Rarely, if ever, do you write to them and get to give you blow by blow justification of each and every statement they make.

And comment or opinion pieces on blogs should be seen from the perspective that is one persons opinion and you give that opinion 'authority' based on your view of the commentator. I'm not sure if this weekend has altered anybodies opinion of me or not.

But it was one reaction to one bee that I have in my bonnet. It wasn't designed to be anything more than letting off steam in public whilst raising a point about an aspect of SF fandom as I see it.

If I get called out on it I'm happy to try and explain it and talk about it though and I did quite a bit.

I don't think that anyone has to justify themselves to the level where the other person has satisfied themselves the argument has been made to their own standards of evidence.

And I think that getting spiky in terms of my response to Jeff was a human reaction as he'd put me in a box I didn't fit in.

Bloggging is all about expressing an opinion after all and lively debate is healthier than being part of the shoal...

Chad Hull said...

"
One worry I have in my blogging is that I don't receive enough critical feedback. Too often there's either silence or overly effusive praise, praise that I distrust due to having this sense that there's always an angle that I missed, downplayed too much, or just misinterpreted.
"
The above strikes me as insecurity. If you got something to say, contentious or not, say it. This is where the evidence bit comes in. If your 'opinion' or 'voice' doesn't hold water then perhaps you should be hesitant to express it (e.g. if you believe two plus two equals five).

"Sometimes you need evidence to sustain an opinion and sometimes you don't."

I can't tell if the above has been squashed or not--I got lost in the comments.

Empirical proofs don't need supporting evidence (in the traditional sense) because they can be, well, ... empirically proven. Hypothetical theories, are generally longer, (Much Longer!) than any proof. The bulk, or extra length, is evidence to support the claim. Hence, if I were suggest a 'new math,' one in which two plus two did equal five, I would need substantial evidence to support such a claim.

Sorry if I'm beating a dead horse.

Hurt feelings and criticisms seem incongruous to me as long as all parties involved can act adult-ish.

As to the right to express an opinion; I feel as Aidan does: if you don't like what's on TV you can always change the channel or (read a different blog as it were).

Eddie said...

"I do find myself wondering if it's a generational thing, this jumping to conclusions and then becoming overly sensitive when those conclusions are swatted back as if Federer were doing a forehand slam."

Larry, old man, don't try to turn this into a generational debate. You've got a decade on me or so, I think, and I don't see that reflected in me or my contemporaries. Then again, most of my friends are lawyers, and we construct arguments for a living, or scientists, who know how to use empirical evidence :P. Take that data point for what you will...

Martin said...

Gav, I don't know why on Earth you would think that you have to just take or leave opinions. That isn't how newspapers work and it certainly isn't how blogs work (it also completely goes against your conclusion that blogging is about expressing an opinion). Why would you have comments enabled if this was true? As for the idea that an opinion's authority is based on your view of the commentator, do you really not think the opinion itself plays a part?

Larry said...

Now is the time on Sprockets vhen ve dance!:

Gav,

I like to think there's inherent risk whenever communication of any sort, but especially of a public, op-ed nature takes place. And some of us commentators come from professions where detailed back and forth isn't just an option, but a frequent occurrence. No harm in forearming oneself for those encounters, though.

Chad,

I don't think "insecure" is the word here, but rather "frequently skeptical." And the "evidence" I talk about is meant to relate solely to supporting opinions, rant or no rant.

Eddie,

Lawyers are a special category of evil, related to that of veteran teachers. The constant prodding and questioning of assumptions is a symptom ;)

gav (NextRead.co.uk) said...

@Martin

I really didn’t say you take or you leave opinions. I said ‘You either accept a persons opinion or your don’t’. I could have gone one to say… ‘that it’s up to you to judge what your own thoughts on that opinion are and how that matches your own view and if that makes you pause for thought and if that opinion has a positive, negative or meh effect - amongst the myriad of other possible outcomes and reactions you could have.’

Columnists are chosen, as I understand it, to be reflection of the views of the papers in which they appear - they are however editorially independent - meaning that they can express their own opinion as well as that of the paper in which they appear. It doesn’t mean that their opinion is the same as their paper however. But as the voice of the paper they might as well be on most occasions and all intents and purposes. If you pick up the Daily Mail you are going to get a completely different opinion than if you pick up The Guardian and you should be aware of their biases.

Blogs don’t have to a separate ‘news’ voice an other ‘personal’ voice. They are a reflection, most of the time, of a single person who is only human and is a channeling all their experience and personal development into a continual monologue with a public forum. Engagement isn’t always with all those that it reaches to but only the small percentage that engages so can’t be a reflection of audience - and yes I know that Jeff pointed out that the mindmeld wasn’t a reflection on SF fandom.

Should an opinion stand on its own? It depends on if it’s something that is quantifiable or something that is conjecture and open to interpretation but as I said it you give that opinion more weight depending on how you see the person or entity it comes from.

It also depends on your knowledge of the subject that is being discussed and how it fits in with your own views. As I said the more open something is to interpretate the harder it is to see the opinion in on it’s own without some context.

rahkan said...

Chad,

What I said is: "Sometimes you need evidence to sustain an opinion and sometimes you don't. It kind of depends on what kind of conversation you're trying to have. And who you want to have it with."

Does that not strike you as true? If I'm walking down the street and we pass Chad's Sushi Joint and I turn to my friend and say "Chad's Sushi is the greatest sushi in the whole world. After you eat it, the world will blueshift for a moment and colors will never quite look the same again because you will have been thrust into an alternate dimension where the laws of physics are slightly different."

I don't expect my friend to say, "Why is it so good?" And if he did, I probably wouldn't have an answer (mostly because I spent so long coming up with that extended hyperbole).

There are plenty of times when sharing an opinion is just about communicating, for the sake of it. Now, if my friend did ask me, "No, really, why do you think this place is so good? I think its sushi is really made of raw rat," would he be wrong to question my opinion? Not really. But I would think that he was kind of missing the objective of the communication.

Admittedly, this point is less applicable to the current situation, as I noted above, because blog posts are not really conversations. If my friend went around to other people, being all like, "Rahkan said Chad's was really good, but he never gave a reason and I don't think it's so good because its sushi has the consistency of gamy rat," then I doubt I'd care. Unless I was really sensitive. Which I am not.

Martin said...

Regarding newspapers, many employ columnists who do not reflect the view of the paper at all and do so for this very reason. However, my point was actually about your assertion that "comment and opinion pieces in newspapers come as they are" and are rarely responded to. In fact, newspapers offer many ways of responding: letters pages, right to reply columns, readers' editors, blog comments, etc.

This is relevent because - as per newspapers - you seem to be drawing some distinction between quantifiable, factual writing and opinion. From this you draw the bizarre conclusion that opinion doesn't need to be supported, logical, coherent, etc. The problem with your series of blog posts on this issue is that they just don't make sense. Given this, I don't think it is enough to just shrug your shoulders and say "its just my opinion".

Nor do I find the idea that it all comes down to authorial authority at all persuasive. Should an opinion stand on its own? Absolutely it should. Words have meanings independent of the person writing them.

gav (NextRead.co.uk) said...

Sigh, I’m just going to repeat my self from above:

‘I don't think that anyone has to justify themselves to the level where the other person has satisfied themselves the argument has been made to their own standards of evidence.’

And you seem to be continually pushing for your own level of satisfaction.

The ‘right to reply’ doesn’t mean the same as the ‘right to justifications or explanations’ from the originator.

I also think that you are now playing semantics of language.

I don’t think this discussion is going to end in anything that is going to satisfy your own standard and I see little point in continuing.

Larry said...

Gav,

I think all that anyone is really asking is that in the future, just take the time to make sure that your opinions are supported with relevant facts/evidence. It's nothing personal, certainly not on my end.

Martin said...

I'm sorry you don't want to continue the conversation and I'm afraid I see it as not a question of semantics but one of articulacy.

You are completely right that you have no duty to try and satisfy me that you are right. However, if you want to engage with and write critically about a field it is probably in your best interests to do so. Otherwise you will just end up getting more reactions like Vandermeer's.

gav (NextRead.co.uk) said...

@Larry, don't worry I'm good.

I'd like to say though that the OED (UK) defines rant as:

• verb speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way.

and opinion as:

• noun 1 a view or judgement not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. 2 the beliefs or views of people in general: public opinion. 3 an estimation of quality or worth. 4 a formal statement of advice by an expert or professional.

No where does it say you need to provide evidence ;)

Larry said...

True, but if you want to provide uninformed opinions, be my guest. It's a strange point to be arguing for the right to come across as making ill-informed remarks, but more power to you.

gav (nextread.co.uk) said...

I don't agree they are ill informed - no one has yet to convince me what I said was incorrect - how I said it and how I went about explaining might be been less than ideal and that's mostly what I've been attacked for.

I maintain that there is no automatic assumption that essential selection of SF books shouldn't mean something has gone through a peer-pressured assessment. Essential for me is personal and inspiring.

Martin said...

Usually I would say that it is a really bad idea to quote the dictionary in an argument. In this case though it is actually quite helpful since it shows that your "rant" is not a rant at all. By calling it that you are just using a common blogging shorthand that seeks to remove responsibility for what a blogger writes (as you have done in this thread). It is not wild or impassioned and it certainly isn't shouted; instead it is just an opinion on the state of the genre and an anchor point for further discussion.

gav (nextread.co.uk) said...

@ Martin

I might be being a little overly defensive in my comments back to you. I'm not usually so testy but I've had to explain and expand on this so many times over the weekend I'm loosing the will to type. So sorry if I've been firing back a little harder than is justified. You just hit the wrong button at the wrong time.

I labelled it as a rant because I was writing in it in a fast and impassioned way. Think Victor Meldrew.

I've taken responsibility for what I've said, and defended it and it's an opinion that I hold that you are more likely to get a more cool, calculated and academically merited recommendation when looking for SF books and it's a genre where its champions should be doing a better job of showing that it has a strong beating heart with a lifeblood flowing through it.

The reason for the metaphor of crumbling is that if you remove blood from a body there is nothing to hold it together and eventually it will crumble to dust. Something that I think is a problem when you present old and harder to read books as ways of accessing a genre.

I'm yet to be shown the this premise the the automatic reaction is to look to past instead of the present is incorrect. And that the support that old books get is not reflected with the same ferocity when it comes to newer works. And that new works are dismissed as without merit before they've been through some peer-acessed value system.

Chad Hull said...

I've been ganged up on before and it's not fun; to that end, Sorry Gav. I don't think anyone is trying to take a dig at you, rather it's a conflict of ideas.

Unlike 'blood, the body and dust and such' what you find 'old and harder to read' is subjective.

Martin beat me to it but, yeah, the fallacies in bringing a dictionary to this type of debate are many, but "when in Rome..." Ironically, the dictionary is an example of you supplying a proof to your claim! ( Which I, and others, applaud you for doing. It's support, dare I say 'evidence' in a sense. )

Another word for your lexicon:
Unfounded:
without foundation; not based on fact, realistic considerations, or the like: unfounded suspicions.
—Synonyms
1. groundless, idle, false, unjustified, unsubstantiated.

Now if this modifier is applied to 'rant' or 'opinion' you can perhaps see why some others have taken exception to previous comments.

If I'm of the opinion or mount my soapbox and rant on my personal belief that JFK was murdered by Papa Smurf with a blowgun...

Oh, never mind; I feel the impasses in shall not be bridged and I don't think it matters if it isn't.

Larry said...

Having now read both halves of the SF Signal Mindmeld in question, Gav's position just seems even more untenable to me based on the breadth and depth of suggestions that span several decades up to last November for recommendations. While it's probably best to say that certain elements of SF have changed with the times, nonetheless there seems to be a continued vitality to that literary subgenre due to concerns raised in books such as Finch about the effects of occupation and terrorism on a populace, or matters of gender as raised in Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods, or matters of faith raised in novels such as Mary Doria Russell's first two SF novels.

To argue for a "crumbling" is quite odd, since there is really no evidence presented for that view, other than the person making it, for whatever reason, is not connecting with the conversations that are taking place within and between books, their authors, and their fans about these issues I mention above and others.

 
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