Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Link of Interest: Warning Signs of LSE (Literary Status Envy)

Eric S. Raymond has written some interesting reflections on the current state of science fiction, and while I don't agree with him on every particular, his most recent post is freakishly reminiscent of my own complaints in re: recent short lists for the Hugo Awards. Behold! Here are just a few of the key warning signs of "literary status envy", a terrible affliction that has turned much of today's science fiction into unpalatable grey goo:
  1. Evinces desire to be considered “serious artist”.
  2. Idea content is absent or limited to politicized social criticism.
  3. Heroism does not occur except as anti-heroic mockery.
  4. All major characters are psychologically damaged.
  5. Wordage devoted to any character’s interior monologues exceeds wordage in same character’s dialog.
  6. Repeated character torture, especially of the self-destructive variety.
  7. Inability to write an unambiguously happy ending. In advanced cases, the ability to write any ending at all may be lost...
Etc. There are seven more signs at the link, and all of them are pretty damned accurate. I do wonder, though, whether we should change the name of this master list to "Warning Signs of Post-Modern Literary Status Envy." Granted, I'm no expert -- but I could swear literary fiction used to have heroes and plots and happy endings once upon a time. My high school English career - spent largely in honors and AP-level courses - was not an unending sea of pointless torment. If I recall correctly, mush didn't really enter the picture until we hit the twentieth century and literary movements that emphasized form over substance. Am I wrong?

Edited to Add: And by the way, if you're looking for ways to combat LSE, Cedar Sanderson has a very good "anti" list over at her blog.

1 comment:

  1. Let's see, my required reading in school. The Scarlet Letter, The Pearl, An American Tragedy. . . I know there were others. But what a way to teach children that reading is a depressing chore, to be avoided at all costs. I always loved British mysteries . . . until I noticed a trend to kill a secondary character right at the end, not for any plot purpose I could see, just a way of making the end a downer.