August 3rd, 2005


Failure and Reasons

Here's what I want to say this morning: you can't fail at things you don't try.

This is not meant to be a slacker manifesto ("Stop trying, never fail!"). What I'm saying here is that some forms of criticism fall down in this regard. It's totally unreasonable to decide that, for example, science fiction has failed at predicting the future. Science fiction was not trying to predict the future! It was trying to tell interesting stories! I did not fail at baking a custard tart this morning -- I just didn't bake one, which is different. If you want to consider it a flaw that I didn't try in the first place, you'll have to justify that, because not everyone has to make a custard tart first thing Wednesday mornings. Hardly anyone does. But people who have decided that SF was supposed to predict the future (or become the primary reading material of the entire English-speaking world, or save us from a host of ills, or...) never see the need to justify their assumption. Anything they wanted SF to do is what SF was inherently supposed to do.


Books are written by actual people, and wishing very very hard does not make those actual people's motivations into one's ideal motivations.

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All of these things are true. None of them refer to Why People Write Fantasy Novels or Why People Write Historical Novels or Why People Write Spy Novels or Why People Write Novels About Technology (though it is all of those things). I am not People. I am me. I wrote this book. If I am very lucky, it will sell and people will read it, and it still will not be about somebody else's theory of reasons to write fantasy novels. And if you decide that the purpose of fantasy novels is to provide biographical information about Marie of Roumania, that will not be my fault. Okay? Okay.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have another one to do.