I've just finished reading Pawn in Frankincense, and I'm a bit confused about which bits were meant to be revelations and which were meant to be obvious 200 pages before they were revealed, but I still enjoyed it. What I like about Dorothy Dunnett -- among other things -- is that I trust her to be ruthless and twisty. Like Anthony Price, only completely different. If you have an author who's ruthless but not twisty, you have a pile of corpses at the end, but it's not interesting. If you have an author who's twisty but not ruthless, you know exactly how many horrifying situations you will end up with, and with whom, and the only interesting bit is how to get from point A to point B. With a twisty, ruthless author like Dunnett, you know that a difficult situation is not going to be resolved into something easy, and you don't know how in advance. (Contrary to timprov's claim after reading A Game of Kings, she does not just go through killing off all characters who look like they might be sympathetic.)
merriehaskell was talking about juvenilia. When I said I'd destroyed my first two novels, the ones written when I was 11 and 14, she said:
That's very Emily of New Moon-ish of you. At what age did you burn them, and what was the impetus? Just curious, since my impulse has always been to save. I egotistically always believed that The Biographers (tm mechaieh, I think) would need them.
I got rid of them by shredding and burning at 12 and 15, respectively, upon reading them and finding out they were crap. They really were, I think; I'm pretty sure I was right on that point. But I was wrong in thinking that being crap would make them devoid of interest later. I'd like to see what I was capable of then.
I was no less egotistical than Peg-Leg Mer: I didn't want The Biographers, should there be any, to see the crap. The idea that they should base what they said about me on something I could tell was crap when I was 12? Horrible. I did not, at the time, see the value to anything less than my best, not for anybody or for any reason, not ever.* And I didn't particularly plan on there being Biographers, and I still don't, because I was then and am now pretty firmly a genre writer, or a genres writer, and I have a hard time telling which genre figures are going to get Biographers, but it doesn't seem like something to plan on much. It doesn't seem to be based on whether the books one writes are good, or whether they speak to people, or anything like that. And those are the bits that interest me in my own work. So being gracious to the Biographers or the Lit Critics or whichever other shadowy cabal outside my light cone is really not on my priority list.
Am I the only person who thinks there are lots of misty Arthurian dogs or fuzzy mythologically focused fabulists lurking whenever she hears about shadowy cabals?
*General principle of my life then, and hoo, did it make things more difficult for me in general for a couple of years there. My mom, dismayed that she had passed on a perfectionist streak she'd spent then-thirty-some years mastering in herself, used to cry, "Oh, sweetie, you're your own worst enemy." This sounded like a quite reasonable state of affairs to me; I certainly wasn't eager to enlist anyone else to supplant me in that role. I'm still not, actually: if I'm harder on myself than anyone else is, that seems like a good thing. Even though I want to make friends and loved ones cut it out when they do it to themselves. Not that I'm looking at anybody on the f'list, oh nooooooo.