Friday, June 24, 2011

Take that tongue out of your cheek...

Take that tongue out of your cheek until you learn how to keep from tripping over your own snark.

I had this whole plan to write a funny and thoughtful post about a not-so-funny-but-really-wanted-to-be article on Slate yesterday, but most of my points are in Malinda Lo's response. (I'm all out of sorts this week and have retreated to arguing with a plot outline in order to have something half-finished on my harddrive be all-finished so I can begin something else with a clear conscience.)

Timing. That's what I'm going to add. Timing. It means know when it's appropriate to make a joke and when it's just going to be hurtful. It means knowing your audience, and anyone with Twitter could tell you that it's still too soon to make jokes about how frivolous the YA genre is.

If we're being honest, someone is always going to find it too soon to joke about any genre being frivolous. No one likes being told what they do doesn't matter. It's hurtful and rude and it's not going to win you readers or friends. Well, ok, maybe it will but they aren't the type of people I want to be friends with.

There is great power in comedy. I remarked to a group of high school students that when the world looks at you and thinks you're irrelevant and dismissive, you'd be amazed what it allows you to say in return. The look of shock on someone's face when you prove that you have some thoughtful observations about the world is very satisfying.

But as Stan Lee taught us: With great power, comes great responsibility. I guess not everyone can be Spider-Man. Not everyone should even aspire to be Spider-Man. But at least learn how to time your jokes.

Also, Diana Wynne Jones was frequently told that her books were too complicated by adults and she wrote middle grade. This helped me develop my hypothesis that we get dumber as we get older and let's just say the internet often proves me right. (Except when I'm wrong and then it's more than happy to tell me so.)

You can use humor to be snarky and mean and put others down in order to make yourself seem oh-so-clever. Or you can use humor to make a point that raises others up. If you're really good, you can get away with doing both. (That article was not.)

That is, of course, my opinion based on my efforts to try and make a world that is less mean and more wonderful. Cuz like Spider-Man, I just keep suiting up despite the jerks who get paid to talk crap about what I love to do.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Upon the release of the 10th Anniversary Edition of American Gods

Dear Neil,

Your American Gods is ten years old this month. Aside from how that possibly makes both of us feel significantly older than we usually feel on a day to day basis, I would be doing you a disservice by neglecting to acknowledge this milestone.

American Gods isn't my favorite book. However, it's undoubtedly, for me,  the most important of your books. It's the book I read four times, always hoping that each would be the read where the story unfolded and revealed its secrets and became the masterwork that others claimed it was. I always felt like it was just this close to clicking with me, but something kept getting in the way.

Ten years later, I still hope that when I read the 10th Anniversary Edition it will be the time that everything falls into place.

Maybe it will, as I realized that this book and I did click. We clicked that first time I read my brand new hardcover—the first adult hardcover novel I'd bought on the basis that the author wouldn't disappoint me—ten years ago.

Because I couldn't written any story I've written since without having read this one of yours; it was American Gods that taught me we carry our gods around with us and we bump elbows with other people's gods as we pass them on the sidewalk.

It was American Gods that taught me what we focus on gives it power, and that we should choose what we give power over us with a little more care than we often do.

It was American Gods that taught me the world is a strange, funny, beautiful, wonderful, horrifying place; that we often get tangled up in battles that we don't think are ours, and that we can run and hide but eventually the world will find us.

And I thank you, as those are all important things to know. I don't know that they're what you intended to say, but I hope that's at least part of it. I'm happy to keep rereading until I find the rest.

Congratulations upon the release of your 10th Anniversary Edition. May the next ten years bring you even more stories.