Friday, December 01, 2006

Is Bitching the New Black?

The Gwrach-y-rhibyn, an omen ghost of Wales.
Literally her name means hag of the mist or commonly, the dribbling hag.
In function, similar to an Irish banshee.
Her description includes tusklike teeth, clawed fingers and scaly black wings - as well as really bad hair.

Actually, this is an idle-thoughts post and an excuse to put up this picture.
We are instructed to introduce tension and conflict into our work.
Seems there are lots of examples of types of tension on the internet these days.
Huddles of writers whining about the industry and its dark conspiracies.
Pseudonymous industry types bitching about clueless and presumptuous writers - and no, I do not mean Miss Snark, who, no matter how often she might nail nitwittery, always reflects an innate respect for writers as a class.
On occasion others, though, may imply that they truly view writers as obnoxious little worms whose sole purpose on this planet is to cause them grief but must be tolerated as unavoidable necessities along the path to what is really important. Merely distasteful means to an end.
Conflicts of aim and of interest and of ethics.
Questions over whether an editor or agent could also be an author. Black lists.
Tensions over interpretations. Language wars. Anons and Pseuds.
Carved-in-stoners. The emperor has no clothes. Heretics should be burned.
The dynamics of group-think and mob justice. Those who assume discussion of an issue is an attack. Suckage.
The writer as enemy.
Even to his fellows.
The agent as enemy. The editor as enemy. How to infiltrate the enemy.
Sometimes the prose is hysterical, sometimes bitingly funny.
Granted that Polyanna pirouettes of all sweetness and light can soon become purile. And what's worse, unrealistic.
I wonder though, if the groove of satire has deepened into a rut.
But one needs look no further than major writerly message boards for example of motive, misunderstanding and manipulation.


writtenwyrdd said...

I think you are basically describing the social dynamics of Modern Man. Perhaps it is because we have so many humans on the planet you cannot get away from your fellow human we cannot pretend we are sweeter than we are. (The propensity to lie to oneself is much easier when there is no other human to act as the mirror and disabuse ourselves of the notion.)

Or, perhaps it is that old 'rats in a cage' population pressure study from the 70s risen to haunt us again. (Remember that study? Something done in the late 70s that predicted too dense a population of rats in a cage meant females killed/ate their young and males became uncommonly agressive toward other males as well as females and young?) Maybe we aren't as nice or rational or playing well with others as we used to be???

BTW, Bernita, can you recommend books of mythology or whatever that I can acquire to learn about the legends and myths you keep mentioning? I thought I was fairly well read, but I haven't heard of most of the ones you talk about, and they are really interesting.

Jaye Wells said...

Perhaps Writtenwyrdd is right--it's human nature. The difference is the internet makes it more obvious because it's a concentrated version of the kind of talk that happens in bars at conferences.

My biggest pet peeve is when writers turn on their peers in order to look clever or more savvy to the literary establishment. It reeks of desperation, which only feeds the continued perception by some that we're nothing better than glorified typists.

writtenwyrdd said...

Remove the social limits (peer pressure, shaming, etc.) and people can get vicious. We are heirarchical animals, after all. No thumps on the head for bad behavior? Behavior worsens.

I think the stealthiness of the internet is damaging our social skills. Rudeness is rewarded, because we reward ourselves by feeling smug, superior, etc. (And, no, I am not referring to anyone in particular, including myself, lol.)

writtenwyrdd said...

Come to think of it...anyone who's read Lord of the Flies knows what I've been trying to say better than I can possibly say it!

Bernita said...

I assume it's the social dynamics of mankind, period, Written, which has cycles or eras or styles.
What we have is a useful and available microcosm for plot exploitation.

Geese, that will be hard. I've accumulated hundreds of books ( many of which may be out-of-print) on folk lore, legends, myths, fairy tales and various occult-ish subjects over the years, and every country and region has its corpus. Sometimes I may reference an incidental or accidental mention from an otherwise irrelevant source.
This one is from a series by Time-Life Books called "Mysteries of the Unknown."
The general basics begin with Sir John Frazer's classic "The Golden Bough," or Thomas Bulfinch's "The Golden Age of Myth and Legend."
Robert Graves has some good stuff. A handy book is Edith Hamilton's "Mythology" which deals with the standard Greek, Roman and Norse legends."Classical Mythology" by Morford and Lenardon deals with the same but at a deeper level. Joseph Jacobs did considerable research into English folk and fairy tales.It's really hard to specify because the topic is so broad.

Right, Jaye, there is a lot of futile jostling/scrabbling for some imagined position.

Robyn said...

Bernita, I wish there were a more genteel way to say this,'ve got balls of steel, girlfriend. I've never seen a subject you were afraid to tackle.

As Jaye noted, internet anonymity probably hasn't helped. It's easy to bitch when you aren't face-to-face with the person you're shredding, and not likely to be.

But "The Dribbling Hag" would be an awesome name for a blog.

Bernita said...

~I shall take requests~

Wish that were true, Robyn!

Notice I never touch large P Politics - can't figure out why I'm suddenly getting spam in Cyrillic - or Religion.

Ric said...

Steel Balls? Bernita?

I once had a new boss who demanded that I grow a set of Brass Balls to handle the Teamsters on the loading dock. But, back to the topic at hand.

Aside from the smug commentaries from folks, who are slowly realizing they aren't up to writing something publishable, there are the other overworked folks who automatically assume that constructive criticism is your way of getting attention.

If someone says "This doesn't work for me.", I can smugly say, "I didn't write it for you." OR "Why exactly? What can I do to make it better?"

I admit I have a hard time trying to figure out people's motives. If you try to help, they can't fathom that you want nothing in return.

Okay, I'm rambling. But, really, a thousand (presumably intelligent) authors trying to gain the attention of agents and editors who will pick only 4 or 5 for a book deal, the frustration level is immense. Wordsmiths striking back - It must be a conspiracy! You have to know someone! You have to piss them off to get their attention!

And this doesn't count the timid ones, afraid of saying anything that might come back to haunt them, careful not to step on toes, stand out from the crowd.

Is there a happy medium?

Bernita said...

Always thought myself a bit of a p. ...nevermind. Certainly not bold and brave, Ric.
And your comments are accurate about attitudes and causes.
I didn't mean this post as a critique of the milieu, but as a suggestion that one need look no further if one has trouble concocting conflicts and motivations. They are all here, glorious, myriad and colourful.
Perhaps, as someone told me recently, I should practise clarity in my writing.Shades and levels of meaning not allowed.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I so agree...but the funny, and I mean literally funny part is the bitch sessions from the ones that you know are shooting themselves in the foot....It's like watching a train wreck happen!

Bernita said...

Sort of a horrified fascination, Bonnie!Especially the ones who simply cannot see that they are doing precisely what they accuse another of, a form of mild sociopathy, I suppose, or a logic failure or something.

writtenwyrdd said...

Hey bernita, I pretty much have or have read the books you mention. Just wondering what esoteric lovelies you have on your shelves that might prove useful for Celtic/Gaelic/British Isles research of myth and legend.

Bernita said...

I beg your pardon.
It's always difficult to know at what level an inquirer may be.
Then I might recommend "Haunted Clwyd" and "Supernatural Clwyd" by Richard Holland for North-East Wales as examples that might be interesting, Written, though they are straightforward folkloric compliations and not "esoteric."
My favourite is The Warrior Knight of the Blood Red Plume.

raine said...

I'd initially thought it was all a case of ye olde "I can make myself feel superior by putting others down."
Then I began to think it was simply a means of attracting traffic. Many people will stop to watch a nasty street brawl.
I'm not sure what I think at this point.
But I do love the dribbling hag.

Bernita said...

Think it's much more complicated than that, Raine, though certainly those are a couple of prime motives in some cases.

Yes! As Bonnie says, " Mind pictures!Visuals!"

archer said...

the dribbling hag

What a great name for a bar.

Ric said...

Bernita is giving out plot bunnies.

The writer, frustrated over getting nowhere, pens a roman a clef about the industry, naming names and taking no prisoners.
And, after a long search, finds a sympathetic agent and publisher, turning the whole industry on its back, soft underbelly ripe for eviseration.

Of course, one could wait until they are famous but Truman Capote had such an inglorious end.

writtenwyrdd said...

What's to apologize for? You have the sound of someone with an ancient library (not you, the library) filled with parchment and leather and fading oak gall ink tomes. Or, just a good bunch of obscure books.

Thanks for the info. I can't browse old book stores like I used to, since I live in the middle of freaking nowhere these days.

Bernita said...

'Tis so, Archer!

Ric, you're psychic!
Deciding to get my rear in gear, was surfing through the Agent Query website just now and speculating about the various agents listed.Things like "hmmm, no sales since Jan '06, hmmm. Hmmm...that agent's been at 3 previous agencies.Why? Hmmm..."

Closer to the truth than you know, Written.Do have a number of books like that.

writtenwyrdd said...

Drooling...slobbering...coveting...My inner Golem is looking at you with gleaming, evil eyes...

Muse said...

Hmmm. Methinks that picture looks like a certain very famous Canadian writer who uses the anagram O.W.Toad. Also like the original pics of Laura Secord or chocolate fame. Come to think of it, she also looks a bit like Susannah Moodie. How's that for Canadian 'hagiography'? Heh.

Bernita said...

Hmmm, maybe I'd better write out that medieval book curse and put a copy in each book....

You may have pegged it, Muse - though I admire the writing.

Gabriele C. said...

I seldom follow internet trainwrecks and bitchfights these days (I've an internet connection since 1993, so I've probably just grown tired of childish behaviour online). I have books to write, and my characters use swords. Lots more fun a better results. :)

Bernita said...

I am not so seasoned, Gabriele, being less than 1 and 1/2 in blogging years.
I find the issues - even the bitchfights - instructive.

Amie Stuart said...

GIves the saying, "the enemy of my friend is my enemy," a whole new meaning

Amie Stuart said...

Whoops! That should have been "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

M.E Ellis said...

That pic is brilliant! Didn't know Wales had a hag either. I really must take some time out to research some things. I'm sadly lacking in knowledge.


Bernita said...

It does, Amie.

Wales is particularly rich in folk lore, Michelle.
You'd enjoy the plot bunnies.

PBW said...

The dynamics of group hostility and approval can be fascinating. Caligula recognized the power of the mob and nearly bankrupted the empire charming them. I think he would have lasted longer on the throne if he had remembered to keep them entertained.

The more I encounter group-think in the publishing blogosphere, the more I am reminded of the self-esteem feeding machine the internet has become. As recent as twenty years ago, people had little to zero access to any authors, editors and agents, and the disgruntled had to be content with sending their hate letters through the postal service. The recipient's reaction to the ranting, if there even was one, could only be imagined in the mind of the sender. Not very gratifying for the ego, I imagine.

Now there's practically no effort involved in trashing and threatening industry pros, running smear campaigns and organizing blogmobs to spread the hate. All done while the disgruntled soul remains entirely anonymous and completely safe in the comfort of their own home while the industry pro takes the hits. Much more satisfying, I imagine, and saves all that postage, too.

I do love good satire and parody, the way it used to be written in the days of O. Henry, when it made you laugh and taught you something at the same time. The rest of it still makes me feel like Betty Crocker in the court of Caligula. :)

Bernita said...

Being a Miranda of sorts in this "brave new world", PBW, "fascinating" is exactly how I find it.
Sometimes feel I've wandered into an alternative universe or into an urban fantasy as it were, with trolls and Faceless Ones and all manner of group-groping creatures.
I have been grateful for your archives more than once.