Culture is Downstream of Criticism
September 21, 2016
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As far as I can tell, critics are pretty well anathema to the average author.
That’s not my experience, though:
Seriously, Jeffro just opened my eyes to a core theme of the Soul Cycle that I’d missed for years. To paraphrase Adrian Veidt, only the very best reviewers can accomplish that! — Brian Neimeier
Rarely, very rarely, in the life of a writer, does he come across a book review by a critic who actually “gets” the point of the book he wrote. — John C. Wright
Keep in mind, I am a complete amateur. I have no formal training in what I do. I just read books and then write about what ever struck me about them.
And I get feed back like that. When practically everywhere else, literary critics are reviled.
Well I think it’s pretty obvious what’s happened. Even a modest survey of they past hundred years of science fiction and fantasy will flush it out. Literary criticism was corrupted. It was then used as a weapon to fairly well destroy an entire field. I’m not exaggerating. The two most influential authors of the twentieth century after J. R. R. Tolkien and Edgar Rice Burroughs…? That would be H. P. Lovecraft and Joanna Russ. The former used literary criticism to push the state of the art of science fiction and fantasy forward. The latter used literary criticism to decimate it.
I think people sense this even if they can’t quite articulate it. Certainly, people that love classic science fiction and fantasy hold critics in contempt. I don’t blame them. But I think badmouthing critics wholesale is short-sighted– and not just because I am one. See, not only is politics downstream of culture, but culture is downstream of criticism. The fact the authors routinely denounce critics is a sign not only that literary criticism has been perverted to the point where it no longer serves its intended purpose; it is a sign that we have ceded valuable ground to an enemy that is very efficient in using it against us.
I think it’s time to take it back.