Thursday, May 21, 2009

Intellect action figure



I've been reading Characters & Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card, and finding a fair bit relevant. I don't know that I'll need to hang on to it and reread it, but it usefully puts into words a number of things I'd had wordlessly floating about in the back of the brain.
One section, though, left me depressed. In the chapter on What Should We Feel About the Character?, the section on Characters We Hate:
Intellect
This isn't true in every culture, but certainly the American audience resents any character who is smarter or better educated than other people. Robert Parker can only get away with having his detective, Spenser, quote poetry because he works so hard to establish Spenser as a tough guy. ... We're afraid of and resentful of people who know more than we do, and when they act as if they think it makes them superior to us, we hate them.


This may be true. Card knows his audience, I have little doubt of that. He's a popular (if/because manipulative) writer, and more successful than I'm ever likely to be.
But the assertion depresses the heck out of me in a few ways.
1) Like Doyle, I have 'the dangerous scholar' as my personal archetype. James Asher, from Hambly's vampire books. Peter Wimsey. Erudition to me is sexy, not threatening.
2) The hero should be 'like us' but in the chapter on The Hero and the Common Man, Card says 'Despite their seeming ordinariness, these heroes always turn out to be extraordinary, once we truly understand them.'

So, under a veneer of the ordinary, the hero is extraordinary. I'm not happy with this phrasing, because what I'm taking from this is:
1) the hero is not like us. He is special. He's just pretending to be like us.
2) he is already special, born special.
3) he does not achieve specialness through effort or sacrifice, though it may require effort or sacrifice to strip off the veneer. He already is a hero.
4) being born special is NOT elitist, even though ordinary people can't become special.
5) becoming educated IS elitist, even though ordinary people can become educated.
6) keep your place. Improving yourself is the path to evil.

So, yeah, as the child of working-class parents who worked damn hard to educate themselves and improve themselves, and who was taught that the riches you store in your head are the only kind you can rely on through any upheaval and disaster... I don't find I want to write for the demographic that hates and fears education, but admires unearned status.
I'll be over here, hanging out with the AV Club and the Intellect Ninjas.

In other writing news, my 33 e-queries have netted 18 form rejections, 7 no-answer-means-no, and 3 request for partials, one of which led to a request for a full on a 2-week exclusive. One week to go.
I'm not laying any heavy burden of hope on it, but it was nice to have someone say "I'm enjoying this. Can I have the full?"
Oh, and I sold a story to Mindflights, my second story-sale evaaah, and the first story I wrote with some vague intention of selling it (Spellcheck). I'll put a link up once the story actually sees pixels.

5 comments:

Iapetus999 said...

Hey I have that book in my Amazon.com cart. Do you recommend it overall?
Also congrats on the full.

batgirl said...

Thanks! Very much fingers crossed here.

Yes - it's a useful book for far more than its stated topic. Card's book on writing SF/F is also good.
The other book I found that really struck home was Frey's book on Writing a Damn Good Novel.

Lynn C said...

I don't mind you being smarter than I am, as long as you stay shorter!

Hugs from the Haller Lake Old Hippies' Hope

:L

Lynn C said...

tch!

HOME! Old Hippies' HOME.

:l

batgirl said...

I will always be shorter! And have shorter hair. There are some things that can be relied on.
I don't see why you can't be both the hope and the home of Old Hippies?