Once in a generation, someone comes along who can made fun of you, totally skewer you, and make you enjoy it.
If you’re a writer, Nick Mamatas is that guy. In Starve Better, the former Clarkesworld editor’s new book out from Apex Book Company, he slams writers, both professional and otherwise, up one side and down the other. I laughed with him…at first confident in my ability to not be one of those writers, at least, not anymore.
And then he hit something I’d done two stories ago. Well, it was too late. I’d already laughed at all those other writers; I may as well laugh at myself now. I didn’t rush out, withdraw the story submission, and rewrite the damned thing, though. Those sins have already been committed.
I won’t get into the details; we’re having a book discussion (with Nick!) starting May 15. I mean, you can start early if you like, but no spoilers until then.
But let me say that the description of the book doesn’t do it justice: erm, another book about writing? Really? Ho-hum.
I was reading this in the bathtub (I like to read books naked), and my husband had to come in and check on me, because I was laughing so hard. Tip for the loving spouse: never find out what your significant other is laughing about when they’re reading, because they will insist upon reading things to you, like this:
The legendary Edward D. Hoch published hundreds of short mystery stories and had a story appear in every issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine for thirty-five years. His sentences had all the finesse of a cow’s moo mid-tip, but his Nick Velvet series and other stories worked very well.
Or this, from later in the same chapter:
Not only does that keep the shitty sentences from being examined until they fall apart (a nearly but not quite instantaneous event) but it takes the setting of the pace away from the reader and puts it back in the hands of the writer, or more accurately, the production staff. Again, this is just like a movie–don’t blink or you’ll miss something! We’re in control here, you just sit back and passively receive the images.
On second thought, maybe he didn’t mind too much.
As full of snark and insight as a book of Oscar Wilde quips, Starve Better lances the boils of precociousness and commercialism in one fell swoop.
P.S. Also see his excellent, funny blog post here on writer abuse. Every writer has abuse stories, from parents who don’t understand to horrified inadvertent readers who are convinced you’re going to hell…but not every writer gets called to the mat on NPR about it.