Pratchett down one place, Rankin up. Sunday, Oct 28 2007 

I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s latest book, mostly because I can’t read a series of books without finishing it and unfortunately Terry Pratchett never stops. There are a lot of things I like about the Discworld novels, but there’s also this slightly arrogant, patronising undercurrent that puts me off. I just get the impression that Pratchett uses his books to look down on the world.

Take the qualities of eccentricity and irrationality, for example. Douglas Adams and Robert Rankin embrace those qualities and write from the perspective of people who are, just like their characers, flawed. David Tennant as Doctor Who spends a lot of his time infatuated with human foibles. He doesn’t look down on them, he admires them.

Terry Pratchett, on the other hand, seems to write from the perspective of someone who is entirely flawless himself, who sits smugly in a throne overlooking the absurdity of mankind, and who from this position is qualified to cast judgements. I’ve always found it hard to explain this impression I get, mostly because I think a lot of people can read exactly what I read and not see the same thing. It’s in the way the major characters are always superior to the minor characters who quite often seem to be entirely unaware of their faults.

On page 144 of Making Money, as a prime example, Moist doesn’t ‘understand’ the behaviour of the masses. They attend an event, and then want to read about it in the paper… why do they need to read about it in the paper if they were there? Moist is apparently so far above normal human mentality that he can no longer comprehend it. Am I the only one who sees the arrogance of the writer in this sort of ‘blindness’ of the protagonist? Especially since the ability to ‘not understand’ human behaviour always seems like an annoying affectation. I don’t see the point in watching sport, but if I pretended not to ‘understand’ the sport-watching mentality then I’d be fatally disingenuous.

I don’t know I’m the only one who sees this, though. Either way, I’ve promoted Robert Rankin to the status of my favourite living writer. He can write some dire unreadable crap and I haven’t dared to read any of his latest books, but I’m very fond of some of the older ones. Terry Pratchett never writes unreadable crap, but I can’t stand the patronising, superior attitude that comes across. ‘Unreliable quality of writing’ wins.


Quandary. Thursday, Jul 26 2007 

I’ve never quite come to a conclusion about whether it’s a good or a bad thing for a writer to include their own lives in their work; on the one hand it can be disruptive and disingenuous, on the other hand it can be charming and unexpected. Looking at my own work, some of my favourite touches are little observations or incidents from my own life that I’ve manipulated and turned into part of the story. They’re things my imagination would never have come up with on its own. I’m quite sure that if I took them out the whole story would be a lot more mechanical; on the other hand, are they supposed to be there at all? Maybe they just mean so much to me because I’m biased about them; maybe I should only write about stuff that I can see objectively.

The big risk I’m taking with the book I’m writing is that I don’t know whether readers will assume that I am the narrator. The set-up makes perfect sense to me; the narrating is narrating the book, ergo they’re the one writing it, ergo the narrator is a writer. Isn’t it perfectly logical to have a narrator who is also a writer? I always find it annoying when a narrator shows no literary tendencies. But then I think people will assume the narrator’s writing experiences are my own autobiographical experiences.

Writers’ Quotient. Wednesday, Jul 11 2007 

I’ve decided to branch out a little and write about things that are only tenuously related to the topic of literature. This is a rant I wrote in a forum somewhere, but I think it applies to great writers as well as great people:

I don’t pay much attention to IQ any more — I’ve met so many highly intelligent people who have made so many incredibly stupid decisions, or who have a habit of being deliberately stupid. Or who are just plain obnoxious or arrogant, and therefore will never contemplate the possibility that they are ‘wrong’ about something.

Just because someone can figure out what number comes next in a sequence doesn’t mean they’re able to comprehend the emotional complexity of a human being. They’ll hurt someone’s feelings and blame it on that person’s intellectual inability rather than their own emotional drawbacks.

The problem with Mensa is that they’re too arrogant to consider that their tests don’t actually measure the most valuable characteristics of human beings — they’re too busy being self-satisfied about their reasoning abilities that they don’t want to know that they aren’t actually the highest rung of the human ladder, that being able to empathise with another human being is equal to or more important than their own abilities.

Which makes them a bunch of deluded idiots — and idiots, as we all know, are not geniuses.

IQ needs to be measured alongside EQ to mean anything substantial. People with high IQs aren’t necessarily capable of the genuine self-sacrifice, empathy, patience, understanding, altruism and humility that are the REAL virtues of a great human being.

The reason those great people don’t devise their own form of MENSA is that they realise the sheer hubris of forming your own exclusive society.