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Why Does Rob Keep Criticizing?

Rob at work A response to Why Does Rob Keep Criticizing?:

Since writer Russell Bates is unclear on why I criticize works with Native themes, I sent him the following excerpt from Variety:

Subj: Myths about critics

Critics on Criticism:  Television

[I]t's time to bury some erroneous folklore about critics.

1) People think we enjoy bad reviews more. Negative pieces can be a lot of fun to write, but nobody likes sitting through dreck to get there, so you always hope whatever you're seeing is good.

2) Variety critics are especially vulnerable to industry pressure. We hear this occasionally, and it's bull. Most people understand that critics bite the hands that feed their publications. Tough but fair is the goal, as it should be for any critic.

3) All critics are frustrated (fill in the blank). Sorry to disillusion you, but I have zero desire to write TV shows or movies — a character failing that I attribute to being allergic to large quantities of money.

The debate begins (11/20/07)....
The following debate ensued:

>> Stuff and nonsense, sir. 'Critics' are self-appointed. <<

Some are self-appointed. Many are appointed by the organizations they work for—e.g., newspapers and magazines.

>> 'Critics' are NOT open-minded, fair, or ever apolitical. <<

Thank you for your worthless opinion. I don't need to ask to know that you can't and won't justify this worthless opinion.

>> As writerfella interates, 'critics' may not know art, but they know what they DON'T like. <<

Well, you've proven your ignorance of criticism before. In general, critics know what they like and dislike.

If you've missed all the Native-themed works I've praised—e.g., COMANCHE MOON, DARKNESS CALLS, Animal Dreams, Pastwatch, The Business of Fancydancing, Imprint—you must be blind. Which would explain why you never use Google or a dictionary to avoid making a mistake.

Meanwhile, I don't see you posting reviews of anything. So you may know what you like or don't like, but you apparently don't know art.

>> Prejudice means to pre-judge; they may watch films or TV episodes or plays, or some even go to the trouble of reading books, but they still enter those fields fully armed with opinions made BEFORE such attendance. <<

What makes you think I thought Bury My Heart (to give one example) would have the problems it did before I viewed it? This is another ignorant, unsubstantiated, and worthless opinion.

>> Some even avoid attending the media objects they elect to criticize and STILL issue their opining as though they had attended. Usually, they read the reviews made by others and then issue their own reviews based on those of others. <<

That's nice. Unlike these unnamed others, I aggregate and summarize the reviews accurately. I reiterate that the consensus review is the consensus review, not my review.

In addition, I usually report on things I've read and seen, not things I haven't read or seen. So your use of "usually" is as wrong as the rest of your screed.

>> Lastly, 'critics' lead themselves to believe that their opinions somehow have the reverse effect of putting pressure on the media and of determining either the success or failure of the objects under their scrutiny, when the actual arbiters are the various segments of the public who do attend the offerings. <<

Needless to say, you're ignorant of the effects of criticism on the "buying" public. Critics routinely shut down bad Broadway plays and often have an effect on a movie's attendance. That was especially true in the past when movie studios relied on critical reviews to attract audiences.

More to the point, critics elevate the art in general. Citizen Kane isn't admired because it was a blockbuster hit; it's admired because critics admired it. It's held up as a standard of excellence because critics recognized its artistic achievements.


The debate continues (12/18/07)....
>> What you truly are saying is that CRITICISM is the art and that by being a critic, you are elevating criticism. <<

Criticism is an art, yes. Most forms of writing have an art about them and criticism is no exception.

>> But criticism CANNOT elevate the art it purports to be critiquing simply because the art is finished and done when it is critiqued. <<

Criticism elevates the art, which the dictionary defines as

art /?rt/

1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

That means the collective art, of which a movie or book is a particular example. No one is saying it elevates the art of an already completed movie or book. Duh.

I trust you read my critiques of Kid Nation and the USS Mesa Verde. Do you seriously think I was trying to change those particular things? If so, wrong. I was trying to educate and enlighten people about the issues behind those things. So that next time such a situation arises, it may unfold differently.

I'm betting I'm the only person who thought about the Indian issues re Kid Nation and the USS Mesa Verde. I'm betting anyone who read these critiques learned something they didn't think of themselves. Unless I'm sadly mistaken, the critiques achieved their purpose: to shed light on the objects of the critiques.

>> Fortunately, criticism totally is ephemeral, wrap for the fishes, as they say... <<

Yeah, that's why we've forgotten such famous critics as Mark Twain, George Orwell, and HL Mencken.

In reality, scholars still study Jewish critiques of the Torah and Christian critiques of the Bible. They still study Christian, Roman, and Greek critiques of philosophers, poets, and orators. I'm not sure what the first criticism was, but it's undoubtedly several thousand years old. I'm sure it'll be part of the Western canon long after your stories crumble into dust.

Below is a list of science fiction critics. Note that many of them are also science fiction writers. That doesn't surprise me, though it may surprise you. You don't seem to understand there's no firm line between different genres of writing, including criticism.

Science fiction critics

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