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Just four words. Our legacy. Our epitaph.
October 7, 2007 3:31 AM   Subscribe

"Humanity will wither and die. It’s inevitable now..." It's a work of fiction, or so one would hope. I humbly submit for your perusal if not approval, Humanity’s Final Message to Those Who Would Come After by Jeff Harrell. "It’s not hard to understand why. The big picture is scary. The big picture is that we’re all dying. Every last one of us."

He's written other stuff too, but this one got my attention. Try reading it with your favorite celebrity voice in mind. I used Morgan Freeman. Christopher Walken would probably work as well. Maybe Judi Dench. Jeff Harrell's website has been mentioned in MeFi twice before that I could find, on August 6, 2007 and April 27, 2006, but not his fiction and not this work. Looking forward to hearing what others think of this. Also, if you've seen brief fiction recently on the web, please share the link.
posted by ZachsMind (99 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whoa, somebody forgot his Lexapro....
posted by pax digita at 3:41 AM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's okay, but it's still a less-funny rip-off of Douglas Adams' "We apologize for the inconvenience."

I thought Y2K was going to end our civilization. I now think that peak oil and global warming are going to end our civilization in the next century..... but even i found this to be a little.... wanky.
posted by ELF Radio at 3:49 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pax, you read it thinking Eeyore didn't you?
posted by ZachsMind at 3:51 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a rubbish story, badly written, badly thought out
posted by A189Nut at 3:53 AM on October 7, 2007


I really enjoyed this. Maybe because I always assumed that if things don't end for us in the bang of an asteroid, there wouldn't be something you could point to. It would all just spiral out of control.
posted by Roman Graves at 3:53 AM on October 7, 2007


Call me a Pollyanna, but I'm still holding out hope that salvation is to be found off-world. Start with a moon base and spread out from there.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:53 AM on October 7, 2007


Hm. But if we could survive on a moon base, we could just build the same type of base on earth. couldn't we?
posted by winston at 4:01 AM on October 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Dude, I'm having troubling finishing the FPP on this.
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:11 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


The big picture is that we’re all dying.

Must... hold... back.. the.. snark..... The future of mankind depends upon it...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:34 AM on October 7, 2007


That sucked.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:36 AM on October 7, 2007


but I'm still holding out hope that salvation is to be found off-world.

I used to think that we would go to the stars, but have come to realize greedy wankers holding back innovation (in order to wring the last gasping cent out of obsolete technolgy) will doom us in the end.

We coulda been a contender...
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:13 AM on October 7, 2007


That was terrible, overwrought, whiny wankery. If humanity ever does end we'll need to make a concentrated effort to locate and destroy all the petty, sentimental idiots who might produce such drivel. Maybe we could hold a contest and drown everybody who enters.
posted by nixerman at 5:14 AM on October 7, 2007 [6 favorites]


Nice piece. I enjoyed it. Thanks for the post.
posted by RenMan at 5:26 AM on October 7, 2007


what is the mechanism by which humanity is being destroyed? - the story fails the believability test because it never specifies that

"10 years ago" they had a million people who could build artificial mountains and now they only have 76,000 schoolkids, yet many of the world's men are being killed in border wars and civil wars

that doesn't add up - especially when you consider that population pressures and lack of resources often cause wars
posted by pyramid termite at 5:37 AM on October 7, 2007


If anyone here considers this good writing or even original thought, please click here or here or even here.

Writing like this is what makes creative-writing instructors depressed and self-absorbed people think that they are good writers. Not worth analyzing, but there's one point that I can't resist mentioning.

The greatest writers rarely find opportunities to make a

Profound Statement

as its own paragraph, separated from its neighbors for emphasis. It is the written equivalent of staring into the eyes of someone with whom you are conversing and speaking in hushed tones.

I counted three instances in this story before I remembered that I had better things to do.
posted by nímwunnan at 5:37 AM on October 7, 2007 [32 favorites]


Our epitaph: We had no imagination.
posted by brautigan at 5:47 AM on October 7, 2007


I like End-Of-Civilization-porn more than anyone I know, but that was pretty lame.

It wasn’t global warming. It wasn’t pollution. It wasn’t genetically modified foods, or cell phones, or microwave ovens. It wasn’t personal computers or the automobile.

"It was a COMBINATION of all these things that I'm vaguely scared of without specifying why."
posted by Greg Nog at 5:53 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I'm just in an uncharitable mood, but kee-rist that was tiresome. Pieces that wallow in the easy comfort of final certainties are already unbearable, be they of armaggedon or paradise. The strained gravitas only makes it worse.
posted by PsychoKick at 5:54 AM on October 7, 2007


I realize that this is a work of fiction - and thus has emerged from the mind-pool of dreamy possibilities, dripping with gossamer tendrils of "maybes", but from the concrete world of fact I can report this criticism: the author is an idiot.

Not that humanity isn't slowly withering away, of course - everyone knows that. I mean, Ray Romano won three Emmys during his ten years as star and executive producer of the CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. What more proof do you need of homo sapiens' demise?

The point is, "Humankind's Ultimate Graffiti Project" was privatized by the powers-that-be years ago – and all the major consortia have put in their applications. I got a job working on the tender committee, and we've recently narrowed the contenders down to two. Humanity’s Final Message to Those Who Would Come After is either going to be "Just Do It!", or: "Ah, Bisto!"
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:16 AM on October 7, 2007


He must be LOADS of fun at parties.

Ugh. This was very badly written. It reads like a treatment for a cheesy, depressing Twilight Zone episode -- right before that show was cancelled.

Again.

Tonight we travel with Mr. Jeff Harrell. Is he a Prophet? A Visionary? Paranoid Delusionist? Or just another author who's caught a life-altering glimpse into....

The Twilight Zone.

posted by zarq at 6:31 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


We could have seen it coming a hundred years ago if we’d only paid attention. But we were ignorant, arrogant, foolish.

We were fools.


People actually kept reading after this stunning opening? 1984 this ain't.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:43 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was shockingly bad...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:46 AM on October 7, 2007


Brave New Turd?
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:12 AM on October 7, 2007


Ironically, by the time the jellyfish had become sentient and dug up enough issues of Hello! to learn English, the "DON'T"s had worn away, so we mostly just came off as a bunch of self-satisfied dicks.
posted by No-sword at 7:16 AM on October 7, 2007 [9 favorites]


DON’T BE LIKE US.

We hear you loud and clear, Terrible Writers.
posted by clockzero at 7:22 AM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


I read it in the voice of Weird Al Yankovic.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:24 AM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


It reminded me of nothing more than the overwrought explanation exposition at the end of Chrono Cross, only more riddled with cliches and meaningless wankery.

Rock on.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:24 AM on October 7, 2007


High school creative writing class grade: C-
posted by justina at 7:26 AM on October 7, 2007


Grading on a curve, are we ?
posted by y2karl at 7:42 AM on October 7, 2007


Its always been inevitable. We will either evolve out of this state into another, or eventually become extinct. Regardless, when either the universe contracts or suffers an entropic end through energy death, our descendants are going to be extincted.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:55 AM on October 7, 2007


Oh shit! Chrono Cross! I haven't thought about those games in years!

STORY DISCUSSION OVER, THREAD IS NOW ABOUT CHRONO TRIGGER

I LIKE THE FROG KNIGHT THE BEST
posted by Greg Nog at 8:12 AM on October 7, 2007


Two. Thumbs. Up.

Seriously, though. Prion deficiencies are no laughing matter. If it takes stories like this to make the public aware that not all Americans have adequate enough prions then I'm all for it.
posted by sourwookie at 8:12 AM on October 7, 2007


Children of Meh
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:34 AM on October 7, 2007 [15 favorites]


ZachsMind, did you post this as a winking parody of the blue at its worst or did you have so many Saturday night bonghits that you thought this was actually a work of quality? Because it's okay if you did. We all think the dumbest shit is profound when we're high. Hell, the Grateful Dead made a fortune off that simple truth.
posted by bunnytricks at 8:52 AM on October 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


Yeah that was lame.
posted by delmoi at 8:56 AM on October 7, 2007


"It was a COMBINATION of all these things that I'm vaguely scared of without specifying why."

Yeah, didn't you read it? There's
The data fills a warehouse in ... Reston, Virginia. I’ve seen it. Rows upon rows of shelves soaring thirty feet high, packed ... three-ring binders,... data discs, every medium of information ... A ... comprehensive ... record of all the things ... killing us.
See, it's all there, in those stacks and stacks of documents. Explanation by reference. Makes sense.
posted by delmoi at 9:02 AM on October 7, 2007


(err, sorry it's still early in the morning. 'makes sense' in the above comment should have been something a lot snarkier. Something obliquely referencing the authors laziness and lack of imagination)
posted by delmoi at 9:03 AM on October 7, 2007


Ouch, this is a harsh thread. And according to his Aug. 6 entry, this guy has borderline personality disorder.

I have a deep-seated fear of abandonment. I often feel betrayed for no reason. I believe that I am a worthless human being, and consequently doubt that anyone could actually desire my company/love me/enjoy talking to me at a party, et cetera.

and so on.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 9:08 AM on October 7, 2007


It wasn't THAT bad.

It was short, at least.
posted by empath at 9:20 AM on October 7, 2007


I dunno, man. It was pretty fucking bad.
posted by thinman at 9:29 AM on October 7, 2007


The radio said "No, John. you are the demons."
And then John was a zombie.

posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:31 AM on October 7, 2007 [18 favorites]


Yes, the reaction in this thread is harsh, but I don't think it's the writer's fault.

It's the fault of the poster.

I didn't think that miscellaneous ramblings on some guy's blog were ever considered the best of the web. No matter whose blog it is, it would get trashed here.

And that applies to every blog.

Everyone's.
posted by jayder at 9:41 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


and after another ten million years, here's what was left:

do be lik s

i'll have you know that if humanity is ever threatened with extinction, i would consider it my heroic duty to repopulate the human race with playboy's women of the ivy league.
posted by bruce at 9:58 AM on October 7, 2007


I know it was an Oprah book of the month so that's probably a point against it, but McCarthy's The Road is some quality end of times writing. It was completely depressing at all times, even when something went right for the protagonist and his son.

What I really loved about it was that it doesn't dwell at all on WHY the end of the world happened. It just tells the story of two desperate people trying to survive.

This wasn't all bad. Jeff Harrell is pretty depressed it seems. He writes better when the subject matter is depression and suicide:

Article on Suzanne Gonzales

If writing keeps this man from killing himself, than I for one encourage his writing.
posted by strontiumdog at 9:59 AM on October 7, 2007


@Uther Bentrazor

I can't breathe!!! LOL

Thank you
posted by strontiumdog at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2007


It reads like a treatment for a cheesy, depressing Twilight Zone episode -- right before that show was canceled.

Speaking of which, if anybody tries to make you watch The Man From Earth in the coming months punch them as hard as you can in the face and run away. You'll thank me later.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:11 AM on October 7, 2007


Metafilter: It really is possible to be so bad you're good.
posted by strontiumdog at 10:16 AM on October 7, 2007


It's very junior "I have to write a story for comp 1, it's due tuesday" high
posted by Tablecrumbs at 10:16 AM on October 7, 2007


One doesn't look to SF for literary greatness. The story broaches the idea that "all of the above" leading to a shrinking age of mortality could cause the collapse of civilization. I don't know if this is an utterly novel SF premise, but it is an interesting twist on the Utopian problem of decreasing mortality, or an extrapolation of current events such as the shrinking average age in Africa and Eastern Europe as a result of AIDS, war, and other causes. And the epitaph was great.
posted by AppleSeed at 10:26 AM on October 7, 2007


...Our legacy. Our message to whomever or whatever should return to this place after the last fire has gone out.

Our epitaph.


DRINK MORE OVALTINE
posted by PlusDistance at 10:36 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


On Tuesday morning last I passed a fat kid with a hockey stick shooting a tennis ball at a garage door.

He could hardly get the ball off the ground. I told him he'd never make it and the noise of the ball hitting the door was probably bothering the neighbours.

He ran home crying to spend the rest of the week sitting in his room playing Halo 3 on his Xbox 360.

Favourite me.
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:42 AM on October 7, 2007


Meh. I liked it. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 10:54 AM on October 7, 2007


Appleseed: One doesn't look to SF for literary greatness.

I've read a ton of SF novels that were complex, fascinating and innovative. Try reading the works of Kim Stanley Robinson, Dan Simmons, David Brin, Alastair Reynolds and many others. "Classic" authors who defined the SF genre, such as Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, James Blish or Douglas Adams turned out work that was vastly superior -- much of it addressing similar themes.

This story relies on tired cliches and poor writing techniques. To make matters worse, the big reveal "epitaph" isn't terribly creative or revelatory. But its worst offense is to bludgeon the reader with its message.
posted by zarq at 10:57 AM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


The closest comparison I can think of is to "Shall the Dust Praise Thee?" by Damon Knight, which shows that it is possible to do this sort of thing well. But this here story? Nuh-uh. All kinds of bad, including the "there isn't actually a story here" kind.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:11 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]



I've read a ton of SF novels that were complex, fascinating and innovative. Try reading the works of Kim Stanley Robinson, Dan Simmons, David Brin, Alastair Reynolds and many others. "Classic" authors who defined the SF genre, such as Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, James Blish or Douglas Adams turned out work that was vastly superior -- much of it addressing similar themes.
Yes. Thank you. And add Robert Charles Wilson to the list, Spin really is great literature in my book.

(And seconded what jayder said above)
posted by kolophon at 11:11 AM on October 7, 2007


Oh my god, I cannot believe that ending.

I read a book about people dying last year called The Road Home by Jim Harrison. In that book, even as the protagonist gets closer to death, other people go on living. How much more terrifying and mind-blowing is that?
posted by salvia at 11:13 AM on October 7, 2007


And according to his Aug. 6 entry, this guy has borderline personality disorder.

That's a shame. I'm sorry the guy suffers so much.

But the story is still quite bad. There's just no getting around that.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:23 AM on October 7, 2007


Christ on a rusty pogo stick! WTF. I spent precious minutes of my Sunday morning reading that?

"We thought this. And then we thought that. And we realized that things are super, like, bad and shit. So we carved on a mountain something only mildly ironic in giant letters.

Dum. Dum. Daaaaaaaaah."

That was fucking awful. No style. No prose of any sort. And WORSE: No imagination.

Zachsmind your are now on double secret probation.
posted by tkchrist at 11:30 AM on October 7, 2007


Hopefully the badness of this writing will help stave off the death of humankind!
posted by washburn at 11:37 AM on October 7, 2007


Asimov's take on not quite the same theme.
posted by thecaddy at 11:41 AM on October 7, 2007


Whaaaaaat? So it's a mediocre story?

The poor guy is now getting abandoned by the majority of Mefites who read it. Dude is gonna have a super bad week... it only took five minutes from me.

(But seriously, Zach, that was some ponderous shit.)
posted by From Bklyn at 11:50 AM on October 7, 2007


I think it works better as a poem. If you take just the Profound Statements, you get:

We were fools.
It was all of those things, and more.
But eventually even the priests had to admit defeat.
And it's falling fast.
We started to consider our legacy.
It didn't work at all.
They were all thinking too small.
Making the mountains was slightly harder.
So we built them.
We had our canvases.
But at last the job was done.
So we settled here.
That was ten years ago.
Or something else entirely.
I cannot remember.
I, like the rest of us, sit quietly and wait for the end.
Our epitaph.
posted by bigbigdog at 11:54 AM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Quicker, anyway.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:58 AM on October 7, 2007


Wow...did I miss something? The fact that in the last century the average age of death has jumped at least 25 years and recently was upgraded,, leaves this story hurting real bad.
I'm not really sure I'm going to die yet anyway....so my thoughts...it's a bad read.
posted by slowpoke at 11:59 AM on October 7, 2007


Metafilter: We could have seen it coming a hundred years ago if we’d only paid attention. But we were ignorant, arrogant, foolish.

We were fools.

Today every metafilter newbie — all ninety-seven thousand of them, sitewide — knows the story. Or at least parts of it. If you took a poll of random people on metatalk, and believe me we have, you’ll find a plethora of partially correct answers, answers that get a piece of the story exactly right but that miss the big picture.

It’s not hard to understand why. The big picture is scary.

The big picture is that metafilter is dying. Every last one of us.

It wasn’t flame wars. It wasn’t spam....

-----

oh someone else do the rest of it, i don't have the heart....
posted by empath at 12:07 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


The poor guy is now getting abandoned by the majority of Mefites who read it.

you make it sound like he's been left on the steps of an orphanage
posted by pyramid termite at 12:12 PM on October 7, 2007


Just four words. Our legacy. Our message to whomever or whatever should return to this place after the last fire has gone out.

Our epitaph.

WAIT TIL NEXT YEAR
posted by pyramid termite at 12:15 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


For the heartless doomsayer, this story is easily understood I guess, but to the rest of us, we need a mechanism for death, not just that all things are bad....
I prefer that "all things are good, but a few, and we will work on those...as soon as the present idiot in office retires."
posted by slowpoke at 12:15 PM on October 7, 2007


empath, I can't do the middle, but I know it ends with
Metafilter: Don't Be Like Us

You knew that was coming somewhere in the thread, didn't you?
I, like the rest of us, sit quietly and wait for the end.

posted by salvia at 12:27 PM on October 7, 2007


It was definitely a meh story, but think about its core: "Don't Be Like Us" without any context is the most meaningless phrase you could come up with.

Imagine finding that message in a language you could comprehend (a huge stretch) from a civilization whose only remaining artifact was those four words. You'd scratch your head, turn to your companion, and say "what a bunch of self-important wankers."
posted by maxwelton at 12:32 PM on October 7, 2007


Just four words. Our legacy. Our message to whomever or whatever should return to this place after the last fire has gone out.

Our epitaph.


YOU'VE BEEN RICK ROLL'D

(well, it feels like the literary equivalent.)
posted by bunnytricks at 12:42 PM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


That was terrible, overwrought, whiny wankery.

Even worse, it was predictable. I'd guessed what the final message was as soon as the word count was given.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 12:49 PM on October 7, 2007


'ten pounds'.....so you forced your way to the end like I did...
I would liked to have read that the earth sank into a 10,000 year cold spell and all man's attempts to destroy it failed. And this epitaph would be anonymously crossed out in a few years.

That way the meaning would be there but the ending would be a bit more interesting..maybe...
posted by slowpoke at 1:07 PM on October 7, 2007


Narrator: You're entering the vicinity of an area adjacent to a location. The kind of place where there might be a monster or some kind of weird mirror. These are just examples. It could also be something much better. Prepare to enter... THE SCARY DOOR.

Narrator: As per your request, please find enclosed the last man on earth.

[The man goes into the public library.]

Man: Finally ... solitude. I can read books for all eternity.
[His glasses slip, fall down and break.]
It's not fair! It's not fair! [Calmly] Wait. My eyes aren't that bad. I can still read the large-print books.
[His eyes fall out]
A-a-ah! It's not fair! [Calmly] Well, lucky I know how to read Braille.
[His hands fall off]
A-a-ah!
[His tongue falls off. Then his head]
Hey, look at that weird mirror.

Bender: Cursed by his own hubris.
posted by Krrrlson at 1:17 PM on October 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


TKChrist: "Zachsmind your are now on double secret probation."

Dude! I already was on double secret probation.

I peeked.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:28 PM on October 7, 2007


In two decades, the average human lifespan will be fifteen years.

Well, no news there. TV advertisers had that generation pegged soon after the small screen appeared in living rooms.

Remind me again: what generation are we in now?
posted by cenoxo at 1:38 PM on October 7, 2007


The last generation according to Arthur C. Clarke — The Nine Billion Names of God (1953).
posted by cenoxo at 1:59 PM on October 7, 2007


This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception.

That was excellent, nímwunnan.
posted by dreamsign at 2:06 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I laughed, I cried. But then again, I should have been a pair of ragged claws....
posted by fcummins at 2:07 PM on October 7, 2007


It appears that the blogosphere is the last refuge of the sci-fi writer who can't get published in any of the anthologies.
posted by smackfu at 3:03 PM on October 7, 2007


...Our legacy. Our message to whomever or whatever should return to this place after the last fire has gone out.

Our epitaph.


DON'T TAZE ME, BRO!
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:56 PM on October 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Throwing in my two cents.

Yes, it was totally awful. I searched the paragraphs desperately to find something interesting.

Secondly, I don't mind being harsh. Standards are what keeps art great. Just cause someone has an interesting idea doesn't mean it will be executed well. Alternatively a mediocre idea can be interesting with good style. Sadly, this had neither quality of concept nor style.

Kuujjuarapik: Children of Meh indeed.
posted by apfel at 5:23 PM on October 7, 2007



Well, yes, fine, but on the bright side, I got to read a story by Asimov, one by Clarke, and read Orwell on bad writing.
posted by bumpkin at 5:48 PM on October 7, 2007


Yeah, kinda read like Upton Sinclair or a 3rd season Star Trek. The end was disappointing and preachy, not revelatory.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:50 PM on October 7, 2007


I wanted to like it ...
posted by krinklyfig at 6:52 PM on October 7, 2007


When my younger brother was six years old, he wrote the following tale of mankind's nightmarish future. Hopefully, we'll learn its lesson before it's too late.

After the Earth blew up, people lived on the moon. One day, a man found a tomb. It said THE RULER OF THE MOON. The next day, the man was dead. Everyone was sad and scared.

The Ruler of the Moon was a BIRD!?!?


It's almost Lovecraftian.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:34 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's like he wanted to be John Brunner in The Sheep Look Up but lacked the maturity, vision, and writing ability.
posted by Justinian at 8:59 PM on October 7, 2007


Did some of you hate it so much you wrote emails to him? Jesus, I hope his queso is good.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 9:18 PM on October 7, 2007


October 7th will forever be known as Poopy Sunday.
posted by quadog at 10:12 PM on October 7, 2007


10/7 NEVER FORGET
posted by Justinian at 11:16 PM on October 7, 2007


I just read kingfisher's link and was struck by how some stuff should not be said in public. Stuff like: "If you hated one of my stories — one that, as I recall, I smashed out in about twenty minutes one morning on an utter whim..."

For all that story's short-comings, now I can also add the knowledge that the writer doesn't have the good sense to think twice about what he just wrote before asking people to read it... It's like just walking up to someone and starting to undress without really, you know, taking a minute to get to know each other.

I came away from this thinking, "christ, what an asshole."
posted by From Bklyn at 3:49 AM on October 8, 2007


If you like that, try reading Stark by Ben Elton. It's better.
posted by triv at 6:26 AM on October 8, 2007


I love the web design of his site, even though his writing kind of sucks.
posted by empath at 7:58 AM on October 8, 2007


"If you hated one of my stories — one that, as I recall, I smashed out in about twenty minutes one morning on an utter whim..."


"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." --Samuel Johnson.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:46 AM on October 8, 2007


don't you think it matters who you think you are? If you think you are a physical body, then yes, your body will die. If you think you are an eternal spirit, then you cannot die. You live forever. It's all a matter of perspective.
posted by LarryGDVD at 1:26 PM on October 8, 2007


Well, no, it's a matter of physical reality. One of those two groups is going to be sorely disappointed, or at least they would be if they still existed, which they won't.
posted by Justinian at 2:25 PM on October 8, 2007


You haters actually emailed him? Sheesh. I hope none of you mentioned me. He'll think it's my fault you all hate him. Weirdoes.

I'm not saying this is in regards to all of you in this thread, but some of you have a problem with me. If you have a problem with me take it up with me and I'll put your hate in file thirteen where it belongs. Don't take your hate for me out on some complete stranger. That's patently uncool. If you honestly hate him for his words, that's fine. Whatever. Just spew your bile in the appropriate direction please.

Sometimes a link taken out of context changes its intended meaning:

Jeff Harrell: "All I have to say about that is this: If you hated one of my stories — one that, as I recall, I smashed out in about twenty minutes one morning on an utter whim — enough to write me an e-mail to that effect, then hey, I guess that’s a sort of victory too. I mean, if I made you that mad, then great. At least you’re feeling something."

Andy Kaufmann and Lenny Bruce would no doubt agree with that accessment. You don't have to like it, but you do have to think about it.

So thanks guys for letting him know his work is being read. Even if you were (mostly) a bunch of pricks about it. As an aspiring writer myself, I know even bad criticism can be good criticism. Just depends on one's perspective.

Oh, and how much time it takes to pound out something has no validity on its quality. The inspriation for art is timeless. It can come in a nanosecond of inspiration, but had been percolating in your brain your entire life. Whether or not you do more than spellcheck it afterwards is immaterial. Unless you're Heinlein, but he was a fruitcake.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:37 PM on October 9, 2007


Oh, and ten times the thanks and appreciation to those of you who weren't pricks about all this. Whoever you are.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:39 PM on October 9, 2007


Inspiration is timeless. Hard work is not.

I agree that anyone taking time out to write the guy an email to tell him how much they hated his story (or the writing of his story) maybe wants to think about their reaction a little bit. I can't count myself in their number: I'm glad to have read the story, glad to have not liked it. Thus, glad you posted it. It pissed me off in specific ways.

His line about 'smashed out in about twenty minutes' struck me as defensive, and that I take exception to. If you're gonna bother to do it, have people read it, then put your best foot forward. If you don't know which foot is your best foot, take your best guess and then try and understand why you succeeded or failed. And then try again.

The fourth and fifth time you read things, you come across stuff that you had not thought about the first three times. I think this is important. It leads to more insightful writing, the refinement of ideas and the expression of them.

And it's what I fault him for. Not taking the effort.

As a not-quite-related aside, there was a great Zadie Smith essay posted somewhere in a previous thread that I really appreciated. If you didn't read it and you've got twenty minutes to kill, it's an interesting read.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:40 AM on October 10, 2007


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