Mark A. Carter

SYCOPHANTS and arrogant diminishers

World famous Canadian Science Fiction writer Mark A. Carter rants about untalented sycophants, amateurish, ham-fisted diminishers, and disingenuous, intimidated, and small-minded people who discover that he is a novelist and behave rudely.

People react in two different ways when they discover that I write novels for a living. They either accept the news or reject it. What I like to hear is: "Where can I buy your books?" I tell them to go to my website at; which, of course, is where you are right now. I also tell them that my books are available at Amazon world wide. And they are happy with that. They are usually professionals in their fields and treat me like the professional I am in my own. I suppose it takes one to appreciate one. And, for the most part, they have been accepting, generous, and kind. Thanks. There are always exceptions, though. The first question of a noted surgeon in my area, after asking me what I did for a living, to which I replied, "I write novels," was to ask incredulously, "Do you make money at that?" So, I guess he should actually be included in the next category.

People who reject the notion of me as a novelist come in five flavors all of them abnormal. I could talk at length about their psychopathology, but that is another story. Instead, let me give you typical examples of their odd demeanors aimed at discrediting me, devaluing the craft, smothering me with sycophantic flattery, and otherwise just being out there in Cloudcuckooland, to coin a term from The Birds by Aristophanes.

The first rude thing that people say when they find out that I write novels for a living instead of doing something mundane like lifting front end struts in a car factory, which I have done, by the way, is utter the question: "Are you published?" It's a fantastic put down, isn't it? I don't ask them if they really do what they say they do. Of course, I'm not arrogant enough to say something that arrogant, diminishing, and judgmental. And I guess that certain surgeon's incredulous question goes here too. I hate to discuss money matters since it is essentially none of your business, but let me take a moment to explain, in simple terms, how my business works. I write. You buy. Publisher prints. I get paid a royalty for each "copy" that is printed. Notice I said "copy." It's the way the film and the music industry works too. You the consumer purchases, rents, or views a "copy" of the original work. Think about it. That could be a lot of copies in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and in translation, and there are a lot of languages. Plus, in addition to the royalties we already garner from every copy of every original work we create, if Hollywood wants to make a film based on one of my novels or stories, they pay handsomely for the rights. And so it goes. Yep, ah ha, moving on ...

The second rude thing that people do is ask, "What kind of books do you write?" It's a set up question by people who, for the most part, don't have a clue about literary genres, and I would guess struggle to speak the one language they have spoken all their lives: bad English. They exist in the amateurville ozone of the delusional critic whose disingenuous and insignificant criterion amounts to "I like it, I don't like it." My new banker asked me the aforementioned question and when I answered, "Science Fiction," she crinkled her nose in disdain, and said, "I don't like Science Fiction."

As if ...

"Everything is becoming Science Fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century." - J.G. Ballard

There was no point explaining to her that she is a century behind the times.

I should have said: smut. That little word would have intrigued, shocked, and titillated her. Most likely it would have shut her up while thoughts of sugar plums danced in her head. And I would have preferred her that way. Silentium est Aureum.

The third thing that bugs me is people who couldn't write their way out of a paper bag if their lives depended on it, who, when they find out I'm a novelist, have the arrogance to say, "Oh, I should write a novel too," as if writing novels is the easiest thing in the world, and anybody can do it. My disingenuous sister, who always has been as stupid as a stump, actually had the gall to say that to me back in the day. What planet are these people from? They assume my novels are all about me, so theirs would naturally be about them. And, of course, that's got to be easy. No. Writing a novel is not easy. It's complicated on several different levels, if done well. It requires education, orchestration, organization, and perseverance to name a few things. And oh, by the way, that story about yourself is autobiography not novel.

Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary defines the novel as:

A fictional prose narrative of considerable length, relating a series of events or circumstances in a self-consistent sequence incorporating some overall pattern or plot, and usually displaying the thoughts and sensations as well as the acts of the characters.

Most people are hard pressed to string three correct sentences together let alone to write one typed page or roughly 300 words. And they are literally dreaming about writing anything of novel length. By the way, Hephzibah of Heaven, my first romance, is 132,000 words long. Just so you know. So, knock yourself out. Don't merely talk about it. Talk is cheap. Do it. Write your novel. The following is a word count guideline to assist you:


  novel   40,000 words and up
  novella   17,500 to 40,000 words
  novelette   7,500 to 17,500 words
  short story   7,500 words or less

Agents and publishers have specific word count ranges and requirements beyond these general definitions. Always check the submissions page and write for the requirement.
The fourth thing that people say when they find out that I write novels is: "I have to read your books." They also say, "Oh, I have to go on your web site." And I just smile at them because I don't believe them. I'm not twisting their arm to read my books or to go on my web site where you are now. And true to form, most of them never read my books or go on my web site. I have had to read a lot of books in my time at university. Those books were actual required course reading. But I despised reading the stuff, went out of my way to read anything but those books, and never said, "I have to read those books." When people say it, I know they are being disingenuous. In other words, they are lying, and are too ignorant and stupid to realize how transparent they are. Plus, I can check to see whether they actually buy my books or not. Oops. Caught you.

  The Sol System, Kuiper Belt, and Oort Cloud

But the fifth thing that people utter, and the line that bugs me the most when they discover that I write novels, and surely assumes that I must read minds, is: "Would you have written anything I have read?" Now, if that isn't putting the cart before the horse, I don't know what is. Cause and effect are effect and cause in the mental microcosms of these ignorant and snotty people. How the Hell would I know what they have read, or whether they can even read? Reading, especially reading out loud, is a dying skill, as is common sense. The minds of these people are truly out there like Pluto and its cousins in the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud.

Stupidity is a big turn off no matter how physically beautiful and rich you are. So, do writers all over the world a favor and just shut up. Why should we respect you or any of the claptrap you have to utter when you don't respect us? Stick to your gossip, your cocktail parties, and the drivel of your bad English and technical nomenclature. You couldn't speak good English if your life depended on it. You definitely can't write it. And you have not earned the right to criticize it nor do you know how. Leave the creation of literature to the educated and the imaginative professionals. We are the only people willing to take the hard road, to peer beneath the delusion of reality, to bare our souls, and to shed blood and transform it into words.

Do what consumers do best. Consume. Buy a ticket or rent a DVD, sit back with your beverage and your popcorn, and enjoy the censored, homogenized and truncated two hour movie, based on the novel that took a writer several years to create. There's no need to think. Just enjoy the pretty pictures. Ooh ... aah. Cha.... ching.

Read: Tripping the Light Fantastic.

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - writer

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