William McGonnagall

The Legion has it too easy. Scottish poet, William McGonnagall, had food thrown at him during public readings. He was heckled and harassed and chased off the stage.

The Legion only has to deal with words thrown at them. Although in the case of Dagstine, I would welcome a return to the old ways. He would look great with a couple of rotten tomatoes oozing down his face. Maybe some ten-day old rotted pasta dribbling off his chin?

All this over sensitivity on the part of writers who can’t write, or when they can only manage to achieve poor results, belongs with the entitlement generation. Spoiled brats who have no notion how lucky they are to be writing in the 21st century.

The audience has never treated failures kindly. Those who fail to entertain are summarily driven from the stage. It has been this way since the days of Homer; and probably longer than that.

It becomes tiresome when someone who refuses to improve their craft insists upon their intrinsic genius, and screams about conspiracies. While some historical conspiracies have existed, private conspiracies are rare. And a conspiracy of critics even rarer.

Messageboards are the equivalent of town squares. Blogs are the equivalent of broadsheets.

The broadsheets of the periods dating from the Reign of Elizabeth the 1st to the American Revolution, contain enough savagery and vitriol to make even Pacione look mild and harmless.

That is precursor to what we have today with the internet. The styles have changed a bit, but the nature and expression has changed little.

No doubt had Dagstine and I had this battle of words in the 17th century, swords would have been drawn and one or both of us would have died. Or go forward a bit and the flintlock pistols made dueling substantially more dangerous. Twenty paces, turn, and fire, gentlemen.

But the course of history brings changes. The spirit remains the same, but the expression of that spirit is altered by the rules placed upon society in an attempt to buckle a checkrein onto patterns of behavior.

While it is true that actions speak louder than words, today words are often the only weapon we have at our disposals in these drawn-word quarrels. As destructive as words can be, especially lies and false allegations, they are still not the swords and pistols of the past.

Yes, words can injure our feelings; however, they cannot wound our bodies.

So let’s go back to actions speak louder than words and take a look at what actions those might be in these days of drawn-word quarrels.

To viciously attack one’s critics is an empty gesture. Nothing is altered by it.

The only action that can alter matters is an effort to improve.

When H was a young would-be writer, he showed Harlan Ellison his novel. Harlen told him that he should learn to fry eggs because he would never achieve anything as a writer.

Instead of jumping all over Harlan, H went back and continued to improve his work.

Three years later, H’s publisher showed his book to Harlan. Harlan was so impressed that he took back those words about frying eggs in his introduction to H’s novel, Season of the Witch.

Had H resorted to the type of vitriol practiced by the Legion, that introduction would never have been written. Harlan would never have taken back his words and produced it.

The only thing that changed Harlan’s perception of H from that of a talentless wannabe to a talented newcomer was hard work.

As crazy as H was, he remained a brilliant writer and became an early collaborator with Larry Niven.

The legion would do well to find it in themselves to take the same route that H did with Harlan.