Somewhere around thirty years ago, I met Bruce Bethke for the first time – when I responded to an ad in a newspaper for a science fiction writers group seeking new members. I called, then sent in an “audition story” and was invited to join the group at the ORIGINAL, original Loft Literary Center (before grant money started flowing) in Minneapolis. One of THEM reviews books now, the other published a few books and short stories but no longer writes. Bruce doesn’t write much lately except for non-fiction; he is currently executive editor of STUPEFYING STORIES, an irregular anthology of new speculative fiction, he mostly works for a super computer company as well as presiding over Rampant Loon Press. These nuggets of wisdom can be found here: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/a-12-step-program-for-writers/. They are used with the author’s permission.
8. We have made a list of all the persons we have harmed, in fear that one of them may someday become the new editor at Bantam.
I was reminded recently during a conversation, that Things Change and that Influence Is The Most Important Thing Of All. This current conversation fully supports the Writing Advice Bruce gave in 2009 (most likely earlier, but that’s the earliest date I can confirm.)
Bruce himself is proof of this advisory gem. When I met him, our writer’s group passed stories back and forth for comment. I have in my possession once such story that bore the title, “Junior League Body Baggers”. It may have morphed into something else (possibly “The Expendables”, “Elimination Round”, or “First Full-Contact”), but at THAT time, it was...interesting and in need of polishing before it was ready to be delivered.
Today, that same writer has become the executive editor of STUPEFYING STORIES (SOON-TO-BE-A-MONTHLY-MAGAZINE!). What if I had said something to him all those years ago, something negative about his writing style? Worse, what if I had set out to humiliate him in the writer’s group? What if I had spread rumors, even if I was just as unpublished as he was and what if those rumors had returned to him and he occupied the position he does today?
His editorial eye might be unable to look on my work without a touch of prejudice, no matter the purity of his sterling character.
I had the pleasure of meeting in person, Canadian SF (and sometime fantasy) writer, Julie Czerneda (http://www.czerneda.com/). In every situation I observed her, she was positive. She was kind with me as, while she signed a copy of my favorite novel, I described my work-in-progress. After she finished the message with a flourished signature, she said, “You should send it to me when it’s ready.” As far as I’ve observed, she is unfailingly kind on Facebook, never posting anything but the weather, her life experiences, various and sundry story and conference updates. She also regularly ends her posts with “::lovemylife::”. While I don’t know Julie Czerneda personally, after meeting her briefly and sitting with her on a few panels, I cannot imagine her saying a negative, humiliating or gossipy thing. I have no doubt that this has been her way of life. I’m sure there’s no one who holds anything against her.
Therefore, I write this: NOTE TO SELF – Don’t judge anyone, ever. You can critique, NEVER criticize! (Definitions: “criticism = expression of disapproval…based on perceived faults or mistakes; analysis and judgment”; “critique = detailed analysis and assessment of something; evaluation in an...analytical way”; the first involves disapproval, perception and judgment, the second analysis, assessment and evaluation. They are similar BUT NOT THE SAME! Therein lies the Writing Advice.)