So far, 2018 has been a year of misery and boredom for me. Almost from the beginning it was marked with personal issues that got in the way of my ability to do pretty much anything, as well as me finding that just about everything I used to like now has started to either bore or irritate me in varying degrees. It’s possible I just need something new… or to rediscover something long since vanished from my life.
It’s also been a time of retrospect. For some reason, this year I’ve been thinking about things I used to do and places I used to go a lot. I don’t mean places I went to as a kid, either–in fact, most of the time the “places” aren’t physical at all.
I mean stuff like forums I used to frequent and websites I used to visit, and people I used to talk to and, sometimes, get into fights with. All the colorful characters I’ve met online who, for better or worse, shaped my view of humanity.
And man… some of those people sure were pretty effing stupid.
Story 1 – The Incident of the Laurie R. King Sherlock Holmes Books
One thing I’m sometimes accused of is treating everyone like they’re an idiot, with how I have a tendency to explain or over-explain things as if I expect I’m the only person who knows or “gets it” with regards to certain subjects. To be honest, half the reason for that is that whenever I do the exact opposite–that is, whenever I respect a person’s intelligence and thus think simple statements will suffice–it always backfires and I wind up having to scramble to correct a misconception that I couldn’t even imagine happening.
Here’s an example: in one forum discussion about Sherlock Holmes, I had once made an off-hand remark about having read the Holmes pastiches of Laurie R. King, which I described in terms such as “read like a bad self-insert fanfic” and “stretching credibility” (the books starred a character named Mary Russell who had blatantly 1990s feminist beliefs, yet took place in the years where Holmes had retired to becoming a beekeeper) and “being, at best, a good way to induce sleep.”
Pretty sure some of those are exact quotes.
Now, would you read a passage containing those quotes and ever imagine that I was somehow praising these novels or declaring myself a fan? Because someone did! Suddenly I had this girl get on my case for “liking” the Laurie King books, and she ranted on at length about how blasphemous they were and how utterly shocking it was that a Holmes fan would like them and blah blah blah.
My exact response was “Umm, I didn’t like them. I hated them.”
Even after putting it so bluntly, she still followed up and asked, “So you’re not saying they’re good?”
Just… this woman claimed to be in college. She had to be lying about that.
That’s just one case though, where I said something I assumed would be obvious and yet somehow was taken as the complete opposite. And no, that wasn’t at TV Tropes, although it would fit in perfectly there.
Story 2 – The Eternal Recurrence of A Garfield Christmas
This particular case sticks out to me because it happened twice, with two completely different sets of people who had never met each other (as far as I know).
Anyone who has ever taken a writing class has heard that all stories are driven by conflict, and that you can’t have a story without conflict.
So some time ago, I was in a discussion about writing and someone pointed that out. But thing is, I always had a problem with that belief because, and this is exactly what I said: “I mean, just look at A Garfield Christmas. There’s no conflict in that story, and yet not only is it still a story, its considered a classic Christmas special.”
A Garfield Christmas is literally about nothing more than Jon, Garfield, and Odie going out to visit Jon’s parents for Christmas. There’s no major villain or anything, its just a family get together and what they do during their stay, with a lot of sweet moments and family bonding. It’s pretty much concentrated dawwws and feels.
The first time this discussion came up, a guy tried to prove me wrong, and kept prodding me about the nature of the story… and eventually it slipped out that he had somehow never seen A Garfield Christmas. Despite this, he was convinced I must be wrong and it must actually have some conflict. At least he agreed to watch it sometime.
The second time was on TV Tropes, and I swear the events played out almost exactly the same, with me stating my case and bringing up Garfield Christmas as evidence. In this case though, two Tropers tried to argue against me, again admitting they hadn’t actually seen the show… but they instead cited the Wikipedia article. Because, you know, Wikipedia is always accurate. And like Tropers tend to do, they acted like they were all-knowing authorities on the special and somehow knew more about it than I did, even though watching it is a yearly tradition for me and they had never seen it at all.
Seriously, the first guy I could forgive because that was in an age where DVD didn’t exist yet and you basically had to catch the special on TV to see it, but the two Tropers lived in a world that had Youtube, they could’ve looked it up and freaking watched it, instead they read a Wikipedia article.
Story 3 – Basically Why I Don’t Trust Beta-Readers Anymore
I actually had something similar to the Garfield Christmas play out again, but this time, it was far more personal, because it involved a work of my own authorship.
Awhile ago I was working on a series of stories (actually, still working on them) which prominently featured a character named Surprise, who is best described as “nice but a little off her rocker” and she happened to also be a martial artist. I had written three stories about her, meant to be read in sequence.
For the third chapter I tried an experiment: introducing a situation where Surprise was actually the antagonist, due to a misunderstanding and also the story being told from the perspective of a newcomer named Gilda.
Problem: I hadn’t known at the time that the names “Surprise” and “Gilda” belonged to My Little Pony characters. So, a lot of the pre-readers I got went in assuming they were MLP fanfics. That was bad enough, but…
Well, the really “special” case was this one guy who, upon seeing the name and basic premise of the third chapter, not only read only that chapter (admitting he hadn’t read the previous two and had only just heard of the series) but then, again by his own admission, skipped to the ending because he wanted to see if the Gilda character really got killed.
Spoiler: She didn’t. The story ended with the two figuring out the misunderstanding and… not quite getting along but not holding any grudges either.
Somehow, that didn’t satisfy this particular Troper (and yes, this was on TV Tropes). He was still somehow offended that Gilda “almost died,” and went on to post that the series was about “Surprise being an axe-murderer who goes around brutally murdering the villains of MLP” (even though nobody died in the story he actually read).
Now, I objected to this, because he was making assumptions that were, of course, blatantly untrue, and I pointed out that by his own admission he didn’t even read the whole story, just the ending… and even that didn’t support his contentions.
Now here’s where this character gets really special: he had the ever-loving gall to turn around and say that his reaction was my fault for “not making the story more clear.” Well yeah, most stories are unclear if you don’t actually read them. Imagine someone skipping to a random chapter in The Wizard of Oz, reading only that chapter, and thinking the whole story is about Dorothy being a prisoner of a witch.
It says a lot about TV Tropes that its one of those forums where responding to criticism is always held against the author even if the criticism is unjust, and yet funnily enough I’ve told this story elsewhere (even to actual Bronies) and its always gotten a “wow, just wow” reaction. And when Bronies think you’re exceptional, you might as well apply for disability because that’s the only way you’ll ever make it through life.
When I started out, I thought of making this focused on TV Tropes, because I experienced a lot of absolute stupidity in my time there… but then I remembered experiencing similar moments in times and places from before TV Tropes even existed, and anyway, a pure Trope-focused post wouldn’t have been able to include the Sherlock Holmes story.
It’s a sad endictment of the modern times that I’m probably going to be considered the bad guy for telling these stories. While the word “entitled” is thrown around a little too much, and has been for decades, there’s a layer of truth to it: So many people, especially online, think they have the right to never be contradicted or argued against, and they will take it as a personal attack even if you’re very polite about it. For that reason I don’t see much of a point being nice–what’s the point if they’re gonna start shit anyway?
I recently read an old topic on Vogons where… well, here’s the topic, but the thing is I honestly feel like the poster Scali is in the right here: this isn’t a matter of opinion, its a matter of facts, and he has them, and the people who keep saying he “needs to be nicer” and how people won’t listen because he’s being slightly insulting (and really, nobody over the age of six should be that offended by anything he’s said) don’t actually prove a point against Scali, they prove a point against the human race.
I mean, think about it: imagine if someone found the cure for cancer and was willing to give it out for free, but that person was also kind of an asshole. Would that make his discovery worthless? People from the 1960s or so would say “obviously not,” but the internet generation is a special kind of stupid and would indeed hold their personal feelings above a major medical breakthrough that will prevent millions of deaths.
That kind of attitude is wrong. It is an aberration, and should not be encouraged. Facts should never be conveniently ignored just because you don’t like the way they’re delivered. Imagine a soldier refusing to follow orders because he doesn’t like his commander: he’d be court-martialed and beaten, assuming he doesn’t die on the battlefield. And in a way, we’re all soldiers. We should start acting like it.