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May 18, 2004

Taking your own bad advice
Posted by Teresa at 11:30 PM *

This story of Todd James Pierce, dispenser of thoroughly bad advice, has taken an unexpected turn. Can anyone out there tell me what an “IAP Award for Fiction” might be? Mr. Pierce has been listing it as one of his achievements for some time now—see his web pages here, and at Clemson where he’s now an Assistant Professor—but so far, the only IAP award I’ve found that’s given to individuals is given to UW Madison undergrads and Wisconsin residents, and Mr. Pierce doesn’t seem to have any history in Wisconsin. Moreover, the only hits I get from the string [“IAP award” fiction] are either references to Mr. Pierce, or mentions of the International Advocate for Peace Award that also happen to mention the word “fiction”.

Maybe there’s an explanation. But if there isn’t, I can’t think Clemson’s going to be very happy about this.

Comments on Taking your own bad advice:
#1 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:30 AM:

I'm particularly piqued by one of his poems, “Harold and the Purple Crayon: Twenty Years Later." Harold is a little boy who creates his own reality, literally making it all up as he goes along.

And no, I can't imagine that Clemson is going to be thrilled if there is no IAP...

#2 ::: Zara Baxter ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:32 AM:

I found this link to a Santa Barbara IAP award for composition, which led me to a page mentioning the Individual Artist Program, run by Santa Barbara.

There are many hits for Santa Barbara Individual Artist Program. Since at least one source of Todds says he is originally from California, might this be the source?

I've been googling all his other references, too, because I love a good googlemystery, to be solved with a thorough googlebash.

#3 ::: Molly Moloney ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:38 AM:

And according to one webpage he's specifically from Santa Barbara, so . . .

#4 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:46 AM:

International Advocate for Peace.
Incentive Awards Program (lots of those).
Indie Acoustic Project.
Institute of Architects of Pakistan.
International Academic Program (again, lots).

But [on preview: as noted by others]: the Santa Barbara Arts Commission offers an "Individual Artist Program" award—I found a cite for composition, and via that photography. Googling that phrase + award + fiction turns up enough noise to make it questionable. It could be a tiny and terribly localized award; perhaps it's a grant; the aggressive genericization of the acronym definitely carries a whiff of resume padding about it—but it's not necessarily pulled out of thin air, or any of Pierce's orifices.

#5 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:49 AM:

He does appear to be from Santa Barbara -- witness this page at Webdelsol, which is linked throughout his older pages at geocities.com. Webdelsol also appears to be the original place that housed the FSU creative writing pages Todd wrote (advice sections and all), and strangely Webdelsol.com also appears to be the server housing at least two of the online literary journals Todd mentions in his credentials.

"Todd Pierce grew up in Santa Barbara, California, a place he still considers home and which serves as a backdrop for much of his fiction."

He says elsewhere, on pages dating from the same period, that he hopes he can stay in So. California to complete his education -- this before his move to FSU for his Ph.D. program. Guess his alma matter at Irvine didn't see fit to have him take his Ph.D. there.

I note that on his old geocities.com webpage, Todd says in his bio that he has lived in Sydney, Australia. A mention that may be surprising to those who have noticed his not-terribly-accurate descriptions of that fair city.

#6 ::: John Y. ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:02 AM:

As a side note, according to the Santa Barbara County website, the Santa Barbara Arts Commission does indeed exist... but has no web site. Pity.

#7 ::: Julia L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:04 AM:

I found one possible Wisconsin connection. According to several hits, Pierce cowrote a book on the short story with a fellow Clemson professor, Ryan G. Van Cleave. Van Cleave did teach at University of Wisconsin's creative writing program. Odd thing is none of the links for Van Cleave mention an award or grant. And only a few hits pop up for the book to be published. The info given in Van Cleave's bio is Behind the Short Story: From First to Final Draft, a fiction textbook. Allyn & Bacon/Longman, 2004.

#8 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:28 AM:

More to the point, the only Google hits for "Charles Angoff Award for Literary Excellence" are copies of his own bio.

I think Clemson University might find that, combined with his advice on how to fake awards, very interesting indeed.

#9 ::: Zara Baxter ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:32 AM:

True, Janni, but a google of "Charles Angoff Award" without the extra stuff pulls up quite a few winners, including George Looney and Renee Ashley. Looks like it's awarded by The Literary Review, which published the Australia stories by Todd.

#10 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:34 AM:

Ah--yeah, it does look more real when entered that way.

#11 ::: Richard Parker ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:43 AM:

I think The Individual Artist Program briefly mentioned at the link found by Zara Baxter is a good candidate for the IAP Fiction award. Zara Baxter's link mentions that it is administered by The Arts Fund of Santa Barbara.

There are several web pages that appear to contain details for the The Arts Fund of Santa Barbara. The best descriptions I could find are 'Arts Fund-S.B.' and 'The Arts Fund'. The first of these two links says that "The Individual Artist Award is an annual program that gives solo exhibits and cash awards of $2,000 each to Santa Barbara County professional artists working in the areas of visual arts, performing arts and literary arts." I suppose the truly curious could send an e-mail to The Arts Fund and ask for a list of prior award recipients.

#12 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:50 AM:

Hrm. There used to be an ISP in australia called iap.net.au.

Oooh! I like this one: Intracarotid Ambobarbital Procedure
What Is An IAP?

The purpose of the IAP (Intracarotid Ambobarbital Procedure) is
to find out where language and memory reside in an individual's brain.
The test was designed to evaluate each side of the brain separately.
The IAP is often called the Wada test.

The Islamic Association for Palestine while interesting certainly doesn't seem to be the right place...

... and then there's "IAP" as "Internet Access Provider" - and that could be a remarkably broad award.

I somehow doubt that the Institute of Architects of Pakistan (IAP) award for contribution to architecture is what he's listing.

Looking further, it seems that Todd's also good at contradicting himself elsewhere. He's posted to a fair cross-section of newsgroups, including misc.writing, alt.video.* [where he's not very popular], and soc.christian.* among others. Oddly enough, he also seems to enjoy selling Disney videos for prices that I'd find surprising, even to a collector.

He seems to have the unfortunate habit of showing up in various newsgroups, asking questions, and requesting that replies be sent back to him via email [just bad manners, plain and simple]. Worse yet, it seems that he's in the habit of regularly saying "I normally wouldn't ask this, -but- ..." about sending replies back via email. obGrouse: My time is as important or more than his, he should read the newsgroup

Poking about further, it looks like his literary obsession is comparitively new - starting in late 1999, or thereabouts. By the looks of it, the alt.video.* crowd haven't missed him.

The Southeast Review appears to exist - it's departmental, and edited by those in the department [FSU, of course].

I do seem to be wandering about rather obsessively here.

Hrm. Well - before getting to FSU, his agent page was at: [dead link] embers.xoom.com/tjpierce/litagent.html ... and it seems that he also still has a page at: http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Nook/9082/toddpierce.html [~1999] - and he's also been known as toddpierce@iname.com

... and that references a somewhat stale link at webdelsol, which says that it was the "IAP Award for Short Fiction". It also mentions that he was published in "Nimrod: The Australian Literature Issue". I've found "Nimrod Australian Literature", published by Council Oak Books Staff". It's out of print. Helpfully, there's another publication called Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry out at the University of Tulsa.

Hrm. I take that back. His desire to be published isn't new - and he's been handing out advice since 1997.

Yow! A search on "Todd J Pierce" shows that a lot of people have opinions about the gentleman.

Back to the IAP :)

The SC Book Festival has
Todd James Pierce, winner of the IAP Award for Fiction, a Kingsbury Fellowship, and the Charles Angoff Award, Todd James Pierce currently teaches at Clemson University. He is the author of two novels, The Sky Like Tamara Blue (2004) and The Australia Stories (2003). His nonfiction has appeared in books published by Penguin, Harcourt Brace, and NCTE Press and in magazines such as Poets & Writers and The Iowa Review. http://mailer.fsu.edu/~tjp4773/toddpierce.html

Theres a note about the IAP of 1996 and 1997 - but nothing helpful there.

This is a bit more promising - IAP 2002 Houston Book Festival", which seems to be "Independant Authors and Publishers" - but it's a new group.

MIT has an Independant Activities Period, which does appear to have writing courses of various sorts.

... at any rate, the only links that I'm regularly finding that are an exact match belong to Mr. Pierce.

yrs, obsessively

#13 ::: John Y. ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:09 AM:

For what it's worth, theliteraryreview.org is also owned and hosted by webdelsol... it seems that all roads relating to Mr. Pierce lead back there.

#14 ::: Greg Black ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:51 AM:

I lost interest in tracking down the awards, but thought I might read the on-line chapter to see if the Amazon reviewers were right to praise him so much. I found it wooden and dull, with irritating factual errors -- the ABC was the "Australian Broadcasting Commission" when the national network started; the C word is now Corporation, but he shows it as Company.

One snippet at the start had me really puzzled:

My grandparents had two children, a boy and a girl. They both attended The Christian Brother's School, were baptized in the Anglican faith [...]

He's uncomfortable with capitalisation; unable to put his apostophes where they belong; doesn't explain how a girl got into a boys' school; or why these Anglican kids went to a Catholic school. I'm glad I (partly) read this chapter; I know I don't want to buy the book.

And now, having read all that I've seen here, as well as seen his web site and his writing, I'm happy to believe the worst.

#15 ::: Mick ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:52 AM:

Glorioski. You guys have too much time on your hands.

#16 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 07:36 AM:

Mick, have you ever watched wolf or tiger cubs playfully doing the things they'll do in earnest later when hunting? Identifying fraud and deceit is part of the job for many of the folks here, and discovering unsuspected cool stuff is part of the Weltanschauung. This sort of exercise is how we keep fit.

#17 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 07:41 AM:

It will be an interesting day when Todd does a regularly scheduled ego-surfing Google search and finds himself here.

#18 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 07:43 AM:

I find it interesting that he lists his Humanities grant (but which Humanities grant?) immediately following the mysterious IAP Award. I suspect that "IAP" has something to do with the money he has received from the university as a grad student. From my own recent experiences in a PhD program, I was instructed to list my teaching positions as "awards" on my CV. Could IAP stand for "Instructor's Assistant Position"? It's not a lie because it is an award from the university for his work and his efforts, and there probably is stiff competition for those teaching assistantships. It would be very interesting, however, to see what slut work he did as a grad student.

#19 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 08:37 AM:

... as if I needed any more reasons to be glad I'm not a student in the Humanities.

I'll be starting grad school this fall in electrical engineering, and the only apparent measure of worth for grad students (and indirectly, their advisors/professors)???

If it doesn't show up in an IEEE journal, it doesn't count.

#20 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 08:52 AM:

I'm just fascinated to learn that there exists an academic career track for novelists, and it produces assistant professors of this degree of competence. Damn it all, the whole reason I qualified as a pharmacist and then ended up as programmer #1 at a dot-com was because the careers department at the school I went to said it wasn't possible! Just think of all the unpleasant life experiences I could have missed out on if I'd known that all I needed was an MA in creative writing and a sensibly planned academic career ...

I'm half-tempted to apply for a teaching position at FSU or Clemson, just so I can frame the rejection letter informing me that I'm unqualified for the post.

#21 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 09:28 AM:

Many a university will see these assistant positions as awards, considering they really *don't* have to give tuition waivers or stipends, however small those actually end up being. I haven't looked into his publication claims, but in all fairness, if he had an assistantship, there probably was at least somewhat of a valid reason that he received one (of course, the department may have had a slot that they needed to fill so that they could continue to have it). There is stiff competition for these awards, weird as it may seem after reading this man's CL, and the choice for who receives one usually does rest on proven academic ability, tests scores, valid publications, etc.; once one has a teaching assistantship,though, it doesn't mean that one can continue to have one in the future if the duties are not performed adequately. I know in my department, as well as a number of others in the humanities such as Comp Lit, the languages, and history to name a few, there were always too many grad students for the TA positions that were available. I do wonder what the state if his department is/was when he wrote this.
Any assistantship very rarely allows a grad student to have their own class. Rather, grad students run discussion groups for large lectures given by a professor. He could be a brilliant TA with choice classes to teach, but if that's the case, wouldnt he want to say so? What he actually taught might not have looked so good if he 'fessed up: "I taught remedial English" or "I photocopied books out of the library for my professor so he wouldnt' have to buy them".
And these issues are just as real for the sciences, if not as obvious.

#22 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:13 AM:

Charlie Stross wrote:
Damn it all, the whole reason I qualified as a pharmacist and then ended up as programmer #1 at a dot-com was because the careers department at the school I went to said it wasn't possible!

Our career center at my school borders on worthless, since it's assumed everyone is just going on to a graduate degree program, or to a professional program such as law school/med school.

They'll try and offer advice on getting into grad school--- assuming that you're proceeding in the same discipline that you studied while at Wittenberg. Heaven help you if you're a physics major trying to apply to engineering schools and the like...

#23 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:19 AM:

Can we have a show of hands of people who actually work in the field that their education "qualified" them for?

Me: Syracuse University, Theatre BFA (nope - not an actress any more).

University of Maine Law School (nope - not practicing law).

I got nothin'.

#24 ::: Berni ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:27 AM:

Jill, that's a fun game!

Me: B.A. in music + grad work -- quit working on my master's degree when I got a good job in the semiconductor field. Actually, my music degree and the extra classes my voice teacher required (diction and such) come in very handy for my work at church.

#25 ::: anonyprof ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:36 AM:

I have actually met the gentleman in question and visited his department. At the time I was there, he was a relatively new assistant professor. As far as I know, he was brought in on what's known as a "spousal hire," which is when a university will hire the spouse of someone who has already been hired in order to keep the couple in the area. I don't remember his wife's name or department, though, and I think she has a different last name. If I am misremembering the spousal hire bit (and I may be; I met about 40 faculty members that day), there was definitely a strong impression that he got the job through nepotism rather than through a stern consideration of his credentials.

He did not seem terribly arrogant, but he did seem a bit clueless and not particularly adept at playing the academic game. The impression that I got was that he was not terribly attached to this job, but since his wife was here, he was making the best of it. His fiction did not come up except in passing, and he didn't mention any awards. Had I but known...

Sadly, this guy's problems are just the tip of the iceberg for that particular department. I couldn't get out of town fast enough.

#26 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:02 AM:

Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it seem a bit odd to call a novel, "The Australian Stories"? Will his short story collection be titled, "The Australian Novel"?

#27 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:04 AM:

Jill Smith writes:

"Can we have a show of hands of people who actually work in the field that their education 'qualified' them for?"

I have a bachelor's in philosophy. There may be a more worthless degree but I am hard-pressed to think what it might be. Even a degree in basket-weaving entails a practical skill.

#28 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:39 AM:
I have a bachelor's in philosophy. There may be a more worthless degree but I am hard-pressed to think what it might be.

I have a bachelor's in nothing.

#29 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:46 AM:

BA: Classical Archaeology (minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, UM, Ann Arbor, wrote thesis on Islamic glass)
MA: Classical Literature (wrote on the Odyssey)
PhD Coursework completed: Classical Archaeology
Other stuff: 6 yrs. excavation/research experience

I teach middle/highschool Latin, world history, and anthropology, so I would say I am doing something somewhat related to my field. And, I am just starting an online reading group about the Iliad, which I should hope I am able to do somewhat decently, after 10 years of a Classical education. I don't know... the jury is still out.

#30 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:03 PM:

B.A. Theatre, concentrating in stage management. Which, I think, is how I got away with keeping Tor running for four years...keeping Tom Doherty on schedule is nothing to moving a travelling opera with forty castmembers around the state. Not directly related, but the skills were similar.

Nowadays, of course, all I do is write and chase the kids. Not very related, no.

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:04 PM:

I have a BA in Linguistics, from a time when that was a Master's Lite, with General Ed requirements.

While it doesn't help to qualify me for any of the jobs I've had, I've used what I learned in every single one. Stratificational Catalysis Information Counting? Used it to improve the efficiency (and comprehensibility) of the tables in reports at the bank.

Also, since I know what kinds of sentences are hard for non-native speakers of English to understand, I can avoid such sentences when speaking to non-natives. Knowing something about phonology helps me "listen through" accents. And on and on.

#32 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:11 PM:

I currently work as a computer programmer (MATLAB and Fortran) at Wright-Patterson AFB. My academic background actually helps me get along at work-- electromagnetic modeling and such.

Background:

- Associate of Arts, Mathematics, Purdue University (Fort Wayne Campus)
It's a consolation prize, really. Long story behind it.

- B.S. in Physics, Wittenberg University
( degree requirements complete, awaiting professor's final word on an overdue project to resolve a non-required class with an 'Incomplete' grade )

- Beginning coursework for the M.S. Engineering (Electrical) degree this fall at Wright State Univ.


#33 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:11 PM:

Xopher: While it doesn't help to qualify me for any of the jobs I've had, I've used what I learned in every single one.

Oh, absolutely. Theatre training is useful for a host of reasons (being able to get on my hind legs and speak clearly without fear is only one of the more obvious ones). The legal training, ditto.

That's why I specifically asked the "qualification" question. It's surprising how many people want to stuff you into the box that your education "qualifies" you for, even though a vanishingly small number of people seem to go in a straight line from school to career.

#34 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:13 PM:

I have a bachelor's in philosophy. There may be a more worthless degree but I am hard-pressed to think what it might be.

B.A. in Mythology, final coursework on ancient Near Eastern mythology. Even French Literature majors cower in fear of my degree-uselessness!

#35 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:17 PM:

Bill Blum: Electronics Letters counts as well, and that's the IEE not the IEEE. If you're in one of the physics/EE borderline areas such as photonics, Physics Letters, Applied Physics Letters, and similar publications will also count, as will publications in conferences, etc. of the SPIE. I'm sure there are equivalent publications on the more pure-math related side of the field, but I don't know of any of them.

(Side note: I love electrical engineering. I have the same diploma from the same department of the same university with this lady in the office across the hall from me, but after a couple of years of specializing on top of it from both of us, and we can completely talk over each others' heads.)

In principle, though, you are right. What will count is only refereed publication, preferably in a journal/conference heard of by more than fifteen people. (Dissertations don't impress anyone that much, either, once you have one.) Maybe it's that I'm not creative enough, but I really don't think it's possible to successfully make up credentials in this field and not raise eyebrows way, way high immediately even if your evaluator is not possessed of a fine-tuned Baloney Detector.

#36 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:22 PM:

You know, it occurs to me that there's another reason why Pierce's advice to lie about credentials is not only unethical and likely to get you found out, but also stupid on other grounds.

Credentials of the "obscure non-professional market no one's ever heard of" type just aren't that hard to get legitimately. (It's more a matter of not wanting to sell to most such markets, since the quality is often so awful.) If you can't find some market like that that will buy your work and have to invent one instead, you're probably not ready to be submitting anyway.

#37 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:26 PM:

BA in Zoology, but I've also completed about a thousand hours of massage training and I'm definitely using that to make some money (and soon, with luck, much more!).

#38 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:56 PM:

That's a really good point, Janni. "I got published on my friend's sister's literary weblog!" is not going to impress many people, unless your friend's sister is (say) Joan Didion.

#39 ::: Nevenah ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:20 PM:

BS in Art (glass) from UW-Madison, with a second major in Creative Writing. I have at various times been able to make a living within the broad confines of my qualifications, but sadly not very often. Now I drive a cab in New Orleans, which occasionally utilizes some of my skills at story-telling but isn't terribly satisfying. How's that for useless degrees?

#40 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:43 PM:

Hrm. Since my highest formal education is high school diploma (with minimal college courses), and currently my job is slowly being automated to the point where I am basically turning into an exceptionally bright button-pushing monkey, I believe I am working a job for which my education qualified me.

In other news, I am looking for a job. Preferably somewhere not in California. At least vaguely apropos of this discussion, anyone got any tips for breaking into the editing field? With no solid experience? And no degree, relevant or otherwise? And insufficient savings to live off of while I intern?

I sha'n't hold my breath waiting for the responses to pour in. :)

#41 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 01:47 PM:

BA Anthropology, with the requirements for a minor in Comp Sci. I use both everyday. Having a degree that essentially consists of explaining unsavory and unusual habits to unsympathetic audiences is a wonderful introduction to helping geeks and management communicate.

Although I'm not at all a writer, I also like to think that a degree that requires the submission of vast numbers of papers improves your ability to communicate information in a written format. Then again, thinking about some of the papers that I've had the unfortunate fate to mark and edit, perhaps that's not such a valid conclusion after all.

#42 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:07 PM:

BM in Jazz Studies. I now write manuals and online Help for specialized engineering software. Although I also play music in saloons and nightclubs fairly regularly, and try to show the younger musicians how to recognize a dominant cycle or a minor plagal cadence.

I do think that a useless bachelor's degree is rather less impressive than a useless graduate degree. A tech-writer colleague of mine has the notorious MFA in Art History. A bit of a cliché, so no points for creativity, but all the more useless considering the cost.

#43 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:15 PM:

B.S.: Computer Science
M.F.A.: Electronic Music
Work: computer music systems

That sounds really focused, but it took me ten years, six colleges and four majors to get that B.S.

#44 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:23 PM:

Tina:

My non-music career started with Macmillan Computer Publishing in Indianapolis. They were looking for in-house proofreaders. I applied and took a test. I got hired as a proofreader, worked closely with and learned from the copyeditors, and within a year moved into copyediting and then eventually started developing titles. I had a hand in introducing the Idiot's Guides, which are now a certified publishing phenom in the field of "competing successfully with the Dummies books."

(It was only later that I discovered the financial benefits of suckling directly from the corporate teat, writing boring manuals and Help for software companies. But I do miss the energy of publishing.)

So, here's what worked for me: Try to get work in the production department--proofreading, layout, project management. You'll learn all kinds of things about books and how they get made. Develop positive working relationships with editors and wait for an opening. Also, decide that money's not that important to you.

OT: Speaking of good ol' Macmillan, do any of you folks in SF Fandom know Barry Childs-Helton? Seven-foot-tall filk singer? Tell him Howard says "hi."

#45 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:30 PM:

I do think that a useless bachelor's degree is rather less impressive than a useless graduate degree.

Absolutely. A B.A. can be dismissed as one's young, aimless years; a graduate degree implies a serious financial and time commitment to uselessness.

Still, I do win the "most useless pre-law degree" dick-swinging contest whenever I get together with law types.

#46 ::: Holly M. ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:32 PM:

BA in English. Started out as a French Lit major, though. Lucky I quit when I did, eh?

I actually work as an editor, in the trade publishing industry. In fact I went back to college, after 3 years away, to get the degree that proved I was qualified to get the job I wanted. Although the irony of that is, I got hired because of my breadth of computer skills, none of which I learned in William Jewell's English department.

And as far as a degree equalling qualifications, I am continually amazed at how my coworkers, English majors all, do not understand what passive voice is.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:36 PM:

That's the voice that says "whatever you want...I don't care...can't be bothered...I'm just going to lie here..." right?

Oh, no, that's the Apathetic Voice. :-)

#48 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:42 PM:

Tina, from Electrolite:

As some of you are aware, I have basically no educational credentials. I stopped attending high school before my senior year, and I never went to college. I’ve done all right with my life anyway. I have no real complaints.

#49 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:51 PM:

B.A. in Classical Studies, additional courses in Linguistics, Art History, and Egyptology. I'm an editor. Today I fact-checked Olympic history, parsed a complicated sentence using sentence-diagramming techniques I used in Latin Grammar, simplified said sentence to make it much more readable. My formal education qualified me perfectly for both these activities. Of course, while I was getting my formal education, I thought I wanted to be a museum person. And my job has me editing things that have nothing whatsoever to do with what I studied in school. This year I've worked on textbooks (computer science, claims adjustment, and language arts), a reference book, corporate annual reports, employee benefits packages, children's books on science and nature, and a board game.

Tina, there is no one definitive career and training path for editing. PNH just finished telling us all that he didn't finish high-school. You do need to be willing to train, somewhere---either with an editor or through a school. It helps to take courses such as those offered by Ryerson University in Toronto (I mention it because Ryerson's core editorial courses are offered via distance ed., and are therefore accessible to those who don't live in Toronto, and who may have a day job). Sometimes you can take the twisty route that I took: show up at the Editors' Association, volunteer, work at whatever comes up (temping, admin., cartographical research, desktopping...), until somebody notices you and takes you under their wing. Everybody will tell you that you need to intern, and this may be true if you want to go into traditional book publishing. You will probably need to train somewhere. But not interning and finding several mentors through volunteering worked for me, though the entire process took about two years. My current employer wouldn't have cared if I'd dropped out of seventh grade---he knew my work, loved it, and was willing to hire me on the strength of my volunteer work. This is a good place to find out what worked for others. If there's an editors' professional association wherever it is you're situated, that's another. Good luck!

#50 ::: Mark Bourne ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:56 PM:

M.A. in theater here (hello, Madeleine), emphasis in directing. So although I'm not trodding the boards in Manhattan, staging Waiting for Godot in a loft above a Starbucks, or teaching high school drama (anymore), actors do keep popping up in my fiction. When writing, I have all the control, the stage machinery always works on cue (in the final draft, at least), and the only prima donna I have to cope with is myself.

Actually, the theater degree has been very good for me professionally, if serendipitously. Through happenstance (and a little hands-on help from Ray Bradbury) my degree work led directly to a career in the planetarium field, which welded my love for astronomy to my background in theatuh and my lifelong fondness for SF, handing me a chance to write scripts that blended it all for public consumption. All the stars a stage, etc.

#51 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:56 PM:

HP: I can do proofreading. I'm strange enough to actually enjoy proofreading. And, er. If money meant much to me, I wouldn't be interested in a career as a genre fiction writer. :)

But I've perused the want ads for proofers from time to time and they always seem to want experience. If it is sometimes not the case, that's good to know. (Interestingly, Indianapolis is actually the city to which I want to move, and I was thinking about the fact that Pearson was there.)

I am now wondering if I should be talking about embarking on an editing career if I am going to continue to begin sentences with "but".

mythago: So, what you're saying is that I should become Patrick. :)

#52 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 02:59 PM:

Thanks, Jennie. I should check out the distance learning, definitely; I like such options.

Also, to keep from having to spam the thread with "thank you" posts: I do greatly appreciate any and all tips, present in this comment thread or to be conveyed in the future via post, e-mail, telepathy, or messenger flying squirrel.

#53 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:30 PM:

Jill Smith said:

"It will be an interesting day when Todd does a regularly scheduled ego-surfing Google search and finds himself here."

It should be later today, since I sent him an e-mail about the hot Dog-Pile-on-Todd-Pierce action here (I also noted my additional comments on his advice on my own site). No point not letting him wander around in ignorance.

#54 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:36 PM:

Tina: mythago: So, what you're saying is that I should become Patrick. :)

There are much worse things. (You could become me, for example: working a high-paying and utterly thankless job, never having time or energy to pursue the least of your dreams, writing only in blog comment threads, trying hard not to remember exactly what the dreams were, because remembering them is like eating glass, and occasionally telling a coworker, as I did last Thursday, "anyone who admires ME is a fool." Avoid this. Patrick is not a bad model at all.)

#55 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:42 PM:

Oooooo, the plot thickens. I can't wait to read what this guy has to say about all of this. Juicy, Lucy.

#56 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:43 PM:

BA, Chemistry. (Harvard -- my AP Chem teacher said Brandeis was better, but I was tired of being out of reach of a city.) That got me my first computer job (at a software company with an EPA contract to juggle chemical information), but I haven't had to think of chemistry professionally in almost 20 years.

OTOH, I later completed a night-school program in Comp Sci, unlike some of the sharp types who learned enough on the job to keep moving up -- so I haven't ventured as far from my paper qualifications as many here.

#57 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:49 PM:

I'm inordinately pleased (though I shouldn't be surprised) to see so many fellow theatre majors among the Making Enlightened.

(BFA in Playwrighting/Directing/Stage Management, here. And one of the last at WVU to receive that unwieldy bastard title as well.)

I've never used it professionally, and am somewhat horrified at the thought of trying.

But I've been working on my spiel, now that I'm getting serious about looking for a new job, that theatre folk are the best people to hire for any position: We know how to make stuff out of nothing, we can produce on impossible deadlines, we're good at improvising, we have work ethic like no one else, and we're all about cooperation and teamwork. I'll probably leave out the tendency to do funny voices and recall blank verse at the drop of a (feathered and sequined) hat.

Incidentally, I did win a writing award when I was in college, though I couldn't remember what its name was with a gun to my head. (It was for a genre-related work, too - a short essay on the importance of food in The Hobbit.) I even got prize money out of it, making that my first and only piece of paid writing, for an even hunnert bucks. Which to my starving-student lifestyle at the time looked like a veritable fortune in used paperbacks and Taco Bell.

I still can't imagine putting that in a cover letter, though.

#58 ::: Sal ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:51 PM:

Bachelors in biology with a minor in chemistry, followed by a year or so working at the public library I'd worked at to fund the degree, followed by twenty years or so writing software.

These days I surf the Web and write words instead of code. I keep up with my sciences by reading the latest and spending every Presidents' Day weekend at AAAS -- wherever it may be -- finding out how songbirds learn to sing, learning about the physics of ice cream and watching Paul Serrano talk about dinosaurs.

#59 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:56 PM:

mythago: So, what you're saying is that I should become Patrick. :)

You'll have to take that up with Teresa. And Patrick, I suppose...

#60 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:58 PM:

Amanda,

I curious where you teach. I got my BA in Anthropology/Archaeology from the University of Arizona and am currently finishing my Master's degree in English Education from WVU. (I hope to teach high school English/language arts classes). I would love to teach an anthropology/archaeology class for a public school (along with English), but I don't know any schools that would be willing to let me do so. Let me know how (and where) you fell into your teaching placements if you get a chance. Thanks.

#61 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 03:59 PM:

Xopher, I wouldn't have to "become" that, I'm pretty much already right there with you. Except I'm not sure if my job counts as "high-paying" given the housing costs in CA.

Oh, and, people should admire me. They should. They should admire me and buy my writing...

...if I ever have time to write again.

And thus, why I want to embark on a career change. Yes, I think editing would be a lower stress job than the one I have. No, I don't think I'm underestimating the potential stress levels of editing.

Less seriously: but I don't want to be a man. Although I suppose that being married to Teresa would not suck. ^_^

#62 ::: Gen ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:02 PM:

Hi all, I've been lurking for awhile and just want to decloak to ask, is anyone else on tenterhooks about the provenance of "Hugged it like a brother?" Please, Theresa, please please please I waded through nearly 200 posts hoping for the answer. Don't leave me hanging! Thanks. Cloaking again now.

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:09 PM:

Gen, we've asked in that thread. Nothing doing. Sometimes Teresa just likes to leave us in the exquisite tension of unending speculation.

She's a cruel goddess, but fair.

#64 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 04:25 PM:

I got a BA in English Literature. That, while fun, didn't do much to set my feet on the path of the wage earner. After graduation, I still didn't know what to do with my life so I got a BS in industrial engineering at a different college. (Engineering school seemed like it would be more fun than a graduate degree in English.) By the time I finished the engineering degree, I knew damn sure that I did not want to be a college student any longer.

Following that surfeit of education, I borrowed money from my family and started my own ISP, a concern which, in addition to giving me broadband and cool toys to play with, has kept a roof over my head and food in my mouth for the last eight years.

#65 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 05:49 PM:

Engineering school seemed like it would be more fun than a graduate degree in English.

Fly, you fool! (Spoken as an undergrad at Imperial doing Aeronautical Engineering - colloquially known as 'the hard course'.)

On the other hand, I may yet get to build shiny shiny flying machines...

#66 ::: abby ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 05:50 PM:

Dan L-K: I played up my theatre-tech experience when I was looking for a part-time job that summer. I got the job, but I'm not sure whether my enthusiastic explanation of how, after dealing with the spoiled rotten diva of my last show, handling unhappy customers would be a piece of cake had anything to do with it.

As for useless degrees, I don't really qualify. My current project is a BA in Psych, which is one of those majors that you can relate to almost anything. Not terribly useless, but most of my friends are in CS, and they think I'm crazy. The thing about psych is that it's a generalist's degree at most schools: There are few required classes, so you have lots of room for packratting. "Ooh, dairy management, and paleontology, and urban geography... fun!"

#67 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 05:57 PM:

The year I was in college I majored in Voice and Drama, but that was just because my parents made me go to a college where I comped out of all the required courses except Religion (and that was because you couldn't comp out of religion, no matter how much you knew). I first performed professionally when I was five, so if I wasn't going to have math and science, I'd have performing.

I spent most of my career working on communications software for computerized weapons and intelligence systems, but I *did* learn to program in a g&t program when I was six, so I had some formal education in that area.

I don't think there's any programs that lead to a career in "retired on disability."

#68 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 06:15 PM:

I got a BS in Jouralism from the William Allen White School of Journalism, University of Kansas, Lawrence. I've worked in the KU libraries(until determining if I wanted a promotion I'd have to go get an MLS, AFTER buying a house), for an animal health manufacturer and an advertising agency. My current position, with a trade show publisher (we do the exhibition floor guides, we have a group that does daily newspapers at shows, etc.). I have to edit, proofread, contact exhibitors on some shows. prepare data for layout artists, a wide variety of stuff. It's great fun actually. Oh, and I get to work at home about 80% of my workweek (sometimes more, sometimes less). Salary and benefits. Wooohoooo.

#69 ::: Julia L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 06:35 PM:

I have a BA in Communication, majoring in Advertising and minoring in History. (The combo made more sense when I started out in journalism.) I also did a Multimedia Certificate in web design. Have used neither education in my job experiences, other than some simple HTML formatting.

Paula: I can completely relate with the library experience. I've been working temp jobs as a library technician for several years, mostly govt and law libraries. I'm really resisting getting the MLS. I've discovered I like working *in* libraries, doing research and such, but necessarily *for* one. And reference work doesn't have the same appeal as historical research. Probably pays better, but not much.

#70 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 06:48 PM:

BA in Psychology and Creative Writing.

And I do data entry for the IT department at Diamond Brand Outdoors.

I have no complaints about the job, but it's NOT what I went to school for. If I'd known that I needed to brush up on my computer skills and move to Asheville without getting $50K in student loan debt first, I would've cut out that 4-year-period of my life.

And would've never met my husband.

It's a tough call.

But I've already ranted about this one elsewhere on some other thread.

I just wanted to mention that I know Clemson. It's nearby, though I couldn't say exactly where. It's my boss' alma mater, and his niece just graduated from there. I'll mention this to him.

Strangely, it won't be the first time I've mentioned Making Light to him; I told him about "This is stupid. Now I have stupid all over me," earlier today.

He was amused.

#71 ::: cyclopatra ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 06:55 PM:

BS in English Literature. Currently working as a freelance web programmer and small businesscritter.

Tina: I don't think enjoying proofreading is all that strange. Sitting down with a pile of paper and a red pen makes me pretty happy, too :P My dad used to have me proof his reports for work when I was in middle school.

#72 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 07:04 PM:

BA in Philosophy (the diploma says Liberal Studies -- they didn't stand up the official Philosophy major until a year after I left CSUS) and all but 3 comps (I think) towards a masters in Public Administration. However, I was a theater major (design, mostly) for a couple of years.

I'm currently database administrator for a very large food processing plant in California. One could argue that database work is somehow an application of (predicate) logic and phenomenology, and all the org theory is still useful.

Of course the theater experience is still useful when handling all the drama kings/queens in the user community . . .

#73 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 08:12 PM:

Still trying to figure out how to score "ran out of money before declaring a creative writing major." (The most important thing I learned: if you're the writer in residence, don't blow off your class's end-of-semester reading because your girlfriend's up from New Orleans. The things those kids will say about you...)

#74 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean Durocher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 09:18 PM:

BA in Art History, and I'm now a graphic designer, so I stayed rather close. Even closer if you consider that one of my grad school papers detailed a proposition for a computer-based database of subjects in Chinese painting. The computer bit was rather important - when I was in grad school, they were still putting information like this on index cards.

Uplist someone expressed surprise that an Anglican girl would go to a Christian Brothers' School.

Some member churches of the Anglican Communion have religious orders and I would not be surprised if some of those orders ran schools.

However, I think it's more likely that it's the Roman Catholic Christian Brothers in this instance as they are known for running schools.

It's still not very surprising, however. Many Roman Catholic schools are coed, and at least on the West Coast of the United States, it's not surprising to find Episcopalians attending them. I would suspect the same would hold true for Australia and Anglicans for much the same reason - not enough Anglican/Episcopalian schools, so if you wanted your child to have a religious education or go to a private school, the local Roman Catholic school was pretty much all that was available.

My youngest brother, an Episcopalian, attended the local Roman Catholic school.

#75 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 10:31 PM:

BS in Information Systems, Drexel University

Currently unemployed...

#76 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:19 PM:

Jill, Mr. Pierce may thank you for distracting everyone from the hunt. :)

I have a BA in Mathematics and a MS in Computer Science. (The latter is from Clemson, no less, with years spent slaving away in a cave right next to Strode Tower). Currently I copyedit video games for a living, although in my defense, I was a systems administrator for several years. My current job does not pay nearly as well, but it is much more satisfying and much, much less stressful. Oh, and then there's that "play games for a living" part.

Tina said, I am now wondering if I should be talking about embarking on an editing career if I am going to continue to begin sentences with "but".

That reminds me of my favorite scene in Finding Forrester. Time to watch it again.

#77 ::: Tom Galloway ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 11:28 PM:

Alice, Clemson's located down near Greenville, SC; about an hour/hour and a half drive (it was about an hour from Brevard, but I believe Brevard's between Asheville and Clemson on the most direct route, unless taking I-26 towards Spartanburg would work).

I actually hung out at Clemson a fair amount my senior year in high school as I'd managed to hook up with the chess club there and, well, it was the closest place I had contacts that was well and truly out of Brevard. Still, both it and Florida State are generally considered the overall educational laggards in the ACC. It's an adequate school, and I believe pretty good in agracultural courses, but no one's going to mistake it for the Ivies, or even UNC-Chapel Hill in terms of academics.

B.S. Comp Sci, M.S. in Comp Sci with concentration in Artificial Intelligence. Strong correlation to all my post college jobs, save that writing has been the major component for the past decade (but without the CS knowledge, I wouldn't be doing it). Ironically, my undergrad CS degree at UNC-CH probably led to more improvement in my writing that anything else. Y'see, I think posting a fair amount to Usenet improved it, just by sheer volume and feedback, and I first got onto Usenet due to it being invented at UNC-CH and Duke when I was there...

#78 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 01:06 AM:

I'll play. Double bachelor's in English Lit. and Psychology from Gordon College before it became a fundamentalist stronghold (don't get me started). Most of an M.A. in Children's Lit. from Simmon's in Boston, before they kicked out Betty Levin and a bunch of the others who founded that program and repopulated it with a bunch of academicians who had never written or edited children's books (again, don't get me started).

So currently I'm a freelance editor and production editor (copyediting, line-editing, etc.) and book production person (design, typesetting, etc. from ms. through finished book) for various companies. Do I get to edit children's books? Once in a very blue moon, if I'm lucky. But that degree in psych does help out once in a while when I'm stuck talking to freelancer of mine (usually a proofreader) down off a ledge, and in convincing a printer that they really want to give us extra time in the schedule.

But how and why did I get my first job in publishing? (Not counting my internship, long ago.) Because I could make computers my b*tch.

#79 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 01:09 AM:

Well, I've never been to Clemson,
But I went to Indiana;
Didn't finish my degree there,
Sorta slipped on a banana.
Sys. Anal. lost me,
I guess it's cost me,
And does it matter?
Heck, maybe it matters.

I haven't got certification
And I guess I'm overreaching
I'm sucking air above my station,
But I don't make like I'm teaching
Full marks for trying
But not for lying
That's what it matters,
Yeah, that's what it matters.

#80 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:22 AM:

What qualifications?

Yes, I have had stories published, a long time ago in fanfic zines that nobody had ever heard of. It's hardly a selling point, but somebody liked the stories enough to type them onto stencils.

Looking at bookshops, it is apparent some people have strange literary tastes.

#81 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:45 AM:

Scene 1 Act 1:
The open dusty road, a large motorcycle gang is riding along, as the camera pulls in closer we realize this is not just any motorcycle gang but one composed of editors, writers, and English professors. They are all yelling at once, to be heard over their hogs, but the noise of the motorcycles and their yelling makes a harmonious whole.

Editor 1: SASE with the short story! SASE with the poetry! SASE with vignette, limerick, personal anecdote!!

Writer 33: whereYAsubmit, whereYAsubmit, whereYaSubmit?!?!

Writer 7: You can submit all you wanna, you can do follow up contacts, schmooze at conventions, you can submit all you wanna but it's different than it was.

Writer 18: no it ain't, no it ain't but you gotta win a contest.

Editor 15: Why it's the intarweb made the trouble, the intarweb the intarweb, the intarweb made the trouble made the people wanna slash, wanna comment, wanna read non-linear fiction with legolas and kirk in a love triangle.

Editor 3: no it ain't the intarweb at all, ain't the intarweb at all, it's the dumbing down of america, dumbing down, dumbing down, and the lack of standards in our educational system, nobody wants to know about Dante Alighieri anymore anymore.

Writer 33: whereYAsubmit, whereYAsubmit, whereYaSubmit?!?!


Writer 7: You can submit all you wanna, you can go online to the professional forums, schmooze at conventions, kiss critical ass, you can submit all you wanna but it's different than it was.

Writer 18: no it ain't, no it ain't but you gotta win a contest.

Writer 53: Ever meet a guy named Todd James Pierce?

PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?,PIERCE?, NO!!!!!!!

Writer 53: Now he never wins a contest.

NEVER WINS A CONTEST?!?

Writer 53: Doesn't schmooze at conventions.

DOESN'T SCHMOOZE AT CONVENTIONS?

Writer 53: Nope, he never schmoozes at conventions nor worries about the intarweb or ass-kissing critics or a doggone thing, he's just a book-publishing, resume-padding, fib-telling, English language-mangling, real-life Author that Mr. Todd James Pierce, Todd James Pierce.

Writer 18: He's a fake, and he never wins a contest!

Writer 53: He's a tip giver outer! He gives to the newbies, tips online or tips beneath the bar, tips at luncheon, tips gazing at the stars.

Editor 1: Well I don't know much but I do know you can't make a living giving tips, here and there an article for a professional mag, but tips are a sure failure to sell.

Writer 53: Why sure, you and I know it, but it doesn't phaze him, he gives tips at the bus stop, tips to the beat cop, tips to the waitress who thinks that he's swell, he's the kinda guy who'd give tips down in hell, tips till he's loopy, tips to a newbie. He gives tips all day long and he posts them online, and when the man teaches, what else, he gives tips to the class, tips pulled right out his ass. YESSIR, YESSIR, YESSIR, when the man teaches, what else, he gives tips to the class, tips pulled right out his ass.

Everybody but Writer 18: YESSIR, YESSIR, YESSIR

Writer 18: BUT HE NEVER WINS A CONTEST!!!!

#82 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 03:12 AM:

At this point the gang passes by an offramp, one member who has heretofore hung back confidently rides up to Writer 18, this fellow, in contrast to the others in the gang, is riding a shiny red moped.

fellow: Say buddy, can you tell me what the name is of this town we're passing by?

Writer 18: That's Battle Mountain Nevada, the armpit of america, they don't need no stinkin' literary culture down there.

fellow: you don't say, well that sounds mighty interesting, think I'll take a look-see.

Writer 18: Oh yeah, well I hope you don't mind my curiousity but I never did happen to catch your name.

fellow: That's ok, I never did happen to throw it.

the fellow pulls away from the gang who continue on, Writer 18 looking back over his shoulder sees the fellow get on the offramp and notices that his jacket has the words TODD JAMES PIERCE in pink and silver sequines on the back.

#83 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 06:31 AM:

Mark,
Anthropology happens to be one half of a year-long course for 9th graders. The goal is to teach them how to approach the study of history. For the Anthro side, we study evolution and culture, and for the history side of things, we spend 8 days on different units, using no textbook, just primary source documents.

I did, literally, fall into this position out of over 60 applicants, but the position I was applying for was teaching Latin. It just so happened that the school needed an additional teacher for the history course, and with my background I could fill the slots in both departments. I use my training in archaeology mostly in my Latin and history courses.

I found my job by chance using the American Classical League website that posts positions for Latin and Greek teachers throughout the U.S., and am now teaching at an independent school near NYC. You might want to consider contacting a professional service who will schlep your resume or CV to different independent schools, if you really want to use your Anthro background. It may not be free, but the cost isn't very high for you; the school pays a finder's fee once they hire someone. Hope this helps!

#84 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 07:07 AM:

Jeff: Jill, Mr. Pierce may thank you for distracting everyone from the hunt. :)

If it had been my intention (it wasn't), it isn't working terribly well; however, it is interesting to see all these different backgrounds in a new way.

I hope our hostess does not mind the tangent.

#85 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 08:01 AM:

shit, i spelled sequins wrong.

#86 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 08:19 AM:

BA in physics with a minor in English, plus incomplete MS coursework in physics. It got me my first gigs writing educational material, which were very useful in getting further jobs, so in some sense my physics degree did get me a job writing children's textbooks about Chinese immigration to North America. It's certainly been useful for the set of articles I'm doing right now. An amazing thing, getting to learn things and write about them and then get handed money and author copies.

#87 ::: Damien Warman ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 08:51 AM:

BSc in pure mathematics, abandoned MSc, currently thrashing at PhD in mathematics, teaching freshman calculus. (Lecturing, tutor, demonstrator, bully, the works...)

#88 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 09:42 AM:

Scene 3 Act 2: The stripper's dressing room for the Dirty Tub of Guts Casino, Battle Mountain, Nevada. Melanie Mills is walking around the dressing room furiously packing her travelling bag, followed by Ma Mills, who looks none to pleased with this turn of affairs.

Melanie: Now Ma, there's nothing you can say to talk me out of it. I've made up my mind, TODD JAMES PIERCE is the man for me!

Ma Mills: But Melanie!...

Melanie Mills: Oh he's wonderful Ma, just wonderful! He makes me feel more alive than I've ever felt, even when I was ripping off that little old lady with the vanity publication of her dead sons horror fiction I never felt so truly me! He's tall Ma, as tall as a six foot three inch tree, and smart too, like a smart man who is also smart. They don't make them like that anymore.

Ma Mills: Oh Melanie, I just hope you don't go making the same mistakes that i did with your father. Marrying for love and not insurance.

#89 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 10:42 AM:

My BA in psychology does not help me particularly much in my job as a computer/database geek working for a Very Large, Evil Telecom Company, but is a surprisingly successful selling point in job interviews. I can make reasonably believable claims to my psychological experience giving me insights into relations with business contacts, and even User Interface designs and the like.

I've thought about going on and getting a second degree in something CS related with a focus on UI design for exactly that reason.

#90 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 11:39 AM:

Okay, now bryan there, *he* should get published.

#91 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 12:18 PM:

AA (community college) in commercial art, and I was hired to this place here just before graduation, where I've been crafting art commercially (plus otherdutiesasassigned) ever since. That was at the end of 1990. Jeez, what year is this?

#92 ::: Elisabeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 12:20 PM:

My entry in the competition:

BA, Classical Studies, with in inclination toward museums (like someone else who posted), College of Wooster (OH).
MA, Publishing and Writing (as of this past Monday), Emerson College (Boston).

Current job: none

Nancy, are you stil in the Boston area? Need another proofreader or copyeditor (I never crawl out onto ledges)?

#93 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 01:32 PM:

I worked in a museum devoted to archaeology on campus for three years, volunteering as an assistant to the registrar--yay for filing techniques! I did get to inventory the whole collection, though, which was awesome. And most of my overseas excursions were paid for.

#94 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 01:36 PM:

I never realized that there were so many other people out there whose education and work were totally unrelated.

I took six years to get a BA in Biology (plants) with a minor in Sociology (crime & justice) because I took classes that interested me, and not necessarily what I needed to graduate (Thank God for inexpensive state schools). I currently do software support, and am getting my Master's in Public Health, while also taking classes in history, english, and religion, just because.

My goal is to be a life-long student, which I'm pretty sure will require me continuing to work for a university that offers tuition waivers to its employees, as neither software support nor public health seem to pay awfully well.

#95 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 01:36 PM:

"Okay, now bryan there, *he* should get published."
damn straight, my tips are a lot cooler

#96 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:01 PM:

Amanda: "I did, literally, fall into this position out of over 60 applicants..."

I hope you landed on a large pile of their heavily padded resumes.

#97 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:09 PM:

bryan, so you're saying none of them are hot tips?

#98 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:41 PM:

Dave Bell said:
Yes, I have had stories published, a long time ago in fanfic zines that nobody had ever heard of. It's hardly a selling point, but somebody liked the stories enough to type them onto stencils.

*I've* heard of them, Dave. I've even reviewed one of them. Okay, so I didn't actually connect the Dave Bell in the contents listing with the Dave Bell I knew online until somewhat later. :-)

(And I liked the story.)

#99 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:41 PM:

yes they are hot tips, they are hot tips that are cooler than anyone else's hot tips, because they are soooooo hot. Do i contradict myself, very well i contradict myself. 'sokay I package multitudes.

#100 ::: Sheri Stanley ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:46 PM:

A reader of the livejournal community Specficmarkets actually wrote Pierce and questioned him about his advice to lie. He wrote back. The response is even more appalling. See it here (you'll have to scroll down a bit.) Note that it's all in terms of whether one would get caught, and not anything about the fact that it's unethical. ::shaking head::

#101 ::: Sal ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:55 PM:

Back to where we were, although I do like reading how others have strayed as far from their degree path as I have, I think Zara's hypothesis is best. The IAP Award for Fiction could be a Santa Barbara Arts Commission's Individual Artist Program award, given for his fiction.

You'll note that in the resume example he gives he says, "Earlier this year I won the Charles Angoff Award for Literary Excellence, and in previous years I received an IAP award and a Humanities Grant."

Somehow over the years "an IAP award" has morphed into "The IAP Award for Fiction" as per his own advice to others.

#102 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 03:23 PM:

From the letter quoted at Sheri's link:
"And if anyone is curious, I've never lied on any cover letter I've writen."
So there you have it! If you can't trust TODD JAMES PIERCE, whom can you trust?

Me: Joint BA in Russian and linguistics; MPhil in linguistics; currently work as editor. Thus not qualified, but in a sense prepared. My original math coursework, however, before I switched majors, was totally wasted.

#103 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 03:30 PM:

The Final Act, scene 1:

The annual Sewage blossoming day festivities comes to Battle Mountain, Nevada. Everyone is excited because they know this is the day that Todd James Pierce's shipment of English Textbooks printed by Radnom Home Publishers will be arriving in town and also the new Atlanta Review which is rumoured to feature groundbreaking new poetry by Todd James Pierce in it will be part of the shipment. Meanwhile Todd and Melanie have been hampered from sneaking out of town by the breakdown of his moped, unsure of what to do next the two schemers join the festivities. Suddenly the mayor is there:

The Mayor: Todd, my boy, I was just thinking about you.

Todd: Ah, Mr. Mayor, you don't know how truly gratified I am to hear that one such as yourself, ever perched on the lofty heights of public policy like a bird of angelic prayer, should condeign his vision on us lowly versifiers and poetasters in the vineyards of literatary papier.

Mayor: Now Todd, I was hoping you could tell me all about how you won that there award again, that big one, that there IAP, I love to hear about it.

Todd: Sure thing Mr. Mayor

Todd steps forward, the lights hit him and the familiar sounds of the IAP tune from the second Act begins to play:

Bah-bah-bah-bah, bah-bah-bah-bah
Bah-bah-bah-bah. bah-bah-bah-bah, IAP!

Well you can exagerate it, defenstrate it
cause you're the one who made it
win the IAP

Ah, let's all win the IAP
let's all win the IAP
I.A.P the IAP
I am Pierce the IAP
Win the IAP

Well you can make a fancy paper
if it makes you feel safer
it's an academic caper
with the IAP


Bah-bah-bah-bah, bah-bah-bah-bah
Bah-bah-bah-bah. bah-bah-bah-bah, IAP!

The song stops, the audience claps, the clapping slowly fades away except for the clapping of one spectator, he walks forward still clapping. It is then that we recognize him, it is Writer 18 from the opening Act! He walks up to Todd, clapping, clapping, then finishes off with one loud clap.

Writer 18: HAH

Todd looks around, the Mayor is looking at him with an expression on his face that says the jig is up, the sheriff and the three villanelle reciting council members have also come up. This looks like a very bad spot, and the expression on Todd's face shows that he knows he will have to do some fast talking to get out of this one.

#104 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 03:49 PM:

John,
Apparently, a degree in Latin American Studies qualifies as credentials for teaching Latin. They must have taken courses from GWB.

#105 ::: Edd Vick ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 04:10 PM:

Don't tell me I've been wrong all these years in following Ring Lardner's advice:

"A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
"Personally I have found it a good scheme to not even sign my name to the story, and when I have got it sealed up in its envelope and stamped and addressed, I take it to some town where I don't live and mail it from there. The editor has no idea who wrote the story, so how can he send it back? He is in a quandary."
- Ring Lardner, How to Write Short Stories
Scribner's, 1924

#106 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 04:14 PM:

B.A. in linguistics, M.A. in linguistics, ABD in linguistics. No longer want to be a linguist.

Editing sounds nice. Though, employment in general sounds nice-- I'm looking for jobs to pay the bills while I finish my dissertation and figure out what I *do* want to be and desperately wishing that I had some work experience besides TAing and teaching Freshman Comp. That and an unfinished diss on Icelandic phonology don't qualify one for anything.

#107 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 04:25 PM:

damn I spelled papiere wrong too. you know it's very hard to write in these little textboxes, and proofreading with preview ain't all that neither.

#108 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 04:27 PM:

'A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.'
Personally i like going on the editor's blog and filling up their comments.

#109 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 04:33 PM:

Ellen, wow, another linguist yet. What kind? I never went to grad school, and my degree is 20 years old (and then some), but I was and shall ever be a Stratificationalist. A bas le Chomsky, scuse my French.

Probably that battle is like Troy to people in the field today. I haven't kept up. What are the battling theories today?

#110 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 04:44 PM:

Xopher-- In syntax, I have no idea what the battling theories are; I do as little syntax as they let me get away with. In phonology, the burning issue of the day, at least in my neck of the woods, is whether Optimality Theory is salvageable and what we should be using if it's not.

#111 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 05:20 PM:

Hmm, in my day (he said, muttering about his lumbago) Stratificational Linguistics covered Phonology. It was the lowest pure-language stratum.

Of course, I've never heard of Optimality Theory. Have you heard of Stratificational Linguistics? My mentor back in school, David Lockwood, wrote the only textbook AFAIK.

The behavior of SG models when simulated actually results in behavior like that of actual humans speaking. Spreading-activation neural nets were the rage last I knew.

#112 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 05:34 PM:

No, I haven't heard of Stratificational Linguistics, nor done any work with neural nets. (Those, at least, are still being done, just not in my department. The field has not become any less balkanized in the last twenty years.)

And you're better off not knowing about OT, believe me.

#113 ::: Elizabeth Bear ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 05:58 PM:

double major, English and Anth, and what with one thing and another, no degree. And--

I write books about people. And news summaries about people. So I guess I am qualified by my training for that.

Not as qualified as my ex-boyfriend, though, who graduated with a BA in Physics and English, and went to work for Ingram--

--"moving books."

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 06:05 PM:

Heh. In that way, it sounds like Transformational Grammar, which a colleague of mine dubbed "Voodoo Linguistics."

In SG, there are -emes, -ons, and a tactics at each stratum. It's all relationships, no things. The emes and ons are points in the network, nothing more. An on at one stratum is realized by an eme at the next lower stratum, which is in turn spelled out in that stratum's ons.

Thus a lexeme (more or less a "word") is spelled out in lexons, and realized by morphemes, which are spelled out in morphons (more or less "morphophonemes"), under the direction of the morphotactics on the morphemic stratum, aka "the morphology." These morphons are then realized by phonemes, which are spelled out in phonons under the direction of the phonotactics.

Phonons are things like Apical, meaning articulated with the tip of the tongue, or Nasal with the usual meaning. These signal the phonetics, which causes the articulation of actual speech. Or, decoding, the network gets the actual sounds into the phonetics, and the tactics processes phonons into phonemes, which are realized them into morphons, etc.

Not quite 25 words or less, but a brief overview. You get to draw all sorts of cool diagrams too. It's great fun. .

#115 ::: Rana ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 06:43 PM:

This is a fun thread! Googling, screen plays, useless educational credentials...

My entry:

B.A. History
M.A. History
Ph.D. (you guessed it) History

(History in the flavor of U.S. history with a grand dollop of environmental history and theory.)

Currently working as an admin assistant and blogging like mad.

#116 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 08:15 PM:

Rana (lovely frog-person):

Are you the chosen one amongst us? The one who is destined not to repeat "it"?

'cause I think you've repeated it often enough...

#117 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 08:38 PM:

Well, the -emes are all still around, but I've never run across any of the -on words. How are rules encoded in the -tactics? I mean, from your description the various -tactices (?) sound rather like black boxes into which you could fit any number of phonological theories.

OT isn't all that bad, actually; or, rather it's very good at explaining a lot of processes, but pretty bad with others. (My data is pretty heavily skewed toward the others.) It uses ranked constraints rather than ordered rules-- the output candidate which racks up the fewest violations of the lowest-ranked rules emerges as the surface form. Large differences between dialects or languages can fall out from changing the relative rankings of shared constraints; OT is very nice for typology, though it does tend to overgenerate.

Constraints generally fall into two types: well-formedness constraints, which specify which sounds and sequences are preferred, and faithfulness constraints, which require identity between input and output sequences. Which faithfulness constraints (those barring insertion, deletion, or featural change) are most highly ranked determines which repair strategies a language will favor for repairing an input form (generated seperately by the morphology) that violates a high-ranking well-formedness constraint.

As I said, for some data, it works really well. It's good for dealing with rule conspiracies (seperate processes that lead to convergent outputs)-- good enough that phonologists have been willing to overlook the problems with the two big assumptions (all constraints are universal; the number of candidates is infinite) for nearly a decade. But their willingness has declined as OT has proven not quite so useful for more and more thorny analyses.

#118 ::: Becky Maines ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 09:21 PM:

A.B. (which is the same as a B.A., just more pretentious that way) in History, Philosophy, and Social Science of Science and Medicine, with a specialization in late nineteenth century astrophysics.

Now what business wouldn't leap to hire someone with that kind of background?

#119 ::: Rana ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 09:37 PM:

Jill, I'm stupid today. I'm sure your comment is delightfully subtle and witty, and filling the rest of the comment-readers with pleasure, but I'm too dense to get it. Explain please? :)


Oh, wait. Just got it. *big grin* We'll see!

#120 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 10:48 PM:

The diagrams make it clearer. in the usual format, the lines of realization run up and down, while the tactical lines run left and right.

The tactics (sing and pl.) control the sequencing (if any*) of the emes. An eme is a point where a realization line intersects a tactical line.

For example, one part of the lexotactics (syntax) of English is divided into NP and VP. The NP part of the tactics branches to all the structures that can comprise a noun phrase, and ultimately to intersect with the realization lines from the semotactics. When a signal arrives at this eme from both the realization direction and the tactics, a signal is sent in the realizate direction, so that the lexeme can be spelled out in lexons, each of which is ultimately realized as a morpheme.

I wish I could find an example online, but I haven't been able to.

At the phonological stratum, the tactics is simple - relatively. Sentences are more varied than words, obviously. Suppose you have a language where every syllable is composed of exactly one consonant followed by exactly one vowel. The phonotactics would consist largely of an ordered And, which would connect to an unordered Or branching to all the possible consonants of the language, followed by a connection to a similar Or for the vowels, followed by an optional juncture, followed by an optional loop back to the top of the And.

Real languages are more complex, of course. But by combining ordered and unordered Ands and Ors with optionality nodes, any word structure can be expressed. So too with morphology and syntax, and even semantics.

#121 ::: Sara ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 11:08 PM:

B.S. in Early Childhood Education from a small liberal arts christian college. I'm currently a stay at home mom so I guess I'm qualified even though I haven't had a paying job as a teacher since 1987. (sigh) I don't even homeschool.

Tom Galloway: I went to boarding high school in Asheville.

Sara

#122 ::: Zara Baxter ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 01:12 AM:

Oh wow, this has grown since I last looked.

My degree is in Biology (microbiology and genetics), with dabbles in psych. I actually started out doing the whole research scientist thing, and then fell off the wagon.

Now I work as a consumer advocate and IT journalist.

the only thing in common is viruses.

I got my current job because I wrote erotica in my spare time.

#123 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 02:14 AM:

Ellen & Xopher: this conversation is a parody, right? Right? Never mind, I'll just toddle off over there and feel stupid in a corner.

bryan: much giggling and snurfling from this corner of NA.

Jill: BFA, MFA, set design. (No jobs for BFAs, any fool could see that, therefore I should of course go for an MFA. Go into debt for a MFA, that's the ticket!) Career: making computer stuff work. (Paid for the MFA, anyway.) Side bennies: handy with power tools and paint. Arcane skill: even line weights. Took months to master. Now there's AutoCAD. (Just you people wait: someday, deadlines looming, the power will go out...)

#124 ::: Stuart ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 02:54 AM:

Charlie,

There is a fascinating story about the opera composer Verdi. As a young man he applied to the best conservatory in Italy and they rejected him. Years later when he was rich and famous they asked for permission to rename the school in his honor. He told them to get stuffed.

Success is the best revenge!

#125 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 06:44 AM:

Closing number:

The three villanelle reciting council members drag Todd James Pierce into the old one-room red brick school room, the students enrolled in the Todd James Pierce Advanced Class for Intellectual Advancement of the Culturated Brain are there, ready to give their recitals, their parents come streaming in after the council members, it is clear that this recital better be all they expect it to be or there is going to be a lynching.

Todd stands at his lecturer's podium, he is obviously a little worse for wear, as he looks in desperation at the bright expectant faces of his charges he prays beneath his breath

Todd James Pierce: So help me you little bastards better not fuck this up if you expect to see a dime of that lunch money I borrowed back.

He points at the students, randomly, and one steps forward, it is cute little Beauregard T. Vangelis who begins his recital

Beauregard: Tigger, Tigger
made of fluff
Tigger, Tigger of what stuff
That asthmatic breath can't tolerate
nor intarweb pervert penetrate

Beauregard's mother(in the crowd): THAT'S MY BOY BEING ALL ARTSY-FARTSY UP THERE, GO TO BEAUREGARD, GO TO!!!!

No Teddy Ruskins dare your art
To exalt in every part
Tigger, Tigger made of fluff
Tigger, Tigger beat up
Mr. SnuffleUpAguss!

Now the rest of the students come forward and give their speeches. Peter Nguyen gives a moving interpretation of Walt Whitman, Mary Sue Grenecky improvised a moving fable in which a stunningly beatiful woman named Mary Sue Grenecky became heavy-weight champion of the world, and so forth and so on in a montage sequence showing how Todd James Pierce's teaching methods have been vindicated.

Finally everybody, overjoyed and hectic in their celebration of literary culture, comes running out the school house and break into an impromptu song and dance routine with Melanie Mills and Todd James Pierce singing a duet.

Song: I got awards
they're multiplying
and commendations
I'm not lying

You better shape up,
for the postmodern game
this is a subtle reference to you.
You better shape up;
you better understand
that just about anything is metaphorically true.


You're the one I defraud.
(you are the one i defraud), o,o, oo, honey.
The one that I defraud.
(you are the one i defraud), o,o,oo, honey.
The one that I defraud
You, o,o, oo
please defraud me.
Oh, yes indeed.


Behind them, Todd's students, now transformed from the physically fit rednecks and goobers of the first act into four-eyed geeks and inept nerds by the magic of culture are doing extremely complicated dance movements into each other.

as sunset falls over the wonderful town of Battle Mountain Nevada and the vampires come out to feed upon the living, we see the three villanelle reciting council members taking Writer 18 off, strapping him to his harley, and placing a stick of dynamite with the words ACME written on the side into its exhaust pipe, which they then ignite sending Writer 18 hurtling off into space. We can hear his parting Words:

Writer 18: I'll be baaaack.

Song: You're the one I defraud.
(you are the one i defraud), o,o, oo, honey.
The one that I defraud.
(you are the one i defraud), o,o,oo, honey.
The one that I defraud
You, o,o, oo
please defraud me.
Oh, yes indeed.

#126 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 06:59 AM:

bryan -

Damn you: it's not even seven, and I have the soundtrack to "Grease" stuck in my head.

#127 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 07:13 AM:

Well if you read the first scene, first act of The Author Man you will have another musical soundtrack in your head instead. I should hope. ;)

#128 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 07:25 AM:

Quoth abby: Dan L-K: I played up my theatre-tech experience when I was looking for a part-time job that summer. I got the job, but I'm not sure whether my enthusiastic explanation of how, after dealing with the spoiled rotten diva of my last show, handling unhappy customers would be a piece of cake had anything to do with it.

I may have to steal that pitch - though I must say that dealing with spoiled rotten divas has made me even less forgiving of petty drama and office politics. That shit didn't impress me in people with loads of talent; among the clueless and artless, it moves me not at all.

#129 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 08:46 AM:

Oh, dear lord - to all those people who used to give Divas a "pass" for bad behavior because they were "talented," I used to say, "You have it backwards. If you're that talented, you have been given a gift and you have an obligation to be gracious, not to behave like an ass."

#130 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 08:55 AM:

...and bryan, stop messing with me. Go write a parody of "Once Upon a Mattress" or something.

PIERCE: I'm being mocked in an online thread,
The reasons must be clear:
I gave it a whack,
But I'm a talentless hack,
So, hence bryan's bronx cheer.

#131 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 11:39 AM:

Xeger: modulo a latinate degree name and it being a double major (ooh, fancy), that's my undergrad background. In LS now, 2/3rds of the way to a JD, actually using both.

And intending to use all three. Intending, of course.

#132 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 11:45 AM:

pericat, sorry for annoying you. But no, no parody.

I feel that way in some of the physics discussions, or the to-me-obscure lit conversations. But don't worry, I don't think Ellen and I will talk about it too much more...I'll show the diagrams to anyone who wants to know, at Worldcon.

I don't expect many takers, just so you know.

#133 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 12:17 PM:

Xopher: ...But don't worry, I don't think Ellen and I will talk about it too much more...I'll show the diagrams to anyone who wants to know, at Worldcon.

Meet at the fan lounge at a specific time? Get a breakout room from programming? I'm sure I know enough people to have a good chance of tracking you down, but my conac is increasingly challenged by the ADD.

I don't expect many takers, just so you know.

Like the medievalist said, what kind of people do you think read this blog? Just when it was starting to look like something I could make heads or tails from.

#134 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 01:08 PM:

Xopher, I was not annoyed! I was mere teasing a bit. Pray continue, I'll get some tea and try to follow along.

#135 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 01:09 PM:

Dan, I'm floored. It never would have occurred to me that anyone would be interested in Stratificational Linguistics, other than another linguist...how many linguists are there on here? Three, maybe four?

I guess the truth is that my friends (in the offline world) have all expressed their emphatic lack of interest for so long that I forget there are other omnivorous learners out there.

So if you really want me to give a breakout session on SG, I'll be more than delighted. My conac is also challenged by ADD, but Voodoo Boards help a lot. (I check both H and X.) (And by the way, some of this stuff is useful in computers, too: for example, the And-Dominant principle has simplified many of my programs, and an Upward Or is basically a function call.)

Guess I'd better brush up on Lockwood 1972!

#136 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 01:49 PM:

Xopher, if I were going to be there, I would be interested as well.

#137 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 02:51 PM:

Oh. Right. "Hugged it like a brother." It's from a novel called Red Sky at Morning, in the episode about the dead horse.

Now someone who has a copy to hand is going to tell me I've misremembered it.

#138 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 04:02 PM:

Xopher, having dabbled in linguists as regards to cognitive development, in particular with regard to the hearing impaired (oh, how my life took a 90-degree turn since those days), I would love to be there for the Worldcon Linguistis Lecture & Discussion Group. Set a time, eh?

Damn, now I'm definitely going to have to go to Worldcon.

TNH -- Will we still combine all this with a trip to kill small paper targets? Yes? Oh, and we have to have Sex.

#139 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 04:31 PM:

pericat: Here is your parody.

Xopher wrote:
Thus a lexeme (more or less a "word") is spelled out in lexons, and realized by morphemes, which are spelled out in morphons (more or less "morphophonemes"), under the direction of the morphotactics on the morphemic stratum, aka "the morphology." These morphons are then realized by phonemes, which are spelled out in phonons under the direction of the phonotactics.

Thus a legume (more or less a "vegetable") is not elected, instead raised up by minions, who are more or less morons, under the direction of the republicans in the supreme courtus, aka "the injustices." This legume is then brainwashed by memes, which are transmitted by neocons who are often didactic.

#140 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 05:41 PM:

Okay, I'll play:

BA with double major in theater and linguistics, most of an MA in English lit, now slogging along the PhD path in English and wondering if I want to stay on it.

Theater and linguistics both create transferable skills in the areas of communications and analysis, which are useful in life as well as formal employment, but I've done nothing that officially used either one.

Xopher: the branching diagrams of NP and VP and the like are still in use; not so the realization lines. There are still competing diagrams/theories of language production, not to mention acquisition. If I'd gone on to grad studies in linguistics, my holy grail would have been trying to produce unified theories of language acquisition and production processes.

bryan: :: snort::

Now I'm going to be late to class because I was enjoying this thread too much. Do they give degrees in procrastination?

#141 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 05:53 PM:

Xopher. Wow. I'm jealous. Linguistics. It's what I should have studied, had I known it was possible.

I was in Bookshop Santa Cruz (one of the best bookstores in the country) a couple of weeks ago and picked up a copy of a linguistics journal that was sitting on the interesting-stuff table. I'll confess that the cover art attracted me and I didn't really look at the title.

Upon opening the cover, I was greeted with notations that I haven't seen in years being used to describe very specific details of languages I hadn't even heard of. I knew that I didn't have the tools to fully process what was going on in the articles. Oh, the woes of a generalist who discovers a missed specialty.

Last year, I took some time off to take a German class at the Goethe Institut in Berlin. (Highly recommended. Great experience.) At the end of the course, the teacher said that I was one of those people who thought of language as a puzzle to be solved. In retrospect, I think she was right.

And thanks for the vocabulary. Lexon, eh? What a great word.

I wonder how many Lexons there are in a Lexus...

#142 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 05:59 PM:
Do they give degrees in procrastination?

Certainly, but there's a catch - if you manage to complete the degree requirements, you clearly don't qualify to receive it.

#143 ::: abby ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 06:02 PM:

Xopher, now I have to go looking this stuff up, because I know enough linguistics to mostly follow the discussion but not enough for it to really click. I need diagrams. But that's what university libraries are for. Anyway, count me as another vote in favor of the WorldCon Linguistis Lecture & Discussion Group.

#144 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 07:47 PM:

Dang, I wish I could go to Worldcon. I could have brought out my OT tableaux, complete with pointy fingers and exclamation points. Duelling paradigms!

Alas.

Zara-- Dare I ask *how* writing erotica in your spare time got you your job? *speculatively eyes hard-drive full of slash.*

#145 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 08:50 PM:

It occurs to me that this thread works as very counter-productive to high school guidance counselors' advice.

But then, is it really that bad an idea to dissuade someone from going to college when they end up with a $100K piece of paper and a job at the local clothing store, anyway?

#146 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 10:13 PM:

Alice considered:
But then, is it really that bad an idea to dissuade someone from going to college when they end up with a $100K piece of paper and a job at the local clothing store, anyway?

I generally think that it's a good idea to go to college to gain exposure to a wider world, and different viewpoints. In some degree courses, at least, it helps teach you to put logical steps together into some semblance of a useful plan. In better degree courses, it teaches you the theory to give your practice a firm background.

When I interview people, I'm always curious about partially completed degrees - I'm interested as much in your ability to push through and finish something that may, in the end, be horribly dreary, as I am in your type of degree. There's a vast difference between "never tried college", "gave it a good try, couldn't deal with it", "couldn't be bothered to finish", and "ran out of money".

#147 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 10:37 PM:

Xopher, sign me up for the linguistics panel. I'm particularly attuned to regional dialects of American English.

Or maybe we could all agree to meet at the voodoo message board (or a bar) at the same time ahead of time? I've done odder things, folks. In fact, just outside the Sheraton in the Prudential Center is a very nice, wide-menu one-stop food court ..... Marche Movenpick. They have just about everything, and served separately so you can accommodate just about any variety of diet/preference.

What you all think? (Just something to cogitate on. I may bring it up closer to the event)

#148 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 10:43 PM:

I generally think that it's a good idea to go to college to gain exposure to a wider world, and different viewpoints.

My college education taught me not so much practical skills but the greater skill of how to learn something new. Since college, I've come across fields of study I was interested in, and pursued them on my own with varied success or continued interest, but never with any difficulty in knowing where to start to learn.

The ability to learn something is a skill that is not to be put down or dismissed. It may not get you a job (more's the pity), but it will keep your job when technology changes, and it will help no end in developing a creative life outside of work. I find it depressing to see people who worked very hard at memorizing facts all through their education sitting around complaining about how they never use their degree. I'm certainly not working in the field of my bachelor's -- in fact I'm working an another, unrelated degree -- but I use my college education every day, and bless my former professors.

#149 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 12:00 AM:

Xeger: "There's a vast difference between "never tried college", "gave it a good try, couldn't deal with it", "couldn't be bothered to finish", and "ran out of money"."

How about "mother died, father abandoned young son, had to move home to be his guardian"? As it happened, once Rick was through college, I went on to a career in defense. My last job was an assistant VP level (in the technical track).

#150 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 01:23 AM:

Marilee writes:

How about "mother died, father abandoned young son, had to move home to be his guardian"? As it happened, once Rick was through college, I went on to a career in defense. My last job was an assistant VP level (in the technical track).

I should probably have added in "acts of deity". I'd certainly file that under good reasons to not complete [or complete at the time] a college degree.

I should probably also add that "ran out of money" can certainly have different values - I had several classmates that were in the habit of applying for student loans to maintain their preferred standard of living, rather than to maintain their academic progress. YMMV, of course.

What I'm really looking for there is the persistance to finish what you start - and if you don't finish what you start, some clear thought and reason behind not having done so.

Clearly in your case, persistance isn't an issue, nor is sticking to a difficult task.

#151 ::: cyclopatra ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 06:24 AM:

Ayse: absolutely! Whether it's as a job skill or just to satisfy my random, frequent and voracious desires for information about a given topic, knowing how to find the knowledge I want and what to do with it once I've found it has paid for my degree in satisfaction over and over. (Of course, the Internet has been invaluable in this regard, too - in our house, it's referred to as 'Ortho-Gro for your brain'. I no longer know what I would do if I didn't constantly have this giant repository of information at my fingertips.)

And while I may not use my degree in my work, I definitely use my education. I finished most of a minor in CompSci while getting my degree. When I started taking CS classes, the professors told us that UBC's program wasn't much like your average churn-out-the-coders CS program - they wouldn't teach us Java, or the MSFC, or any number of things that would be considered 'job-skills' for programmers. Instead, they threw new languages at us constantly. Two or three a term at first, then two or three per course. I ended up having to learn at least twelve useless languages, even studying for an incomplete minor.

Only one of the languages I learned in university has been useful in my work as a programmer (although actually, that one - SQL - has been indispensable). But - as advertised by my profs in CS 120 and 121 - I can learn new programming languages in a matter of days or even sometimes hours, given a decent introductory book and a language reference. And that has been a hell of a lot more useful to me than simply knowing Java would have been.

#152 ::: Rachel Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 10:08 PM:

Playing:

BA, MA, ABD in Political Science/Government/Politics (three different universities, three different names, one subject).

I'm now a book interior designer and typesetter. Also I teach beginning t'ai chi at my old undergraduate institution. (Long story, which I only inflict on the unwary. To make it short:) Life happens. Thank G-d.

#153 ::: James J Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 11:16 PM:

Third generation graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism (back when a journalism degree didn't include courses in Applied Makeup [or is that Makeup Application?]). Grandfather was managing editor of the Lawrence, Ks. newspaper. Father was seduced by the dark side, went into PR and advertising.

I have had, at best, marginal work relating to the degree, and am currently doing desktop output, which entails doing things like taking Publisher files and generating four-color film for printing (a task roughly equivalent to taking a lump of coal and producing a diamond via the direct appication of a spastic colon).

Then again, the degree has stood me in good stead in my 25+ years of fannish and pro publishing work, including stints with Tangent, the SFWA Bulletin and the production of two books by the KaCSFFS Press.

Oh yeah, college also introduced me to fandom and my wife of almost 26 years (that'd be Paula), among other things. So overall, it was a plus.

#154 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2004, 11:43 PM:

Yes, it is a plus, honey! Sometimes we look around and go, "we've known each other HOW long?!"

#155 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 08:18 PM:

pericat, some of us AutoCAD geeks know very well that experience that allows you to associate the lines on the computer screen and the lines on the ground is invaluable.

Let me rephrase: The better AutoCAD geeks know this.

#156 ::: Zara Baxter ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 10:08 PM:

Ellen:

The editor of the mag I write for was on a mailing list for er.. "bad girls" and I posted some of my erotica to that list regularly.

She said something along the lines of "I *know* you can write. Why not try your hand at this computer-related article that needs a writer."

So I did. Et Voila!

From the same mailing-list, the editor of Skin Two (fetishy mag), who had also read my erotica, asked me to write something for them, but I lost the email in a massive hard drive crash, and never followed it up. Ah well. I was so shy and not-really-believing-in-myself at that point that I probably wouldn't have made a go of the erotica anyway. This was about 6 years ago...

#157 ::: Karen Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 02:53 AM:

May I crash this party for a moment?

School: TV-Radio major, Syracuse University, 1975-77; switched to English Lit and Film (1977-9) because a) the excruciatingly dull Business of Television course was the same time as Barney Miller and b) I had nothing new for Hawkeye Pierce to say or do. Left four incompletes short of a B.A. in 1979 when I felt I could not write another English paper to save my life. B.S.B./Accounting major, University of Phoenix, 2002-present, for which I'm currently 200 pages behind in my reading.

Job History, in order: fast food, bookstore-head shop clerk, record store owner-manager, video rental clerk, travel agent, travel agency bookkeeper; plus a handful of unremarkable writing credits and two unsold novels.

I guess it's just the usual progression from the 20-year-old's unrealistic plan ("I'm going to sit in my used bookstore writing screenplays between customers!") to desperate practicality ("If I become a CPA I have a fighting chances of getting out of debt in my lifetime!").

Re Mr. Pierce: as with so many recent examples of impaired ethics, I am reminded of an old Doonesbury cartoon, circa 1974, in which a prof explains the need for the course he's introducing, ending with the words, "Right and Wrong 101 is one such stab in the dark."

Bryan, I loved your Music Man parody, but completely missed the Grease reference until someone else identified it. I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed.

Karen

#158 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 05:01 AM:

Karen - thanks.

I like the At the Hop parody most myself, as that was where I realized what the IAP acronym stood for:

I Am Pierce.

#159 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 10:54 AM:

Good God*, what a response...of course, people here being interested in language shouldn't surprise me.

Okay, I'm actually going to see about getting a room for this. Brief Intro to Stratificational Linguistics is one topic; I'm thinking The Indo-European Expansion, or Why I Sometimes Scream When Watching Stargate SG-1 might be another...though there's probably a more qualified Indo-Europeanist among all these linguists.

Also, please recall that my degree is from 1981, and be gentle with my ignorance of developments since then (though I'd really love to get caught up), and my spotty memory of what we did back then.

*and for me, of course, that means the Dagda.

#160 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 11:50 AM:

Education: Hunter College High School and NYState Regents diplomas; three semesters at Case Western Reserve University (major: Systems Engineering)--but the last semester I muffed, since I was significantly depressed at the time, so really only two semesters.

Now I edit books and do admin.

#161 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 12:06 PM:

Melissa, when were you at Hunter College High School? I know some grads myself.

#162 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 03:24 PM:

Xopher: I'm thinking The Indo-European Expansion, or Why I Sometimes Scream When Watching Stargate SG-1 might be another...

Okay, speaking as someone who never went beyond LING 101 (loved it), and who watches perhaps too much SG-1 (alas, I love this too), I'm dying to hear more. What's the issue? My guess would be that when we hear fragments of languages spoken by alien cultures descended from populations of kidnapped humans, the languages they speak now don't line up with the languages they spoke at the time of their cultural isolation, even when accounting for known patterns of linguistic drift.

Do I win?

#163 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 03:53 PM:

You win the little prize. They keep encountering people who speak perfect American English, which would be OK (most SF series do that, to avoid having every. single. episode. bog down in interpreters and language problems and accents) if they were consistent. And it bugs me that they aren't.

BUT the big thing from my point of view is that 1) they say the Ancients were on Earth 30,000 years ago, 2) then they turn around and say that "Earth's Latin is a derivative of Ancient." And they have words so close that - well, it would be Latin's immediate parent.

This is like saying "My uncle is descended from Charlemagne." If your uncle is, so is your dad or mom, and so are you. Earth's Latin is a derivative; well then so is English, and Urdu, and Greek, and Farsi. But it sounds like Latin, and they can figure it out because they know Latin.

Look, Proto-IndoEuropean (from which all the languages listed above are derived) was spoken about 6,000 years ago (some say only 5,000). This is 24,000 years AFTER the Ancients supposedly left Earth, and only a millennium or so before Egypt got going. Latin wouldn't be any more help than English at that timescale; neither would be any help at all.

There's a whole lot of nonsense-linguistics in SG-1, not that that keeps me from watching the show, which is the only decent SF television still being made AFAIK. Also a lot of mythology nonsense. I mean, it's a TV show. They had a real Egyptologist consult on the movie ("they must have used Budge. Why do they still publish his books?"); plainly he didn't make the cut for the series.

#164 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 05:44 PM:

Xopher, you've led me to formulate "Leader's Law", which states that any sufficiently interesting blog will eventually discuss linguistics, at least in the comments.

Of course, that probably says more about what I consider an "interesting blog" than anything about blogdom or linguistics in general.

On the other hand, any far-ranging discussion conducted via language will eventually indulge in some sort of meta-discussion about the language it's conducted in, and going up one more level to discuss linguistics isn't such a big jump.

Oh, and on the use-of-education question, I'm _so_ boring. I remember in my application essay for a private highschool way back in 1975, I wrote about a book I'd recently read (I forget the title, but the author was John Kemeny, head of the group at Dartmouth which created BASIC) which predicted the future ubiquity of computer terminals for things like banking. At that age I knew I wanted to do something with computers; I eventually got a BS in Engineering and Applied Science. That's one degree, all engineers except Electrical and Chemical were lumped together, and there was no CS bachelor's degree offered at Caltech at the time. I've been a programmer ever since.

However, most of what I know about programming I taught myself along the way, and I know a lot more about various science and engineering subjects now than I did when I graduated. It's not clear to me exactly what I learned in college, because it's all so much a part of *me* now, that it's hard to tell where it came from.

#165 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 06:11 PM:

Well, the American English issue is, as you say, one of those SF TV conventions that you just have to take as a given. I was thinking more along the lines of "Welcome to the Planet of the Space Aztecs! Now you watch out for the deadly animals in the caves, which we call hurdly-gurdly-wat." And hurdly-gurdly-wat is NOT a word that could have come from some weird derivative-of-Nahuatl.

Of course, I'm still guessing here. I don't speak Nahuatl; I just suspect that's an easy place for scriptwriters to be lazy.

#166 ::: Dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 08:00 PM:

*delurk*

Screenwriters, lazy? Are you referring to the accepted way of writing speculative scripts for sci-fi shows that read like this:

KIRK: Scotty, I need more power!
SCOTTY: I canna do it cap'n, because TECH.
KIRK: Dammit, Spock?
SPOCK: TECH
KIRK: Do you think that will work?
SPOCK: TECH
KIRK: Well then, get to it.
SCOTTY: Aye aye, captain.

That there's a real convention, just so freelance writers don't screw up the Show Bible Continuity!

*lurk*

#167 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 02:19 AM:

KIRK: Dammit, I need power right now or I'm going to direct again!
SPOCK: That's a hardware problem, Captain. Perhaps you should call Mr. Scott in Tech Support.
KIRK: Scotty --
SCOTT'S VOICE: Thank you for calling the Engineering Deck. All service personnel are busy right now, except for me, and I'm drunk. If your problem is shield failure, press, or since this is the future, say 1. If your problem is phaser failure, press 2. If your problem is main engine failure, press 3 and wait for the commercial to end. If you are the Captain, Dr. McCoy keeps the bluidy Viagra, I don't. Have a nice day.

Of course, there is also great fun to be had with their "Universal Translator," but I did that. In the non-comedy book, yet.

#168 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 04:21 AM:

Kirk: KHAAAAAAAAN!
Spock: I fail to discern the logic of shouting in my frigging ear sir.
McCoy: Dammit Spock, we don't need logic to see your ears are made for shouting into.
Spock: Typical Humanocentric country doctor redneck bullshit, I oughta death-grip your wrinkled old racist balls bitch.
Kirk: KHAAAAAAAAN!
Todd James Pierce: I am Khan!

#169 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 10:42 AM:

Xopher:

I was at Hunter a very long time ago, graduated 1976, back when the 6th year, then called ICY or Inter-College Year and structured as work-study, was optional (what this meant was that I was 17 by 2 days when I started my freshman year of college; my birthday was during orientation). The school was still mostly not co-ed (it was integrated grade by grade, so when I was in my last 2 years, there were 2 years' worth of boys in grades 7 and 8. I chiefly remember that they were short . . . ). It's not likely that I know any of the Hunter people you know, though I've been surprised by Hunter connections before (my psychotherapist when I was 19, the head of the single mothers' organization I belong to) . . . .

I went to my 25th reunion a few years ago and the funniest thing was that almost all the women came without spouses or partners. And the half-a-dozen men who were there sat together at one table in the back while the women held the floor.

The second funniest thing was that one classmate showed up 9 months' pregnant (her due date was 2 days after the reunion) _with_ her OB . . . who was a fellow classmate!

#170 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 10:42 AM:

And hurdly-gurdly-wat is NOT a word that could have come from some weird derivative-of-Nahuatl.

Unlike 'chocolate', 'ocelot', 'avocado', and 'guacamole', all of which come from Nahuatl (the last two from the same Nahuatl word, albeit suffixed in the second case). Not to disagree with your point, the truth of which is a source of pain to me on an ongoing basis.

Dolloch, I knew it had to be something like that. My friend David and I call it "rubber science," as in "Well, we can't beam them out because [rubber science]." Every once in a while while watching TNG we'd look at each other and say "BOINNNNNNGGGG!!!"

#171 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 10:47 AM:

Melissa, no, you're right. The ones I know went there in the early 80s, so you wouldn't know them.

I went to my HS reunion years ago. One of my (female) classmates' husbands (he'd been a year ahead in high school) hit on me in the men's room. This was too surreal even for me, so I left.

#172 ::: Tim Lieder ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 01:41 PM:

Another BA in the theatre. I stopped telling people about it when I got sick of answering "NO! I'm not in any shows." There was also going to be a BA in religious studies (I began converting to Judaism in college - I wanted an excuse to stick around, get financial aid and learn Hebrew) but never completed that one.

The Theatre major DID help me write dialogue - or at least get into the habit of having the characters speak to each other. Even though my one screenplay is utter dreck.

Going to a program for an MA in English, Creative Writing concentration - but that's more my excuse to move from Minnesota to New York. With the Pierces of the world, I might not be admitting to that one either.

#173 ::: James J Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 07:51 PM:

Xopher wrote:

Okay, I'm actually going to see about getting a room for this. Brief Intro to Stratificational Linguistics is one topic; I'm thinking The Indo-European Expansion, or Why I Sometimes Scream When Watching Stargate SG-1 might be another...though there's probably a more qualified Indo-Europeanist among all these linguists.

Xopher, I am actually a minor functionary of the massive beast that is N4 Programming, which continues to solicit ideas for panels even as we type. If you wish, I could submit this one, with your name/email attached. I'd certainly like to attend it, as well (if I'm not herding the Literary Beer participants at the time it's scheduled, that is). Reply here or to my email.

Murray

#174 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 08:11 PM:

Wow, all of this makes me want to abandon my current plans for Labor Day weekend and go hang out in Boston instead. There's something particularly delicious about discussing anti-Chomskian grammars in the very city where Chomsky hisself lives & works.

I've a BA in linguistics (and Asian history -- when I'm channeling TJ Pierce, I call it a degree in Central Asian military history, which was the topic of my thesis), an MA in linguistics, and am currently ABD. Used to do very heavy Chomskian-style Japanese syntax, but then got adulterated by non-Chomskian grammars, disgruntled by the rather nasty undertone of syntax in general, and discovered sociolinguistics to be a far more interesting, multi-disciplinary, and supportive/friendly subfield.

I'm planning to finish up ('course, I've been saying that for years) and go get a job in academia somewhere. The publish/perish lifestyle really doesn't fit my personality, whereas I love teaching, so I suspect I'll be getting a teaching position somewhere...linguistics or something vaguely related. I may even be fortunate enough to land in the English department at Clemson, wouldn't that be fun. At any rate, I've long since come to terms with the fact that I will never be a high-prestige, oft-cited research scientist at some Ivy-league (or equivalent). Oh, dear.

Thanks to Amanda for suggesting a professional CV-schlepping service.

Xopher: Transformational Grammar still feels like a patch to a useful if limited theory, particularly after I've taught syntax to yet another class of undergraduates in Linguistics 101, but the last two (?) incarnations of it by Chomsky, Minimalism and Principle&Parameters, have made it the heart of his syntactic theory. I know there are competing syntactic theories out there, but his stuff so dominates Syntax that everything else seems to be either informed by, or attempting to refute, his work.

"Neural Nets" are still used in psycholinguistics, so far as I know, but from what little I know they're considered useful but limited models, which require the integration of probability models (and very probably ordered hierarchies) in order to simulate the human brain. I'm not familiar with the term 'sequentially-activated' with relation to neural nets, it may describe this sort of thing exactly.

#175 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 02:19 AM:

I started as a Physics major at Caltech, switched to Astronomy, dropped out when my mother was dying, came back and restarted my Sophmore year, asking "which degree has the fewest required courses?"

That was Math, so I converged asymptotically towards a B.S. in Math. But someone noticed that so many of my electives were English Lit (and you all like to read, too!) that if I took a few more English courses, I could get a degree in that, too. So I got a double B.S. from Caltech in Math and English Lit. Then M.S. at UMass/Amherst in Computer and Information Science. BUT -- technically, I went to UMass because I was offered a joint fellowship in Computers and Linguistics. But when I got there, it turned out that Linguistics never knew that Computers had made me that offer. I'd taken Psycholinguistics at Caltech, and Computational Linguistics, and Chomskian Syntax, and stuff. So my M.S. was Cybernetics and A.I., and I was closing in on an MFA in Poetry, too, before my Ph.D. (ABD) bizarre situation shoved me out of the academic world until a random recent reentry at the professorial level, starting in Astronomy, of all things. Not counting the two MBA dissertations I wrote for Fortune 100 executives, for cash under the table. Got them both MBAs with Honors from top schools.

But if there's a worldcon panel on linguistics, you've got to get Sheila Finch! She's so on top of Xenolinguistics! And Somtow Sucharitkul learned Lakota to make his Native American werewolves linguistically credible. And, oh wow! You MUST have Dr. Suzette Haden Elgin!

#176 ::: Karen Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 03:35 AM:

You linguistics folks are starting to make me nervous about the three fictional languages in my aforementioned unsold novels. If I do eventually sell them, please ask Suzette Haden Elgin not to point at me and laugh, okay?

Karen

#177 ::: els ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 05:04 PM:

I graduated from homeschool, and, ornery female cuss that I can be, didn't want to negate all the hard work I did there by taking the test for a GED so that I was "legal." It just seemed fundamentally wrong that I legally graduated, according to the requirements of the state, but that my diploma meant nothing.

Because of my cussedness, I couldn't go to college to earn a degree, but I read everything of interest to me that I can get my hands on, in between bouts of dealing with my children who have just discovered the joys of screaming at each other.

Since I am trying to break into writing, the things I study now have direct bearing on my "job." (my job being sitting in front of a blank computer screen, drinking obscene amounts of hot tea, and hoping that my muse will wake up sometime this year.)

So I guess that means that I am working in the field I trained/am training for. :)

#178 ::: colleen @ del rey ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 05:46 PM:

Jill wrote:
"Can we have a show of hands of people who actually work in the field that their education "qualified" them for?"

Huh. I'm guessing that unless someone were trained for a particular skillset required to do a particular job [ie, lawyer, doctor, plumber, dentist, etc...] an awful lot of folks you meet probably don't work in a job that has anything to do with their education. At least not folks who are in their late thirties or older.

I did not graduate high school myself. I went to a Catholic school for eleven years, and three years into high school my folks moved out to California and I was plopped into a public school. The public school did not count those credits my brother and I earned in "religious instruction" so we were both left back a year, to make up the credits. However, we were both bored silly by the kind of bonehead curriculum at our high school (we'd learned most of the stuff they were taching by the time we were in sixth grade) so we both ended up just dropping out rather than repeating the whole year. [Possibly not the smartest decision in the world but hey, nobody has ever once asked me for a high school diploma during a job interview so who knows?]

I did go back to college later, when I was about 25, for two years. [And in California's state school system they did not used to require high school transcripts if the returning student was more than five years out of high school.]

I wanted to study history and archaeology, knowing full well that this was merely because I was interested in the subjects, and not because this field of study would ever have any practical value in finding a job. I merrily took all the history and ancient history and creative writing courses that I could, and worked in bookstores to pay for it. Eventually I had to admit to myself that I just could not afford to keep going to school so I didn't earn a degree. Someday I'd like to go back, just for fun, and finish up a degree in something that I just like to read about.

But strangely enough it was the bookstore experience that eventualy landed me a job in publishing, first as a sales rep in the early 90's, and then again in marketing and publicity about five years ago. This is not something I ever actually thought I'd be doing when I was going to high school.

The folks that hired me were frank about the fact that they were far more interested in my retail bookselling background than my academic background. That's good cos my academic background would qualify me for...pretty much nothing at all.

How many of you out there who are in a position to hire people actually care about what someones major was in school (again, unless it's something like a required skillset like medicine, etc). I'd be curious to know.

#179 ::: colleen @ del rey ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 05:49 PM:

Dang but them there's alot of typos in that last post. Sorry about that.

See? I shoulda stayed in high school. :-)

#180 ::: redfox ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 07:45 PM:

It's a bit late for this, but Amanda wrote:

From my own recent experiences in a PhD program, I was instructed to list my teaching positions as "awards" on my CV.

That strikes me as seriously bad advice. There's already a place on your CV for teaching experience; there's a place for awards. They aren't the same thing, and the honor and value of the TA positions accrues to them quite properly in that capacity.

Now, sometimes TA positions are part of something that is a genuine award (say, a named fellowship that includes a teaching responsibility); but if I were evaluating a candidate who listed something like "IAP award" to mean "Instructor's Assistant Position" I would consider it every bit as dishonest as the sorts of things this guy suggests in his bad advice.

If the candidate listed "Instructor's Assistant Position" under "Awards," I wouldn't think it was dishonest, but I'd think it was silly, at best, or maybe that it was a mistake. Something like "the J.A. Smith Teaching Fellowship," though, assuming it was real, would indeed be an appropriate entry under "Honors and Awards."

#181 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 07:52 PM:

BA in Astrophysics and Linguistics (double-major). Jobs in computer programming, software tech support, QA, and various IT things. So add me to the list of "no preparation from my degree unless I turn my head sideways and squint".

Xopher: Now I'm trying to figure out how Stratificational Linguistics would explain Navajo, and I'm getting really confused. ;-)

#182 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 08:41 PM:

redfox: Something like "the J.A. Smith Teaching Fellowship," though, assuming it was real, would indeed be an appropriate entry under "Honors and Awards."

Okay, over in Electrolite they are discussing what sort of institute Electrolite may be.

Since I am, in fact, "J.A. Smith" (Jill Adelaide Smith, nee Sawdon), does that mean I can endow a Fellowship? As I am currently unemployed, the endowment may consist of cheese sandwiches, a la Spider Robinson...

I will also report back to anyone perusing the CV of one who has enjoyed the patronage of the J.A. Smith Fellowship, that the cheese sandwiches were, in fact, consumed. (Tofu cheese product supplied on request for any vegans in the fellowship pool).

Yours sincerely,

J.A. Smith x 2 (My husband, John A., is also J.A. Smith - he may grill the cheese sandwiches, if you ask really nicely)

#183 ::: james ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 08:51 PM:

Add my name to the list for education/job mismatch.

I have an M.A. in English and an LL.B., and I work as a software developer (UNIX/C++).

At one time I was a legal editor for a professional publishing company, which did have some relevance to my degrees, but that was many years ago.

#184 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 09:11 PM:

"How many of you out there who are in a position to hire people actually care about what someones major was in school (again, unless it's something like a required skillset like medicine, etc). I'd be curious to know."

I actually work in the field I trained in (!), so clearly I'm not normal :-)

The people I hire are usually required by the Uni to have a degree in a "related" field, but I tend to interpret "related" pretty broadly. When I interview applicants either for tech (BS/MS) or scientist (PhD) positions, I am a lot more interested in their work experience than in what exact field they got their academic degree. I'd rather hire somebody with a B- average, a BS in English, and 2 years of solid laboratory experience, than somebody with an A+ average and a BS in zoology but absolutely no practical lab experience.

I do pay a lot of attention to letters of recommendation, but actively remind myself that they're often as overstated and skewed as real estate ads. Life lesson: when the referee says, "Well, he's not the best, but he's not the worst; he can probably do what you need him to do,", do NOT hire the guy. He's only "not the worst" if you compare the guy to wilted piece of lemon peel.

#185 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2004, 08:52 AM:

Colleen,
I wanted to study history and archaeology, knowing full well that this was merely because I was interested in the subjects, and not because this field of study would ever have any practical value in finding a job. I merrily took all the history and ancient history and creative writing courses that I could, and worked in bookstores to pay for it. Eventually I had to admit to myself that I just could not afford to keep going to school so I didn't earn a degree. Someday I'd like to go back, just for fun, and finish up a degree in something that I just like to read about.

That's why I work for a University. My benefits (ha) include 6 credit hours a semester. Although I'm using that benefit to get my Master's degree, I'm still taking classes solely because they interest me. Of course a lot of the classes I want to take don't fit into my work schedule, but that's simply a matter of finding a different job with more flexible hours. THEN I'll be able to take Russian, and Constitutional Law, and The History of Ancient China...

#186 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2004, 11:26 AM:
How many of you out there who are in a position to hire people actually care about what someone's major was in school (again, unless it's something like a required skillset like medicine, etc). I'd be curious to know.

It depends on what their work experience is like. Positions I am involved in hiring for require a variety of skills, one of which is programming. If someone has sufficient experience doing the right kind of programming, I don't care what their major was. If someone does not have that experience, but has significant experience in other areas of interest to us, I'd consider a major in computer science or a related area to be a plus.

This really only applies to someone who hasn't been out of college too many years - past a certain point I don't care about undergraduate degrees, period.

#187 ::: Shelly Rae Clift ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2004, 01:50 AM:

I see that I'm not the only ABD in the mix. Now if only it were of some use...

BA: English Lit (thesis on Melville)
MA: English Lit (Thesis on Marie de France & Margery Kempe)
ABD: Medieval Lit (my Ph.D. exams were on Old English and Middle English lit, Early Drama and Feminist Theory)

I currently work in a nursery where I do seminars on horticultural topics and write caresheets for various types of plants, trees, and shrubs. I do use my Latin some in all those botanical names. And I teach dogs silly tricks.

#188 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2004, 01:01 PM:

This comment moved to Jonathan Vos Post.

#189 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2004, 04:33 PM:

Shelly Rae:

Early Drama and Feminist Theory: I did a paper a couple of years ago on protofeminist rhetoric in Julian of Norwich, and another on Hroswitha. I'm technically a Victorianist, but tend to wander; recent topics include sentimentality in The West Wing and blogs as political dissent. Supposedly it looks better if you publish all in one area while working toward your PhD, but I might have trouble with that . . .

If it's not impertinent of me, what's your dissertation topic?

#190 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2004, 10:08 PM:

Sorry, everyone. I was away at Rites of Spring. No internet, no cell phones even. It was BLISS, actually...

James J Murray, that'd be great! Thank you. This started out as trying to just get a breakout room with a whiteboard to explain the basics of stratificational linguistics, and I'd still like to do that. A "Linguistics in Science Fiction" panel would be cool -- I'm quite opinionated about that myself! (The use of the apostrophe in alien languages ought IMO to be limited by law, for example.)

JvP, I'm afraid I think Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue novels are either nonsense or deliberate comedy...the third one is obviously the latter, since the idea that sufficient singing obviates the need for food could not possibly be taken, or meant, seriously. Lot's of exclamations of "WHAT?!?!" while reading the first two, also.

The trouble is that her whole concept of Laadan is based on Sapir-Whorf, which she otherwise utterly ignores. All those "Linguist" children would be weird kids. Note she assumes that just associating with women and girls who speak Laadan will change men - yet none of the kids acquires any of the cultural characteristics of the humanoid aliens whose languages they learn in the Interface - a pretty implausible device to begin with. If a child interacted with adults only in such a sterile environment, I doubt s/he would acquire language at all (I may be misremembering the Interface, but immersion requires living in the actual physical environment to really work).

Steven Sample, I'm not sure what special characteristics of Navajo are confusing you, but if you give me some corpi that illustrate them, I'll try. Please remember I-am-only-an-egg, and a 23-year-old egg (my degree is from 1981) at that. I do know that one of the graduate students when I was at Michigan State did work on Amharic (interfixation (discontinuous infixation) is handled particularly well in SG -- affix-hopping my ass!) and Hopi.

#191 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2004, 12:31 PM:

Sorry. Corpora. I think.

#192 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 01:02 AM:

John M. Ford wrote:
Of course, there is also great fun to be had with their "Universal Translator," but I did that. In the non-comedy book, yet.

Oh, that brings something to mind that we never got to talk about in person.   Mike, I've wondered about one little detail (in the comedy book, at least):   the Klingons get drunk on sugar.   Knowing you, and knowing that you know my metabolic oddity, I have to ask whether that was a tip o' the hat.

(For others here:   Mike and the lovely Samanda Jeude and I once sat around a table with assorted foods on it, and slowly realized — of every item there —
     1.  at least one of us could safely eat it;
     2.  at least one of us could not safely eat it.)

#193 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 02:52 AM:

Back on topic, mostly.

For sheer concentrated ghastliness of metaphor, I treasure "His eyes slid down her dress." — passed along by Stephen King, from one of his students' efforts.

King also relays from the Internet:   "Her vocabulary was as bad as, whatever."   (Could this have been intentional self-referential humor?)   And "The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't."   (I think somebody owes royalties to Douglas Adams for that one — Vogon spaceship & brick, anyone? — but King doesn't mention Adams or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.   Sudden thought: had he not read it?)

The Great Galumphin' Panjandrums (Panjandra?) of awful writing have to be the winners and finalists of the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (named in honor of the man who first penned, "It was a dark and stormy night.")   But I suspect most of them do it... [Raven looks around, then whispers surreptitiously:] ...on purpose.

Twenty winning paragraphs may be found at the above link.   I disavow all responsibility for harm done to the computer screens and keyboards of unprepared readers.

Comment on submitting to editors, or to readers in general, for that matter — and here I'll write as a reader-in-general:   the trick, dear writer, needs to be in the text itself, more than anywhere else.

Cover letters, skywritten blurbs, saturation ads on TV, or other stunts, may get someone to read the first page, or as likely the first paragraph — but after that?

Listen, I'll give a writer extra time to get me hooked on a story, if I suspect that it's worth the wait.   I confess, it took me three tries to get into The Lord of the Rings — and I only made the second and third attempts because I'd enjoyed The Hobbit so much.   (I was twelve years old.   I've lost count of how many times I've read LOTR since then; but it still has a slowwww start.)   Writers like John D. MacDonald could get me to follow them anywhere, from one genre to another, because they won my trust with what I'd read before.   But if I've never seen your work before, never had good recommendation of it from someone whose judgment I trust (and even that only carries so far)... then, I'm sorry, it may be unfair, but you'll have to hook me early.

Alan Dean Foster hooked me with three short lines in the first page of his I ever read:
          Veil of dust.
          Veil of stars.
          On the viewscreen in Captain James T. Kirk's cabin,...
Then he went and lived up to that good first impression, breathing all the life into his expanded adaptations of the animated Star Trek that — to take a sad contrast — James Blish had taken out doing his squeezed-thin adaptations of the live episodes.

John Myers Myers hooked me with the first sentence of Silverlock:
          If I had cared to live, I would have died.
This was intriguing enough for me to let him take the next couple of paragraphs to explain what he means, and by then I was already deep into the story, being tossed by the waves along with flotsam from the sunken ship Naglfar.   Some while after that, the book ended — a fact about which I am still bitterly resentful.   You can bet that I went looking for more of his books — and found The Moon's Fire-Eating Daughter, then The Harp and the Blade, which confirmed my trust in him. (See more titles.)

One reader comment that sticks in my mind: "I knew I was in good hands from the first paragraph."   That's the impression you want to give, and then keep giving.

There's a distinct skill involved in writing good opening "hooks", just as there is in writing good plots, good characters, or good dialogue.   It is a skill — not some mysterious magic that requires reciting rituals at midnight or sending charmed cover letters to enchant the unsuspecting editor or reader into reading the whole book (or into being happy about shelling out money for it) — and a skill can be learned and then honestly practiced.   It doesn't require, or benefit from, padding one's resumé.

Dean R. Koontz, whose writing variously entertains and annoys me, has honestly practiced such skills, and writes about them in How to Write Best-Selling Fiction.   This offers a somewhat formulaic approach to writing novels, but that can be valuable for a beginning writer — as long as he or she remembers not to stop there.

#194 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 05:17 AM:

"King also relays from the Internet:" http://www.schoolzone.co.uk/students/exams/metaphor.htm

#195 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 05:24 AM:

actually I plan to write a story incorporating if not all those metaphors, then most of them, only some of them will be different so that they're not the same. like the one about my brother phil, nobody knows who the hell my brother phil is, so that metaphor, much like Todd James Pierce won't be especially communicative of the the proper role of phil as a metaphorical construct in the context of my gripping narrative, and that won't be gripping therefore.

Since I want to grip, or gripe, whatever, grammar was never my ace suit, I will change phil to George Bush. So much like George Bush this metaphor won't be stupid, no wait, that doesn't work, much like my brother phil. oh damn.

#196 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 05:27 AM:

I always want my readers to know that they're in evil, malicious hands from the first paragraph and that they CAN'T ESCAPE!!!!

#197 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 05:28 AM:

I always want my readers to know that they're in evil, malicious hands from the first paragraph and that they CAN'T ESCAPE!!!!

#198 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 08:27 AM:

Well, cool. Can't escape. Glad to get that one clear from the beginning.

Heard yesterday, from a car service driver: "He's bad with his punctuation, can't get to work on time."

In his way, that driver has the language thing. When I used "cussedness", a word he hadn't heard before, he was on it in an instant -- repeated it a couple of times and exclaimed over it softly, then folded it up and put it in his pocket.

#199 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 11:12 AM:

Raven -- I often cite that opening line from SILVERLOCK as just about the best hook I've ever seen. And I'm with you on needing three tries to get through LotR....

Are you channelin' me, or sumpin?

#200 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 11:54 AM:

Teresa wrote:
When I used "cussedness", a word he hadn't heard before, ...

You're good that way, T. Personally, until your recent reference to Plum Sykes, I had no clue what an 'epiphyte' might look like when it's at work.

#201 ::: Christopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 12:45 PM:

> Heard yesterday, from a car service
> driver: "He's bad with his punctuation,
> can't get to work on time."

Obviously it's a problem with his full stops.

#202 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 01:56 PM:

Xopher: (The use of the apostrophe in alien languages ought IMO to be limited by law, for example.)

OMG, yes, yes, yes! Brother! When I was active on the conlang list I did collect apostrophe ab/uses (pegasus.cityofveils.com/apostrophe.phtml), but...yes.

And I keep hoping someone will write a follow-up to Walter Meyer's dated but nifty Aliens and Linguists. :-)

#203 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 02:04 PM:

Raven -- no, the high-metabolism sugar-buzz wasn't inspired by anybody in particular. It's there in the first book as well, though it isn't particularly a plot point, and came out of various bits of "Okay, how did these people evolve?" sorts of thinking.

Since Edward Sapir was glancingly mentioned, I will toss in something of his I read again last night, on the somehow-or-t'other-relevant-to-the-nowadays principle (with apologies for length):

"Just now we are expecting a great deal from the European War [WW2]. No doubt the war and its aftermath will shake us out of some part of our smugness and let in a few invigorating air currents of cultural influence, but if we are not careful, these influences may soon harden into new standardizations or become diluted into another stock of imitative attitudes and reactions. The war and its aftermath cannot be a sufficent cultural cause, they are at best but another set of favoring conditions. We need not be too astonished if a Periclean culture does not somehow automatically burst into bloom. Sooner or later we will have to get down to the humble task of exploring the depths of our consciousness and dragging to the light what sincere bits of reflected experience we can find. These bits will not always be beautiful, they will not always be pleasing, but they will be genuine. And then we can build. In time, in plenty of time, for we must have patience -- a genuine culture -- better yet, a series of linked autonomous cultures, will grace our lives. And New York and Chicago and San Francisco will live each in its own cultural strength, not squinting from one to another to see which gets ahead in a race for external values, but each serenely oblivious of its rivals because growing in a soil of genuine cultural values."

--from "Culture, Genuine and Spurious," in CULTURE, LANGUAGE, AND PERSONALITY (U. Cal.)

#204 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 02:07 PM:

I always considered the opening to Dan Simmons' _Fires of Eden_ to be one of the greatest hooks of all time:

"At first, only the wind was screaming."

#205 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 07:05 PM:

John M. Ford:

I just put on my blog some of Xopher's critique of Suzette Haden Elgin, my comments on Jack Vance's "The Languages of Pao", and two hotlinks to web pages on Sapir-Whorf, both of which quote Sapir. Don't want to burn up Teresa's bandwidth with more. Well, okay, since you insist, and Sapir is so addictive:

"Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the 'real world' is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached... We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation." (Sapir 1958 [1929], p. 69)"

Opening hook from Alfred Bester, "The Computer Connection":

"I tore down the Continental Shelf off the Bogue Bank while the pogo made periscope hops trying to track me."

Opening hook of J. G. Ballard's "Empire of the Sun":

"Wars came early to Shanghai, overtaking each other like the tides that raced up the Yangtze and returned to this gaudy city all the coffins cast adrift from the funeral piers of the Chinese Bund."

Opening hook from James Blish's "A Case of Conscience":

"The stone door slammed. It was Cleaver's trade-mark: there had never been a door too heavy, complex, or cleverly tracked to prevent him from closing it with a sound like a crack of doom."

Opening hook from "The Haight-Ashbury: A History", by Charles Perry:

"'Have you ever been in a riot?' asks a former maijuana dealer named Roger..."

#206 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 07:51 PM:

Teresa: hate to blog you twice in a row, but this was accidently omitted from pervious post, and praises your husband.

John M. Ford (re: Sapir) --

"Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation," Raphael Carter and "Story of Your Life," Ted Chiang
both in Starlight 2, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, ed. Two superb linguistics stories in a single brilliant anthology!

#207 ::: Raven ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2004, 10:27 PM:

Thanks, bryan.   I've just emailed schoolzone about the borrowed form (brick > bowling ball).

#208 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2004, 05:58 PM:

First of all, most every person listed above should be extremely ashamed of his or herself. My email address is listed on most every webpage I have, and no one who posted here--not one person--contacted me, including the one person who claimed to. I would've been more than happy to respond to anyone.

So yes, since you all seem hooked on gossip mongering and slander, let me answer your questions for you.

(1) The IAP Award stands for Individual Artist Project, which was a competition for short fiction (one story, pages limited to, as I recall, thirty) which had a sizable cash grant attached to it.

(2) The Charles Angoff Award for Literary Excellence was awarded to my story, "Young Life, Made Easy," published by The Literary Review in the late 1990s. Because of this award, I was invited to submit a chapbook to WebDelSol. Also, two later stories, "Dinner at Charlie's" and "The Australia Stories," were published by The Literary Review in subsequent years.

(3) I maintain a website (www.literaryagents.org) that offers free advice to aspiring writers, including a list of new literary agents open to submissions. This website takes a good deal of time and is done, without pay, for the general good of the writing community. In the years that I have managed it, over 100 writers have met their literary agent through information posted there, usually from the section "agents actively looking."

(4) The one piece of "bad advice" that I'm regularly called on has to do with cover letters. It comes from a small part of the larger site—a site that has, in short, done much to help many writers. I'll post my usual reply below. But this piece of advice was dolled out in a course at UC Irvine, as part of the MFA program, and from talking with others, I know it's also used regularly at the University of Iowa's MFA Program. I will not list the professors associated with it, because, I am the poster of this advice. Now my usual reply:

"My basic advice is this: do whatever it takes to give yourself the courage
and permission to put your work in the mail when you, as an author, feel
your work is finished. Is it foolish to claim your work has appeared in
Ploughsahres, The New Yorker, GQ, The Missouri Review, The Georgia Review
when in fact has not? Yes, of course it is. No doubt. You will be
caught, called out, and look foolish. And if anyone is curious, I've
never lied on any cover letter I've written. But if creating a very small
literary review with your friends, naming it, and then, in some sense,
"publishing" it, helps give you the courage to send your work out on a
larger scale, do it. No editor is going to publish a book simply because
a short sory appeared in a very small journal of which you are an editor.
But might an editor look at the sample pages? Maybe. Possibly. In my
world, everything depends on the quality of the writing, the clarity of the
story. There is no substitute for this. But if there are people out there
who don't think that dirty deals--of insider favors, etc.--don't go down
on a daily basis in New York publishing, you are foolish and haven't been
following publishing closely at all. One of my greatest pains in life is
the realization of the sheer number of insider publishing contracts inked
in New York where the books published depend on favors and friendships,
not on the quality of the writing in question. Work on your writing.
Love your stories, your characters. Write the best damn novels you can.
And then do what you can so that these novels will have a life in the real
world."


(5) Why didn't I stay at UC Irvine to complete a PhD? (I received an MFA from them.) UC Irvine does not offer a PhD in writing. I received it from Florida State, which at the moment has one of the best PhD programs in creative writing in the country.

(6) The humanities grant I was awarded, in 1994, was specifically for research and travel leading to my first novel.

(7) I'm sorry someone found it odd that a boy and a girl attended the Christian Brothers School in Sydney--a section in my novel. But as these specific characters were based heavily on real people, via interviews, either I was repeatedly lied to or, more likely, such a school in Sydney actually admitted boys and girls. Also, I was not in charge of the post up for that webpage, in the book, the section does not have that punctuation error mentioned.

(8) Quote from above: "He could be a brilliant TA with choice classes to teach, but if that's the case, wouldnt he want to say so? What he actually taught might not have looked so good if he 'fessed up: " Here’s your answer: As a graduate student I taught:
Freshman Comp (Oregon State, UC Irvine, FSU)
Business Writing (Oregon State)
Freshman Lit (UC Irvine)
Intro to Lit (FSU)
Intro to Creative Writing (FSU)
Structure of Fiction (FSU)
Advanced (senior-level) Fiction Workshop (FSU) *
* As far as I know, I am the only TA ever allowed to teach a senior-level creative writing workshop at that university.

(9) Quote from above: "As far as I know, he was brought in on what's known as a ‘spousal hire,’ which is when a university will hire the spouse of someone who has already been hired in order to keep the couple in the area." No, I was not a spousal hire. The year I took the job at Clemson, I had three offers from different universities. If you weren't at Clemson in the past nine months, then, well, we've never met, as this is my first position.

In a final note, I am basically sickened by most of you who have posted here. As I've said before, my email address is easy to find. It's even listed here. You all seem to forget that real people exist on the other side of web pages. I wish you would all find some way to use your time to contribute to others and to society instead of wasting it on pages such as this.

Todd James Pierce


#209 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2004, 08:33 PM:

Todd James Pierce says:

"First of all, most every person listed above should be extremely ashamed of his or herself. My email address is listed on most every webpage I have, and no one who posted here--not one person--contacted me, including the one person who claimed to."

I call bullshit, since I have the e-mail from Todd James Pierce in my e-mail box, and in fact posted the response on my site, along with commentary. I indeed responded to that second e-mail.

#210 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2004, 08:54 PM:

Todd Pierce notes:

"The one piece of 'bad advice' that I'm regularly called on has to do with cover letters. It comes from a small part of the larger site—a site that has, in short, done much to help many writers. I'll post my usual reply below. But this piece of advice was dolled out in a course at UC Irvine, as part of the MFA program, and from talking with others, I know it's also used regularly at the University of Iowa's MFA Program. I will not list the professors associated with it, because, I am the poster of this advice."

Just out of curiosity, is the head of your department at Clemson aware you advise people to *lie* about their accomplishments? One assumes you tell your students to lie on their cover letters. Is this true? And, if you do, does your department head know about this? I would find it *very* odd if lying about accomplishments is in fact formally sanctioned by Clemson.

Advising your students (or anyone else, for that matter) to lie on their cover letters is no better than advising people to lie on their resumes when looking for other jobs. It's not just "bad advice," it's *bad advice.* It's also unethical and cynical, and the sort of thing that catches up with people sooner than later. Justifying it by saying "it's taught by other people" is stupid, a convenient "everyone else is doing it" excuse that avoid engaging one's own moral sense. If anyone should be ashamed of anything, Mr. Pierce, it should be you, for teaching your students and advising aspiring writers such a dumb-ass thing.

#211 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2004, 09:17 PM:

Mr. Pierce, I think you'll find that one problem with publicly advising people to lie is that it gives the rest of us no incentive to believe you.

#212 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2004, 09:58 PM:

John (and others),

I did receive your email and responded to it. But actually, you directed me, via a link, to your own site--not to this site--where you hosted a similar discussion on your personal website: http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/ You then used my email response, which was not unique to you, as a topic to generate more interest in your own site.

And no, I have nothing of which to be ashamed. For the writing community--and I figure that's most everyone here--I compile the most helpful information I can imagine for those seeking first book publication. I'm not paid for it. I do it solely because I believe it is the one thing of value I can offer back to the writing community, a service that is not available anywhere else. Twice I've been offered money for the site (once so it could be privitized as subscription forum), but the site remains free, available to all. And this is the one thing that really sticks in my craw. Many people here have done their best to slander me without even making the slightest attempt to know me. Take a look at my site:

www.literaryagents.org

Poke around sections where I post notices for writers looking for agents, where I list ways to contact agents, where I update agent and editorial addresses (news section) that are presently out of date in published directories. I've kept this site for years and years. I can count over one hundred writers who have met their agent, in part, due to this site, many of whom have found their way to publication. Ask yourself if the person who maintains this site, for free, for the benefit of writers he's never met, may never meet, is the type of person you want to kick around as you have so freely, with such maliciousness, on this blog site.

So many people here are adept at googling their asses off, but surprisingly, this site never was discussed, even though it was the source of the quote that inspired it. You should all feel like dirt, and deep down, I think most of you know it.

It's people like you that make me want to ditch helping new writers, that make me question why I waste my time on that site or with responding to countless emails from new writers with questions. I hope never to meet any of you. I am entirely sickened by what has happened here.


#213 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2004, 10:23 PM:

Dear person who posted a message here at 05:58 p.m.:

1. Can you demonstrate that you are, in fact, Todd James Pierce?

2. If so, will you either confirm or deny that you're also the author of the letter I've just received, which begins:

I have never been more sickened in my life than to read, what amounts to, published slander concerning my work and experience on your webpages. I have added a reply, posted below. Since you are the publisher of these webpages, I am stunned that you never contacted me about their published content. You should know that I have made an appoint to discuss this matter with our university attorney because what you've done is to slander my professional reputation by publishing numerous attacks that are without merit, cause, or factual basis, and are, in fact, malicious in nature. You are responsible for the content of your webpages. I have your contact information as:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden pnh@panix.com
Tor Books, 175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States -- US
Ph: +1.2123880100 FAX: +1.2123880191

Please let me know if there is a more effective way to contact you.

Well, my e-mail address is the second item down on the left-hand side of my weblog. You could always try that.
With deep regrets,
Todd James Pierce
(The rest of the letter duplicated the message posted here.)

Assuming that you are that gentleman:

3. There's no malice whatsoever. I don't know Todd James Pierce from Adam, and I have no personal interest in his rise or fall.

4. Please feel encouraged to furnish me with your counsel's name and contact information.

5. Hey, I wasn't the one who said that it's a good idea to lie in cover letters to make yourself sound more impressive.

6. I see you're now claiming that your actual opinion is that writers should "...do whatever it takes to give yourself the courage and permission to put your work in the mail when you, as an author, feel your work is finished." Unfortunately, that's not what you were on record as saying at the time I wrote my piece.

7. Many of your other tips were nearly as bad. I can expand on my remarks about them, if you're interested.

8. And then there are your various interesting remarks about getting an agent.

9. Do you really want to thrash all this out in public?

10. My website is of course my own, and has no ties with Tor Books. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that it does.

11. Does it not embarrass you at all that you're explaining to an editor that your bad advice about cover letters is stuff you learned in graduate-school classrooms? And further, if it's such unimpeachable advice, why have you altered that section of your article?

#214 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2004, 10:45 PM:

Todd Pierce writes:

"I did receive your email and responded to it. But actually, you directed me, via a link, to your own site--not to this site--where you hosted a similar discussion on your personal website: http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/ You then used my email response, which was not unique to you, as a topic to generate more interest in your own site."

Actually, that's not entirely accurate; I did send you a link to this site. Allow me to post the content of the initial e-mail which I sent to you:

---

Mr. Pierce:

You may or may not know this by now, but your Cover Letter Tips found here (http://mailer.fsu.edu/~tjp4773/coverletters.html), are getting a serious beatdown at Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Blog; the URL is here: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005212.html#005212. Ms. Nielsen Hayden is an editor for Tor Books, so her criticisms are not entirely uninformed.

I've also added my own thoughts on your tips on my personal site: http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/archives/000872.html. They are of a similar mold as Teresa's.

Check at one or both at your option of course. Point of it all is: That's some really bad cover letter advice you've given.

Best,

---

"And no, I have nothing of which to be ashamed."

I rather disagree with that. Also, strictly as a matter of straight-line thinking, I'm not entirely sure how the existence of "literaryagent.org" is at all relevant to the fact that you tell people to lie in their cover letters. Regardless of whatever merit other information you provide may have, the *particular* information in your cover letter advice is really really bad, both as a matter of business and of ethics. You are (or were, since I have not checked the cover letter tips page in the last month) encouraging people to lie -- to be fraudulent -- when they present themselves to editors and others. No matter what use your other advice may be in other places, *that* advice is wrong.

#215 ::: Michelle Sagara ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2004, 11:37 PM:

Added to which, I'm not sure how *lying* can actually inspire confidence in a writer submitting material for the first time. Except in the sense that one might then shift the balance of the writer-jitters onto the "fear of discovery" side of the scale, as opposed to the "fear of rejection" one.

(I haven't posted to this thread before, but am perfectly willing to be tarred by the same broad brush you've chosen to wield).

As well, I'm kind of sick of the idea that books of no merit from a particular reader's (or writer's) point of view -must- have been published because of insider contacts in NY. One person's garbage is another person's genius, and many, many readers want the -story-, not the careful crafting of the words that tell it.

Garbage sells. Quality sells. Garbage tanks. Quality tanks. If a publisher could figure out what would sell 100% of the time, that's what it would be bound, by business practices, -to- publish. Wedding an art to a business involves a lot of good faith, pain & walking in the dark -- even experience isn't a guarantee against the tidal forces (heavy-handed metaphor alert) of the market-place, which does change slowly but constantly.

I'm aware of cases in which something got -read- faster with a nudge from someone familiar to the editor, but I'm also aware of many cases in which that faster reading failed to net anything like a sale. Most of them end up that way, fwiw.

I started out not knowing anyone in publishing. I knew one other writer personally. I did not sell my book to her editor.

I now know many editors, some of whom I adore, many to whom I've never sold a thing. I've sold multiple things to the -same- editors, partly because I can -- but I don't consider this "insider connections" so much as "previous dealings that turned out well on both sides and have therefore built some good faith". If -this- is what you're decrying, you're decrying a large part of the human condition.

#216 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:04 AM:

Nothing to be ashamed of, Todd James Pierce?

When you go talk to counsel tomorrow, I'm sure you'll be prepared to state why it is that you changed your advice from "Lie a little. Yes, lie. "

Does the fact that you've changed that bit indicate a guilty conscence? Is that an admission of wrongdoing? Does it demonstrate clearly that you are ashamed of your actions and are trying to cover up? I expect that's exactly what went on in your lying, weasel-like, morally-challenged mind.

Furthermore, when you go talk to counsel, I'd suggest that you bring along documentary evidence of the truth of every statment you've ever made in regards to your own achievements and qualifications, right the way back through your college applications. After all, "Lie a little. Yes, lie." was in the context of faking credentials. So bring that proof along. If the lawyer is at all sharp he's going to ask.

Tell me, Todd James "Lie a little" Pierce: Does Florida State University have an honor code? No -- don't tell me. I won't believe anything you say. Someone else can tell me if FSU has an honor code. Does Clemson have an honor code? If either of those places has an honor code, what does it say about "Lie a little. Yes, lie."? What kind of sanctions are you looking at?

Does FSU know that you used their servers to publish the advice "Lie a little. Yes, lie."? Does FSU have an Academic Ethics Committee? Does Clemson? Have either of them been informed of your attitude toward punching up your resume with false, misleading, dishonest, and fraudulent information?

You should be aware that this isn't the only place on the web where your harmful, misleading, dishonest, and frankly stupid advice has been mocked. Try Googling on your "Martha Green Award" to see what I mean. The discussion at this location predates the discussion here. If you go there, you'll see me opine that you've got your head so far up your ass that you need a glass bellybutton to see where you're going. Nothing I've read here tonight has done anything to change my opinion of you in that regard.

Let's look at the advice that you gave:

Tip Four: Still worried? Never published anything? Lie a little. Yes, lie. A cover letter is a persuasive document designed to do one thing: entice an editor or agent to read your manuscript. Say whatever you have to, within reason, to accomplish this. No publication credits? Write the words "West Coast Fiction Review" on a piece of paper, staple it to one of your stories, and boom, you've just been published in West Coast Fiction Review. Is there such a publication? Not that I know of, but it sure sounds impressive. No awards? Ask your best friend--let's say her name is Martha Green--to give you the 1999 Martha Green Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fiction. What's the Martha Green Award worth? Not much, unless it entices an editor or agent to read your work.

Make sure that you show that to the university's counsel. Make sure that you show it to the head of your department. Ask them what their opinion of lying is; ask them if they routinely lie on their resumes. Then tell them that you think that lying is perfecly fine, that you advise others to lie, and that lying is the way to get ahead.

Todd James Pierce, you should apologize to everyone you've harmed with your bad advice. You might consider turning in your PhD on the grounds that you don't deserve it.

Or perhaps, when the Academic Review Board gets done with you, they'll take that action for you.

John Scalzi has posted information that shows that not only have you advocated lying in professional dealings in the past, you've lied right here, today. Why do I believe Scalzi and not you? Figure it out, genius.

P.S. What I've read of your writing sucks. They give awards for that?

#217 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:24 AM:

Teresa,

This is bullshit, and you know it. You allowed and encouraged this list of personal attacks to happen. Read through this entire webpage: it's been a long time since I've seen such an attack permitted on a site. You encouraged it, you published it, you did nothing to prevent it. I'll be in contact with you.

But as for this:
" 10. My website is of course my own, and has no ties with Tor Books. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that it does."

Bullshit. (1) You use your position at TOR to drive traffic to this site. And if you don't believe me, here's the top of your own webpage and how you choose to present yourself:

http://nielsenhayden.com
"Teresa’s weblog: Making Light.
Patrick’s weblog: Electrolite.

Next Whisperado gig: to be announced!

What we do
We edit books, mostly but not exclusively science fiction and fantasy, for Tor Books."

Before you say anything else about yourself, you say that you're an editor for TOR. This is the initial piece of information on your site and the window through which you ask people to understand you.

(2) If this website has nothing to do with TOR, how come you list Patrick Nielsen Hayden (PN165-AWR) / TOR books as the official WHOIS owner of this page? Full data is at the bottom of this post. But there it is, TOR as part of the Registrant. Say what you want about this page’s connection to TOR, it’s there on the registry.

(3) The attack against me relies on you being an editor--and it is publicly noted repeatedly on your site, your blog, that you are an editor for TOR. It is implicit in the narrative that you are speaking as an editor, from within your position at TOR. Claim what you want--I'm sure you will--but it doesn't mean what you say is the truth. For many of its posts, this blog depends on you being an editor. Here's how the attack against me begins: "One of the pitfalls of the writing trade is that anyone who has basic writing chops can spout authoritative-sounding advice about the biz, even if he doesn’t know a bare pope from a hole full of shinola."

Before I get to the WHOIS, where Patrick/TOR is listed as the owner, I'd like to say this. I have no problem whatsoever if you want to debate, criticize, applaud anything I say online. But that's not just what happened here, so stop pretending it is. What happened here was an extended, unfounded attack on my character and professional abilities, published by you, an owner of this webpage. That's not only uncool, it's slander.

If you want to take cheap potshots at the world of graduate writing ("Does it not embarrass you at all that you're explaining to an editor that your bad advice about cover letters is stuff you learned in graduate-school classrooms?"), I don't really care. But when you allow and encourage a page like this to exist, a page that is an extended character assault, I do care.

Here's the WHOIS info for your site, where you register Patrick / TOR as the owner. You can keep claiming that TOR has nothing to do with this site, but man, you're in for a surprise.

Registrant:
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (PN165-AWR) pnh@panix.com
Tor Books, 175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States -- US
Ph: +1.2123880100 FAX: +1.2123880191

Domain Name: nielsenhayden.com

Administrative Contact:
Nielsen Hayden, Patrick (PN166-AWR) pnh@panix.com
Tor Books, 175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States -- US
Ph: +1.2123880100 FAX: +1.2123880191
Technical Contact:
WeNIC LLC, WeNIC LLC (WW476-AWR) theodorepointer@aol.com
811 Albertson St
Compton, CA 90220
US
Ph: +1.3106357778 FAX: +5.5555555555
Billing Contact:
Nielsen Hayden, Patrick (PN167-AWR) pnh@panix.com
Tor Books, 175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States -- US
Ph: +1.7187899338 FAX:

Record last updated on Sat Jan 17 2004.
Record created on Sun Oct 22 2000.
Record expires on Fri Oct 22 2004.

Domain servers in listed order:

ns.hmdnsgroup.com 63.247.128.10
ns2.hmdnsgroup.com 63.247.143.253

#218 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:27 AM:

The person representing himself as Todd James Pierce wrote to Teresa:

I have your contact information as:
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
pnh@panix.com
Tor Books, 175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
United States -- US
Ph: +1.2123880100
FAX: +1.2123880191
This is of course the "whois" database listing for nielsenhayden.com, which I changed a few months ago to give our work address instead of our home address, for elementary reasons of personal security. As everyone with an IQ over room temperature realizes already, nielsenhayden.com is a private web site, and the opinions expressed here are entirely the responsibility of their authors, not of Tor Books.

#219 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:01 AM:

Todd: My website, back when it existed, said first that I was a writer. So do most websites of writers. Most websites of musicians say they are musicians. The private website of an MP or a senator will list that they are an MP or a senator first, and their political affiliation.

This is an elementary piece of website design.

#220 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:01 AM:

Patrick,

No, this is a stream of bullshit. Your last official contact registering the page was:

"Record last updated on Sat Jan 17 2004."

And now, over six months later, you sill have TOR listed on the registry. What, are you trying to suggest that it takes over six months for that info to be updated? I updated a web page last week--new address, too--and guess what, when I checked just now, it has the correct information. You initially registered this page with TOR in the registry, thereby creating a public connection to TOR. I guess, you're admitting that it was you that registered the page this way, and, in that last post, that you were aware of its registry connection.

And for the belittling comments ("As everyone with an IQ over room temperature realizes already, nielsenhayden.com is a private web site"), it doesn’t really carry much weight here.

That seems to be what's wrong here. You can talk about my opinions all you want. That's freedom of speech. Long live that freedom. Debate out anything you like. But what you have here is a continuous, unfounded attack on my character, coupled with lightly veiled threats. And that sucks.


#221 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:02 AM:

Todd Pierce writes:
First of all, most every person listed above should be extremely ashamed of his or herself.

Really?

You mean to tell us that someone who is an editor by trade isn't entitled to offer her own commentary on a website with advice on cover letter practices that, in her opinion, can be considered unethical?

( I'm quoting here:
Tip Four: Still worried? Never published anything? Lie a little. Yes, lie. A cover letter is a persuasive document designed to do one thing: entice an editor or agent to read your manuscript. Say whatever you have to, within reason, to accomplish this. )

The letter you send today containing a fabricated publication credit, could very well be the same letter a harried publicity person finds when looking for background info to flesh out the 'About the Author' page in your second NY Times bestseller. Once it's widely circulating on a book jacket, and people start asking about it, then your life can get really interesting.

It's really not a good idea to fabricate credentials of any sort, especially in today's world where such things are liable to come back and bite you at an inopportune time.

(5) Why didn't I stay at UC Irvine to complete a PhD? (I received an MFA from them.) UC Irvine does not offer a PhD in writing. I received it from Florida State, which at the moment has one of the best PhD programs in creative writing in the country.

I've seen that mentioned about FSU in multiple places... it explains the manic fervor with which my creative-writing major friends would fill out their FSU graduate school applications, and then start looking for other places to apply.

I was able to listen to one of FSU's alumni ( Dr. Michael McClelland, a professor at my alma mater ) give a talk about his work-- he had some rather nice things to say about his time at FSU.

(9) Quote from above: "As far as I know, he was brought in on what's known as a ‘spousal hire,’... No, I was not a spousal hire. The year I took the job at Clemson, I had three offers from different universities. If you weren't at Clemson in the past nine months, then, well, we've never met, as this is my first position.

Yeah, I found that post somewhat disturbing, and I sent email to that effect to Teresa, about the time she was having trouble with spam filters.

In a final note, I am basically sickened by most of you who have posted here.

What? Teresa saw a webpage that contained information that she, as an editor, found troublesome. She shared that information with a community of readers ( a fair number of which are published authors already! ), and a discussion ensued. You got an email about the discussion, but were late to the party. Where's the problem here, exactly?

#222 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:05 AM:

Lernora,

I understand your point. But it's mainly the combination of these three elements:

(1) her initial introduction of herself as an editor for TOR
(2) the repeated connections between her posts and her position at TOR that blurs the line between her voice as a private citizen and her voice as an editor for TOR
(3) that TOR appears as the registrant for the web page. I'm sure an actor doesn't include "Warner Bros" with the registry information for a personal page unless, of course, Warner Bros is taking an interest in the page.

#223 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:06 AM:

"Before you say anything else about yourself, you say that you're an editor for TOR. This is the initial piece of information on your site and the window through which you ask people to understand you."

Actually, even before Tor Books, the nielsenhayden.com home page mentions Whisperado, the band that Time Out New York says "plays straight-up rootsy rock that sounds straight outta Memphis." So I guess we know who really pulls Making Light's strings!

Oh, wait, that's ridiculous. Say, I wonder if there's a general principle we can derive from this. You think?

What's notable, of course, is that the entity representing itself as "Todd James Pierce" would evidently prefer to insinuate that Teresa's weblog has some kind of discreditable connection to Tor Books, rather than answer Jim Macdonald's observations about its on-the-record advice to aspiring writers. You remember the advice in question, the advice that read "Lie a little. Yes, lie." Hey, I understand. Dealt those cards, I'd probably also elect to gnaw off a paw. But I'd still be down one (1) paw.

#224 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:08 AM:

Todd James Pierce writes:

"That's not only uncool, it's slander."

Actually, it's not. Slander is spoken. Libel is written.

A primer on libel will show why none of the stuff is at all libelous:

----

In order for the person about whom a statement is made to recover for libel, the false statement must be defamatory, meaning that it actually harms the reputation of the other person, as opposed to being merely insulting or offensive.

The statement(s) alleged to be defamatory must have been published to at least one other person (other than the subject of the statement) and must be "of and concerning" the plaintiff. That is, those hearing or reading the statement must identify it specifically with the plaintiff.

The statement(s) alleged to be defamatory must also be a false statement of fact. Since name-calling, hyperbole, or exaggerated and heated words cannot be proven true or false, they cannot be the subject of a libel or slander claim.

The defamatory statement must also have been made with fault. The extent of the fault depends primarily on the status of the plaintiff. Public figures, such as government officials, celebrities, well-known individuals, and people involved in specific public controversies, are required to prove actual malice, a legal term which means the defendant knew his statement was false or recklessly disregarded the truth or falsity of his statement. In general, in most jurisdictions private individuals must show only that the defendant was negligent, that he failed to act with due care in the situation.

A defamation claim will likely fail if any of these elements are not met.

http://www.ldrc.com/LDRC_Info/libelfaqs.html

----

So, let's ask:

1. Where are the statements of fact? Are they provably false? Can it be shown by the plaintiff that the defendants knew them to be false? I'm looking at the material in this thread and much of it doesn't concern TJP at all; it's about whether people have jobs related to their fields of study. What material is here about TJP doesn't generally purport to be fact, merely supposition and/or opinion (or satire). TNH's entire first post was criticism of TJP's tips; criticism, as most anyone knows, is well-nigh immune to libel.

2. Are the most egregious cases here "name-calling, hyperbole, or exaggerated and heated words"? If so, they're not libelous. For example, TJP points to "One of the pitfalls of the writing trade is that anyone who has basic writing chops can spout authoritative-sounding advice about the biz, even if he doesn’t know a bare pope from a hole full of shinola," as evidence of libel (misidentified as slander), but it sounds hyperbolic to me. James MacDonald's recent post is likewise chock full of "heated words" and therefore likewise does not meet the standard of libel.

3. Has TJP's reputation been materially harmed by the comments here? Well, he does still have his job, which one assumes has not been threatened by the blatherings going on here; inasmuch as this entire mess started because TNH was appalled that TJP encouraged people to "lie a little," one could make a rather excellent argument that should TJP's reputation become trashed, the proximate cause is likely to be his own ethically-challenged position than anything else.

4. TNH stated that she made the effort to discover more information about the IAP Award, and indeed links to some of the information she's found; "in most jurisdictions private individuals must show only that the defendant was negligent, that he failed to act with due care in the situation." Well, one can reasonably say TNH did due research before expressing her thoughts (which were not expressed as facts, merely opinions).

5. Likewise, what, if anything, does TNH's job have to do any potential libel suit against her? One suspects that TJP may wish to attempt a deep-pocket runaround here, but I would suspect the Holtzbrinck folks have some rather excellent legal representation on staff, well-versed in matters of libel who would, I suspect, chop up TJP's purported case like canned hash and ram it back down his throat should he try to involve them.

Mr. Pierce, in my opinion: you've got nothin'.

#225 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:14 AM:

"You initially registered this page with TOR in the registry, thereby creating a public connection to TOR."

Oh, specious nonsense. I initially registered nielsenhayden.com at our home address. I changed the registration to use my work address because we discuss our travel plans on these pages, and I don't particularly want to make it easy to burgle our house.

Your deliberate misprision of this elementary act of personal security pretty much says everything that needs to be said.

"TOR appears as the registrant for the web page"

No, Patrick Nielsen Hayden appears as the registrant for the web page. Patrick Nielsen Hayden also subscribes to various magazines at his Tor address; this doesn't make Tor the subscriber to those magazines. Also, your mother dresses you funny.

#226 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:16 AM:

Hi Bill,

I appreciate your reply. It's very reasonable. And again, I have no problem that part of this page became a debate--even an ugly debate over something I wrote. No problem whatsoever. But Teresa didn't just share that information she created the environment whereby this page became an unfounded attack on my professional character. She initiated it with her first post, she published it, and even when you alerted her to the problem where someone suggested I was a spousal (ie second class) hire, Teresa did nothing to stop it. Up until now, I'd assumed that THN had let this page unspool unattended. But if she was aware that there was a spam filter problem, if she was aware that unfounded, slanderous were being said about me on her webpage (via your email and hopefully via others' as well) she did nothing to stop it.

Come on, if someone published a webpage that said you got your job, basically, to keep your spouse happy, not because of your own abilities, then the owner of that page allowed it to be viewed by people within your industry, wouldn't you be pissed? Of course you would. You mention Mac, a fabulous guy and a really good writer. Wouldn't he be pissed? You wrote a letter to THN about the problem. Thank you for that. I do appreciate it. But then THN didn't even delete that one single post you mention.

That's why I'm upset here. This has been a character attack here on THN's very public webpage. She started it, published it, did nothing to stop it. It went on for over a month.

#227 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:26 AM:

Hey, Todd "Lie a Little" Pierce:

When you go talk to that lawyer, make sure you bring a list of your published writing, proof that it was really published -- and evidence that it's your own work, not plagiarised from somewhere.

Here's an example of person being plagiarised by an entirely-different academic weenie.

Given Lie A Little's relationship with the truth, I think that's pertinent.

#228 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:28 AM:

Incidentally, for all those who wish to compare and contrast the current version of Mr. Pierce's cover letter tips with the older version, here's an archived version:

http://web.archive.org/web/20020602093841/http://mailer.fsu.edu/~tjp4773/coverletters.html

to contrast with the current version:

http://mailer.fsu.edu/~tjp4773/coverletters.html

The thing I find personally interesting is the comment on the updated page which says:

"allow me to contextualize it, as it has been misinterpreted repeatedly over the past year or two. The tip is designed to give yourself the courage to put your work in the mail, nothing more."

But how is "give yourself the courage to put your work in the mail" consonant with the previous version:

"Lie a little. Yes, lie. A cover letter is a persuasive document designed to do one thing: entice an editor or agent to read your manuscript. Say whatever you have to, within reason, to accomplish this."

I admit to being dense, here, but I have difficulty seeing how "lie a little" is be construed as anything other than an exhortation to lie. The *rationale* behind the lie is irrelevant, but more than that, the previous version doesn't make any hint towards a rationale at all -- lying is it's own justification. So we have the question of whether the advice was misconstrued, or whether the "believe in yourself" rationalization was tacked on post-criticism.

Interestingly, "Say whatever you have to, within reason, to accomplish this" remains in the current version; one could easily argue that while the *explicit* exhortation to lie has been removed, the suggestion is still there implicitly.

Which does bring up the question: Mr. Pierce, do you still believe it is acceptable to lie in one's cover letter? If so, is it also acceptable to lie on one's resume?

#229 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:29 AM:

Oh come on, John...

"4. TNH stated that she made the effort to discover more information about the IAP Award, and indeed links to some of the information she's found;"

Yeah, she made the effort to discover more information, except the most obvious effort to discover more: contact me. Again, this is just bullshit. My email addy is on my webpage. She knows where I work. So after this so-called effort, she published a statement that any reasonable person would assume (even though it's not, actually, worded as a statement) as an assertion that my credentials were fabricated. After this, she provided a web page that was, in fact, a forum for extended very public attack on my professional character. This is the natural extension of her initial post. It turns out at least one person here alerted her about this problem.

I know THN is your friend here, but man, she really did the wrong thing. I hope you can see that.

#230 ::: Anonymous Coward ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:31 AM:

Since Mr. Pierce is apparently making legal threats ("discuss this matter with our university attorney"), then it's entirely appropriate for the Haydens to ignore everything else he says from here on out that isn't sent via his lawyer. That's how you do things when an actual lawsuit is in the works.

Assuming, of course, that this is a real legal threat and not just an attempt to get this thread deleted.

#231 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:33 AM:

---------------------------------
Cowardly Lion Meets Cowardly Liar
---------------------------------

Chutzpah. What makes a King out of a slave? Chutzpah.
What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Chutzpah.
What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Chutzpah.
What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Chutzpah.
What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Chutzpah.
What makes the Hottentot so hot?
What puts the "ape" in ape-ricot?
Whatta they got that I ain't got?

THEY LIE A LITTLE;
OR LIE A LOT!
---------------------------------

Naaaahhhh... that wouldn't even make sense in a Fantasy movie.

#232 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:49 AM:

Todd James Pierce wrote:

"I know THN is your friend here, but man, she really did the wrong thing. I hope you can see that."

Whether she did or did not do the "wrong thing" is irrelevant. You're suggesting that she's fomented libel, so the relevant question before us is whether TNH did something libelous. So the question would necessarily be whether searching on the IAP award in Google would be sufficient diligence. Given the ubiquity of information on the Internet and the prevalence of the search engines as tools for research (I use them to research my books, for example), I would suggest to you that a very good case could be made that she did sufficient digilence to shield her from libel on this score.

Mind you, even if this particular pillar crumbled, there are the several other criteria you would have to prove as the plaintiff.

"She knows where I work. So after this so-called effort, she published a statement that any reasonable person would assume (even though it's not, actually, worded as a statement) as an assertion that my credentials were fabricated."

You just shot down your own libel case, Mr. Pierce.

First, "any reasonable person" is not the standard for libel in the United States. Second, you just noted that TNH did not word her opinion as a statement (which in itself would not suffice to trigger libel). Since libel concerns itself with facts *not* opinions, it wouldn't apply here.

Mr. Pierce, if I can sit here at 1:48 am, eating Red Vines and blowing holes in your libel case, just imagine what an actual lawyer will do to it.

#233 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:51 AM:

John,

You say: "Whether she did or did not do 'the wrong thing' is irrelevant."

No, this is exactly the issue. I'm not a lawyer either. But I think we both know, she did the wrong thing.

#234 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:58 AM:

Another question would have to be why writing to someone who openly advocated telling lies about one's qualifications would be the best way to get truthful information about that person's qualifications.

#235 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:06 AM:

Todd James Pierce wrote:

"No, this is exactly the issue."

No, it's exactly *not.* You appear to be under the impression that libel laws activate when people get their feelings hurt. That's just not the way it works in the United States. Here in the United States, libel is *exceptionally* difficult to prove, even for private individuals (if you're a public figure, you can pretty much forget it). If Jerry Falwell can't get the Supreme Court of the United States to agree that a parody ad in a porn magazine that has Falwell screwing his mother in an outhouse is libelous, do you honestly believe a court is going to give you a pass because TNH openly wondered at the provenance of your literary award? Honestly, how can you be a professional writer and not know this stuff?

Libel isn't about hints and allegations and winks and suggestions and implications; it's about *facts.* And unless you can prove without doubt that TNH knew what the IAP was but presented a lie about it as *fact* AND that you have been materially harmed by the statement, you have not met the standard for libel as a private individual.

I repeat: Unless *facts* are involved, "right" and "wrong" have nothing to do with libel. If you want to have the argument about whether TNH did the ethically *wrong* thing when she questioned your IAP award, fine, although since you're on record encouraging people to lie, don't expect much sympathy; honestly, if one can't question the credentials of someone who espouses lying to others, whose credentials can one reasonably question?

However, *you* are alleging libel, and that's a whole different ballgame. Don't confuse your hurt feelings and what you feel is "right" and "wrong" with matters of law.

#236 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:21 AM:

Well, I'm signing off now. It's late. But if the only thing there is to hide behind is this, John: "However, *you* are alleging libel, and that's a whole different ballgame. Don't confuse your hurt feelings and what you feel is "right" and "wrong" with matters of law."

I'll go with, it was wrong. In fact, it was cruel. Nothing less that that. I'm surprised that doesn't bother you. I'll let someone else work out the issues from there.

#237 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:22 AM:

Todd Pierce wrote:
Patrick,
No, this is a stream of bullshit. Your last official contact registering the page was:
"Record last updated on Sat Jan 17 2004."
And now, over six months later, you sill have TOR listed on the registry. What, are you trying to suggest that it takes over six months for that info to be updated?

Okay, let's go back to what Patrick said:
This is of course the "whois" database listing for nielsenhayden.com, which I changed a few months ago to give our work address instead of our home address, for elementary reasons of personal security.

Hmmmmm. Let's see.

Patrick, in a bid to protect his privacy at home, provides valid contact information at work.

Let's check literaryagents.org for information.
( Superfluous information has been removed, marked by [...], and the address and phone number have been redacted. Emphasis has been placed on the interesting bits)

-----

> whois literaryagents.org
[ ... ]
Domain Name:LITERARYAGENTS.ORG
Created On:06-Jan-2000 19:14:03 UTC
Last Updated On:23-Jun-2004 06:11:12 UTC
Expiration Date:06-Jan-2008 19:14:03 UTC
[ ... ]
Registrant Name:TODD PIERCE
Registrant Organization:GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS
Registrant Street1:XXXX XXXXXXX XXXXX
Registrant City:CARLSBAD
Registrant State/Province:CA
Registrant Postal Code:92009

Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.850XXXXXXX
Registrant Email:toddpierce@iname.com
[ ... ]
Admin Email:toddpierce@iname.com
[ ... ]
>

-----

Hmmmm.
A California postal address. A 850 area code on the phone number, however, which the last time I checked puts it the Panama City, FL LATA. Interesting, considering you're on staff at a school in South Carolina.

(And to top it off, the domain points at space on a Florida State University webserver, while you're at Clemson.... this is somewhat problematic, given the FSU Policies regarding the use of Information Technology Resources. )

Additionally, Todd writes, in an email quoted by Patrick:
You should know that I have made an appoint to discuss this matter with our university attorney because what you've done is to slander my professional reputation by publishing numerous attacks that are without merit, cause, or factual basis, and are, in fact, malicious in nature.

1. Last time I checked, slander is verbal defamation, libel is written defamation. This has been my obligatory editing comment.

2. Factual basis: You put a site on the web where you advocated fabricating publication credits in cover letters. This can be verified through numerous archival sources: I'm assuming FSU makes regular backups of their computers, or there's the Internet Archive (either in web form, or the DVD backup copies at various locations).

#238 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:43 AM:

Todd James Pierce writes:

"I'll go with, it was wrong. In fact, it was cruel. Nothing less that that. I'm surprised that doesn't bother you."

I'm not aware of expressing an opinion about it one way or another on this thread, actually.

Now that you mention it, I thought the Todd James Pierce snipe hunt here was a little much. There was more than enough to go on with the cover letter tips themselves. Which is why I wrote about those and not about your literary awards and etc.

But let's be clear: Even if I was 100% sympathetic to your plight, I'd still be explaining why the last thing you want to do is try to lawyer up with a libel suit. The US libel law doesn't give a crap about whether things are "wrong" or "cruel;" it cares about what's legally actionable. This stuff here simply is not. Bringing a suit on this is just a fine way to spend a lot of money on some lawyer's new set of golf clubs.

My advice: Suck it up and realize that if you're going to espouse a controversial position (or offer advice that runs counter to another opinionated professional's own experience), you're going to take hits -- up to and including derision and ridicule. Either stand by your positions and hit back or recognize the errors of your ways and change those positions. Don't sue; just give as good as you get.

Now I'm going to bed, too.

#239 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:58 AM:

James wrote:
Another question would have to be why writing to someone who openly advocated telling lies about one's qualifications would be the best way to get truthful information about that person's qualifications.

Great point, James.

Todd wrote:
I'll go with, it was wrong. In fact, it was cruel. Nothing less that that. I'm surprised that doesn't bother you. I'll let someone else work out the issues from there.

If you put a website out on the internet in which you advocate lying, you really can't expect any reasonable person to contact you to verify things. Price you pay for that sort of thing.

Cruel? No, this thread isn't cruel. That's the House of Lords thread, where people keep coming up with Tolkien pastiches.

Overall, I think the thing that bothers me the most about this thread is NOT your choice of phrasing in your advice on cover letters,but that it was passed down as The Right Thing To Do in your graduate program (and is apparently the case in other programs, as you indicated).

#240 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 04:26 AM:

Sorry, still awake, still pissed about this. Why is it that most everyone who has jumped on contribute to the attacks or to defend what is really indefensible about what Teresa has done is published either by Teresa or Patrick? Wow, how did that happen? Let's recap:

John Scalzi - Published by TOR

James D. Macdonald - Published in two anthologies editied by Patrick, published by TOR

Michelle Sagara (pen name Michelle West) - Published in three TOR antholgies

John M Ford - published by TOR

Charlie Stross - a novel forthcoming from, yep, TOR

Janni (AKA Janni Lee Simmer) - in an anthology published by TOR

Mark Bourne - (though his posts in this thread were really tame) anthology TOR

Melissa Singer - Happily not published by Tor. But she WORKS there!

Andrew Willett - Not published by Tor, but by Tor's parent company

Madeleine Robins - published by Forge (yep, related to TOR)

===================

You guys can all sit down now and stop defending your editors. Thanks. It was swell. I'm sure your editors appreciated the effort.

#241 ::: Todd James Pierce ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 04:29 AM:

Oh, about now, one of you should chime in about how this site is not related to TOR. Doesn't that come now?

Good night all.

#242 ::: Michelle Sagara ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 05:41 AM:

The three stories in Tor anthologies were actually published under the name "Michelle Sagara"; they were, however, sold entirely to Mike Resnick & Marty Greenberg (of Tekno Books). To my knowledge, Marty sold the anthologies to Tor, and to be frank, I have -no idea- who the acquiring editor at Tor was; it's been over ten years since the last story was written, although it took some time for it to see print. The acceptance cheque didn't come from Tor; it came from Tekno Books.

Therefore, I'm not defending "my" editors. I've never sold anything to either Patrick or Teresa. Mike Resnick edited the books and turned them in. I would be positively feral if I were defending -my- editors, but would feel it necessary beforehand to post a ritual disclaimer to that effect.

I believe the same would also be true of Janni Simner's single contribution; making the assumption that our defense is self-serving, when the books themselves a) haven't been in print for a long time and b) weren't assembled on a story-by-story basis by any Tor editor, is, in fact, not dissimilar to a general attack on integrity (which you feel, judging from your own response, to be something of a crime) --

and I feel it germaine to point out at this juncture that none of us have advocated lying in prior posts on this or(to my knowledge) any other board.

However, if you'll go back and read what I wrote, I'm not actually defending anyone. I'm -- and you've said you have no problems with this -- debating the usefulness and accuracy of your claims; the former, for the advice to lie; the latter, for the comments about NY dealings.

Keep in mind that many as yet unpublished writers read and lurk here, and much of the vivisection is done on that basis; there's no point in a bunch of frequently published writers getting together to tell each other "lying sucks". We're older, we've been around the block a few times, we're aware of the earlier flaws in our own approaches, and we're sharing them. We're writers; we certainly don't always agree with each other.

When we do -- and I'm not hearing a defense on your part for your own words here -- it carries some weight.

John Scalzi did write to you when the topic was current; he did send you the URL of this discussion; and he did his best to be objective and decent while also giving you the standout advice of the evening. You advised people to -lie-. Expect some moral outrage and suspicion as a natural fallout for that advice, and either suck it up and stand by the words themselves or let it go .

#243 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 07:55 AM:

Well this thread has certainly been active since I last looked at it...

Todd - I can imagine it really does hurt to have a bunch of people poking through the public details of your life, searching for lies they can hold up to the world. It would insult me, and there's no reason on earth why it shouldn't insult you.

Has it occured to you why it happened though? I'll let you in on the secret: People assumed you were a liar because you were on public record saying that you thought lying was a good idea.

The chain of logic goes a little like:

- Todd James thinks lying is a good way for people to get ahead. He's so convinced of this that he's willing to put that advice up in a public forum for the whole world to see.
- Todd James is himself a person.
- Perhaps he includes himself in that advice?

You've made your bed, and now I'm afraid you have to lie in it.

By the way - if it helps to know, I am not a published author, have never submitted anything to TOR, and have never met a single person on this weblog except through online conversation.

#244 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 08:09 AM:

TJP: Andrew Willett - Not published by Tor, but by Tor's parent company

I was? When? God, don't I wish.

Of course, my only appearances in this thread were as part of the "Linguistics in Stargate SG-1" digression, so perhaps you mean some other Andrew Willett.

#245 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 08:16 AM:

Todd James Pierce:

"Why is it that most everyone who has jumped on contribute to the attacks or to defend what is really indefensible about what Teresa has done is published either by Teresa or Patrick?"

I would assume it's because they know a number of excellent writers (and me), and know the value of publishing smart, interesting works by smart, interesting writers (and also put out my stuff). Of course, you're taking as a given that Teresa has done something "indefensible," which is highly debatable. I think speculating about the writing credits of someone who advises lying in cover letters could be eminently defendable.

For my part, I was reading both this site and PNH's long before I knew either Teresa and Patrick personally (but not before I was a published author), so had PNH not already bought some books from me, there's still an excellent chance that I'd've jumped up and down on you for your cover letter tips and for your misapprehension as to what constitutes libel. Certainly I've written about writers and the foolish things they do *prior* to business and personal contact with the Nielsen Haydens. You can check my personal site for that -- see anything prior to Christmas, 2002.

Certainly, I've never represented myself as a disinterested party; when I wrote you an e-mail discussing the libel issue, I stated explicitly that I was a friend of TNH and that therefore all the standard disclaimers should apply.

Mr. Pierce, the problem here is that in addition to providing poor advice, you argue poorly. Your entire strategy here is to attempt to paint yourself as a victim of a plot against you, orchestrated by TNH and/or Tor, and that you are at best an innocent fellow who has inexplicably had calumny heaped upon you. However, this position ignores entirely the genesis TNH's interest in you: Your super-bad, really awful, ethically-challenged, new-career-suiciding "advice" on cover letters.

Had *you* not advised people to *lie* (among other bad advice TNH points out), it's doubtful that TNH would have then wondered, in an entirely non-libelous and not unreasonable way, if you follow your own "advice" about your publishing accomplishments. As I noted before, if one cannot question the publishing accomplishments of someone who advises people to lie about their publishing accomplishments, whose publishing accomplishments *should* one question?

#246 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 08:47 AM:

At the risk of alienating (good lord, did I spell that right?) myself on the board here...Can we just leave the guy alone?

The internet is a place where things can be said in the heat of the moment or in a vacuum where one might not expect others to read it. I know I've sent out emails that made me look like an ass or posted pages that were eventually taken down. Mr. Pierce has been savaged for his misguided comments and his reactions were entirely understandable upon his discovery.

I would never want to argue with most of the people on this board, because, quite frankly, they're really good at arguing and making their point. Mr. Pierce tried to argue and got burned. His advice was wrong. His reply was reactionary. Mistakes were made.

And I feel sorry for the guy. Take it or leave it as you please. There are humans, misguided though they may be, on the other side of our connections.

#247 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 09:14 AM:

Hey, Todd "Pants On Fire" Pierce:

What you did, personally, was wrong. You are wrong. Your advice was wrong. If it is in fact true that you had been being "misinterpreted repeatedly over the past year or two," as you claim (but what are the odds of that being the truth, eh? How can anyone misinterpret "Lie a little. Yes, lie"?), then if this thread here got you to amend that page when two years (by your own admission) of other problems didn't ... then this thread is good and produced a positive good. It got you, "Lie A Little" Pierce, to remove bogus information that might cause harm to new writers coming from an authorative-sounding but bogus website. "Might cause harm" did I say? Sorry, I meant "would cause harm if anyone followed it."

And the old "sucking up to your editors" charge. Reprehensible, of course, but what should anyone expect from Mr. Ethics? Do you think that I'm for sale for two short story reprints? (Hey, "Yes, Lie" Pierce: At least I've gotten published outside of published-three-times-a-year journals from the Department of Weak Verbs at some college, and read by someone besides other MFA grad students.) I know why you had to attack my motives, Liar. It's because what I've said is true, you know it's true, and telling the truth would kill you.

You know something? I was publicly ridiculing your advice before you ever heard of Teresa, and before Teresa ever heard of you other people were too. Check around the web, Liar: Folks who've never heard of Teresa called your advice "crap." I even gave you one link. Teresa criticized lots of other points in your stupid advice, The problem isn't just that you're dishonest, it's that you're unqualified. Did you notice how many other points you're flat wrong on? Be assured that others have noticed. I see that you've made silent emendations on your advice page, apparently based on Teresa's criticism. You might acknowledge that. If you were honest, if you had a shred of decency in your body, you would thank her for pointing out the howling problems in your list.

Am I offended by your dishonest attacks here? Yes. But no more than I was already offended by the nonsensical, false, unethical advice that you'd given.

So you've stopped advising the young to "Lie A Little"? That's good. I'm glad that you've seen the error of your ways. I hope you no longer teach your students in the classroom to "Lie a little. Yes, lie." That's academic malpractice, you know. The univesity should fire your lying ass for it. Press this matter and I'm sure they'll find out. I'm guessing that you don't have tenure.

You should be ashamed of yourself. I'd hope you'd apologize to Teresa, and everyone else you've harmed. Not a lot of chance of that. You don't think you've done anything wrong. This is because you don't have a sense of ethics. Lying is a lifetime habit.

Liar. No chance you're arguing in good faith. Good faith is the farthest thing from your mind. So go to your lawyer, "Lie A Little." Tell him the truth (if it's in you do tell the truth). See what he says. Hope that when everything's finished the worst that's happened to you is that you've taken a little public ridicule for having made ridiculous statements in public. A better choice for you would be to call the university lawyer and break the appointment. Tell him that when you sobered up you realized that you didn't have a complaint. See, the thing is, that lawyer you're planning to see doesn't work for you -- he or she works for the university. That lawyer might have to report academic dishonesty.

So lie a little. That's what you're good at.

#248 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 09:17 AM:

Randall --

If someone demands acceptance of their evil -- that it be socially countenanced as appropriate and normal -- no, one can't just leave that person alone.

It's embarrassing and horrible to watch, but giving in to a -- minor though real -- evil, the assertion that falsification of credentials is an appropriate professional behaviour, would wrong, for important values of wrong.

#249 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 09:27 AM:

Mr. Pierce --

You seem to be having great difficulty with the central, core point -- that you don't have a good name. You've publically advocated falsification of credentials, to novice and prospective members of your profession, over a period of years.

You did that; yourself, alone. No one here present was in any least way involved.

Of course it calls your credentials into question; those might be valid, or they might be as vacuous as you have demonstrated your professional ethics to be.

And before you hurt yourself Googling, my sole professional interaction with Teresa or Patrick is that they don't buy my writing.

#250 ::: Caruso ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 10:26 AM:

Pat yourselves on the back. You've managed to tar and feather one of the good guys. Nice going.

But what most strikes me, is how, the great majority of posters here have proved one of Pierce's suppositions that publishing can be one huge circle jerk. At least I think it's in the retraction/clarification he posted. Everyone here either has been published with tor, has tried to be published with tor, hopes to be published with tor. What a strange world you live in.

And as for TN Hayden, she has set up a web ring where she gets to play queen to all the people who need her.

There are days I might expect this from writers at Knopf or FSG, but tor?!? Times in fantasy must be desperate.

#251 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 10:27 AM:

James Macdonald asked: Someone else can tell me if FSU has an honor code. Does Clemson have an honor code? If either of those places has an honor code, what does it say about "Lie a little. Yes, lie."?

Academic Integrity at Clemson: "we shall not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing in any form".

FSU's Academic Honor Code in the Graduate Bulletin: "The academic honor system of The Florida State University is based on the premise that each student has the responsibility to . . . Foster a high sense of integrity and social responsibility on the part of the University community."

The person claiming to be Todd James Pierce is a really beautiful example of the kind, by the way. I'm amazed.

#252 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 10:43 AM:

Everyone here either has been published with tor, has tried to be published with tor, hopes to be published with tor. What a strange world you live in.

Bull. Never been published by TOR. Have never written a novel or F/SF short story, so I probably never will be. I do, however, agree with the "great majority" here that thinks that encouraging others to lie about one's professional credentials tends to exclude you from the circle in the great Venn Diagram of life labeled "the good guys."

Any other non-TOR folks out there? Considering that I raised the question of how many people are doing things they didn't go to school for and received a wide diversity of professions in return, I'd say your allegations that "most" or "everyone" here has fiscal ties to TOR are disingenuous at best.

#253 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 10:43 AM:

Caruso writes:

"You've managed to tar and feather one of the good guys."

Good guys tell people to lie to get published? Interesting definition of "good."

"The great majority of posters here have proved one of Pierce's suppositions that publishing can be one huge circle jerk."

Nonsense. While I read TNH and PNH prior to being published by Tor, I didn't know them personally and they didn't know me; in other words, my work was bought by them on its merits, not based on a personal relationship. Quite evidently I know them now, because, duh, *Patrick bought work from me.*

What people's appearance in this thread shows is that *some* writers who have had material purchased from Tor *also* read this site and comment upon it. If this is evidence of a cabal to you, you need to get some sun.

#254 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:00 AM:

I have over 820 publications, presentations, and broadcasts to my credit. But none were published by Teresa or Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

I have, however, been very badly damaged in my career by amateur and semiprofessional science fiction people, due to their lies. I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 in legal expenses trying to undo actual libel and slander by a pathological liar. Hence I am very familar with the laws on Defamation, at least in California.

Professor Pierce has no such Cause of Action.

I am also a part-time Professor. If anything, I'm jealous of Pierce's full-time position. I've taught Astronomy half-time, currently completing my 3rd semester teaching Math at another university, and have technically been admitted to teach Computer Science at a 3rd school and English Composition at a 4th, but California's budget crisis has those on hold.

At my current university, I sit on the Academic Honesty Board. What disturbs me most there are students who vigorously defend their plagiarism (for example) on the grounds that it's standard practice in the nonacademic world. Someone told them, or suggested to them, that they could get away with it.

So, both because I lost a job that paid (correcting for inflation) $120,000 per year due to a pathological liar, and because I've seen students damage or end their college involvement because of lies, I have a sensitivity to lies.

Mind you, I had Astronomy students who insisted that men never walked on the Moon, because that was all a government lie, and was faked with special effects. I understand their point, to the extent that it has been, throughout my life, harder and harder to believe the President of the United States.

I believe that teaching is a crucial profession in maintaining and extending civilization itself. I teach my students, regardless of the course subject, to focus on three big questions:

(1) What is the Universe?
(2) What is a Human Being?
(3) What is the place of a Human Being in the Universe?

I often allow them to take exams Open Book, Open Homework, Open Notes, and using calculators. The issue is not memorization, but understanding. Also, that "life is an open book exam." I point out that one should not cheat or lie in the classroom -- or in the greater world outside.

Hence I feel that it is particularly important for teachers to guide their students towards truthful behavior.

I know what it feels like to be severely chided by the Making Light crew. I am not 100% without empathy for the feelings of Pierce. However, I also hold truth, honor, and literature to have a higher priority than situational ethics, advocacy for written dishonesty, and outright lies.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

#255 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:08 AM:

Dear Mr. Pierce:

I am not published by Tor and have no professional writerly relationship with TNH or PNH besides enjoying the writings and community provided on their weblogs.

I would like to comment, for a moment, on your claims of "unfounded attack".

See, in the RealWorldTM, I am a manager. Like editors, I get tons of letters clamoring for money which in this case means jobs. And I have more cover letters (and resumes) than I have positions to fill. Let me explain to you something about how the world works, because you appear to be clueless.

When I receive these letters and resumes, I begin to judge the people based on their writing. I have no other basis on which to know them. If they can't address the letter, or spell my name right, that tells me something. Likewise, if they use a clear font, with good use of the page, everything spelled correctly, and provide me with everything I ask for, I also know something.

If someone can't spell, uses semi-colons for commas, and badly formats the resume so it spills into weird little colums all over page three, I have learned that this person does not fulfill one of my requirements: "communicates effectively."

Is it unfounded to say that?

No, it very founded.

I don't know the person, I haven't contacted them, talked to them via the phone, had a whole conversation. That's true. BUT. They put their writing out there, and I based my judgement on that.

When someone puts down a skill (able to fix and maintain office equipment, e.g.), they generally also tie it to some checkable evidence. (BigBusinessY, CityZ, June 01-June 03, kept office equipment in working order.) I am not asking for these skills because I am bored and cranky and whimsical in my needs. I need someone to keep my reader-printers up and running. (Much like editors need stories that, you know, are good.)

Continuing the example above, let's say I happen to know, through my dad that BigBusinessY went out of business in July '02 in CityZ.

Am I going to keep reading this yahoo's resume? No, I am not. Toss! Ditto the guy who can't use a spell checker.

Founded.

People are judged in professional situations by their writing all the time.

You chose, like the mythical resume writer above, to put something out there for all to read. You were judged on the basis of what you wrote. That's how it works.

Advocating fraud and deception would get your resume booted off my desk. Do you see why?

#256 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:11 AM:

I don't read or write science fiction or fantasy, and before coming to these boards, I'd never heard of Tor.

However, this board is an excellent way of learning about the process of publishing and the biz. Plus, it's fun.

However, ripping on Todd James Pierce is no longer fun. Now, it's a bit troubling. Let's talk about Futurama instead.

#257 ::: Niall.McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:14 AM:

Hey Caruso: let's see you type that again while Todd drinks a glass of water.

#258 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:31 AM:

James McDonald wrote:
At least I've gotten published outside of published-three-times-a-year journals from the Department of Weak Verbs at some college, and read by someone besides other MFA grad students.

Publish or persish, James.

I can't speak for professors or grad students in the humanities, but I am all too familiar with the mantra drilled into me by my boss, a professor in electrical engineering:

If it's not in an IEEE or IEE journal, as far as your tenure committee is concerned, it never happened.

Yeah, the audience for something like The Indiana Review or The Antioch Review is different from a 'mass-market' title such as Analog, but it's no narrower than the audience for journal articles discussing the use of transmission dyadics to determine radome behavior.

The extent of my publication credits include a two paragraph contribution to a 'hints' section in a ham radio magazine, and I'm a coauthor on two papers that are currently in the review process for journals. ( And yes, one's an IEEE journal, the other is from the IEE ).

#259 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:48 AM:

I have nothing to do with Tor, its parent company, or the world of publishing. I would not know either of the Nielsen Haydens if I passed them in the street, nor would they know me. I have not posted on this thread previously, because the only comment I could make--"What a piece of work!"--had already been said, in one form or another.

I'm not an academic, either, although my late father was--he was head of a chemistry department at a school in the Middle West. When I first read TNH's post, and followed the links, I tried to imagine my father's reaction to a similar set of instructions, from one of his graduate students/junior professors, on how to apply for grants, fellowships, and such. [Of course, back in the 1960's and 70's, such things wouldn't have had the Internet circulation they do now, so the offender's sins and follies would have been less widely known.] The first would have been "If you don't know any more about the process than this, don't try to tell other people how to do it." The second, in connection with the suggestion that the hopeful applicant should misrepresent themselves, or their project, in any way--well, I tremble at the thought. You wouldn't have needed an electron microscope to find the fool's ego--a 10x hand magnifying glass would have been enough to locate it so you could avoid stepping on it, but they would know their ethics had been judged and found wanting. If, later on, he found out that someone on a grant or fellowship committee had seen the bad advice, and shared it with friends and acquaintances, and that the Offender's reputation, accomplishments, ethics and judgement were being carefully scruntized and harshly judged, and their folly was being mocked, he'd have smiled grimly and told the Offender "It serves you right."

TJ Pierce may be a kind and sympathetic instructor, but in failing to grasp the importance of integrity and a good reputation until his own was threatened, he exhibits a painful degree of cluelessness. Advising someone to do something that may damage their reputation to make themselves feel better is thoughtless and short-sighted at best. Coming from someone with an instructor's level of authority in the eyes of their students, it's unkind and unethical. I assume that TJ Pierce has made his mistakes out of ignorance and folly, and not from ill-intent. It does seem like poetic justice, to this outsider, that he should learn these were mistakes at the cost of damage to his reputation and feelings. However, being criticized and mocked by people he doesn't know is nothing compared to being called on the carpet by those who have the power to hire and fire him, and who are in the position to provide employment references for him until the end of time as he knows it.

I think TJ Pierce knows it, too, or his posts here wouldn't have shown such desperate maneuvering for position. The attempt to flatter James Macdonald by prasing his writing and calling him Mac suggests a child striving to placate authority by any means, and the introduction of the Tor connection smacks of grasping for straws to distract a jury from a weak argument.

#260 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:53 AM:

LOL Niall. I was pretty sure that was a sock puppet too, but couldn't think of a good enough way to say it...as I said over on Electrolite, I don't play the piano when Keith Jarrett is in the room, and so I'm not diving into this current lashing.

One point, though, without trying to enter the fray exactly: IANAL, but didn't someone establish a while ago that blog owners are not liable for statements - even false and defamatory ones - made by commenters, even if they knowingly leave those statements up in the comment thread? It seems to me someone quoted some caselaw on that when some jackass threatened to sue Atrios.

It's mootish, since TJP isn't threatening suit over what the commenters in this thread said, except by implication. But I think his case is sunk in an even deeper trench than has been so far expressed.

#261 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:05 PM:

And on the publish or perish note:

Given all the crap people have to go through in order to try and get a tenured position, and all the ensuing horror stories---- you'd think it would dissuade some of us from our quests for the PhD.

Yet here I am, running simulations for a research radar research project, laying out the groundwork for my master's thesis--- and my first grad school class isn't until September. I can't imagine not trying to push onwards for the PhD, even if I have to do it on a part-time basis initially.

#262 ::: Stacy Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:09 PM:

Caruso writes:

"Everyone here either has been published with tor, has tried to be published with tor, hopes to be published with tor. What a strange world you live in."

Nope. I am in no way affiliated with Tor. I read this site because TNH is smart and funny.

It really doesn't matter from which angle you approach this nonsense: TJP is still wrong.

#263 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:12 PM:

fidelio wrote:
The attempt to flatter James Macdonald by prasing his writing and calling him Mac suggests a child striving to placate authority by any means

Uhhh, Mr. Pierce's comment mentioning Mac was NOT directed at James MacDonald (Sorry about shortening it to McDonald, in an earlier comment of mine, James.). That particular comment was in reply to mine, where I mentioned another FSU alumni, Michael "Mac" McClelland, who happens to be a professor at my alma mater.

#264 ::: Holly Biffl ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:18 PM:

Dear Mr. Pierce/Caruso:

I am an unpublished writer who lurks on this site.

I found your site back in March when I was querying agents, long before this thread or the Absolute Write thread appeared.

I was naive enough to believe that the advice contained in your site came from someone with *real* credentials.

I'm just happy to say that my BS radar detected the 'lie' advice and I didn't follow it. (I also knew better than to cold call an agent). But some of the other stuff you advised (don't put a word count in your query, publishing only works if you have inside connections) I did believe.

While I don't agree with the personal attacks here, I do have to say that these people are defending me and all the other clueless, new writers out there who could be significantly harmed by the "advice" on your site.

#265 ::: PZ Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:23 PM:

The things one learns on Making Light. I have a website, too...and in it I state that I'm a biologist at a university. I had no idea that that instantly made me a member of a cabal.

My domain name registry lists my university address for contact, also. That's more a matter of habit: we live in a very small town, no one ever locks their doors, etc., and we've been surprised a few times that when packages are delivered, the UPS/FedEx/USMail people will just walk in the door and leave it on the living room table. It was a little freaky at first, and we just started using my more secure university address.

I've never published with Tor, which isn't too surprising, since I don't write fiction, period. I have published with J Comp Neurol, Development, J Comp Assist Microscopy, etc, and once long ago with Nature. I don't coddle up to the editors of those journals because they don't provide a comfortable place to sit down in a squooshy chair and listen to a bunch of chatty writers. And that, really, is the only reason you find this convergence of people here--it's where the salon is. No conspiracies. Not because we're all schemers trying to get an edge on publication.

Although it is revealing that you would suggest such darker motivations among the gang of regulars here, Mr Projection.

#266 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:29 PM:

Well, I don't have any real hopes of my work-in-progress being edited/published by the Nielsen Haydens, seeing as Tor doesn't do graphic novels, and anyway I'm a pretentious hack. (But not a liar!)

Not that I've been in the pile-on before now. Happy to bring a bucket of tar, though.

Incidentally, how many people in that "published by Tor" list have also been rejected by the same folks? I'm betting it's a good percentage.

"Don't play piano when Keith Jarrett's in the room" is sage advice. Also: Never get involved in a land war in Asia, and never go in against a Nielsen Hayden when manuscripts are on the line.

Oh, and don't mess around with Jim.

#267 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 12:46 PM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy asks:

"Incidentally, how many people in that 'published by Tor' list have also been rejected by the same folks?"

Hell, Tor passed on two proposals of mine this week and other a couple of weeks ago. That's life in the big city.

#268 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:15 PM:

You know, I thought "Lie a little. Yes, lie," was great advice.

But I think I will get even further in life with this new piece of advice Mr. Pierce has given out, which I'm paraprasing as "Whenever someone says you're giving out bad advice, the simplest explanation is that they are all in the shadowy employ of a vast editor-based conspiracy whose web of intrigue is centered in the offices of a science fiction publishing house in New York. Don't even waste time wondering if maybe they have a point."

That might be too verbose, but if I counted the words I'd just look amateurish.

#269 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:15 PM:

re: The Pile On Effect - I've been in an internet pile-on before--the piled upon were people who considered themselves Real Vampires and were telling underage and vulnerable teens how to hook up with people whose blood they could suck. (They were also perpetuating some really silly ideas about evolution and species differentiation and looking like total gits too.)

Another Pile-On I participated in involved a situation similar in some ways to this situation: A well-known online artist had found a picture of his claimed by another artist. Except that the second picture was a badly rendered paint-over of Artist Number Two, who had copied Artist Number One, and was claiming that because they had done the work themselves, that they could claim credit on the piece. To further complicate matters, they claimed that people had told them A) if something was on the internet, that it was public domain and B) if they were capable of creating the work from scratch, that it didn't matter if somebody else had created it first. They were the victims of Bad Advice and saw themselves as being the injured party. Being that it's hard to claim damages on this sort of thing, the online artist communities often pile on to discourage other "rips" of this nature. Often times, the ripper will eventually make good, and when they do, they've been accepted into the community and often become a spokesperson against copyright violations.

This isn't precisely about copyright violations, but it is about Bad Advice. If you tender advice, good or bad, most people assume that you think you must have found it effective at some point in your life. In this case, if you followed your own advice, you are culpable of lying to pad your resume or to make yourself look better. If you didn't and wouldn't follow your own advice, why would you offer to others under the guise of Good Advice?

#270 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:17 PM:

Anticorium: a skillful turn with the right hand. You mean that we, in some strange power's employ, move on a rigorous line?

#271 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:25 PM:

Oh, and sorry, I meant to finish my train of thought, but I am on lunch break here at work (which is NOT Tor, nor in anyway related to Tor--I'm a graphic design monkey in North Carolina) but I meant to infer that if you are dogmatically proferring bad advice, and people are piling on, not to tell you that you are a bad person (because I don't think that; misguided, absolutely--bad, no) but to get you to stop proferring Bad Advice, then I can understand the pile-on. (Sorry about the run-on sentence. I've got to go make clipping paths now.)

#272 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:36 PM:

Caruso: Everyone here either has been published with tor, has tried to be published with tor, hopes to be published with tor.

Stop changing the subject. The question is why you took the "Lie a little" phrase off your web page. You've been waving red-handed herrings ever since the question came up, and it's getting a little tiresome. We'll discuss who works for Tor after you explain your change of advice.

#273 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 01:45 PM:

"... shadowy employ of a vast editor-based conspiracy whose web of intrigue is centered in the offices of a science fiction publishing house in New York."

Makes perfect sense. After all, didn't Hugo Gernsback take over the world that way, before he was forced into bankruptcy? Didn't John Campbell challenge and beat the U.S. Government itself over a fictionalized Critical Mass fission story? Didn't Science Fiction brainwash the world into starting the Space Age? Didn't Horace Gold have the web of intrigue center on his apartment poker table, under the clever guise of agoraphobia? Didn't Guccione try a take-over of the world with Omni Magazine, until a feminist backlash? Didn't Hitler beat Heinlein for the first Hugo for Best Novel [according to Spinrad]?

And don't Asimov, Brin, Silverberg, and Tekno prove that the Science Fiction conspiracy is part of the Jewish Cabal that runs the world through banks and New York media?

Enquiring minds want to know...

#274 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:25 PM:

Hmm . . . I think it's time for a post-it on my screen saying "Remeber to hit the post button."

As I thought I posted earlier, Professor Pierce has another concern. As of this morning, his Clemson bio is the #2 hit when googling "assistant professor".

#275 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:32 PM:

Bill Blum notes:
"fidelio wrote:
The attempt to flatter James Macdonald by prasing his writing and calling him Mac suggests a child striving to placate authority by any means

Uhhh, Mr. Pierce's comment mentioning Mac was NOT directed at James MacDonald (Sorry about shortening it to McDonald, in an earlier comment of mine, James.). That particular comment was in reply to mine, where I mentioned another FSU alumni, Michael "Mac" McClelland, who happens to be a professor at my alma mater."

My apologies for my misunderstanding.

The rest of my observations stand. An accountant who advised you to cheat on your taxes, a lawyer who suggested you commit perjury, a teacher or editor who recommended plagiarism--all of these wwould be unethical, whether through ignorance of malice it matters not.

I think Randall is right. We have adequately defended the honor of our hostess, and these dealings become distasteful. Shall we contemplate new books, strange citrus, and other amusements instead?

#276 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:46 PM:

Shall we contemplate new books, strange citrus, and other amusements instead?

I have friends that keep threatening to bring me a durian. The idea frightens me.

#277 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:51 PM:

Niall, do you have an address where I can send the bill for one keyboard, now chock full of Diet Dr. Pepper?

#278 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 02:53 PM:

Well, if you remove all the pet birds, fish, small animals and young children from the immediate area--well-ventilated area--before you begin preparing it for consumption there shouldn't be any problem. A bandana or tea towel soaked in vinegar can make a useful mask over the nose and mouth...

#279 ::: Jim Winter ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 03:57 PM:

Todd, you are a writer. Which means if you anger enough people, you are going to get arrows in your back. Deal with it. If you can't handle criticism, especially when you dole out such poorly thought-out advice, you probably should consider another line of work. I read your original piece... Yes, the original, not the revisionist retractions you've posted elsewhere. Had I followed your advice, I'd have a much bigger stack of rejection slips on my desk. The class thing to do would be to stay silent and ignore the criticism, thus not legitimizing it by any effort of your own; or to own up and say, "Yeah, I screwed up."

Threatening a libel suit? Because someone has a poor opinion of you? Um... In America, there is no freedom from being offended. If there was, there wouldn't be freedom of anything else, like thought. You should know freedom of thought. You're a writer, aren't you?

#280 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 04:34 PM:

I'm not aware of expressing an opinion about it one way or another on this thread, actually.

Not so. On WHATEVER, you specifically stated that you wouldn't say anything behind someone's back that you refused to say to their face, and therefore you had e-mailed Mr. Pierce about the existence of the thread, and posted his reply to you. That bespeaks a certain lack of interest in petty cruelty.

A fellow on LiveJournal (who, if I recall right, goes by the userid "orgash") also claimed to have written to Mr. Pierce, and posted a reply remarkably similar to the one you received. I admit I suspected the fellow of simply copying from WHATEVER, but Mr. Pierce's comment You then used my email response, which was not unique to you cleared that up.

(Of course, Mr. Pierce also initially claimed never to have been contact by anyone, so perhaps this isn't actually Mr. Pierce. Or he's merely forgetful. Whatever.)

#281 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 04:43 PM:

Or -- dare I say it -- lying. Gasp!

#282 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 04:49 PM:

Mythago said:

"Not so. On WHATEVER, you specifically stated that you wouldn't say anything behind someone's back that you refused to say to their face, and therefore you had e-mailed Mr. Pierce about the existence of the thread, and posted his reply to you. That bespeaks a certain lack of interest in petty cruelty."

Yeah, but that was *there.* This is *here.* But yes. The earlier pile-on was not my speed. This *subsequent* pile-on, however, seems deserved.

#283 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 04:52 PM:

And don't Asimov, Brin, Silverberg, and Tekno prove that the Science Fiction conspiracy is part of the Jewish Cabal that runs the world through banks and New York media?

Enquiring minds want to know..

If Asimov was part of some vast conspiracy with that much power, is it possible we would now be faced with the abortion that is Will Smith's version of I, Robot??? I don't think so.

#284 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 06:01 PM:

Xopher, given fact that the reply was identical and the alleged Mr. Pierce stated it was 'not unique' to John Scalzi (and in fact, another person--who was irrationally pro-lying-advice--claims to have received the same thing) , I'm guessing it's either an autoresponder of some kind, or Mr. Pierce scanned the e-mail briefly, saw it was about his piece, sent off Standard Reply #469, and only noticed the "hey, there's this thread where people are ripping on your sorry ass" comment much later.

Sorry about the comma explosion there.

#285 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 07:29 PM:

And yet Mr. Pierce persists in never answering why anyone, in his or her right mind, would dole out advice to innocents that tells them to LIE.

I had an Indian guru friend once who told me that those who teach and *deliberately mislead the innocent* will be condemned to be reincarnated several thousand times as cockroaches. I think of this whenever I squish a bug.

P.S.: While I have been known to copyedit for St. Martin's Press, I was doing so long before I met TNH or PNH and, in fact, was only introduced to TNH after she discovered (more than 10 years after my freelance clients came to include SMP) that she had known my husband in the Old Days (while living in AZ). Besides, editors do NOT hand out copyediting; the production department (editorial's nemesis) does this.

P.P.S.: I do not write fiction; I do not write science fiction, and never intend on doing so. While TNH is a fine person and one hell of an editor, she doesn't need the likes of me to boost her ego or kiss her ass.

P.P.P.S: Though, come to think of it, I'd like to be part of a Great Publishing Conspiracy. When the secret rings are cast, someone remember to send me one?

#286 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 08:17 PM:

Weird-things-that-happen-at-work is a legitimate genre of anecdote. Even lawyers and doctors, bound by confidentiality, tell them. I've told my fair share about being a mortgage closer (and no, I didn't use my power for evil, but yes, it would have been damn easy to delay a house closing and cost a difficult customer a buncha money). Only editors, it seems, are forbidden to tell them.

Worse, editors aren't supposed to explain how the business actually works. Perhaps their practical, real world knowledge of the industry is too soul-searing for the wannabe. I'm thinking heat and kitchens here, personally. The level of rejection that most authors suffer through is pretty high. Criticism of their work is a step above mere rejection. If tales of the truth of publishing can frighten them out of their wits, maybe being a writer isn't going to work for them.

As far as lying goes, as Teresa has tried to point out, it's mostly just a dumb idea. Oh, it's unethical and crap like that, but it also DOESN'T WORK. It's wrong twice. It isn't helpful, and it has the risk of turning an aspiring writer into an expiring writer. (I don't mean to disparage the ethical breach, but the fact that it can cause harm to others concerns me more than the state of TJP's soul.) (Or employment.) (Or future possibility of being published.)

True story: A couple of married young writers were being published by the same company (not Tor...I don't think Tor even existed back then). They had retained their own names when they got married, not an unusual thing for professionals to do. They each got offers on their respective books, and obviously compared. The agent was forthwith enjoined to discuss the disparity with the publisher. The publisher was later heard to wail, "These writers! They talk to each other."

That's the problem with lies. People talk.

#287 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 09:06 PM:

Xopher writes:

Anticorium: a skillful turn with the right hand. You mean that we, in some strange power's employ, move on a rigorous line?

I regretfully introduce a topic drift (though some will welcome one).

Something I have often wondered: Where does this phrase come from?

I've always liked the Delany story, but presumed the title was a line of poetry someplace. Seeing Xopher's remark, I googled "we, in some strange power's employ" (minus delany).

Google is unhelpful. I saw only references to the story.

I started to compose this message. Reluctant to flaunt my ignorance, I tried again-- this time on "move on a rigorous line."

Bingo!

Matthew Arnold, "Stanzas in Memory of the Author of 'Obermann.'"

Guess what? Delany misquoted the line.

We, in some unknown Power’s employ,
Move on a rigorous line:
Can neither, when we will, enjoy;
Nor, when we will, resign.

He was young, and no doubt in a hurry, and seething with New Wave juices. (Or did an editor at F&SF give the story its title?)

So I've learned something. And now that I know, I don't really need to ask.

Carry on.

#288 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 10:27 PM:

Lydy --

I'd say criticism -- real, tangible this-works/this-doesn't work responses, with reason applied -- is way-many steps up from rejection.

#289 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 10:58 PM:

I'm a reader, not a writer, and I buy most of my books. I have more books from TOR than others because I like a lot of what they publish. I know Teresa and Patrick in person, although not to the extent of being friends.

I still think Todd James Pierce is just making things worse by arguing.

#290 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:04 PM:

JVP, OMNI wasn't Guccione's idea. It was the baby of his wife, Kathy Keaton. When Kathy died, he closed the online site. (The magazine had previously closed because of the high cost of glossy paper. They didn't want to switch to newsprint for some pages like other magazines had.)

And since we're proferring backup for our claims here, I volunteered for OMNI on AOL and ran the day-to-day management of the volunteers. I managed all the GMI boards and managed the OMNI Science area. I continued to help the editors in other arenas after OMNI closed.

#291 ::: Tony Hellmann ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:05 PM:

I read Dr. (and I use that term loosely) Pierce's list of everyone who weighed in on the issue (and their alleged affiliations), and I thought that if I posted something, maybe *I* could be published by Tor!

So I've composed The Glory of Pierce:

You've got to lie a little, skew a little,
Be in West Coast Review a little.
That's the story of, that's the glory of Pierce.

You've got to fake a little, misconstrue a little,
Shame former friends at FSU a little.
That's the story of, and that's the glory of Pierce.

Now as long as Doc Pierce gives advice,
Don't need TNH to fight;
As long as he can obfuscate
While editing his old web site:

New Tip #4: You've got to enhance a bit, improve what you submit,
New Tip #5: But don't overdo it on the bullshit!
That's the story of, and that's the glory of Pierce.

#292 ::: John Needham ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:26 PM:

This has been one of the most entertaining threads I've *ever* had the opporunity to read, and I'd like to thank our Mr. Scalzi for posting it on his Whatever blog so I could find it! As a simple software executive who hires people all the time, I can only offer this: Lying on cover letters (or resumes, in my own little world) is *wrong* and will result in eventual ill will. (When I find out that someone lied on their resume, for example, after I've already hired them, means that I can scarcely ever begin to trust them again, and termination proceedings begin immediately. I can hardly begin to imagine how a publisher feels, when they learn they have published something from a writer who demonstratably lied in a cover letter.)

So, yes, lying teacher and :authour: and "teacher" I am a Scalzi fan. So take my comments with a grain of salt. But instructing your students to lie is wrong, just as it would be wrong for me to teach my own two year old and three year old children to lie. You are supposed to be a leader of people, a mentor, a TEACHER, for christ's sake. Telling them to lie is about as wrong as you can be - I propose that you resign immediately. In my humble opinion, if you do not, then it is your responsibility to inform your professional superiors of your unorthodox principles. I believe that failure to do so means that you are not only a liar, but an unprincipled hypocrite as well.

#293 ::: John Needham ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:33 PM:

Okay - two things: 1. I had a typo in my e-mail address a moment ago, so if anyone feels the need to e-mail me about my post (unlikely, but I definitely do NOT want to appear to be hiding!) you can/should use this post. 2. TOR publishers: Why don't you publsih MORE of Scalzi?? Heh Heh...kidding....but if any of you have not read his his Christmas stories from last year's RIF Fundraiser....well, these are staples in my boys' reading reading lists......

#294 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2004, 11:44 PM:

Marilee:

You are absolutely correct. I loved OMNI. My first sale to them was before their first issue, and the contract still shows the magazine name as "Nova." That was "Cybernetic War", which appeared May 1979, and introduced the term to the English language. Within a month there was a punk song of that name. The word is now shortened to "Cyberwar." It was reprinted in the first Omni anthology, and Zebra never paid me the 50% reprint fee. The cover article also predicted a political debate over space-based weapons (later called "Star Wars").

I also had "Star Power for Supersocieties" sold to Ben Bova, and appear April 1980. It was the first popular article to predict that most galaxies would have black holes in their centers.

Really, I have no quarrel with the Gucciones, nor ever with Kathy Keeton. I guess that I was parodying how the paranoid mind might misconsture publishing, as Pierce seems to have been doing.

Oh -- the point of that first sale? I'd sent them a short story with a cover letter. The Executive Editor phoned me at home. He said "the editorial staff has passed your submission around. We agree. Your story sucks. But we love the cover letter. Can you expand it into a feature article?"

Now THAT's a good cover letter. Way better than any in which one has to "lie a little."

#295 ::: Timothy Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 01:03 AM:

I just noticed this item in a copy of Comic Shop News and thought it was appropriate here.

A comic book author lied about his military service and got busted on it. Googling led me to this article.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A60120-2004May1¬Found=true

(First post here. Hi!)

#296 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 02:03 AM:

Timothy Clarke wrote:

> A comic book author lied about his military service and got busted on it.

Damn. I quite like that guy's book of remixed propaganda posters - a bit heavy handed, but then so were the WWII originals, I guess.

At least he seems smart enough to know what it means to have painted yourself into a corner - see his online apology at: http://www.micahwright.com/ranger.htm

> (First post here. Hi!)

be welcome

#297 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 04:30 AM:

From that Clemson bio page: "He is also co-authoring a textbook on creative writing for Longman Publishing due out in 2005."

OK, just needs a title. How about:

_How to Win A Nobel Prize for Literature Without Really Lying_

#298 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 06:12 AM:

Tod, as a passerby totally unaffiliated with TOR, Teresa or Patrick, can I just throw in my two cents?

You made a mistake.

In fact, more than one. You offered bad advice in the first instance. Then when you were called out on it, you changed the advice, which by itself was not a bad move. But then, instead of coming clean or even staying mum, you tried to bluster, threaten and obfuscate. Do I need to point out what a mistake that was?*

Now, anyone can make a mistake. A late night, some bitter feelings, too much coffee or alcohol or both, and it's quite easy to type something one regrets. What counts, though, is what you do to correct the mistake, or even whether you correct it at all.

And, unfortunately, I think too many of us have had experience with the type of person who blunders from one mistake into trying to bully all the witnesses. Generally, such a person is to be shunned, since they will go from bad to worse, and very rarely make any attempt to redeem themselves.

Tod, be wise. Acknowledge the mistake, apologise, and make amends.

*Maybe I do. Tod, this column has a lot of readers. We've all read you threatening legal action, misinterpreting (deliberately or otherwise, I wouldn't like to say) posts, and avoiding the issue repeatedly. We've all formed opinions of you, and are now quite likely to repeat that opinion to others. The story now has legs.

#299 ::: Bertrand Russell ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 08:51 AM:

I'm simply appalled.

#300 ::: Mary Anne Mohanraj ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 09:46 AM:

Hey, guys. I wasn't sure what to say here -- but I feel that as someone who knows a lot of you pretty well (through Strange Horizons and the SLF), and as someone who has met Todd a time or two and has found him a decent, nice, generous guy (who very kindly took a bunch of grad students out drinking in New Orleans at AWP a few years ago, and made us all feel a little less lost and confused at our first literary convention), I ought to try to mediate a bit.

I wish I'd found this thread earlier. Here's my brief take on what happened:

Teresa found some public bad advice. She posted about it, in her typically intelligent and witty manner. She mocked it some. I suspect if Todd had found only that, he would have written back to her disagreeing or some such, and it would've all been sorted out reasonably amicably between them.

But instead, you all had a rip-roaring good time jumping on the bandwagon and also making fun of this random idea of a person. And hey, I understand that. I've done that, and it's darn easy to do on the net. Everyone of us has said stupid things in public, and even the professional writers and teachers and editors have undoubtedly made more than a few comma errors for which we could be most enjoyably mocked. You never expected that Todd would ever come read this board, and you certainly never expected that he'd feel brutally attacked by the posts.

He over-reacted a bit with the legal stuff, but I think he knows that, and has backed off. Mostly, he thinks y'all were mean.

Please -- take a minute, go back to the top of the page, and imagine it's you. You've given some bad advice, perhaps, you did something stupid, and then you found a whole crowd of strangers having a fabulous time shredding you, your professional reputation, your competence in your job, your integrity, etc. This discussion started as Teresa pointing out one piece of notably bad advice, but it spread widely from there into quite a few people just having fun showing off how clever they are, at a stranger's expense. And you never expected him to show up and be hurt by this -- well, now he has. The least you could do is apologize for taking the joke too far.

And Todd -- I don't know you very well, so I hope you don't mind a little unsolicited advice. But I do know that you're a good guy, and a friend of a very good friend, and that I've never heard anything but good about you before this. The lying thing? It was bad advice. Maybe lit fic is more forgiving of that kind of advice than spec fic, but in any case, you've got to admit that as originally phrased, it wasn't such a good idea, and probably not the best advice to be giving out.

I know it's absolutely no fun to get trashed on a public forum (and frankly, I'm a little worried that even this post of mine will lead to angry responses, and I hate that kind of thing, it makes me want to close my computer and hide from the net), but when you give public advice, you do open the door for people to publically respond. Sometimes those responses will be critical.

Let me put it in another context entirely, and see if that helps. If you found a Republican political website, and someone there was giving advice to voters saying that it was looking a little iffy whether Bush would win in this election, and so if they could, they should bribe their local officials and mess with the voting machines -- would you, at the very least, feel justified in writing and publishing a scathing and witty attack on this guy? Would you feel any obligation to look him up and send him polite e-mail first?

The dynamics of the net can be difficult, and just plain weird. But I've found that admitting to your own human foibles can get you really far in a new community.

#301 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 10:03 AM:

We've all formed opinions of you, and are now quite likely to repeat that opinion to others. The story now has legs.

Lots of them.

My only connection with TNH is that I've been a fan of her writings about writing since the long-lost days of GEnie. I handsell this blog whenever possible, especially to the fanfic group/workshop I moderate.

#302 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 10:18 AM:

You never expected that Todd would ever come read this board

As has been pointed out--repeatedly--as soon as he discovered the thread, John Scalzi made a point of e-mailing Mr. Pierce about it, and then Mr. Scalzi posted in his own blog (and, I believe, here) that he had done so. I know that at least one other person did so as well, because he posted the (form-letter) response too. I wouldn't be surprised if more people also e-mailed Mr. Pierce.

The "error" you refer to was not along the lines of dropping a comma. It was not merely "bad advice." It was extremely destructive advice to be offering new writers--especially as Mr. Pierce says he hasn't and wouldn't ever follow that advice himself. We're not talking about telling new writers to eschew semicolons. Mr. Pierce presented advice he himself claims not to follow that would, if taken, severely damage or terminate a fledgling writer's career.

So perhaps you understand now why people were a little, shall we say, harsh.

Were it me? Yes, I'd be pissed at the people who made pointless, petty remarks (like analyzing the quality of Mr. Pierce's prose). I like to think, though, that I would be grown-up enough to admit that my advice was very very wrong, that I had exaggerated my actual point, and that I was making an effort to find and get rid of still-extant copies of the Bad Advice lest it trip somebody up.

What I wouldn't do: claim that nobody had told me about the thread when I knew damn well they had, threaten lawsuits, accuse my detractors of being part of a ridiculous conspiracy, or pretend that my advice was ever justifiable in the first place. I certainly wouldn't be shocked, shocked that if I told people "Lie about your credentials," that they might wonder whether I put my own words into action.

It's nice that you know the guy in real life and find him both kind and trustworthy. Please understand that goes nowhere toward soft-pedaling the horribleness of his advice--presented as Words From An Expert--or his reaction to criticism of it.

#303 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 10:46 AM:

Mary Anne Mohanraj considered:

I know it's absolutely no fun to get trashed on a public forum (and frankly, I'm a little worried that even this post of mine will lead to angry responses, and I hate that kind of thing, it makes me want to close my computer and hide from the net), but when you give public advice, you do open the door for people to publically respond. Sometimes those responses will be critical.

I don't see why you'd get angry responses. By and large, this blog is one of the most genteel that I've had the joy to participate in.

Please -- take a minute, go back to the top of the page, and imagine it's you. You've given some bad advice, perhaps, you did something stupid, and then you found a whole crowd of strangers having a fabulous time shredding you, your professional reputation, your competence in your job, your integrity, etc. This discussion started as Teresa pointing out one piece of notably bad advice, but it spread widely from there into quite a few people just having fun showing off how clever they are, at a stranger's expense. And you never expected him to show up and be hurt by this -- well, now he has. The least you could do is apologize for taking the joke too far.

Well - it's not a joke, though.

Todd posted some particularly bad advice from a position of apparent authority. His advice included telling new and aspiring authours to lie.

That's professionally inappropriate in any environment.

Integrity is defined as "1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values ". Lying and integrity don't go hand-in-hand. IMHO, integrity also includes standing up and admitting to your faults, which Todd has also avoided.

As far as "showing up and being hurt" - what about the unknown number of people that have taken his advice? What recourse do they have for their injury?

I understand that Todd may be a nice guy in person - but the questions here don't revolve around how nice he is - they revolve around his ethics [or lack thereof] in providing and promoting harmful advice.

#304 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 11:01 AM:

Mary Ann, if Todd spent a little time here doing anything other than defending the indefensible (something he's apparently decided _is_ indefensible, because he changed it!), he'd probably show himself to be the kind of person you've seen him as. I expect he could contribute well to several conversations here.

We all make mistakes. Advising people to lie, in public, is a particularly egregious mistake. It's really hard to get up in front of people and cop to one's mistakes in a meaningful way -- I know, I've had to do it several times in my life, not just my own mistakes but mistakes I was responsible for as an executive several levels removed from the decision.

The thing about copping to mistakes -- nobody expects it. Anger dissipates quickly if not fed by anger and resistance. This is not just a philosophy: I speak from a great deal of personal experience. This doesn't mean that I'm a wimp (though some think so): if I thought I was right, I'll say so and explain why. Again, as much as possible, without anger or resistance to hearing that the angry person has a point in being angry.

A lot of people here were angry on behalf of those who would read this advice and not know better. If Todd's not willing to acknowledge that they had a real beef, even if he disagrees, then he's not willing to communicate. And that puts him on the side of someone other than the angels _in this context_. Not part of the solution.

As I say, I expect he'd actually be interesting if he wanted to hang. But so far, he's making heat, not making light, with a little help from all our friends here.

#305 ::: ElizabethVomMarlo ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 11:16 AM:

Mary Ann,

I guess I come from a different place than you. Being a nice person in a personal setting doesn't much negate professional lack of ethics for me. What Mr. Pierce did was advocate unethical actions; it's not too surprising that he was suspected of performing them himself (or taking his own advice as it were).

In your second context scenario above, I would not feel obligated to send the Republican an email, nor would I write a scathing and witty attack. I would call the cops.

#306 ::: Mary Anne Mohanraj ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 11:19 AM:

But you guys didn't confine your discussion to his advice; I'd have no problem with it if you did. You took it a lot further, and frankly, I find that kind of behavior professionally inappropriate. In a public forum, I find it better to be cautious and courteous, especially when interacting with potential colleagues. I've been careful not to pay attention to which of you have said what, above, because I don't want to be prejudiced against you if I ever end up reading your submissions for an anthology I'm editing.

I find disturbing the ways in which Todd's specific advice, to create a small journal of your own with your friends and then list it as a publication credit, is being portrayed. It's true that he used a stupid rhetorical device to get attention, with the 'lie a little' element, but the actual practical advice, while a waste of time, in my opinion, is also not anything that I, as an editor, would find horribly offensive. I wouldn't blacklist a writer for it; I'd just think they were ignorant and annoying.

There are other things they could lie about that might end up with me blacklisting them -- if they lied about a well-known writer giving them a particular quote, for example. Todd's phrasing suggested actually lying, which was a stupid mistake, but his intended advice (I think) was to create a small publication by you and your friends. There isn't anything actually unethical about the latter.

I think a lot of this discussion comes down to rhetorics, in some ways. Todd was working with a particular kind of rhetorical strategy (one that bit him on the ass, when people took it more literally than I think he intended). And many of y'all have taken immense pleasure in being painfully persnickety about tiny details of his text; rather than subjecting his words to a careful critical reading, trying to figure out exactly what he was trying to say, you've chosen to interpret those words in as negative a fashion as you can. Fun, no doubt, but is it helpful?

Do I think you have the right to do this? Sure -- Todd was public, you get to be public back. Do I think it's a little mean? Kind of tacky? Absolutely. Would you want this whole crowd coming down and picking apart everything *you've* publically said? Wouldn't you rather have them give you the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps a chance to retract or revise your statements before they shredded you?

I don't believe Todd knew that he was giving bad advice. I don't believe he intentionally misled his students, or the people reading his web page. Aren't there other ways we could have let him know his advice was bad, rather than contributing to a massive internet pile-on? I've run along a hell of a lot of bad, destructive advice about writing in my day. There's plenty of it out there, and mostly from people who don't realize they're doing anything wrong.

We could have been kinder about this. That's what I'm saying.

#307 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 11:39 AM:

And I think everyone here would suddenly get much kinder if Todd posted saying "My advice was wrong. I do not advocate lying. I'm sorry for any and all harm it may have caused, and I'm trying to hunt down copies of the former version in which I did advocate it."

Admission of wrongdoing; declaration of repentance (i.e. ceasing the wrongdoing in question); declaration of remorse for the wrongdoing and any consequent harm; declaration of intent to mitigate the wrongdoing to the extent possible. These are essential to a good apology.

While I agree some of the comments here might have been over the top, you must remember that there's a certain tribal anger involved here. Todd potentially caused irreparable harm to a group of people we all, writers and readers alike, care about: new writers. Can you understand why that provokes not only distaste but rage?

As I said, if Todd had showed up with appropriate contrition, I think he'd have found a very civil reception (some of the over-the-top commenters might even have apologized - I've seen it happen here). Instead, he showed up and posted belligerently, attempting to deny, justify, and threaten. This behavior got the reception it deserved, whatever may have gone before.

Perhaps I'm an optimist, but I'm not entirely certain that it's too late. Everyone is angry, and they may never be kindly disposed toward Todd (or, to be fair, he to them), but if he made an appropriate apology now (one that included his earlier belligerence, in addition to his original bad behavior), people might at least stop attacking him in these pages.

#308 ::: ElizabethVomMarlo ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 11:45 AM:

Mary Ann,

Taking a look at the text, I see four mentions of lying, in two tips (4 and 5).

He suggests lying "a little" in tip 4. He gives three suggestions:
Make up your own lit mag
Make up your own award
"Say whatever you have to, within reason"

I'd be more willing to buy your explanation, that he was using clever rhetoric to suggest making a self-published literary mag among friends, if it didn't include the fake awards and tip number 5.

Tip number 5 covers lying again. He suggests "Don't take this too far. You can get away with some small lies." As far as I am concerned, this is just advice on how to lie more successfully.

I consider faking awards and publications to be lying, much as I would consider a faked job on a resume.

I'm not sure what to say about your contention that he didn't know he was giving bad advice. Doesn't he hold a doctorate in his subject?

#309 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 11:52 AM:

You guys can all sit down now and stop defending your editors.

I think Theresa and Patrick would be rather surprised to learn they were my editors.

Odd as it apparently seems to you, many of us are here simply because we find the conversations interesting.

Odd as it may also seem, many of us assume that when we put our works out in public--on the net, in a book, or anywhere else--we're putting them out for discussion, and don't expect to be personally contacted every time that discussion takes place. Because once our works are out there, it's no longer about us; it's about our readers.

#310 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 12:03 PM:

Beating a dead horse.

We get it.

The reasons are justified.

Leave the guy alone and stop demanding a mea culpa you're never going to get. Stop digging.

I keep coming back here over and over to see if there is anything new to say, but there isn't. Stop with the dogpile.

Isn't the beauty of learning from life about redemption? Do you think he's going to do it again? I doubt it. Let's all just move on with our lives.

Sorry, but I still feel sorry for the guy. In fact, I think I feel more sorry for him than I would some schmoe who actually used his advice, because it was idiotic in the first place. But I guess that's just my opinion. This board is full of opinions.

#311 ::: Michelle Sagara ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 12:17 PM:

Okay, I'll bite.

But instead, you all had a rip-roaring good time jumping on the bandwagon and also making fun of this random idea of a person. ...

I'd like to raise a hand here and say, in the delicate words of Mr. Scalzi, "I call bullshit."

"You all" in this case doesn't actually refer to me -- or to some others who have subsequently posted after his defense of what is inarguably indefensible, and I think, since you're attempting to mediate, you would do better to consider how broadly you use language in -this- case.

I did not make fun of this 'random idea of a person'. In fact, I didn't feel compelled to post until I saw his response to the questioning -- pointed, harsh -- of the integrity of the credentials of a man who encouraged people to lie about -their- credentials .

Not only that, but although all of my comments were directed to him, what was his response? None, except to lump me in with Tor authors who he accuses of having an agenda on the basis of 3 ten year old short story sales to a different company, when I'm in fact a DAW author who has sold more than 60 shorts now (let's not include non-fiction) to other editors & publishers, not to mention 12 novels, not one of which has been published by Tor.

You never expected that Todd would ever come read this board, and you certainly never expected that he'd feel brutally attacked by the posts

Actually, I figured he'd come right after John Scalzi sent him email. *Shrug*. Whether or not he'd feel brutally attacked, given the nature of his egregious -- and still unacknowledged -- public advice was not something that was of relevance to -me-; I didn't join in on the discussion until -after- he had posted his rambling, beside-the-point reaction. Because, oddly enough, I prefer to say things to his face, and he was demonstrably here. I did think he might put up a better defense, or at least understand -why- he was under attack. Apparently not.

Mostly, he thinks ya'll were mean

Okay. As someone who'd like to mediate: If you're friends of a very good friend of his, you might point out that -mean- and -wrong- are two separate entities, and that his hurt feelings, when the logical reaction to someone encouraging lying about credentials is to question theirs, is irrational. He defended telling people to lie about their professional credentials in a room full of people who are in that profession. This is, of necessity, as Tom as pointed out, a heat generator.

The least you could do is apologize for taking the joke so far.

I'm sorry that you don't understand that this wasn't a joke, at least on my part.

I'm sorry that in generalizing in this fashion, you're pressing my 'condescension without cause' buttons. If you think that apologizing for pointing out -- quite reasonably, and without any personal attack -- that he was wrong, not once, but twice, is the "least" I can do, I'd like to know what the "most" I can do in this scenario is.

#312 ::: james henry ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 12:52 PM:

Hi. First real post here, not counting an ill-advised haiku attempt on the House of Lords thread. Hope people don’t mind me giving my two penn’orth.

Bizarrely, I once underwent a very similar experience to that recently undergone by Mr. Pierce, although in a live arena.

A friend and I ran a writing group in a Canterbury (UK) bookshopand kicked off the first meeting with a ‘basic guidelines’ list taken from various sources such as the ‘Writer’s Handbook’ ‘Artists and Writers Yearbook’ and so on. Being full of youthful vigour and enthusiasm (and having a swollen head from having had a small amount of sketch comedy accepted for a British TV series) I also added notes of my own, such as ‘don’t send angry hand-written letters in green ink to the editor’ and so on. Don’t remember suggesting anyone lie about their CV, but, well, may have said something just as silly. Anyhoo.

Turned out one the attendees was a full-time writer of childrens’ novels, and had won a number of (real, impressive) prizes. She came to me at the beginning of the next session practically shaking with anger, saying that rather than inspire people, the advice I had given was more likely to put people off writing for eternity.

Now I genuinely can’t remember suggesting anything all that controversial, or negative, but I’m quite happy to admit I have my moments. So I handed the meeting over to Real Writer, who then gave a 45-min talk on how she gets published, how she redrafts work, showed us the notebooks she works from etc. All very useful stuff, and once I got over my embarrassment, I had to admit it was much more use than anything I could have come up with.

So I was wondering if y’all could accentuate the positive and maybe come up with a brief list of good advice. Just quickies. Maybe even warn people about things that sound like good ideas, but really aren’t (liying on a CV, not to labour the point, could be one). I’d certainly find it handy to know just a few things that aren’t necessarily in the W+A Yearbook (British thing, don’t know if you get it in the US).

If we get a decent list of ten or more, Mr. Pierce could post them on his site, and all that grumpiness can go towards making the world a nicer place. Awwww.

PS: If anyone thinks the above paints me in a humble, graciious, mature-type person, I should in all honesty add that the moment after I thanked Real Writer for putting me straight, bringing the (genuine) weight of her experience to the table etc. I went into the kids section and hid all her stock under the returns table. Never mess with a bookseller.

#313 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 01:04 PM:

Mary Anne, again: A bald exhortation to fabricate writing credentials (presented as authoritative advice, from a published author and professor) is not "rhetorical". His phrasing did not "suggest" lying. He did not limit his advice on credential-puffery to making a small journal with friends. Why do you feel the need to minimize and soft-pedal the awfulness of what he wrote?

Yes, there were posts that went beyond outrage over the advice and into personal snippery. It's fair to criticize that. It's not fair to criticize people who are upset about what he in fact wrote, by pretending he didn't really write that or mean it anyway.

And I certainly don't think it's fair to be upset with people for asking "Well, if making up credentials is such a great trick, did you do it? If not, why are you recommending it?"

Randall, most people who aren't going to "do it again" have some idea that what they did was a bad idea. Insisting that the fault lies in a shadowy cabal of editors and toadies isn't, at least to me, an indication that the person is thinking "Oh, hey, my bad."

#314 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 01:49 PM:

Attempting to explore the possibilities here:

Mary Ann, I don't know how long you've been following this thread, so forgive me if I'm telling you something you already know -- but are you aware that the advice on TJP's site that people are so angry about is not what's currently there (the bit about creating your own small lit journal), but what was there before he make an (unacknowledged) revision (which flatly and baldly advocated making up publication credits and awards)? Because I could see why you'd wonder what was so awful about the current advice; it's not great, but nothing to spark this level of outrage, either. What was formerly there, though, was...different.

#315 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 02:05 PM:

Oh, blarg. Why is it that if I miss one typo, it has to be in the *name*? Sorry, Mary Anne.

#316 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 02:14 PM:

James Henry,
Here, here! Those are the fresh insights I've been looking for! Thanks for posting.

Mythago,
Don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not defending Mr. Pierce's folly. He gave a very reactionary reply and while it may not have been the smartest thing to do, it was at the very least a human thing to do. People with feelings overreact, whether they are right or wrong. He made the mistake of overreacting on a forum with a very savvy group of people who were prepared for his overreaction. And if I were in his shoes, I might react the same way (especially when people start nosing around and threatening to interfere with his life by informing his superiors). Mr. Pierce's reaction seems to be following the Elizabeth Kubler Ross-seven stages of death-thing (forgive my ignorance). Denial, anger, acceptance, etc, etc.

And by the way, there is no better word in the world than "toadies." Just had to say it.

#317 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 02:30 PM:

Mr. Henry: Seeing as I have no publishing credentials of my own, and am not likely to acquire any in the near future, I'm forced to rely on the publishing credentials of others. Therefore:

John Scalzi's Utterly Useless Writing Advice (utterly useless -- at least to Mr. Scalzi, seeing as he's already published and all :)

John Scalzi's Even More Long-Winded (But Practical) Writing Advice

Were I ever to a) write something even vaguely publishable, and b) care to submit my ego to the bruising it would no doubt receive, I suspect that Mr. Scalzi's advice would be most useful. (I'm aware that Mr. Scalzi posts here, so he might well have been prepared to post these links. However, I suspect he has better things to do than troll Google for his own writing advice, and, well, I don't. :)

#318 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 02:30 PM:

Ten words in the world better than "toadies":

  1. quaquaversal
  2. katabatic
  3. pinguid
  4. embrangle
  5. schlimiel
  6. wether
  7. pallinode
  8. rodomontade
  9. cloy
  10. apology
I'm just saying.

---L.

#319 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 02:43 PM:

All right, I'll give you "embrangle." And the last one.

Randall, I agree--please don't think I'm pillorying Mr. Pierce for being unsaintly. But there's a big gap between imperfect/cranky, and accusing your detractors of being part of a vast write-ring conspiracy.

#320 ::: Randall P ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 02:56 PM:

LNHammer,
Nice! What about callipygian? That's a good one, too. I don't know the meaning of any of the other words (and what was that last one again?).

But seriously, the word "embrangle" rocks!! THIS is the kind of discussion I was looking for here!!

#321 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 02:58 PM:

mythago, let me be the first to scream in agony at your hideous pun.

I'd like to say that 'disambiguate' and 'pathomnemonic' are also better words than 'toadies'. I'd even put them up against cloy, though 'embrangle' beats them hands down.

#322 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 03:00 PM:

Argh. 'cloy' should have been in single quotes there.

And I do like 'callipygian' and a back-formation therefrom, 'callipygy'.

#323 ::: Mary Anne Mohanraj ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 03:59 PM:

I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail here, because I think it just perpetuates the nitpickyness. But to address a few points:

- Michelle, I'm sure there were a bunch of moderate critical posts among all the severely inflammatory ones, and yours may well have been one of them. I honestly don't have a problem with criticism of Todd's actions (I thought I said that?); what I was trying to address was the personal attacks, which seemed over-the-top and inappropriate. Sorry if my use of "y'all" seemed to tar everyone with the same brush; my comments were mostly meant to be directed towards the extreme segment.

- I have come late into this, and it's possible that Todd initially said something even more stupid and/or dangerous than what I read. That's certainly a reason to correct him. I just question the manner of correction offered.

- And yes, of course I think Todd should apologize too -- I wrote three paragraphs on the subject in my initial post, including my slightly far-flung voting analogy meant to perhaps demonstrate to him why people might be upset by this kind of thing. I don't know if he's still reading this board, or if he agrees with my assessment. I'm glad to hear that he appears to have stopped handing out that particular piece of bad advice. Beyond that, it's up to him. Honestly, I don't know Todd well enough to care particularly about his response -- I met him once, for a few days, at a convention a few years ago.

I care a lot more about you guys, about the spec fic community.

I understand that it's easier to be kind to someone once they've apologized. So if some of you want to wait for that, it's certainly your choice. From my point of view, whether Todd corrects his bad behavior or not isn't reallly relevant to the question of whether some of you also behaved badly, and might want to apologize.

Let me try to phrase this another way -- leaving aside the question of whether Todd did something wrong (or a hundred different things wrong), what I'd like to see is a measured, appropriate response. I'm not asking for gentle-loving-kindness, or turning the other cheek. I'm asking for civility and courtesy. I'm inviting you to step over onto the high road.

I think in a lot of ways the spec fic writing community is far more closely-knit than the literary fiction community; certainly, there's a lot more back-and-forth, fast-paced communication. I don't want to see it become a weakness, when it could be one of our greatest strengths.

#324 ::: Lori ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 04:36 PM:

From where I sit, as a relative newcomer (surfed in a couple weeks ago from a long chain of randomly-chosen links in other weblogs):

Teresa brought up a potentially-damaging bit of advice from someone who might have been taken seriously by any given new/ inexperienced/ desparate writer who came across Todd's site. As someone who was in that category prior to returning to college, I surfed and read everything I could find in the way of advice, and therefore fall into that category of people who might have been hurt by it.

I don't see how Teresa's approach - criticizing the advice, not the person, and questioning his credentials - was in any way different than anything I might have done. I would have googled to find out more about this person and see if anyone concurred with the advice. I might have posted in my weblog-of-small-circulation about how curious it is that someone who's got a degree in the field and is teaching writing would proclaim that lying is a possible means of gaining an editor's attention.

I doubt, however, that Todd would have been leaping about waving his lawyers in my face had I posted in my blog, since I am neither an editor or established author or agent, but in fact a lowly clerical worker slaving away at the only job she could find that worked with class schedules to pay her way through grad school. All the attention to the status of those questioning his advice and none to the actual refutation of the issue at hand -- namely, the dangerousness of bad advice for fledgling writers -- would seem to hint at a worry that Big People are threatening him somehow. He seems to be focusing on the fact that editors who make it obvious what they do for a living are critizing his opinions to the exclusion of all other sub-topics in the comment thread, not to mention he's ignoring the fact that the thread wandered off the subject of him and on to other things long ago. Just letting it die would have been better for him in the long run. Because, I would think the bigger threat to his reputation is that some future/current employer doing a cursory internet search on Mr. Pierce might come across his unprofessional method of handling this disagreement, i.e., threatening with lawyers and ignoring the issue, rather than a cool-headed, rational response that might get him closer to his goal of diffusing the "attack."

Which I don't think was much of an attack, really, by the way. More of a critique and calling-to-question.

#325 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 04:37 PM:

Callipygian would be an 11th, yes. But not steatopygiantoadies is better than that.

---L.

#326 ::: Andrew Wade ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 04:42 PM:

I am neither an editor nor writer, so Mr. Pierce's bad and immoral advice doesn't affect me, and the pile-on here is rather nasty, and perhaps no longer useful. But the folks here do have cause to be angry with Mr. Pierce, and I'm not inclined to be sympathetic.

More than that, so long as his website continues to contain bad advice, folks have good reason to warn about his website in the writing community.

#327 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 04:59 PM:

Mary Anne, for your edification (and that of any others who came to this conversation late) here is a list of archived copies of Mr. Pierce's cover letter piece. You can see that it has gone through a few changes of late...

HTH, HAND.

#328 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 05:48 PM:

Mary Anne Mohanraj puzzled me with:

Let me try to phrase this another way -- leaving aside the question of whether Todd did something wrong (or a hundred different things wrong), what I'd like to see is a measured, appropriate response. I'm not asking for gentle-loving-kindness, or turning the other cheek. I'm asking for civility and courtesy. I'm inviting you to step over onto the high road.

For my curiosity, could you describe what a "measured, appropriate" response looks like? To me, the vast majority of responses here [obGeek: well over 97%] would easily pass by Miss Manners without comment.

I'm accustomed to the "tact" of the geek world, where "You're wrong" is almost as kind as "I think you're mistaken" - and both are often replaced by "You " - so I'm curious about differing standards.

#329 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 05:52 PM:

Kevin Riggle writes:

"I'm aware that Mr. Scalzi posts here, so he might well have been prepared to post these links. However, I suspect he has better things to do than troll Google for his own writing advice, and, well, I don't."

Well, that and I think it's kind of banally self-promoting to use someone else's comment thread to drive traffic to one's own site (of course, I don't mind if *other* people link to my site).

The wise Ms. Mohanraj's comments have encouraged me to look at my comments regarding TJP here and on my own site, and I feel comfortable saying that I think most my responses to him were reasonable: I think I stuck to banging on his ideas and not on him personally. I wasn't particularly *nice* to his ideas, but I think it's fine not to be nice to bad ideas.

As for Mr. Pierce himself, I have no doubts he's a perfectly nice fellow; most people are. I do have to say he strikes me as oversensitive, but since I'm someone who sends back hate mail I don't find insulting enough with an encouragement for the writer to try harder next time, I'm not a good baseline sample for sensitivity to personal attacks. And I do suppose oversensitivity is an occupational hazard for writers and other creative people.

What I continue to find a little troubling is that by all appearances Mr. Pierce either doesn't *understand* why many in this thread are appalled at his "advice" (and not just the stuff relating to lying on one's cover letters, although that's the most egregious), or he understands but prefers to salve his ego with an internal narrative that places TNH as a mother black widow with posse of writer children who do her Tor-based bidding, in this case the destruction of Mr. Todd Pierce.

#330 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 06:07 PM:

Okay, I stopped reading at the "this is a big site for Tor shills" comment, so I'm not addressing anything past that.

TJP: You advocated lying on cover letters. This was butt-headed, stupid, and by the way, bad advice! Since you made your statements publically, that they were discussed publically shouldn't be an issue. This has been covered.

A long while after being specifically told of this discussion, you decide to come in and tell us how cruel we are. That's fine; you're entitled to an opinion, however stupid I may find it. And then came the kicker:

It's just a big conspiracy by Tor editors and authors to discredit you, and you're a-gonna sue!

Well, guess what... I agree with a great deal that was said in this thread prior to your snit fit, and most of what I've read after, and I am not published by Tor, employed by Tor, under consideration for publication by Tor, engaging in any business whatsoever with Tor, married to a Tor employee, or otherwise connected with Tor.

On the other hand, every time Teresa and Patrick show their primo class wit in dealing with boorish cranial-rectal inverts like you, I grow more inclined to change that, but hey, the point is, I'm not a Tor shill.

You got your feelings hurt? Kher s nim. Here's a chit for the chaplain; go tell it to him. I'm playing the world's smallest CD recording of violins just for you.

By your assertations, we should be blaming Clemson for advocating lying on the cover letter, because since you have a clear connection to them, you must be speaking for them. I think I'll dash off an angry note to them right now, threatening to sue them for giving me bad advice!

Not.

The fact is, you can't support anything you said, so you're trying to focus attention anywhere but your advocacy of lying and your poor advice in general. The problem is, no one here is fooled by this. You might want to try some other straw man; this one's done blown away.

#331 ::: Mary Anne Mohanraj ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 06:19 PM:

I really don't want to read over the whole thread of responses to find the ones that seem inappropriate; it was more a matter of tone than anything else, phrases and statements and mocking poetry that left me with a bad taste in my mouth the first time I read through. I suspect it'd make me queasy to try to read through it all again.

I'd rather encourage people to re-read what they wrote, and decide for themselves, as John did, whether they think what they wrote was appropriate, or whether they got caught up in the excitement, perhaps went too far, and put more emphasis on appearing clever than on writing anything constructive.

#332 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 06:23 PM:

PS: Now, you can call me mean. I don't mind. But Teresa wasn't, and nor were most of the other responders. I just have a lot less patience with people who throw around legal threats in lieu of actually answering reasonable questions.

Please note that until the above post, I said absolutely nothing about this topic. I was in the little tangential discussion. I thought the advice was bad, I understood why people would question TJP's credentials, and then I didn't give it much thought again until all the comments started appearing. It wasn't until TJP decided to accuse us all of being shills for Tor, say that everyone who commented in the thread was awful and cruel, and start yelling about slander (meaning, really, libel) that I got particularly angry.

Just a thought.

#333 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 06:44 PM:

Do I think he'd do it again? Yes. He hasn't admitted he was wrong yet, and it wouldn't surprise me if the bad advice showed up on a new site at some point.

#334 ::: Eric A. Burns ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 06:51 PM:

What strikes me is how badly Pierce has damaged his own career by the way he's handled this response.

When you've already become a Meme in publishing circles, and you make your living both as a writer and as a professor teaching writing, the last thing you want to do is come across as obstructionist, or unreasonable, or untrustworthy among the very kinds of people you need the goodwill of to be successful.

Pierce is a writer. And he teaches writing. His professional life is entirely vested in both his authority and in the opinions of editors. And, unfortunately for him, he published some critically bad advice. Advice that people a lot more successful and authoritative in his field held up as an example of bad advice. That was bad enough. That was potentially damaging enough. But given time and the internet, it would blow over.

Responding to a thread on the subject by A) threatening legal action and B) claiming that a major publishing house was responsible for defaming him was about the worst possible reaction he could have had to this. This is the kind of thing that doesn't blow over. This is the kind of thing that gets other publishing houses to remember your name. This is the kind of thing that gets back to Department Heads and University Provosts.

Which, of course, it very well might. He said some intentionally hurtful things about some people. Those people could certainly call the Provost's office and say "one of your professors is espousing professional dishonesty and responding unprofessionally to allegations in a public forum. Here's the URL to the forum and here's the URL to an archived copy of his questionable advice." Further, lots of people reading this really like our benevolent hosts, and might get angry enough on their behalf (or John Scalzi's behalf or just in general) to make that phone call even if they aren't the focus of Pierce's response.

Universities don't like bad press. They don't like scandal. And they don't like materials that make people question the validity, integrity and competence of their faculty. And academic journals, fiction magazines and book publishers don't like people who take entirely legitimate criticisms made about them as an excuse to threaten spurious lawsuits.

By the virtue of his response, Prof. Pierce has taken a bad decision for his career and made it a lot worse. If he's smart, he'll start finding ways to shore up his own position. Starting with an apology and with an acknowledgment that the advice he gave wasn't just bad, but harmful to new writers, and followed by an apology for his public reaction on this forum. Even if he doesn't believe he's done anything wrong, he needs to start establishing a trail of contrition before he gets a call from a tired and unhappy Department Head or gets a rejection letter from a market with "maybe you should lie a little more. That's right, lie a little more" written in a P.S. at the bottom.

#335 ::: Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 06:58 PM:

5. schlimiel

It's usually transliterated "schlemiel," although one could argue (rightly) that one phonetic transliteration from a language that doesn't use the Roman alphabet is as good as any other.

In any event, "absquatulate," "retromingent," "sesquipedalian" and "effulgent" should top the list.

#336 ::: Michelle Sagara ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 07:02 PM:

>Mary Anne: On further reflection, my own very strong dislike of the 'class detention' no doubt fuelled some of my reaction to the first half of your post, which was, aside from that element, very reasonable; your election analogy was pretty much bang on.

I realize that singling out the extreme segment might seem like walking on a minefield, but specificity in this case -- where there've been so many comments -- would be useful. The one post that pretty much said that TJP was a spousal hire (and which TJP cited as one of the things that upset him) was posted anonymously by someone who hasn't posted under that moniker before.

But you guys didn't confine your discussion to his advice; I'd have no problem with it if you did. You took it a lot further, and frankly, I find that kind of behavior professionally inappropriate. In a public forum, I find it better to be cautious and courteous, especially when interacting with potential colleagues. I've been careful not to pay attention to which of you have said what, above, because I don't want to be prejudiced against you if I ever end up reading your submissions for an anthology I'm editing.

I'd rather, at least in my case, that you paid attention to what I said; I'll live with the prejudice, if it comes down to that. I agree that caution and courtesy are something to strive for; I've been pointed, but I don't think I've been lacking in either.

But TJP's particular style of argument -- ignoring rational comments and taking umbrage at the both the extreme fringe and the the general concept that people would question his ethics & professional behaviour & credentials -- implies that he doesn't understand the genesis for the topic, namely, that when you advise people to lie about their credentials, it will -- and probably should -- encourage people to examine, and doubt, yours. This became personal, in the sense that it went beyond his advice, entirely because of that advice.

(If you can stand to go over his early advice, it bears reading; he was much clearer on the lying in both points 4. and 5., where 5 is cautioning the new writer not to lie so extravagantly that they can get caught. The rewrite occurred after both of the threads that invoke him).

This may lead to witch-hunting, which is no doubt how it appears to TJP, and I would not be a happy person in his position -- but I would be more likely to a) point out that the offensive post was anonymously posted (itself a bastion of cowardice in a case like this) and b) stand by my words if I felt they were worthy of defense. If I felt they weren't, to the extent that I changed them before coming out swinging, I would swallow a few of my teeth, take the beating, and bow out.

I realize that TJP has done, for free, work that he feels will, and has, benefited new authors. What he perhaps doesn't understand is that many of the posters here -- especially TNH (who've I met exactly once) -- have done the same, time and again. Jim McDonald (who I only know from on-line experience) is particularly open about both the process and all of the business aspects, and makes himself available on-line in multiple forums for just such discussions; he's also allergic to lying.

Teresa really doesn't need defending; she can take care of herself. What I'm doing -- and I'll try to refrain from speaking for others -- is defending people who might inadvertently take his advice in this specific case, but who don't post, and don't speak much in public.

#337 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 07:03 PM:

Mary Anne: I really don't want to read over the whole thread of responses to find the ones that seem inappropriate; it was more a matter of tone than anything else...

Well, I don't much feel like reading them over either, and while I remember some mock-making, there was certainly a lot of well-deserved criticism there. And eventually everyone had enough and it died out.

But then the Toddster dropped by, and started telling us that his advice (which he rewrote before he quoted it) wasn't as stupid and evil as it had been, and that we were a bunch of meanyheads for making mock of him, and that we're all Tor toadies, and that he's going to law-sue someone. Oh, and he sent his sock-puppet over to make sure we got the message.

Wednesday night's antics reanimated the farce, with nearly as much new mock fuel as the original idiocy. You might as well forget about trying to slow it down--you're about a week too early for that. Just remember who came clowning off in the deep end without his water wings.

So Pants-on-fire Pierce has three choices. He can come back and mouth off some more, and see how inventive we can get, or how long before Teresa pulls the plug on the slugfest. He can crawl back under his rock and wait for us to get tired, and eventually we all will get tired and move on. Or perhaps he might actually learn how to apologize, and if he comes off looking human, things might cool down a bit sooner, and someone might actually have some respect for him.

I suspect he hasn't found the bottom of his character yet, but I'd be glad to be wrong.

#338 ::: Michelle Sagara ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 07:06 PM:

I really don't want to read over the whole thread of responses to find the ones that seem inappropriate; it was more a matter of tone than anything else, phrases and statements and mocking poetry that left me with a bad taste in my mouth the first time I read through. I suspect it'd make me queasy to try to read through it all again.

We cross-posted. If it was that unsettling, going over it a second time is probably not recommended. I did, paying more attention the second time -- but then again, while I don't send back hate mail with encouragement, like some Other People, I'm probably not as easily unsettled. I used to read usenet posts in the early eighties, and pretty much nothing seems like a flame war to me -- or a pile-on, which term I'm only just discovering -- in comparison.

#339 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 07:43 PM:

Eric Burns writes:

"Further, lots of people reading this really like our benevolent hosts, and might get angry enough on their behalf (or John Scalzi's behalf or just in general) to make that phone call even if they aren't the focus of Pierce's response."

I can't speak for our hosts, but I certainly wouldn't want people to act on my behalf in this regard. I'm a big boy and can take care of myself; anything I'd want done to Mr. Pierce I've already done (and that doesn't include dropping a note to his bosses). Anyway Mr. Pierce isn't talking about suing *me* for libel or otherwise acting untowards in his interaction with me.

Do I think Mr. Pierce should lose his job on account of his unethical advice, specifically to lie on cover letters? Perhaps I would if he continued to espouse it, but he has amended the advice and replaced it with suggestions that I find merely useless instead of outright fraudulent. We could argue towards Mr. Pierce's motivations in changing the advice (whether he's seen the error of his ways, or is changing it as a preventative measure to cover his ass), but from a practical point of view, as long as that piece of advice is *gone,* I don't care about the motivation.

As previously noted, at this point, much of his cover letter advice continues to be of little practical value, and some of it -- like his continuing advice *not* to list a word count -- is simply dumb (Little noticed is the fact TJP also got rid of the "advice" suggesting people follow-up with a phone call; this was a smart move on his part). I'm not entirely convinced he knows much of what he's talking about regarding cover letters. BUT "little practical value" is not the same as "advocating fraud," so I don't see why I or any other person should make a fuss to his department unless TJP again actively encourages fraudulent activity.

In any event, all this crap is neither here nor there regarding his primary charge as a professor, which is teaching creative writing. It may be he's a perfectly fine teacher of the writing craft, who is simply hopelessly lost when it comes to the mechanics of *selling* the work. Clemson, in its institutional wisdom, has seen fit to hire him; I have to assume they know more about his teaching ability than I.

So, no: I don't think this merits ratting out Mr. Pierce to his bosses. It does make me less inclined to have my daughter *attend* Clemson at some future point in time, but inasmuch as that august institution was not exactly high up on my wish list for her education, there is no net loss either for the school or for me. If she does attend Clemson, I'll simply suggest a major other than English.

#340 ::: Michelle Sagara ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 08:01 PM:

... and it appears that I don't actually know how to spell James D. Macdonald's last name. I still think of him as Yog. Sorry :/.

#341 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 08:12 PM:

From my point of view, whether Todd corrects his bad behavior or not isn't reallly relevant to the question of whether some of you also behaved badly, and might want to apologize.

I couldn't agree more.

However, I don't agree that the sheer volume of responses constitutes bad behavior, nor that questioning the credentials of someone who advocates lying about one's credentials is out of line.

#342 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2004, 08:55 PM:

Mary Anne wrote:
it was more a matter of tone than anything else, phrases and statements and mocking poetry that left me with a bad taste in my mouth the first time I read through.

It's true: my rhymes are not all in good taste.
They sometimes sting the mouth like kaffir limes.
But now our hostess's attention's faced
Towards writing tips (and not for the first time)
Promulgated upon this Internet,
By people who should know of what they write,
And she observes the tips are bad or, yet
More worrying, dishonest shite.
My ancient bardic instincts do compel
The slagging of this font of crap advice,
And though you blinch at my mean doggerel,
I feel no qualms should you think I'm not nice.
He said to lie, yes, that guy: Todd James Pierce,
And so he earned his fill of mocking verse.

#343 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 12:42 AM:

Mary Anne:

Prior to Pants-on-Fire Pierce's arrival here, I'd posted precisely two times to the Todd James Pierce threads. Here are the full texts:

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2004, 12:36 AM:

You needn't limit yourself to those brief on-line excerpts. You can get The Australia Stories: A Novel by Mr. Pierce, MacAdam/Cage (a perfectly respectable small press; no agent required for submission), April, 2003.

and

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 09:04 AM:

Those poetry scams are the worst. The only "good" I can see in them is that they encourage new writers with a "credit." Eventually almost everyone finds out it is a scam, but maybe it helped someone to have the courage to keep on writing.

I've run into a number of writers who, on discovering that it was a scam, that their works weren't selected because of quality, were crushed.

Young, naive poets can lose hundreds of dollars on the poetry.com swindle. Every step of the way there's a new money-extracting plan attached.

An investigator with the New York State Consumer Protection Board, a state agency in New York, is trying to find people in New York State, especially those living in and around New York City, who have been victimized by Poetry.com and related companies from Maryland. If that's you, please write or call.

Jon Sorensen
Director of Marketing & Public Relations
New York State Consumer Protection Board
5 Empire State Plaza -- Suite 2101
Albany, N.Y. 12223
(518) 473-9472 fax 474-2896
Cell (518) 527-4496

That's it. Those are the only posts I made here. I don't feel I have anything to be ashamed of. One a link to Pants-on-Fire Pierce's work, the other a comment after the topic had drifted to scams in general and the poetry scams in particular. (Hey, Pants-on-Fire, there's another way to get a credit for your cover letters! Why don't you tell the newbies to submit to poetry.com, "professor"?)

So no, I don't think that I was part of the problem, at least not part of Pants-on-Fire's problem, before he came in all guns blazing with legal threats. An abject apology and promise to do better would have better suited him -- but no. That's not his "rhetorical device." It's threats and bluster, while he's wrong, wrong, wrong from the get-go.

He didn't advise people "to create a small journal of your own with your friends and then list it as a publication credit." No, he advised them to "Write the words “West Coast Fiction Review” on a piece of paper, staple it to one of your stories, and boom, you’ve just been published in West Coast Fiction Review. Is there such a publication? Not that I know of, but it sure sounds impressive."

Stapling a piece of paper to your story isn't the same thing as publishing a small literary journal of your own with your friends. The latter might just possibly teach you something about publishing, and might just grow into something larger -- every journal starts somewhere. The former is fraud, plain and simple.

Just so you're clear on what you're defending, here's what he said, in whole:

Tip Four: Still worried? Never published anything? Lie a little. Yes, lie. A cover letter is a persuasive document designed to do one thing: entice an editor or agent to read your manuscript. Say whatever you have to, within reason, to accomplish this. No publication credits? Write the words “West Coast Fiction Review” on a piece of paper, staple it to one of your stories, and boom, you’ve just been published in West Coast Fiction Review. Is there such a publication? Not that I know of, but it sure sounds impressive. No awards? Ask your best friend—let’s say her name is Martha Green—to give you the 1999 Martha Green Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fiction. What’s the Martha Green Award worth? Not much, unless it entices an editor or agent to read your work.

Tip Five: Don’t take this too far. You can get away with some small lies. It’s best not to say you’ve been published in, say, The New Yorker, if you haven’t. Editors and Agents may ask about that.

That's specific advice to lie, and a tactical tip on doing it effectively.

True, before Teresa had posted in this web log about "Dr." Pierce's bad advice, I'd commented on it elsewhere in the web -- but I'd not used his name, nor did anyone else in that thread. It was talk about Todd "The Liar" Pierce's "Tip Four" in that case (though some of his other stupid suggestions were also covered). Nothing personal, there, and nothing that anyone searching on "Todd James Pierce" will find. To be quite frank, before Teresa mentioned him here, I'd no idea that it wasn't just some rank amateur, or perhaps a literary scammer, who'd posted that page of advice. When I learned that it was supposedly someone with a doctorate in creative writing, I admit, my first reaction was to go Googling on his stated credentials. The advice to "lie a little" made me question whether he had really studied at FSU, let alone what he'd claimed to have published.

There's been a lot of commentary here and elsewhere about how damaging it would be to a new writer to actually follow "Professor" Pants-on-Fire's advice. What hasn't been mentioned is the potential damage to those who don't. Suppose things really do work in the world of academic fanzines the way Lie-a-Little says they do. Suppose the editor of the Eureka A&M Literary Review got two submissions for the final slot in his little pays-in-copies, printed-twice-a-year rag. One of them from some grad student in an MFA program somewhere who didn't list any publishing credits at all (because he didn't have any), and another, slightly worse, story from someone who followed Pants-on-Fire's advice and listed a publishing credit with the "West Coast Fiction Review" and that he was the recipient of the 1999 Martha Green Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fiction. Suppose the editor said to himself, "Well, I like the other story better, but this one is from an award-winner. I'll take it."

Who's been harmed there? Well, the honest guy. The liar will be found out eventually, and mocked (or worse), but the guy who didn't get published has been harmed if he needed to get published in one of those rinky-dink rags to keep on track in his program.

So, y'see, Pants-on-Fire has harmed two people in that scenario, and one of them never even heard of him.

Pants-on-Fire could have come here, begged forgiveness, promised to amend, and all would have been well. That would have been good. Instead, he came here to threaten, bluster, and lie -- yes, lie -- again. So the reaction is what you've seen.

Maybe he's a swell guy. That doesn't matter. What he is, is incompetent to teach. Incompetent to write a book about writing (no doubt to be assigned reading to his own students). His fiction, what I've seen of it, is immature, self-involved, and lacks narrative drive. Perhaps in ten to fifteen years, if he keeps working at the craft, he might grow into a writer. Right now, he's not anything. I shudder to think of him teaching. Not just his bad advice -- his lack of writing ability should keep him out of the front of a classroom.

Now your other little example:

Let me put it in another context entirely, and see if that helps. If you found a Republican political website, and someone there was giving advice to voters saying that it was looking a little iffy whether Bush would win in this election, and so if they could, they should bribe their local officials and mess with the voting machines -- would you, at the very least, feel justified in writing and publishing a scathing and witty attack on this guy? Would you feel any obligation to look him up and send him polite e-mail first?

In that case, I wouldn't mock the person, or send him an e-mail. I'd alert federal, state, and local law enforcement authorites so they could do an investigation on him. That person's first notice that anyone saw what he was doing would be when he was taken away in handcuffs. Nor would I lose any sleep over his ten-to-twenty in jail (out after seven years on good behavior).

Now Pants-on-Fire: the only thing that's happened to him is that he's been lightly mocked on a web log. His widdle feelings got all hurty-poo. If that's the worst thing that ever happens to him, I'm glad for him. He should try having a life, getting a job, all those things. Then both a) his writing might improve, and b) he'd be able to make better judgments about what's important. Threatening legal action against people who've discovered him giving unethical advice wouldn't be his first reaction. Especially not when he's wrong, wrong, wrong, down the line.

Yes, I reacted strongly to this particular lying bully when he showed up here with his threats. That's how you deal with bullies: you confront them. I'll continue to react strongly to him, right up to the time he apologizes to Teresa, to me, and to all the people he might have wronged with his bogus advice.

At a very minium, a note on his list of advice acknowledging the input from Teresa that led him to change his page, would show a touch of academic honesty.

All in all, Pants-on-Fire got off remarkably easy.

#344 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 12:51 AM:

Mary Anne wrote: I've been careful not to pay attention to which of you have said what, above, because I don't want to be prejudiced against you if I ever end up reading your submissions for an anthology I'm editing.

Perhaps I am reading this incorrectly, but as someone who reads slush as well as editorial submissions on a regular basis, I'm not sure I am misreading this sentence (yes, I'm a production manager, but our house is small enough that we all do a bit of editorial work; besides, that's where I started life, so to speak). I appreciate the sentiment, but the implication of "I will try to remain impartial, but your posts at Making Light may affect my judgment for paying work I control" tickles at my hindbrain in a most disconcerting manner. Perhaps I am, indeed, reading something into this that I shouldn't?

We are indeed a small community, and anyone who ever writes or edits professionally ends up interacting at one point or another. We end up on each others' desks, so to speak. However, as I've learned over several decades at this game, the trick is to compartmentalize social and professional interactions in publishing.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, and I'm sure I am simply misinterpreting something Mary Anne wrote -- it is late here, my eyes are blurry, and I am overdue for bed. Please do forgive me, Mary Anne, if I'm bringing up a subject that is simply unnecessary. I am often the dull fool.

#345 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 10:45 AM:

Don't worry, Nancy. She can't have meant it that way. And if she did -- that is, if the basis on which she judges anthology submissions is something other than the quality of the stories -- then she's not going to be a significant problem anyway.

Onward.

One may take it as a rule of thumb that thieves think everyone steals (or is a chump or a coward for not doing so), suck-ups think flattery is the universal way to get ahead, bullies think force is the true basis of human interaction, the egotistical and vain think all the world's like them -- and liars, notoriously, think everyone lies all the time.

TJP's original, unhedged set of cover letter tips couldn't have made it clearer that he's a habitual liar. There was no way anyone could mistake his advice for "a stupid rhetorical device to get attention." Tips 4 & 5, taken together, are specific, concrete instructions for falsifying one's writing credits. We've talked about "Lie a little. Yes, lie." By itself, that might be defensively misprised as a rhetorical stance; but the context says otherwise, unto damnation. Emphases are mine:

Still worried? Never published anything? Lie a little. Yes, lie. A cover letter is a persuasive document designed to do one thing: entice an editor or agent to read your manuscript. Say whatever you have to, within reason, to accomplish this. No publication credits? Write the words “West Coast Fiction Review” on a piece of paper, staple it to one of your stories, and boom, you’ve just been published in West Coast Fiction Review. Is there such a publication? Not that I know of, but it sure sounds impressive. No awards? Ask your best friend—let’s say her name is Martha Green—to give you the 1999 Martha Green Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fiction. What’s the Martha Green Award worth? Not much, unless it entices an editor or agent to read your work.

Tip Five: Don’t take this too far. You can get away with some small lies. It’s best not to say you’ve been published in, say, The New Yorker, if you haven’t. Editors and Agents may ask about that.

That's not a rhetorical stance; that's a concrete and specific recipe for forging credentials. Anyone who posts material like that can't object if his own credentials are examined in detail thereafter.

His other advice has equally disturbing implications. As I said the first time around, in my judgement, the likeliest effect Tip #8 would have on a large commercial publishing house would be to mire the submission in the Inscrutable Problems pile. Tip #9 is supposed to increase the chances that you'll get a personal letter, but in fact it'll just get your manuscript thrown away.

But it's the combination of Tip 3 and his Last Tip that's really troubling. Let me explain. A cover letter, which is what he's supposedly talking about, is the letter which accompanies a submitted manuscript or partial manuscript. A query letter is a different animal. It's an unaccompanied letter that says "Hi! I have this really swell book. Let me tell you briefly how swell it is. Would you like to see it? Shall I send you the manuscript?"

Tip 3 bothers me because it's ostensibly about presenting yourself as a novelist, but the advice itself sounds to me like one of the standard pieces of advice for nonfiction query letters:

Worried about Paragraph Two, the personal history? Have nothing to say? Be imaginative. Why are you the best person to have written this novel? How has your personal experience prepared you for it?
The proof of a novel is the novel itself, but in nonfiction publishing, the quality of the information and the credentials of the author matter a lot more. A novelist's credentials start mattering when they're attached to a good book and/or a promising sales record.

Then you get to TJP's last tip:

Send a whole lot of letters out. Cast a big net. Expect rejection. Don’t worry when you get it. Keep sending out more letters. …
When he says that, you know he's not talking about cover letters. He can't be. "Send a whole lot of letters out" is query letters. Furthermore, if you sent a whole lot of cover letters out they'd be attached to copies of your manuscript, at which point you'd be committing Multiple Simultaneous Submissions, which is either something which you absolutely shouldn't do, or something which you can do but which takes a good deal of explanation if you're going to avoid assorted pitfalls.

Those are nontrivial errors. If you don't know the different constraints and demands of nonfiction and fiction, you aren't aware that simultaneous submissions, are a problem, and you can't tell a cover letter from a query letter, it's more than reasonable to assume that you don't have a reliable overall grasp of the mechanics of submission.

Ol' Todd's modified his Tips article since I first wrote about it, demonstrably incorporating a good deal of information from my post and the comment thread following it. He hasn't acknowledged this. Instead, he's threatened me with legal action. Now, we've already heard from TJP's own typing fingers that his advice about lying was something he learned in a graduate program. If he's telling the truth about that -- always an interesting question, in his case -- then we have to wonder how much Todd knows on his own account.

Okay, I'll say it: I think he doesn't know much. I think he's faking it. I think that if I were half as heartless as he claims, I'd be bundling up all these messages and forwarding them to his department at Clemson; but if I were really as heartless as he says, I'd be sending the lot of them to Longmans. That's the house that'll be publishing TJP's book about writing in 2005. Scary thought, eh?

I care a lot more about the bad advice he hands out to writers than I care about Assistant Professor Pierce. He can live or die; I'm indifferent on that score. I just wish he cared about the bad advice he's been peddling. He put it up on the web. He can have no idea who's seen it or how far it's travelled. I'm sure he's a personable fellow in person (he'd have to be, right?), but this is not one of the good guys.

I considered writing about TJP's article about finding an agent, which has some real howlers in it. I didn't; but if you'll follow the links to AbsoluteWrite which Jim Macdonald posted a while back, you'll find a middling-decent discussion of them. You'll also find the peerless Victoria Strauss, of Writer Beware, mentioning worriedly that TJP's Guide to Literary Agents site has, in their list of agents looking for new clients, a number of "agents" who are known to be Seriously Bad News.

I'm more than a little bit busy this weekend, so I haven't checked the current state of his list to see whether he's taken heed of Victoria's heads-up and pulled those names off his site. That would be good. But the real point is that those names should never have been on his page in the first place, and furthermore, that anyone who doesn't know to check for scam agents should not have been handing out advice in the first place.

Todd's been in a snit over what he sees as affronts to his dignity. If I'd noticed any concern for what he's doing to aspiring writers who follow his advice, I might have more sympathy.

#346 ::: Andrew Wade ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 11:44 AM:

> I appreciate the sentiment, but the
> implication of "I will try to remain
> impartial, but your posts at Making Light
> may affect my judgment for paying work I
> control" tickles at my hindbrain in a most
> disconcerting manner. Perhaps I am, indeed,
> reading something into this that I shouldn't?
Malicious intent, perhaps. I think Mary Anne Mohanraj meant it as a statement of fact, and not in the "it's not a threat, it's a promise" sort of way. In a game theory sense it is indeed a threat: If you do X (pile-on, ...), I will/may do Y (not accept your submission), which is detrimental to both of us. But it is not a threat in the more usual sense in that instead of intentionally doing Y because of X, Mary Anne is going to avoid X influencing Y. In short, I do not believe Mary Anne meant her statement as a threat.

Mary Anne is undoubtedly human, and as such is vulnerable to prejudice, as are we all. But instead of using that as an excuse ("you made me do it" -- there's a hindbrain tickler if ever there was one), Mary Anne is taking steps to avoid prejudice.

In short, while there is a lot to set of a hindbrain, in this case I think it's a false alarm.

#347 ::: Karen Meisner ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 01:26 PM:

Heh. I've known Mary Anne for years and she's always been uncommonly open-minded and fair when it comes to dealing with people, both personally and professionally. She's also just about the least malicious person I know, and I very much doubt her post was intended as any kind of threat. I think, as Andrew Wade says, she was taking steps to avoid prejudice, because people were slamming an acquaintance of hers and that's bound to cause some bad feeling. I don't agree with everything she's posted, and I think the principle embodied by Pierce's "lie" advice deserves a good slam, but I respect the fact that Mary Anne is willing to stand up in defense of someone who has no other defenders, and of civil debate.

#348 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 02:14 PM:

Karen, standing up in defense of someone who has no other defenders is not a virtue if the target is in fact indefensible. The underdog is not automatically right, Ibsen notwithstanding.

#349 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 02:29 PM:

I applaud Mary Anne's stance in favor of civil debate, and of eliminating cattiness and personal slams from debate. I don't think anyone is arguing she is wrong on those counts.

The problem is that mixed in with that very admirable stance was a defense of, well, indefensible behavior whose perpetrator either can't or won't admit was (at best) stupid. (It does seem that Mary Anne's original comments were based on the changes Mr. Pierce made to his advice after the zillion comments here. But given that TNH quoted those original comments at the beginning of the thread, it's a bit of an oversight, nu?)

#350 ::: Karen ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 05:01 PM:

Yeah, it's not behavior I would try to defend either, and I don't agree with some of the position Mary Anne has taken here; she seems to be giving Pierce more credit than I would. But most of what she said about his actions agrees with what's already been posted in this thread. The bulk of what she's saying isn't so much in defense of his behavior as just in protest against the personal attacks.

I think Pierce's advice was stupid, bad, and destructive. I think that it was right and responsible for Teresa N-H, Scalzi, and others to point this out, and I'm glad they didn't pull their punches in doing so. I think that Pierce's response showed at best a total lack of experience in handling online debate, at worst an unwillingness to consider or care about the implications of what he'd advocated. In other words: you all are right in this matter, he is wrong. No question in my mind about that. But I'm still uneasy with the dynamic where groups of people gang up to trash and re-trash someone who's already been thoroughly dragged through the mud.

Anyway, I didn't mean to get into commenting on the whole Pierce thing. Just popped in to clear up what seemed to be a side tangent of confusion over whether Mary Anne meant to threaten anyone, because to know her is to know she wouldn't do that.

#351 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 06:23 PM:

Interestingly, the version of Pierce's Cover Letter Tips on another site (http://www.wordsmitten.com/coverletter.html) has not been amended as carefully as the one on his own site; While Tip #4 no longer explicitly says to lie, tip #5 still reads:

"You can get away with some small lies."

It also continues to suggest people call editors in Top #8.

Perhaps he should try to get that fixed.

#352 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2004, 08:43 PM:

I'm sorry if my harsh comments have offended anyone other than Todd Pierce.

I feel strongly that Pierce should be punished both for his attempts to mislead writers, and for his unjustified attacks on Teresa. I'm certain that he has followed his own bad advice. I'd like to see his cover letters over the years -- even if what's currently posted in his cv on the web turns out to be real -- his instructions on how to fake credentials are too specific, too detailed.

Alas, justice being what it is, my words here may be the only punishment he ever gets. Speaking harshly, but truthfully, to him here is my duty. I did not speak harshly to him until he showed up. I wasn't going to tax him with his sins except to his face.

I'm certain that he's not going to post here again, on advice of counsel. I'm equally certain that he's still reading. I've amused myself thinking that the drive-by post from "Caruso" marked the return home of Pierce from his appointment with the university attorney, where he had just learned that, in fact, he had no case.

#353 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2004, 07:26 AM:

mythago writes,"But there's a big gap between imperfect/cranky, and accusing your detractors of being part of a vast write-ring conspiracy."

Yow. That's the best pun I've seen in months, if not years.

Karen (whose only connection with Tor is a rejection letter received a decade ago)

#354 ::: Mary Anne Mohanraj ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2004, 08:26 AM:

I just wanted to stop by here briefly and formally sign off this thread -- between a week of houseguests and looming book deadlines I'm suddenly feeling swamped and like I really shouldn't be reading lots of journals and journal comments at the moment. I think I've pretty much said what I wanted to say.

But I also didn't want anyone to feel like I had abandoned a conversation with them -- if you have any further questions for me, please do feel free to send them to me in e-mail, and I'll do my best to continue the conversation there. Thanks.

#355 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2004, 09:31 AM:

I'm just curious... I can't ask Mary Anne, because she's gone, but maybe Karen is still around...

Can someone please point me to just one personal attack on TJP prior to his arrival?

I mean, I suppose the little play/musical parody might be considered one, although I don't think I'd take it as one myself were I the featured monkey in it. But as far as I can tell on re-reading, the thread consisted of some speculation about the legitimacy of TJP's credentials -- sufficient reason for which has already been discussed -- and a lot of discussion about people's useless degrees and linguistics.

Until such time as the Great Conspiracy Theory flinging along with a side order of lawsuit threats, people were pretty durn mild as far as I can see. And if the complaint is that after that people were mean, well, if you stand in the middle of the road, you tend to get run over.

#356 ::: Guy Matthews ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2004, 03:53 PM:

TNH writes: "Ol' Todd's modified his Tips article since I first wrote about it, demonstrably incorporating a good deal of information from my post and the comment thread following it. He hasn't acknowledged this. Instead, he's threatened me with legal action."

Well, since our good man does so love litigation, it might be worth mentioning there's potential for a pretty hairy lawsuit right there. He's taken large amounts of constructive feedback and hard work from yourself, John, and others in this community, and used it all to improve his own published advice. As he's not credited any of it to you he's clearly claiming your ideas as his own, tisk... tisk... TISK. :)

#357 ::: Zara Baxter ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2004, 04:27 PM:

Now that you mention it, Tina, I think *I* was a bit overboard in my comments about The Australia Stories. I don't think I commented about Todd's suggestions to writers: everyone else was doing a swell job on that.

In my own defence, I did retract or modify the comments I think went a bit far later in the same thread, after additional evidence came to light. I think The Australia Stories still has flaws, but not for the reasons I initially thought. I'd say the same or similar if I was reviewing or critiquing the work.

I think if I'd written my same two comments on my blog, they would have looked far less inflammatory than they did in the context of this massive thread.

That gives me a feeling not completely unlike having a really strong wind blow up my skirt.

So I feel a little exposed, but that's the risk of joining in large venues.

#358 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2004, 09:01 PM:

Zara, I think that is the problem with Mary Anne's statement: ...it was more a matter of tone than anything else, phrases and statements and mocking poetry that left me with a bad taste in my mouth the first time I read through.

This is a large thread. Its tone incorporates many voices. In each individual instance, we are responsible for what we say. When do we become responsible for the aggregate of all voices together (obviously, including our own)?

Which is the straw that breaks the camel's back? Is the offender the last straw or the first? (Or, perhaps, is it the middle one -yes, that one -right over there...)

When does it tip the scales? Whose fault/blame/responsibility is that? The group took issue with the advice that was given (on the whole - as for the rest, as a writer, Pierce should also be ready for questions/critiques -or even satires). I have seen several people re-examine their postings. That is an ethical stance to take (as opposed to advocating unethical behavior, blustering, and threatening), but no one person need take responsibility for the entire tone.

#359 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 12:48 AM:

Pfffft. I should have taken care of this ages ago, but now Mythago's pun has made it irresistible.

I hereby declare that you are all members of The Write Ring Conspiracy, with all the privileges and responsibilities pertinent thereto.

Let evildoers tremble.

#360 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 01:18 AM:

And who's going to send out the secret decoder program (rings are _so_ passe' these days!)?

#361 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 01:30 AM:

Aw, gee, now I wish I still had a write ring laying around somewhere (from old 9-track tape drives, a write ring was a flexible plastic ring maybe 5 or 6 inches in diameter, about 1/4"x1/4" in cross-section, which when removed from a slot on the back of a 9-track tape reel would tell the drive not to allow writing to that tape. When removed from a tape reel, they were handy for playing ring-toss at a soda bottle or a coat hook.).

Do those of us who posted on peripheral topics and didn't actually say anything about Mr. Pierce still qualify for membership?

#362 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 06:14 AM:

I hereby declare that you are all members of The Write Ring Conspiracy, with all the privileges and responsibilities pertinent thereto.

That cries out for a t-shirt.

#363 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 06:46 AM:

Or perhaps just:

Write Ring Conspiracy: Member in Good Standing

#364 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 09:49 AM:

Jeremy, if you denied membership, nobody would believe you anyway. That's the beauty of it.

#365 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 10:06 AM:

Wow, I go away for a weekend without a web browser, and what happens ...? I get nominated as part of a conspiracy!

(Clue: add ironic intonation to taste.)

I'm not going to join in the dogpile, other than to note that those folks who have expressed a desire for Todd to apologize publicly have done so in a context -- this discussion -- that leaves him no room to do so with any shred of self-respect intact.

Time out.

Moving on to other matters, I have two observations for Todd. Firstly, Tor isn't a monolith. It's entirely true that I have a novel coming out from Tor this autumn (and another next year) ... but my editor is David Hartwell. Tor is a sufficiently large publisher that separate editors have their own lists. While I know Patrick and Teresa socially, I've never sold anything to either of them. Nor is Tor my sole publisher; if you check amazon.com, you'll see that I also have books out this year from Golden Gryphon and Ace. In other words, I'm not defending my editor's honour because Teresa isn't my editor.

More subtly, I suspect that part of the reason you're catching so much crap here is because you've misunderstood the nature of this weblog. It's not a personal promotion site, run to promote Teresa's career; it's a conversation, a web-ified version of a literary salon. People hang out here because the hostess has a habit of coming up with fascinating essays and is gracious enough to let us discuss them. In turn, it attracts interesting people who liven the joint up, sometimes by expressing their own controversial opinions. Turning up in such a venue and implying that the regulars are sycophants is not a good move. It's going to generate a negative reaction, much like an undergraduate with bad grades in one course crashing a staff common room and accusing the assembled professoriat of toadying for the instructor who marked them down.

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you didn't intend to do that, and it was a simple cultural misunderstanding. But you might want to bear in mind -- if you choose to remain here -- that we are not the Borg, and our motives for discussing your essay are varied.

#366 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 10:10 AM:

PS: Is this the desk where I can sign up for my Sekrit Author's Royalty Statement Decoder Ring?

#367 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 11:15 AM:

Jeremy Leader: Aw, gee, now I wish I still had a write ring laying around somewhere (from old 9-track tape drives, a write ring was a flexible plastic ring maybe 5 or 6 inches in diameter, about 1/4"x1/4" in cross-section, which when removed from a slot on the back of a 9-track tape reel would tell the drive not to allow writing to that tape.

The good thing about ADD is it teaches you to be a packrat (because you never know if you spaced out when you filled the hand that is throwing something away). Fortunately, I was able to find one that wasn't buried too deep. Your description is pretty good, except that the (outside) diameter is closer to 4.3 inches.

Somewhere around here, I suspect there's a mother lode of the things. If I find it, perhaps we can have insignias for Noreascon.


#368 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 12:32 PM:

Zara, I've just gone through this thread searching on your name. I'm guessing the comments you refer to are on the Other Thread, which I haven't been back to look at, since everyone seemed focussed on this one. The only comments I can find by you on this one either are suggesting likely sources for TJP's awards -- beneficial, not mocking -- or on one of the tangential threads, which took something like a dozen responses to appear, about normal for this blog.

I suppose I could take a look at the Other Thread, but since everyone made such a big deal about this one, it was the one I looked through first. I stand by my summary of this one; until TJP showed up, the majority of posts were either speculation about the awards or had nothing to do with TJP. With the exception of the song/musical parody stuff, people were pretty much polite, if dubious, until the Threat And Conspiracy posts.

Which leads me to wonder what Mary Anne and Karen were reading. (The Other Thread, perhaps?) Or if they were objecting to the tone after he showed up. In which case, I use yet another metaphor to sum up my feelings on that: when you are waving the flag in the field, you ought not be surprised when the bull charges.

I don't know if Confucious ever said that, but he should've.

#369 ::: Tor ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 03:10 PM:

Well, I actually am an attorney, although I don't specialize in 1st Amendment law. That being said, I haven't read anything here that would make a decent libel case, just make people like me money. In addition to the crappy libel claim, there is also a defense for people like TNH in that they aren't necessarily held responsible for comments on boards like these, even if they *were* per se libelous. Otherwise, anytime someone ran a comment board, they would be painting a bullseye on themselves for a libel suit. I'm not going to go into detail, and this isn't legal advice to anyone, but, the defense exists, and TNH would likely be protected by it (not legal advice, just to emphasize).

Also, as a lawyer who deals with harassment and discrimination suits, one of the first things I look at is the documents/resumes submitted upon hire - if there are lies in there, they can constitute a defense to a harassment claim, even if the harassment claim looks pretty good, and the lie was discovered *after* the suit was filed. Don't lie on cover letters or resumes, 'cause someone like me will find it, and use it against you, usually to great success.

Finally, I am not affiliated with Tor Books, or TNH or her husband. Although I have kicked around being a writer, I have never submitted anything to anyone (except for a law journal or two - not published by Tor). That being said, I'm sure someone will try to come up with some sort of connection, as my name, after all, is Tor.

Tor

#371 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 07:25 PM:

Attack of the Word Salad Writing Porn Bots!

#372 ::: Zara Baxter ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 08:02 PM:

Tina: It was indeed in the dreaded "other thread". I'll refrain from dredging it up.

Jill Smith: thanks for the kind thoughts. I think we're in violent agreement.

I rather like the idea of being part of the write ring conspiracy. I expecially like that the word "piracy" forms part of that phrase. Arr. Me hearties.

#373 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 08:08 PM:

It's a cons piracy!

There should be an apostrophe in there, but I haven't decided where to put it yet.

#374 ::: Catherine Shaffer ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 11:16 PM:

I don't visit this web log often, but found a pointer to this one in another one I read. I want to say I'm in complete agreement with Mary Anne. I'm appalled. The discussion here has been mean spirited. This person posted some advice on his web site that Teresa disagreed with vehemently. She expressed her opinion here, which is completely her perogative. In fact, it's very understandable that she'd be upset about the tactics he describes, since it's in direct opposition to her interests as an editor. However, what followed was a lot of speculation about the man's character, his credentials, his qualifications for his job, and so forth--instead of criticism of the actual content of his advice. This is all water cooler gossip that should never have been posted in a public forum. The whole thing is self-righteous and unchivalrous.

The internet is a wonderful thing. Sometimes I can't remember how I ever got by without it. But what we're seeing here is its ugly underside. Communicating in text, we sometimes forget there's a human being behind it, and sometimes a whole lot of people forget all at the same time. If you've never been scapegoated by an entire bulletin board or mailing list, it may be hard to relate. But try. I know a lot of people here will take exception to this as well, but I felt I should support Mary Anne at least, for bravely intervening in this bloodbath. Todd Pierce probably isn't reading anymore, but he didn't deserve this treatment. He deserves to be debated on his advice, and no doubt he's prepared for it. Nothing more.

I intend not to follow up on this post or try to defend it. Disagree if you like. I just wanted to go on record.

#375 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2004, 11:28 PM:

I'm just wondering if any of Todd's defenders are willing to admit that 75% of this thread prior to him showing up and throwing a tantrum had nothing to do with him. Or are willing to point to one single post in this thread that gives an example of what they're talking about, with the sole exception of the musical/playlet stuff, which was not engaged in by most of the commenters here.

Because, frankly, otherwise, it's hypocritical. "You're all bad, mean, nasty people" is the same sort of rhetoric that you're accusing the people in this thread of engaging in, y'see.

Not sure why I'm bothering. I guess mostly because most of the people in this thread were, prior to TJP's tantrum, neither talking of nor thinking about him, and so it's irritating to see people jump on the "mean nasty people, how dare you" bandwagon.

#376 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 12:23 AM:

I intend not to follow up on this post or try to defend it.

What is it about the Internet that leads people to run in, say their piece, scream "No tagbacks!" and run back out?

Charlie, I don't think anyone is saying Mr. Pierce should get in here and apologize, but that he should and could have handled this far better.

#377 ::: loudfiendishone ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 01:49 AM:

Todd, I have no connection whatsoever to Tor or its editors, and I've only posted on these boards once before. I *do* read slush for an agency and a book publisher, and I'm absolutely horrified by your "advice." We get approximately thirty jillion pieces of slush a day, and we use just about any excuse to get rid of it. People who cold call go right into the "crazy and rejected" pile. People who demand anything also go into the "crazy" pile. People who lie (and Teresa is absolutely right--it's very very simple to google an author's publications) go into the "I'm keeping track of their names so I can reject them immediately and warn other people about them" pile. Even if you DO have a bunch of publications in lit journals--so what? Do you have any idea how many writers have those credentials?

In the end, IMHO, it doesn't really come down to your previous publications, or whether you called us, or whether your mom's uncle's best friend knows someone who knows someone who knows someone. It really (and only) comes down to the quality of the writing. There's only so much you can do to a piece of crap, and most editors and agents just won't bother with something that sucks.

You've really--again, IMHO--done a disservice to the new writers you're trying to help.

#378 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 02:01 AM:

Catherine Schaffer wrote:

"Todd Pierce probably isn't reading anymore, but he didn't deserve this treatment."

Since I feel I contained my comments primarily to his advice and not to him, I feel reasonably secure in asking: Didn't he?

Again: If one cannot reasonably question the credentials of someone who has espoused lying about one's credentials in order to sell work, whose credentials can one question?

Questioning Mr. Pierce's ethics, credentials and character may or may not have been mean-spirited, but in light of his position (a professor of English) and the advice he offered to new writers (to lie), it was not *irrelevant,* nor was it entirely undeserved. After all, what *should* one think of an academic who for years promoted the idea of lying to get ahead, and by all appearances changed that advice *only* after he'd been mocked for it and (apparently to his mind) humiliated because of it?

Bear in mind when people sent him private e-mails suggesting his advice was bad and that he should change it, his response was to shoot off a canned answer which said "well, this is what I *really* meant," *not* to change the advice as available on the Web. I know because it's what he did when I e-mailed him. It appears he only changed his advice *after* coming here and seeing how his "advice" had caused him to be personally denigrated and his credentials questioned.

As has been noted elsewhere upstream in this thread, if *all* the retribution Mr. Pierce experiences for his unethical and contemptible "advice" to new writers is to be roundly mocked for it, here and in other places, he's getting off very lightly indeed. In the meantime, the worst of his "advice" is no longer on the Web. So one could very reasonably argue that in this case, the written beating Mr. Pierce received here resulted in a practical and manifest good; if not for Mr. Pierce himself, than for the writers he presumes to "advise."

#379 ::: joseph ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 02:36 AM:

First time poster here:

Speaking about Ms. Mary Anne's comment that Tod is a nice person: I'm sure he is. But that doesn't mean that Nice persons do stupid things. Or bad things for that matter.

As for finding stuff here nasty, you can always follow the bad TV excuse: if you don't like a TV show, turn off the TV (or change the channel). It's your choice to stay or not, fight or flee.

Just my 2 cents...

#380 ::: joseph ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 02:55 AM:

Or is that "doesn't mean"?

Sorry, English isn't my first language. *embarrassingly told in front of English experts*

#381 ::: Stew ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 05:52 AM:

A friend asked me to peruse this and let me know if she had been unfairly taken to task for her comments re: Mr Pierce..

Having read most of the thread, I'm struck by the resemblence to events with Bernard Shifman in regards to being caught out and threatening baseless legal action. Amusing.

http://spamnews.com/spamflames/ShifmanIsAMoronSpammer.html

#382 ::: thunderchild ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 07:14 AM:

I shall preface this little post with a couple of facts:

I'm Australian. Basically this means it's my god given right to view all americans (and I'm including canadians in this) with an air of good natured condecension regardless of the facts. We reserve the right to mock loudly and from a distance all things American particularly but not exclusively your TV shows (I watch them avidly so that I may mock with appropriate validity and not because they are either good or compulsive) and politics.

I have read books published by Tor authors who have posted on this thread (and enjoyed them), John Scalzi's posts and in particular his use of questionable acitivities with a cat as an illuminating lecture on what constitutes libel and slander, were incredibly amusing. I adore the works of Michelle West and am currently loving Singularity Sky by Charles Stross so there is potential for me to be biased in this reply.

However, I've also read all of the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan so I believe this makes me somewhat impartial to the events that have preceeded this post.

At this stage I don't believe anyone other than Mr Pierce believes his advice regarding Cover Slips was the height of intelligence. For me personally I wouldn't care about whether the editor might find out, they're a ways down the list of concernable people; my -mother- would read it before I sent it anywhere. Now I lie to my mother quite a bit, "yes my room is clean" and "of course I took the garbage out" are two of my favourite phrases (maybe I should have amended that to 'attempt to lie to my mother'), but there's no way I'd get lying about acheivements past her. So apologies to the editors on this list but your concerns on this one are insignificant compared to the person who knows where I sleep and whose last name I bear. The contempt of the world for lying would be but a pittance to the disappointment in my mother's eye.

MAKING LIGHT is the name of the website. Maybe it means something different in America but in Australia it has connotations with making fun of serious situations or people, of finding the humour in an event. Nothing in the period between the initial post and when Mr Pierce appeared went totally against that philosophy. There may have been one or two that stretched the principle but all in all a serious issue was raised and humour was found.

Lawyering Up. Advising people to lie was a serious mistake in the real world, lawyering up was a very bad mistake in the internet world. For me, even knowing no one on this board, I became defensive of Teresa and that's even though she still owes me for the Jordan's. From a strictly me POV, I thought it a bad tactical move. The responses after that move I think kind of bear this out but hindsight is 20/20 unless it involves your sisters in which case you're still going to be wrong.

Personally I wouldn't be adverse were this thread to be closed. Not because I believe what has been posted here has been bad and I certainly don't think there has been a malicious campaign or bullying but simply because there are other much funnier things to comment on. Well for you people to all comment on and for me to enjoy from the safe confines of this slice of Eden you all know as Australia.

Maybe we were all a little wrong to attack Mr Pierce's credentials straight away and I include myself in this because I found most of them humourous but as anyone who has lived in a family of intelligent smartarses before, any open door is an invitation they can't help but step through. MAKING LIGHT in case this wasn't clear is patently peopled by intelligent smartarses; it is part of its appeal.

I'd like to rank this as my two cents worth but can't help but feel I'm selling everyone short.

-thunderchild

p.s. Apologies if I've offended anyone. Please don't tell my mother. :)

#383 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 09:05 AM:

As Teresa is not and has never been the editor on "The Wheel of Time," you are owed precisely nothing in that regard.

Advising people to lie, just in case it hasn't been adequately clarified, is not "a mistake." Confusing "adverse" with "averse" is a mistake, minor and forgiven; telling people to lie, and furthermore how to do so, is a deliberate act, meant to spread the practice of lying among others. Someone with better theological credentials will have to classify what sort of sin that is, whether vernal or motile; but it is certainly of a greater degree than lying oneself, certainly about unmade beds or undisposed rubbish.

And while "making light" does indeed have the connotation of "to treat less than seriously" in American Homogenized English Language Product, it has others as well, and anyone who uses words for only one thing at a time is not much of a writer, nothing of a poet, and may actually be Harold Bloom. Though we do, with excellent provenance, pay the critters extra for overtime.

Best as,
JMF

#384 ::: Karen ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 09:20 AM:

I can't speak for Mary Anne but if you're asking me, Tina: I think everyone was pretty reasonable before Pierce showed up and handled things so badly. There were a couple of parodies and stuff but, well, they were funny. And didn't strike me as mean-spirited. For someone unused to the internet, I'm sure it would be a shock to discover a community of strangers featuring you as the villain of the piece, and hard to judge the lightness or viciousness of their tone. But that doesn't justify all the stupid crap Pierce posted in response, and I don't blame anyone for heaping scorn on him for it.

I'm actually not too concerned about Pierce's feelings in all of this; he was Mary Anne's concern. I'm more interested in the other end of it: the kinds of dynamics that happen among people banding together over what they believe to be a cause worth fighting for. It's so easy to damn one's enemies once you start thinking of them as enemies.

Anyway, I didn't come in to make a fuss about that, just to comment on a tangent. As far as I'm concerned nobody needs to defend what they wrote, I'm sure you're all perfectly lovely people except for Scalzi who's a crack-smoking cat sodomizer, and I'm not pointing fingers because god knows I've gotten caught up in dogpiles myself. I don't know, it's just something to think about. It's an area of human group dynamics that's on my mind a lot lately.

#385 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 11:08 AM:

Karen says:

"I'm sure you're all perfectly lovely people except for Scalzi who's a crack-smoking cat sodomizer."

*sigh.*

Sodomize a cat while smoking crack *just one time,* and suddenly people think there's something *wrong* with you.

#386 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 11:47 AM:

I'm just trying to imagine how the cat was smoking crack.

#387 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 11:58 AM:

The thing is, in the end, writing is all about finding truths and speaking them. Even when--especially when--writing fantasy.

So when someone tells a group of writers, "Lie a little. Yes, lie," they're not only giving bad business advice, but they're also going in the face of one of the group's fundamental principles.

Most writers take words seriously, even when we use them lightly. Of course we're going to be outraged when someone tells us to use words falsely.

#388 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 01:17 PM:

Oh, the cat smoked crack, we couldn't get away
He was gnawing out our eyes on the very next day
Oh, the cat smoked crack, he wouldn't leave our home
The very next day with his mouth afoam.

Sorry - it just materialized spontaneously, and I knew that I had to get rid of it somehow...

#389 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 01:24 PM:

Arrggh, now I have an earworm. Larry, avanti! avanti! malificum defense!

#390 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 02:35 PM:

Karen, I think the reason I disagree with you is actually -- on a much smaller (and far, far more reasonable) scale -- similar to one reason I didn't like TJP's posts. You, and presumably Mary Anne, and a few others perhaps, seem to think that this is some sort of group response. I, on the other hand, see it as a series of individual responses, most of which have nothing to do with one another. In other words, I am not seeing "group dynamic: let's gang up on Todd". I am seeing "half a dozen people each individually addressing Todd while standing in the same room as each other.

[Which is ironic, due to some past history I have over on a certain other blog, but that just wasn't the feel I got here, and anyhow, that's neither here nor (anymore) there.]

Anyhow, that about sums it up. I'm not seeing "dogpile on Todd" because what I'm seeing is "TJP comes in and throws a tantrum; a bunch of people who previously had nothing to say about him suddenly feel a need to respond to him, doesn't matter what everyone else is doing or thinking". I can certainly say that was my particular response; you'll note I start out with "well, I stopped reading around x" in my initial note, and only later start commenting on Blog at Large.

Anyhow. Just a thought. I think I'm done with this thread now.

#391 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 02:42 PM:

I am not, not, not going to write the full version of that song parody.

If I did, it would not start:

"John Scalzi had a cat" said the internet post
And it's rumored that to the cat he did the most
atrocious things you've ever, ever heard,
no one stopped to think the story was absurd.

"The cat smoked crack," was just one claim.
But someone else posted that was insane.
"The cat smoked crack," the rumor insisted
But no one was sure the cat existed...

I'm going now.

#392 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2004, 07:52 PM:

John, nobody said it was WRONG to smoke crack and sodomize cats. As long as you don't drop hot ash on the cat, you know.

Someone with better theological credentials will have to classify what sort of sin that is, whether vernal or motile

"Shitty."

#393 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2004, 06:18 PM:

Well I don't care what any of you say, I'm not gonna secrete a decoder ring.

Okay then, on this from Tina:
"Or are willing to point to one single post in this thread that gives an example of what they're talking about, with the sole exception of the musical/playlet stuff, which was not engaged in by most of the commenters here."

Well that was me and let me just own to it up front, I'm a mean bastard (my birth certificate confirm this, under father my mom wrote "he was the guy buying drinks" and the Dr. commented "The mean bastard bit me when I slapped his ass"), do I feel bad about having been mean to Toddles? No, although I certainly do regret not having kept up to date on this thread so I could have gotten in my licks when he was likely to receive them. I'm not sure if Tina thinks that I shouldn't have been mean, but then again I don't think I was particularly mean - if we were to take into account my capacity for sharpness of tongue and general dislike of taking prisoners.

In fact I don't even hold TJP's suggestion that people lie against him, I'm not an editor and it doesn't affect me at all. What I dislike is that his suggestion to lie is rather poorly written, it sounds like the boosterism of a late night infomercial. If that's the tone he uses when writing something that most people would consider ethically obtuse I don't hold out any hope for him producing anything worth being lied over in order to get it published.
In other words he is the George Bush of literature, it's not the lies I object to, it's the incompetence.

Even so if he had taken the matter up with some panache when caught out I suppose I would have forgiven him and taken his side, as I have some fondness for rogues (indeed I have tried to live my own life as a fine work of picaresque narrative) and we could have had a fine time ragging on all of the rest of you but instead he just whined and threatened legal action in an extremely unconvincing manner. For shame TJP, lying is too old and noble an exercise to be left to the modern run of bunglers that have taken it up, and I am not at all surprised to see that you, being a modern bungler, now seem to have run off.

#394 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2004, 06:35 PM:

"nobody said it was WRONG to smoke crack and sodomize cats."
If it's not wrong why do i have to pay money for a premium membership to websites on that subject?

#395 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2004, 11:32 PM:

I happened to wander past here and found myself admiring Bryan's posts all over again. Those were really good.

#396 ::: Sugar sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2006, 06:00 AM:

Numbers 396-404. And weird spam it is too.

#397 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2006, 04:15 PM:

It's social engineering; trying to get us to blacklist actually useful news and government sites.

#398 ::: Daniel Bethel ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 06:20 PM:

I realize I'm almost three years late to the fistfight, but I have an almost vested interest in this.

Being a recently former creative writing student of Pierce, I only just found out about this whole debacle, seeing how he obviously wouldn't bring this up in class. This initially put me off to him, but seeing his response and regarding his personal and classroom behavior in hindsight has, I think, leveled off my emotions. More importantly, I feel it pertinent to say that he didn't bring up the infamous "Cover Letter Advice" in class, either. He didn't mention anything about his array of websites or even, really, his published work though his books are easy enough to find on Amazon or wherever.

Some could dictate this as fear of unearthing an unpleasant memory, but I think it instead hints at what many have already said: regardless of what he has said in old advice to aspiring writers while a grad student himself, he is, as a teacher, completely subservient to his students' development as writers.

But that is not what is under your scrutiny, and I'm not going to answer to that as I think, in ways, this board's response to the "advice" was justified and I think his response to the melee of comments was justified as well, or at least understandable.

But after reading the entirety of these threads I can only come up with this response:

If I'm not mistaken, he wrote that advice as a graduate student, done many years ago. Sure, he hasn't updated his advice in the years since, but it looks like any of his websites have been left dormant since at least 2004. So, in a way, you guys won despite his failure to satisfy your misgivings. If that's all you want, then I would wholeheartedly recommend for Pierce to do so and then we can all talk about the shit we love: books and writing, and get back to being the peripherally close-knit community we're supposed to be.

Lastly, this cover letter scandal seems hardly justified as one because one must consider all the pieces before judging:

-He wrote this as a graduate student, still trying to figure out life, how much advice can he really be qualified to give?

-It's not like he published this advice in the New Yorker or Writer's Digest or on Salon.com. This advice, I would say (though I have no authority to do so), was pretty much tucked away in the vastness of the internet, only brought to the fore because of the unrelenting discussion it birthed.

-I don't know how much academic harm could be brought to him considering it is just a page of advice, and one does not need to follow it if one does not wish to.

Like some have said, his advice is one among the thousands of cover letter pages littered among the information superhighway, and if someone was really looking to develop the best stratagem for devising cover letters, it would be the total knowledge gained from observing many, many pages of advice.

I, personally, wouldn't do all of the things that Pierce advised, to the chagrin of all of you I can say I definitely would not lie about accomplishments or credentials, but I don't think I would need to; I don't have that type of confidence problem. Some may, and if it works for the them, hey, all the power to them. And if it doesn't then they probably should have waited a little longer anyway to jump into the game or get out completely, and a big, fat, hearty buzzkill would certainly do the trick.

Not that I expect anybody to read this, but I hope that my feelings on this matter can make people on both sides of the fence at least nod their heads a little. I will also admit that a little of this is me trying to deal with learning all of this information about a teacher I learned so much from and respect.

Keep a good thought,

Daniel Bethel

#399 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 06:42 PM:

The comments about where flowers grow are too obvious to make.

It doesn't at all surprise me that he's stopped telling people to lie. That doesn't go over too well in an academic environment.

For reasons adequately discussed in the thread, I object to your "all the power to them." People who lie do serious semiotic damage to the world.

#400 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 06:46 PM:

Being a recently former creative writing student of Pierce,

I think I'm an ad for his teacherastic powers!

#401 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 06:55 PM:

Yes, there are a lot of web pages that haven't been updated in a long time. (I've left a few lying around myself.) Actually updating them might or might not be necessary, depending on the content; mine include old fanwriting, which hasn't changed. But while a serious update may be time-consuming, taking a page down altogether, or replacing it with "I was mistaken about cover letters [or other topic of your choice]. Google for advice on the subject" is not.

#402 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 07:03 PM:

Niall 400: are you objecting to 'recently former'? I think that's an unusual construction, but I see nothing wrong with it.

#403 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 07:24 PM:

Hi, Daniel Bethel. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and not assume that the timing of your letter has anything to do with the Pitch Bitch thread, and Todd James Pierce's past association with the Web Del Sol organization.

I wouldn't describe my reaction to his online advice pages as "chagrin". At the time, "anger and contempt" would have been closer to the mark. It was clear from the tone and content of his advice that he thought that lying about one's publishing history and awards in a cover letter was no big thing; i.e., that he's a liar. People who don't lie don't believe that lying is acceptable and that everyone does it.

He was giving out advice that could have done serious damage to writers who believed it. He was puffing himself up by pretending to expertise he manifestly didn't have. For pete's sake, the man didn't know the difference between a cover letter and a query. He also didn't know the difference between nonfiction and fiction publishing, since he thought that "Why are you the best person to have written this novel?" is a relevant question. He shot his mouth off about stuff only a rank amateur would get wrong, like not giving your wordcount, and not including return postage. He said that writers seldom get second chances with agents and editors, which is not true. And if I recall correctly, he had no agent, and few or no commercial sales under his belt.

What business, then, did he have presenting himself as an expert, and giving advice to naive writers? With great authority comes great responsibility, and he blew it. I was kind to him, all things considered. I even refrained from going after his "how to get an agent" page, which was easily as ill-informed and misleading as the page I did critique.

Shall I take his failure to repeat the offense as evident of his repentance? I don't see why I should, when the evidence can more readily be explained by him developing an improved sense of self-preservation. I've never seen the least evidence that he was sorry for counseling writers to lie, or for giving bad advice. Taking down his pages would have been a good place to start.

Quoting from your comment:

"I definitely would not lie about accomplishments or credentials, but I don't think I would need to; I don't have that type of confidence problem. Some may, and if it works for the them, hey, all the power to them."
If you think that lying is a legitimate response to a lack of self-confidence, and you're in favor of it as a strategy for dealing with that problem, then it's all too clear why you don't understand the reaction to Pierce's bad advice: you're a liar as well. You just wouldn't lie under the same circumstances he would.

(By the way: Haven't you seen enough cases of people brought low by lies about their accomplishments to know that it's not a workable strategy? Have you been paying attention at all? Successful writers have been widely ridiculed for claiming awards they hadn't received. Academics and government officials have gone down over phantom degrees they didn't possess. Military scandals where people were caught wearing decorations or insignia to which they weren't entitled have perhaps been the most painful, like the Admiral who committed suicide.

If someone isn't already a habitual liar, telling lies doesn't make them more self-confident. It just adds the fear of being found out to the fears they already had.)

You're a writer, and writers tend to be grateful to people they think have helped them. If Pierce has helped you and his other students, then he's doing the job he's paid to do. Good for him. I do the same. So does everyone else I know. As for your respect, that's something you're free to bestow where you will. Again, I do the same thing myself. It's just that in my case, none of it lights on Todd James Pierce.

#404 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Xopher, I do object to the phrase which includes 'recently former', but I am objecting to the entire phrase:

Being a recently former creative writing student of Pierce,

Daniel:

When you say you are 'a former creative writing student of Pierce', do you mean that you are no longer creative, no longer writing, no longer a student or simply no longer alive?

Or perhaps you mean that you used to study Pierce, and now you've learned not to?

The only sense I can make from the statement that you were 'recently a former creative writing student of Pierce' is that you are no longer a former student of Pierce, which means you must be a student of Pierce right now.

Oh dear.

Help me out, Xopher.

#405 ::: Daniel Bethel ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 04:35 AM:

I thank those for their sincere comments and critiques, especially to Ms. Hayden. I'm not trying to support or bolster anything Pierce has done, I can only judge him on the experience I had, which was very, very positive.

To answer some questions:

Ms. Hayden, I was linked to this thread through a simple Google search regarding Pierce, not through other debates on this site. I wholeheartedly agree with everybody about the validity of lying, and that there is none, but as is obvious with Pierce saying that he heard it from his workshop, it is obvious that it is done. I wish it wasn't, because if it works then it gives an unfair advantage to those of us trying to publish legitimately. I'm not saying that we should fight fire with fire, but to shun the fact that it happens and it works is a bit too idealistic and optimistic to me. But I am a trusting soul, as the anti-Pierce posters here evidently are as well, and I choose to go through life hoping that people won't pull a scam involving flat-out lying on me because it would be something I would never do to others.

I used the phrase "all the power to them" not to congratulate the bastards that do this and succeed--they can rot for all I care--but the people that do this and succeed have, in fact, succeeded beyond our moral control and we are left powerless because whether or not they're caught after the fact, what matters, as a writer, is that they published and we cannot take that away. We can hate them from that point on, but they are still published. We can't throw stones at those that pulled one over on us, we must instead walk away and keep trying it the right way or it will become less about the writing and more about the yelling and the hate and the passion. I don't want to do that, it's too exhausting.

I feel bad for Pierce that he was told this was acceptable behavior, but is he justly vilified because he was the first to put it up on some web site? Who were they that told him this? What if they're writers we admire? What then? There's nothing we can do.

To clear up the confusion caused by my haphazard syntax, the original phrase read, "As a former student of Pierce." I added "creative writing" to it because I wanted to differentiate it (for unknown reasons) from any normal comp classes he teaches.

And yes, Niall, I realized in hindsight that I left out the possessive S from Pierce's name, to indicate that he was my teacher, meaning that I was under his study and have since graduated and moved on as he and Ms. Hayden have clearly done. Unfortunately, this forum does not seem to have an edit function that will let me go back in and edit the stuff I wrote. My bad. I'm glad that out of my entire post, it was that short statement the clued you into the ineptitude with which I handle the English language. Sorry about that. Furthermore, I would like to say that Pierce's teacheriffic schoolingness didn't teach me how to write, I done did all that by my gosh-durn self well before ending up in his classroom. ;)

I wasn't hoping to open an old wound, and the stinging comments that a few of you have left make me regretful, making an outsider trying to offer a different perspective feel unwelcome, and I'm sorry for being invasive. I don't want to fight, as I'm not defending the man Pierce was, the man Pierce may still be, only the sliver of him that I knew and can comment upon. I'm not asking for an apology from anyone on this board, and I'm not here to give one. I'm here because finding out all of this in a very short period of time made me think, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

Keep a good thought,

Daniel Bethel

#406 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 05:43 AM:

Daniel,

Thank you for coming back to further the discussion. I know that sometimes people here seem to pile on to typos and half-completed edits. Don't take it personally. (And guys...come on, be nice. He's not being unreasonable; can we talk to his substance rather than his form?)

I'm with Teresa on this - I can't see anyone who encourages lying as a good influence on writers. But I can see how one can overlook the flaws in one's teachers, if they have taught the heart of the subject - in this case, writing - well. We judge the man on one set of his actions, you do so on another. I suspect we're best agreeing to disagree.

Meanwhile, if you like writing, please do come back and read and write more on this site. There are some very bright, very funny people here.

I only have one question, myself.

Do you write sonnets?

#407 ::: Daniel Bethel ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 07:58 AM:

Abi wrote:

Do you write sonnets?

I've tried, but my attempts end up off-meter and self-deprecating. I wonder why you ask.

Thank you for such a soft-handed response. It calmed me greatly as I got up from a few hours of tossing and turning, fearing I became a hated man.

But you are absolutely correct: by two completely different avenues we each have a polarized view of this man. I was hoping that I would give you some solace that in his advanced creative writing class in the Fall quarter of 2006 he did not espouse the rules he set forth in that document. Maybe that means that he no longer does so, or that he hasn't since this thing exploded, I don't know, I don't want to know and I don't need to know. All I need from Pierce is the satisfaction I got out of the great story I wrote in that class, but to boot I also found out he was a really nice guy. So this whole ordeal... I mean, it just confused me not because of a lack of understanding, but because of the dichotomy of the fellow you met and gentleman I know. That's how it is with everybody, I guess. I wasn't looking for you to change my mind through taut research and argumentation and I'm not trying to change yours through sympathy, I'm just reorganizing my faculties out loud.

With my original post I had hoped that enough time had passed for someone to simply say, "Touche," and then we clink glasses and move to the next subject. Talk about idealistic, eh? I'm not one for setting fires.

I also wanted to finish my general input with a further response to Ms. Hayden, whose words, though powerful, kind of scared me and pushed me into a realm of paranoia (and sleeplessness):

If you think that lying is a legitimate response to a lack of self-confidence, and you're in favor of it as a strategy for dealing with that problem, then it's all too clear why you don't understand the reaction to Pierce's bad advice: you're a liar as well. You just wouldn't lie under the same circumstances he would.

Your use of the second person pronoun makes it sound accusatory and unfair. I don't think I said that I didn't "understand the reaction to Pierce's bad advice." I completely understand. In my original post I even say:

this board's response to the "advice" was justified

But you seem to be delving into the world of psychology by being shocked at the revelation that "lying is a legitimate response to a lack of self-confidence." I think many people that study human behavior would say that it is indeed a legitimate emotional reaction to low self-confidence. It is not a healthy one and it is not, of course, the only avenue one can take to assurance (I would recommend therapy, structured social events, creative/artistic expression, enrolling in a college class, etc., instead because lying and activities of the like are a form of emotional self-defense, a deadening of one's feelings that is in fact a precursor and is of itself an anti-social behavior that could lead to hurtful and/or violent outbursts). I do not endorse lying as a "strategy for dealing with that problem" and I sure don't understand from where you pulled the final clause of your argument with any merit--"You're a liar as well"--unless you were using the pronoun you to merely illustrate a case and not accuse. I'm pretty sure that the former was your intent but it's the fear of not knowing that scared me, Teresa.

If there is any one thing from this conversation which I would like clarified it is that and only that. I tried to make it clear that I stepped in on friendly terms and not that because I was this guy's student I would dive butt-naked into enemy terrain and fight my Thermopylae.

#408 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Daniel Bethel @407:
I asked about the sonnets because we (and I in particular) are always keen to recruit more sonnet-writers to the site. We have two prolific ones (Fragano Ledgister and I) and several others who post from time to time. We're also keen on ballades, villanelles, limericks, double dactyls, haiku, and pantoums. We've even had a someone do a sestina.

I'll leave you to argue most of the content with Teresa, if the two of you so choose, but I'd note that her surname is Nielsen Hayden (two words, no hyphen).

About lying. Teresa's statement, broken into bits:

1. IF you think that lying is a legitimate response to a lack of self-confidence, AND
2. you're in favor of it as a strategy for dealing with that problem, THEN

it's all too clear why you don't understand the reaction to Pierce's bad advice: you're a liar as well.

My reading of your response is:

1. You are using "legitimate" in an odd sense, somewhere in the region of "plausible" or "common". Teresa seems to be using it in the way I would - "ethically defensible" or "right". But your subsequent statements about where lying leads makes me think that you don't see it as right, just understandable.
2. You're not in favor of it as a strategy

That means you don't fit the conditions, and aren't being called a liar.

Mind you, if you really want to defend either the ethical rightness of lying or its effectiveness as a strategy, go ahead. You're on your own.

#409 ::: Daniel Bethel ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 03:30 PM:

Thank you for clarifying the surname, I didn't know and I meant no offense.

The base definition of legitimate, as I've always understood it, is that the object the word points to follows and complies with an established set of logical rules, I'll check the OED, but that's how I understood it. I tried with the my last post to quantify my definition via explanation and you caught onto that which means I guess I did okay.

But we're splitting hairs because I like to talk about words and language, besides legitimate is a fantastic sounding word. I think it was King Lear that has the line, "As to the legitimate: fine word, 'legitimate'!" (a word defined at the beginning of the soliloquy as being "the plague of custom" if I remember correctly, it's been a few months since I read it) I assume that she wasn't being accusatory, but my late-night thinking and sleeplessness had me draw extreme conclusions.

As for the sonnets, I love to read all of the types you mentioned, but have never had the skill or patience to write one completely. So, I'm afraid I won't fit the bill of recruitment, but I'll keep an eye out.

#410 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Daniel, don't feel bad about the sonnets. I do write them, but not at the drop of a hat like abi and Fragano. I once joined an organization where every prospective member was asked "do you know all the words to 'Stairway to Heaven'?" Saying no was not a minus, and saying yes was not really a very big plus. So too with the sonnets; abi was being whimsical, partly, and partly trying to welcome you.

As for 'legitimate', the meaning I'm most familiar with is "legal and in accordance with morality and ethics." To call something legitimate is thus to approve, or at the very least condone it. You needn't agree, but I think you can see how that definition would make Teresa's response an entirely reasonable one.

Also...a lot of people, including TJP himself, came by to defend him, most much less polite than you. We are perhaps a bit oversensitive on the subject, yea even to three years later.

#411 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2007, 04:03 PM:

Daniel writes:
I wasn't hoping to open an old wound, and the stinging comments that a few of you have left make me regretful, making an outsider trying to offer a different perspective feel unwelcome, and I'm sorry for being invasive.

I apologize sincerely for hurting you. My remarks were just supposed to be funny.

#412 ::: A Non. ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2008, 02:12 PM:

http://www.theliteraryreview.org/Featured_P&W/Todd_Pierce/

He grew up in Santa Barbara and got a grant there. He gives lame advice. Case closed.

#414 ::: Cally Soukup spots yet more spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2010, 09:02 PM:

And there's old, bonus, spam, too!

#415 ::: spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 11:48 PM:

[ spam from 173.234.49.176 ]

#417 ::: Tom Whitmore sees double spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2010, 08:06 PM:

And they're not even identical!

#418 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2010, 08:41 PM:

¡A los spammers les gustan mucho este blog! Y especialmente este thread.


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