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Apr. 23rd, 2009

branchandroot: Miako sparkling (Miako lovelove)

Notice: This is a repost of an entry; the first was cruelly devoured in a crossposting glitch and all the lovely comments with it. If anyone wants to comment again or more I will be perfectly pleased to carry on the conversations.

So, here’s the thing. I’m all in favor of having books that are id-candy, brain-fluff, that demand nothing from your intellect and instead go straight on to punch your emoporn joybuttons.

This is, after all, why I own three quarters of everything Mercedes Lackey has ever published.

But, first off, id-candy is a different thing from good writing. The joybuttons don’t care about bad grammar or triteness or slop, they just resonate to the character shapes that hit one’s kinks. Kinks are often trite and cliche, when you think about it. Id-candy is enjoyable exactly because it doesn’t make your brain engage, it doesn’t deal in subtleties, it doesn’t make you do any work. To get enjoyment out of genuinely artful prose, you generally have to think, to ponder even, to put in some work.

Saying that you enjoy your id-candy immensely and saying that your id-candy is great writing are very different statements. Among other things, the first is true and the second generally isn’t. (Unless you’re using a completely Utilitarian definition of “good”, and when people try to compare Rowling and Tolkien it is unfortunately clear that they are not employing such a definition at all.)

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the hell out of trite, cliched slop, of course.

Let us consider Misty, for example. She’s the Queen of Exposition, has a tendency to extremely moralistic and preachy narrative, and drives home her morals with a ten pound sledge. She is guilty of the most egregious cultural flattening and caricaturization and the only thing that comforts me even minutely is that she does it to everyone, whitebread, ‘noble savage’ and orientalist alike. (I maintain that Ancient Egypt should take out a restraining order on the woman.) Her characters are flat, their angst is repetitive, and half the time the stories read like SCA handbooks instead of novels.

Nevertheless–three quarters, right there on my shelf, and I reread handfuls of them at fairly regular intervals. This is because they are excellent brain-fluff emoporn.

Also because they are not toxic. Her moralism can get wearing awfully fast, but at least they are morals I can agree with. Mostly.

That’s the second thing. You have to be careful of the id-candy that uses a moral framework that’s harmful to you.

The Twilight books are a prime example of this. The writing is no worse than most id-candy, but the value system those books are hung on is poison. It’s misogynist, racist, deterministic, conflates obsession and stalking with love, and runs the mobius strip of nihilism and femininity myths at full speed with special emphasis on death by/for childbirth. (I would not want to be this woman’s therapist, not without hazard pay). This id-candy has a razor blade in it.

Some people probably bemoan the loss of innocent fun now that we chop up Halloween candy before eating it to make sure there aren’t any evil surprises in it. I expect some people feel the same about their id-candy. But, you know, I’d much rather take the time to chop and evaluate than swallow a needle.

branchandroot: Kaname laughing (Kaname laughing)
So, a lot of us have probably heard the hoary old myth that one has to suffer to produce art, right?

It's a load of flaming shit. And it's a dangerous load of flaming shit, at that.

You don't have to suffer to produce art. You have to have the capacity to suffer, but actually doing so is in no way requisite.

Thing is, creativity, inspiration if you will, and intense emotion come out of the same brain-place. Psychoactive drugs like anti-depressants put a big, thick quilt over that place. They muffle the up-spikes and down-spikes both, and that includes creativity.

Now, if you're spiking so hard you're about to kill yourself (or do anything similarly extreme, including neglecting yourself), that's what you damn well need. You do what you need.

But the fact remains that muffling creativity is one of the things those drugs do, and if your creativity is one of your coping mechanisms... well, you're probably going to have trouble. Denying that fact won't get us anywhere. It's a hard line to walk, using a muffler long enough to get balance back without losing it completely because your usual balance is gone.

I suspect this is actually the root of the myth, because plenty of us choose to be miserable and in danger rather than give up that one thing we know will make things better in some way.

This post brought to you by reflections on the nature of serotonin supplements as opposed to reuptake inhibitors. I endorse them highly. I have almost as much energy as a normal person this week, and I can still write.

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