Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Why I Hate Daryl Gregory
When I met Daryl Gregory in person, the first thing I told him was that I'd read the first five pages of his novel Pandemonium, and then hurled the novel (quite forcefully) across my office, knocking over a carefully constructed tower of yet-to-be-read comic books in the process.
Why the anger? What had Daryl done to arouse my ire? It's simple: he came up with an idea that was so good that I was furious I hadn't had it first.
There is probably no greater compliment to another writer than this sort of hatred. When we read the works of our literary heroes, we're able to marvel at their great ideas from afar. We don't see ourselves on the same plane as the Alan Moores or the Gene Wolfes or the Robert Heinleins of the world, so when we come across a bit of cleverness in their works, we take it as a given; we don't expect ourselves to reach such heights (at least not at this point in our careers--give me a few years and I'll teach that Michael Swanwick a thing or two about good ideas).
But when one of your peers does it, it's different. It sets off the "I personally have no idea what I am doing and am, in actuality, a fraud" receptor in your brain. Most writers I've talked to have this receptor, and I suspect Daryl has it himself.
But it's not just Daryl. Oh, no. Come to think of it, I've probably had a twinge of it from most of the writers that I know. Our very own Clockwork vets Bill Williams and Mark Finn have done this before as well. Bill with his hard-boiled temple employees, and Mark with his Sailor Tom Sharkey tales. What neither of them knows is that the rest of us have had conversations where we (jokingly, I promise it was jokingly...mostly) considered killing them and stealing their ideas for themselves. We haven't had this conversation about Daryl yet, but give us time.
Well, I decided to go ahead and finish reading Pandemonium on the flight back from the World Fantasy Convention. Having met him in person, I found that I didn't have the option of disliking him as a person while still enjoying his book, which can sometimes be a salve: "Well, sure that guy's books are good, but he's a total douche in person." No, there was nothing for it but to sit down and finish the thing.
And it's just as good as its premise might lead you to believe. He doesn't lose the thread of the plot or fail to stick the landing or drop important threads or commit any of the grievous errors that might have made it one of those "great idea, but..." books. I didn't even see the twist coming until it was practically thrown in my lap. I am sad to say that Pandemonium is a really good book, and I can't help but recommend it to all and sundry.
I've gotten the impression that the other Clockwork folks feel the same about Daryl and his damn book, and we don't want to inflate his ego too much, so what authors do the rest of us hate? And are there better, healthier ways to deal with our peers' artistic successes?