THOSE WHO DO NOT LEARN THEIR HISTORY ANNOY THE SHIT OUT OF ME ON-LINE

First off, pardon me for playing a little fast and loose with the quotation. Unfortunately, what I wrote is exactly what I meant.

I recently wrote a review of a couple of novels which are considered classics in the horror genre. One of the reasons I gave for reading them was that I feel it is important to know what has come before, especially when one is attempting to go forwards. By knowing what other writers have written, it is possible to see the trends in writing and how various aspects have changed over time. For example, the ghost stories I discussed in the previous post (
The Haunting of Hill House and Hell House) are very different from the types of ghost stories which are currently being published. However, there are many ways in which they are similar to current works. Most importantly, it is possible to see how things have changed. It is fascinating to see how our notion of the haunted house story (or whatever you happen to be looking at) has evolved over time.

This is doubly true for someone who wishes to write a ghost story. Again, I maintain that it is important to have a good working knowledge of the classics
1 before attempting to create one. Standing on the back of giants and all of that.2

Sadly, the point of today's rant is not another examination of classic literature. The point of today's rant is less in line with the previous review and more akin to statements like "Stay off my lawn!" and "Damn, fool kids!"

I spend a bit of time each day on the interwebz. I see posts on the
Zuckerberg experiment. People send me funny pictures and posts. I enjoy sites like Failbook and apps like IFunny. My perusal of these sites has lead me to a disheartening conclusion.

There is a growing population of people in this country who are self-centered simpletons.

There is no nice way to put it. It is not that these individuals are simply uneducated. I will not fault someone for not possessing knowledge.
3 The problem I keep encountering is people who are not only wrong, but they are so sure of themselves that they make total asses of themselves by proclaiming it as loudly as possible to anyone who will listen.

This may be a symptom of a vast change in society. There has been a definite shift away from the days when people could engage in civil discourse even if they disagreed. Blame Congress for this one. If the 80s were the "Me Generation" we appear to have entered the "Fuck You Generation."

But I digress
4

So, 650 words in, let me get to my actual complaint. I am sick to death of people, for the most part young people, who believe that everything important in life started and ended with what is currently popular. When presented with something which they are not familiar with, they denigrate it as being derivative of that which they familiar.

Allow me to present some examples
5:

Twilight v Real Vampires
I use the word "real" humorously in this context. I am referring to fans of the Ms. Myers' works who then read different vampire novels (like the works of Anne Rice or Dracula) and then complain that the authors got the vampires wrong. They can't go out in the sun, they don't sparkle, etc. The ultimate insult is that they accuse these other authors, of copying Twilight and doing a crap job of it.

I am not complaining about someone who decides to read
Dracula after reading Twilight and does not like the older novel. Everyone is entitled to their opinions.6 I am talking about people who don't have the common sense to understand that Bram Stoker died 61 years before Meyers was born, therefore it is not possible for him to have nicked the vampire idea from her.7

Bieber v Real Musicians
This was one I came across the other day. Someone posted a long series of comments about how this new band The Beatles stole one of JB's songs. Come on. Again, this is common sense. I don't care if you think Bieber's music is better than one of the best groups of all time.
8 Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. However, this is absolutely ridiculous. I can maybe understand people whose entire knowledge of literature is what is being currently published not being familiar with older works. Meyers' books are aimed at Young Adults who may not have had a chance to read the classics. How the Hell can someone not have heard of the Beatles?

The problem is a lack of knowledge about what came first. I love Led Zeppelin but you can be damn sure that if someone walks up to me while I am listening to some old blues album and complains that the guitarist ripped off Jimmy Paige I will give that idiot an earful. Know what came first. Perhaps you will find something you like in the older material. If not, at least you will have a better understanding of the history of the thing you love.

More importantly, you will be less likely to say something stupid online which is just going to piss me off.



1 I am not limiting this to a working knowledge of only one particular genre either. It is important for writers to read outside of their genre. Read classic literature to understand what it is that makes it great. Read to know what you like so you can emulate it. Read to know what you hate so you can avoid it.

2 There is an important corollary to this which is if you know what is written before you will not accidentally write something so similar that you end up accused of plagiarism. What you may think is a completely original idea may be something that you heard about but do not remember hearing about. You may end up accused of stealing from the greats if you do not read them. Even worse, without a working knowledge of what has been done before, you may end up perpetuating the worst of the trite stereotypes of your genre. The only thing worse than stealing from the greats is stealing from the hacks.

3 Who am I kidding? Of course I will.

4 Hmm...smells like a topic for another post, doesn't it?

5 I was going to look up actual examples, but I started to feel ill.

6 Even if they are horribly, horribly wrong.

7 I feel that I should inform the reader that I have not read any of the Twilight books all the way through. I have tried. I simply could not get through them. Many people assume that my loathing for the series is that the sparkly emo vampire doesn't fit with my world view of how a vampire should act. This is not entirely true. Yes, I am a horror fan. Yes, I prefer my monsters to be monsters. This doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the sexy vampire, however. I read most of the Anne Rice vampire books (and thoroughly enjoyed many of them). I love the first six or seven Anita Blake books. I even read urban fantasy novels in which the monsters are just as likely to be the love interest as they are to be a villain. My complaint with the Twilight books is that the writing is
awful. The characters are paper thin, the premise is creepy, and the writing is sophomoric at best. Don't tell me that YA means the writing has to be dumbed down. I think the Harry Potter novels were well written as was all of the "aimed at young readers" Sci Fi that I read when I was a young adult (back before there was a category for it).

8 I don't think that you should be able to reproduce...