An Interview with Cory Doctorow
Subject:   Ouch.
Date:   2005-03-04 19:55:17
From:   jstang
Deconstruction. Never has there been a more loaded or more misunderstood term since people like J. Hillis Miller and Jacques Derrida began developing and writing about the practice. But there's an interesting problem with mass media being illustrated in this article, one worth pointing out.

When someone, especially a writer with fans, like Cory Doctorow, goes online and uses a term like deconstruction incorrectly, as he does here when he implies it as a synonym for, say, "dismantling" or "exposing", he encourages and, unfortunately, even authorizes a common misconception about a major movement in literary criticism. This is a significant error, IMHO, in an interview during which he purports to be something of a critic: In re: Card, "His work I find to be pretty uneven."

Were he truly a deconstructionist, he would likely avoid analyses of authorial intention implied by, for example, revelations regarding authorial politics. To a true deconstructionist, the meaning is in the text, bucko, and that's it. If you are writing a "deconstruction", Mr. Doctorow, then I expect to be reading about the tropes Card uses in Ender's Game and how fundamental tensions and inconsistencies arise from language in relation to the arguments laid out in the text. Otherwise, you're writing parody or satire, which has a different aim than that of the discovery of truth; I would think what you are doing is more properly thought of as rhetoric, to which I would reply, "yadda yadda yadda".

Finally, regarding Ender's Game and Starship Troopers, it seems like we read different books with the same titles. I took Starship Troopers to be an example of fascism at work -- appropriate for a sci-fi novel -- and not a glorification of military life, but merely an example of an instance of military life within a fascist system. There are portions of that text which are purposely there to provoke thought, but you'd have to argue quite a bit to convince me that the novel is a glorification of the military. And although I'm unaware of Heilein's views on his own novel, I would ask you not to introduce them. As someone who does enjoy deconstruction, I tend to reject authorial intention as being nothing more than trivially interesting. If a text is worth reading, it will be worth reading regardless of what the author "really meant".

Ditto for Ender's Game. Mr Doctorow, you may at some point grow enough that you're able to set your own politics aside long enough and realize that writing literature that's any good, in any genre, is not possible for any length of time at 30 minutes per day. Of course, writing ceaseless rhetoric is, and may you have the best of luck with it.

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  • Ouch.
    2005-03-07 20:03:48  MEP [View]

    Don't worry Cory. This guy will just be left behind when the Bitchun' Society gets into full swing. :)

    More seriously though, I find it interesting that the same community that often praises Doctorow and follows his every move with baited breath when he works for the EFF or debunks the notions that serve as the foundation for hare-brained technology like DRM are the very same people who lash out at him vehemently when he applies the same common sense notions to their favorite scifi authors.

    Remixing music, fair use in TV recording and defending peer to peer technologies are causes everyone can stand behind. But reinterpret Asimov and you're branded a heretic. You can support remixing the latest Jay Z album, but don't you dare touch Heinlein. He's canon for pete's sake.

    I think Doctorow may have really struck a nerve with some people by questioning the ideals that serve as the foundations of classic scifi and I hope he doesn't always get this kind of negative reaction. Personally, I thought your remixing of I Robot was pretty good and I look forward to seeing where you go with some of these other stories.

    So to Cory (if you ever read this):
    Looking forward to the new book. Good luck at the Nebulas. And seriously try to write more convincing female characters (hard I know, believe me I know, but worth working on).